By Joan Kent
[This is from the intro to my new book Sugar Addiction Is Real, and So Are Sugar Cravings: What Causes Cravings (It”™s Not What You Think!) and How To Stop Them.]
The short story is I”™m a sugar addict. I discovered that a long time ago, decades before anyone knew about sugar”™s addictive effects. In fact, mentioning it to anyone was sure to result in a smirk and a visual body scan, known these days as the “up-and-down.” I got tired of the smirks and the up-and-downs.
Because no one knew about sugar addiction or believed it was true, I had to fend for myself. I eventually learned a lot — and recovered.
Sugar addiction is based on brain chemistry, and often genetic. I had no way of checking that out in my own family because I”™d been adopted as an infant. I never met my birth parents (NY had closed adoption laws), and no one in my adoptive family had the same reaction to sugar that I did.
I felt weird and ashamed. I tried to keep my addiction a secret, but my family couldn”™t help but notice my preferences in food. Because they weren”™t a subtle bunch, they often had unkind comments about the foods I liked.
Things got worse in college when I was eating on my own for the first time, and kept getting worse when I was an adult. I”™ll skip the details (lots of binges, frequent colds, odd symptoms), but I wanted sugar from the moment I woke up till I went to sleep at night. Sure, I ate other things, but only because I knew I was supposed to. All I ever really wanted was sugar. I don”™t think anyone ever wanted it more than I did.
My low point came when I left work one day at about 5:00 pm. It was summer; the sun was still shining. I had eaten some sugar a couple of hours earlier. As I drove on the freeway, I felt tired and fell asleep behind the wheel. I woke up suddenly and had to brake hard to keep from hitting other cars. The car skidded, turned 90 degrees, and slammed into the left guardrail. It was totaled. I was shaken, but relatively unhurt — although my neck was never quite the same after that.
Fortunately and miraculously, no other cars were involved. The police officer who arrived on the scene asked if I”™d been drinking. I answered truthfully that I don”™t drink. That didn”™t stop him from shining a flashlight in my eyes and asking me to get out of the car to stand on one leg.
Well, I passed the drunk driving test, but we never discussed the subject of food. No one made those connections back then. Maybe that was fortunate for me in its own way, but the whole thing was a frightening experience and an expensive lesson.
Not long afterward, I met a woman who ran a treatment program for addicts. Her unique system kept the addicts in recovery far more successfully than usual treatment programs.
Until she met me, she didn”™t know that someone who was not an alcoholic or drug addict could be addicted to sugar.
I started going to all of her lectures and reading everything I could find on the subject of sugar addiction. That was difficult. At that time (24 years ago) there was hardly any material to read! I pieced together whatever I could find on hypoglycemia, psychiatry, the neurochemistry of drug addiction and alcoholism, food cravings in addicts, and more.
After I”™d spent years educating myself, this woman finally said, “Joan, this is all you think about, all you read about, all you talk about. Why don”™t you go back to school and do it for real?”
Until that moment, I had never thought about getting a Ph.D., but it made sense. The subject fascinated me — and still does.
I got a doctorate in Psychoactive Nutrition, how foods affect neurochemistry. Me, the woman who found classes in nutrition more boring than reading the phone book! (Okay, I still find most nutrition classes boring, but my program was about how foods affect behavior, eating behaviors, moods, cravings, food preferences, hormones. Great stuff, and far more interesting than the Food Guide Pyramid or the USDA Plate….)
My dissertation involved using my research to treat women with binge-eating disorder. To shorten a four-year story, sugar was a major trigger for binge eating and cravings. The low-sugar group got better results than either the low-fat or the control group over the eight-week pilot study.
I was, to my knowledge, the first person to outline the neurochemical pathway of addiction to sugar (and even to saturated fat or white flour). That was in 1999. Now the nutrition field is moving in this neurochemical direction. People acknowledge sugar as an addictive food, even a drug. Much information is available on quitting sugar and ending cravings.
Lately, I”™ve been subjected to self-titled nutrition experts trying to discredit me. That”™s okay. Some of the information I use is based on what I studied at the time — often on drug addiction. The important thing is IT WORKS on sugar addiction and cravings. It”™s highly effective in getting people off sugar, improving their health, and helping them lose weight, feel better AND feel great about themselves.
It”™s over 15 years later. I no longer have the time or energy it took to get my degree. I simply won”™t study at that level of intensity again. I always read and keep up with interesting updates, but mainly I listen to the wise voice of my late (and great) mentor and coach. The voice reminds me that I do what I do to help people. It reminds me that I have helped many people. And it tells me to ignore my “detractors” and KEEP helping people.
So that”™s why I”™m here. I recovered, and so can you! I hope the information in this book helps you.
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