We live in a society that has a higher level of education than ever before. In fact we are better educated than many others today on our planet. We have a health care system that’s second to none, we place a high value on our lives and those of our children, we value our health and wellbeing, and indeed, as a nation spend more on vitamins than we do on painkillers at a whopping £362.7 million a year according to the Telegraph: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2016/06/13/brits-spending-more-on-vitamins-than-painkillers-due-to-health-c/
I think most of us aim to eat a healthy diet, and are equipped with enough education to talk about the basic workings of our bodies in a way that would have made granny blush!
The health food industry is a giant and the media are constantly putting out healthy eating articles and programmes on the TV on an almost weekly basis!
So why, then, are most of us completely unable to resist the desire for sugar, or indeed control the amount we eat when we do eat it, than ever before?
Sugar addiction is on the dramatic increase, and so many of us feel that there’s nothing we can do about it! So how can this possibly be so? When we have all the knowledge at our disposal like never before, we understand the consequences of bad eating habits very well, and yet….we are STILL out of control when it comes to making a decision around sugar!
Well some of the reasons are fairly obvious:
First: The AMOUNT of sugar that we are presented with on a daily basis has grown incrementally over the past 10 years. We are literally surrounded by the sweet white stuff EVERYWHERE we go! And that’s not just at the end of the supermarket aisles, but in almost all retail outlets we encounter…garages, home stores, fast food restaurants and shops, kiosks, as well as the traditional newsagents and food retailers. We also keep it in the house now for quick and easy access. We didn’t used to do that…we would go to the shop and buy it, or we’d bake a cake, but it wasn’t kept ‘in’….many of my clients tell me that they now have a sugar drawer for ‘the kids’ that they forage through on a regular basis. We have a subliminal message of sugar being all around us all the time.
It didn’t used to be that way…sugar wasn’t readily available 24 hours a day 7 days a week, so it wasn’t in our awareness in the same way.
Second: The food industry has created the need for sugar in us like never before. We are at the mercy of their clever, intuitive and incredibly focused advertising, and we aren’t even aware most of the time of the power that advertising has on us. There is a drip drip effect that builds over time so that sugar becomes just something that’s an everyday part of our lives. The food industry are also responsible for creating the craving for sugar by adding it to their processed products ( and not just the sweet ones either!). THAT’S another story altogether!
Third: Peer pressure. Or rather peer ‘persuasion’. Sugar is now readily available in offices, staff rooms and kitchens up and down the land. We have doughnut day. Bring a home-made cake day. Chocolate Friday…ok I made the last one up, but we celebrate every single working achievement with the ubiquitous chocolates and sweeties. Biscuits at tea breaks, sugary snacks put out at meetings, the ‘treats’ cupboard for the staff. And that’s just at work! People will expect you to join in. And so eating it feels just normal, because everyone else is doing it too. If you don’t join in…you get persuaded to…there might be a bit of an inquisition as to why you’re not partaking today otherwise! We share sugary food with friends at all sorts of different times…socially and otherwise. Everyone eats it. All the time!
Fourth: There is a very depressing statistic that I read the other day…
93% of women don’t like their own bodies!
What a staggeringly high number! The shame of it is that this dislike of our bodies creates a downward spiral…it begins by eating food that your body can’t metabolise very well so it stores fat cells, and eventually you find you don’t like the look of it so much any more…I mean…why would you treat your body well if you don’t even like it very much? I mean REALLY well? The negative cycle of self denial, followed by over indulgence, followed by the self punishing feelings is so familiar to me as a therapist, that I hear the same story of low level self abuse every single week. We were NOT born hating our bodies, and that’s a fact. We were taught how to do that over time!
Fifth: Biological programming. I won’t go into this too much as I’ve touched on it in depth in other blogs…but basically sugar is rocket fuel for your body, so it is part of your programming to seek it out and eat as much of it as you can…while it’s around…which was never meant to be often!
Sixth: Habit…it’s quick and easy and solves an immediate problem for us in some way…whatever that might be…convenience, energy, cravings…we should NEVER under estimate the power of habit….it is EVERYTHING!!
Seventh. We are more tired, stressed and rushed than ever before. This has a two-fold effect…we become too stressed to make good decisions about our eating, but we also need more of an energy boost to keep us going through the day, so out of habit and biological programming we automatically reach for the sugar without even really noticing that we’ve done it! …All this busyness is taking place in our brains more and our bodies less as the years roll by, but the tiredness and lack of energy are felt just the same….we need a lot of calories to run our brain cells! BUT we take in way too much in proportion to how much we use our bodies today.
Eighth and lastly…We believe it’s a treat, and now we need to treat ourselves every single day. And indeed it used to be a treat. An occasional reason for a little bit of indulgence. A treat by definition is something that happens rarely. When it happens every day, or even multiple times a day, it is a treat no more. It’s actually a deadly poison that will become more toxic for your body’s systems as the years roll by.
There are other reasons too for our unbelievably high consumption of sugar on a daily basis …body chemistry and blood sugar levels influence the powerful nervous system reflexes to reach for sugar that are out of your control. Food is very cleverly designed to keep you feeling cravings for sugar. Your palate builds up a real immunity to the strength of the sweetness of sugar, so you eat it without realising the true effects on your tastebuds and beyond. We eat quickly, absent-mindedly, we have a grab-and-go culture of eating when we’re hungry and haven’t really planned our meals for the day. We feel that we’re missing out if we don’t have it. It’s just what we do now.
If everyone else is eating it, then surely I should just be able to have some in moderation? right?
The basic drive of it all is pure and simple sugar addiction…with a perfect storm of influences to create, perpetuate and strengthen it…once you recognise that about yourself, then there IS help. And what’s more…getting off sugar then becomes the easiest thing in the world, and the pleasure that you feel without it is more wonderful than you could imagine!
Please feel free to comment with your OWN sugar story!