By Kevin Cann
Obesity is a first world problem!
The obesity epidemic is a major worldwide problem. People have been encouraged to watch what they eat and exercise more for decades without any success.
In fact, the obesity rates have climbed exponentially in that time.
According to Medical News Today 2.1 billion people worldwide are either overweight, or obese.
This is an increase of 27.5% over the course of the last 33 years. Is the world just lacking willpower or is there another force driving this epidemic?
There is more than likely one cause driving this epidemic, but a major culprit is the addictive properties of sugar. You may be thinking “Wait a minute, sugar is addicting just like drugs?” To answer this question we need to first understand the mechanisms of drug addiction.
One theory out there regarding drug addiction is Dr. Kenneth Blum’s Reward Deficiency Syndrome. In a nut shell this states that through poor lifestyle choices, chronic stress, and genetics we develop deficiencies in certain chemical messengers. Once we develop these deficiencies we will seek out behaviors and substances that help bring us back to a natural balance.
The chemical messenger that may be out of balance in sugar addiction is dopamine. Dopamine is responsible for our memory, focus, and energy. It also is responsible for giving us a feeling of pleasure, or reward, after we do something that is supposed to be good for us.
Cavemen were not obese
Back in our Paleolithic days we would get a rise in dopamine after hunting, eating, and having sex. These actions were critical to our ongoing survival. The problem is our reward center in our brain has not updated to the modern life.
Things such as coffee consumption, overstimulation with bright lights, video games, drug abuse, shopping, gambling, and sugar all increase dopamine. We encounter problems when our dopamine levels become high and stay elevated for a prolonged period of time. The cells will desensitize to the chemical messenger as a defense mechanism.
This means there may be enough dopamine circulating in our blood, but the cells are not hearing its message. This can lead to the symptoms of low dopamine such as poor memory, low energy, and lack of focus, ADD, ADHD, anxiety, and depression. If Dr. Blum is right, when we are deficient in dopamine we will seek out behaviors or substances that balance us out. This will increase dopamine even more and we will further desensitize to the message leading us to increase our dosage of the behavior or substance.
We all know a child or person that has a difficult time sitting still and focusing. Ever notice how that same person can sit in front of a video game and play it for hours? The video game is raising dopamine levels to their natural balance and allowing him or her to focus.
Maybe we are not into video games, but just LOVE to shop. Perhaps this person also struggles with energy levels, memory, and focus, but when he or she goes out shopping they have the energy and focus to do it for hours.
Drugs such as cocaine work upon our dopamine receptors. This is why people doing cocaine have increased energy levels and can typically focus better. Most people’s drug of choice to balance out their dopamine is sugar.
Sugar makes you happy
We reach for that sugary snack, it raises dopamine, over time we desensitize to dopamine’s message, and we need more and more sugar. This is a good way to continually increase weight. Dopamine actually communicates directly with the hormone leptin. Leptin controls how much food we should eat and how much body fat to store. Just like with dopamine we can become resistant to leptin’s message. This is one reason why we can overeat some of our favorite junk foods and it may become difficult to lose unwanted pounds.
If our addiction to sugar is leading to us falling off of the wagon on our new diet and exercise program what can we do? Just like with drug addiction we need support from our friends and family. Make sure you explain to them what you are trying to do and encourage them not to have sugary treats around. If they are around you at some point you will cave in. Make sure to throw out all of your junk food in your house as well.
Next, we need to limit the behaviors and substances that lead to an increase in dopamine. Limit coffee consumption to 1 cup per day, get 7-9 hours of sleep in a blacked out room, try shutting all lights off 90 minutes before bed to allow your body to unwind, instead of playing video games go outside for a walk, and be physically active.
We also need to eat a diet that will help rejuvenate our system. This diet should consist of lots of veggies, fruits, meats, fish, eggs, nuts, seeds, and healthy fats. This will ensure we are getting all of the nutrients needed to make enough dopamine to balance us out. Do this for 30 days and keep track of how well you look, feel, and perform.
Kicking any habit is difficult. Take control of your health and institute some of the changes mentioned above.
If you do so I will assure you will not be disappointed.