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My wife and I had just finished dinner, and now she craves a piece of See’s chocolate from the box given to us by a friend. The box is sitting in front of us. But I, on the other hand, crave a bowl of fresh strawberries and seasonal figs from the fridge.
My wife is still amazed at how I don’t crave the See’s chocolate (something I loved at one time). Several years ago I would have given in to the chocolate, especially after dinner… or maybe a carrot cake or some ice cream or a freshly-baked oatmeal-raisin cookie. Today I can honestly say that these cravings are virtually absent. Why?
Sugar and carbohydrate craving is an addiction not too different from drug addiction. Similar to powerful substances like heroin and crack cocaine, sugar and carbohydrates have been shown to stimulate the reward center of the brain, which releases the neurochemical dopamine. This makes you happy and strongly motivates you to seek more of it… often against your better judgement and definitely at a devastating cost: obesity, diseases, and premature mortality. Like the high from drugs, this sugar high can lead to abuse, and finally to addiction — a problem rampant in America (and spreading throughout the rest of the world). But, unlike illicit drugs, carbohydrates are not only legal but also strongly embraced, and often defended with moral and pedantic righteousness, despite overwhelming scientific evidence of their deleterious effect on health.
Also something to ponder: each year, the excessive consumption of carbohydrates produces chronic diseases that place a far greater financial burden on tax payers than any form of drug rehab treatment, and excessive carbohydrate consumption kills far more people than the use of illegal drugs. It is a quiet addiction ironically celebrated by the mass. Shameful.
If sugar and carbohydrate craving is a result of an addiction, then the treatment of this addiction is no different than that of a drug addiction: it can be successful with three crucial elements:
While many diets fail because of their demand for decreased calorie intake, thus leaving the body in a semi-starving state, a low-carbohydrate diet fails only because its users don’t allow enough time for the body to experience the documented metabolic correction. Users give up the low-carbohydrate diet before this correction occurs, and accuse it of being merely another fad diet. While diets requiring a decreased calorie intake will surely fail with time, the eventual metabolic correction induced by a low-carbohydrate diet will allow the body to decrease fat storage while feeding organ and muscle tissues with sufficient calories. In other words, there is no starvation. It’s not a low-calorie diet — rather it is a diet of the right kind of calories.
As such, I had been motivated to beat the sugar craving, have put in effort, and given myself plenty of time.
I was motivated because I knew what sugar did to my body, how it made me feel, and what it made me look like. I gave effort by consciously abstaining from sugar, avoiding and recognizing the cues that trigger the craving, and gave myself alternatives like fresh berries or citrus fruits as deserts. I gave myself time — at least 6 months, and as much as necessary, to switch off psychological and somatic cravings.
Now, having recovered from sugar and carbohydrate addiction, my body is very keen on its acute response to their consumption. If I eat a See’s chocolate candy, I’ll feel crappy in mere minutes. If I eat a sandwich or a plate of pasta, I’ll suffer the consequences physically (and psychologically). Years ago, before my recovery from my carbohydrate addiction, I’d never believe that eating carbohydrates can affect me so dramatically, and the ability to detect this physical response not only has helped eliminate cravings for carbohydrates but also made them viscerally repulsive.
This is why I had no second thought about the box of See’s chocolate candies sitting in front of me. My wife opted to not eat any of it either, for she is in the midst of her own treatment for her addiction. She’s motivated, it seems. And just now she demonstrated that she’s putting in the effort. All she needs is a little more time.