Carbohydrates are addictive because they release a chemical that affects the brain which in turn releases dopamine which creates a feeling of pleasure in the same way that drugs and alcohol do. The high is then followed by a crash which makes the addicted person reach for another hit to regain the good feelings. It may appear that addiction to carbs is not as serious as drug or alcohol addiction, but it has serious long term effects on the body, mainly due to the weight gain and associated health problems.
Addiction to Carbs: Causes
The mechanism of having an addiction to carbs is not entirely clear; studies have shown that rats will endure electric shocks and extreme cold to get to their equivalent of a carbohydrate hit, so it seems the craving s can be very strong.
Leptin is responsible for telling the body how much fat to store and the mechanism that controls how much is produced can be changed. Leptin release is based on the amount of fat tissue already in the body. More fat means more leptin released. The leptin receptors can become desensitized and fail to react to the stimulus and so the extra fat tissue gets stored.
Addiction to carbs may have a combination of causes. There is the reaction of the body to the hormones and chemicals released when you eat carbs, but many people have an emotional or psychological reaction to their food as well, especially those who tend to binge.
Why and How to Break the Addiction
Carbs are often comfort foods, sought out at times of stress or sadness and the habit can become very difficult to break. The first step is to figure out why you reach for carbs when you aren’t hungry. If this root cause can be removed or managed, you will find breaking the addition that much easier, so have a good look at the circumstances next time you reach for a high carb snack.
Begin to manage your addiction to carbs by cutting processed foods out of your diet. This is very tricky as they are a large part of most people’s diet. But they raise your blood sugar levels which causes increased insulin production and then the feel good chemicals.
Empty your cupboards of processed foods and replace them with wholegrain, healthy foods that can replace your carbs. If you eat a high carb diet, try reducing the amount of carbs you have as part of your meals. This will stimulate your body to burn fat for fuel rather than relying on the carbohydrates as you reduce the amount that are available. You can also make your insulin more sensitive by cutting out processed foods, and this will help you maintain a steady blood sugar level.
Make sure you are getting all the essential vitamins and minerals that your body needs. If you have a deficiency, this can cause strange cravings as your body tries to stimulate you to eat the foods it requires. A balanced diet should cover this, but if you have any concerns try a multi vitamin tablet daily to see if this helps to manage your strange cravings.
If you think you can handle it and not revert completely, then a ‘cheat’ meal that you have planned in advance can give you a break from the no processed foods diet and a little boost at the same time. Only do this if you are positive you can get right back on the plan with no further lapses, which not everyone can do.
If you tend to reach for comfort food then you need to replace food as the thing that lifts your mood. Try finding a sport or activity that you enjoy, and take part in it regularly. This will give you the endorphin rush associated with exercise, as well as helping your healthy body plan.
You are far more likely to keep exercising if you enjoy the activity that you have chosen. If you would rather read a good book then do this instead of a high carb snack, or have a relaxing bubble bath. Sign up a friend to be your helpline. Give them a call if you are experiencing cravings and they can remind you how well you are doing and what the negative effects of your poor diet were on your body.
Cutting processed food from your diet is difficult to do. However, you will reap the benefits in a healthier, happier body and easier weight loss and maintaining a lower body weight and fat percentage. By handling your addiction to carbs, you will balance out your blood sugar level and have a much steadier mood without the peaks and troughs caused by sugar and insulin spikes. Non processed food is much healthier than the processed stuff, and you will have more energy, less headaches and better skin, hair and general appearance as your circulation improves.