The Sweetest Season

This was my #1 fear during the holidays... Sugar. Eating too much. Not having enough. Fear of getting caught for sneaking holiday treats. Fear that I'd loose my competitive edge with my running career if I ate too much sugar (and food in general, if I'm being honest!)

Looking back, wow! That was a lot of fear and distraction from the true spirit of the holidays. In reality, all those fears were based on the bigger fear of gaining weight - (aka fat phobia). More specifically, the fear mongering messages we receive about sugar is really rooted in not only fat phobia, but weight stigma in general. To date, this is one of the deadliest and most silent forms of oppression in our society. People die from eating disorders triggered by fat phobia and weight stigma more than any other mental illness.

Yes, researchers have been able to show that sugar lights up the pleasure center of our brains similar to other addictive substances. But!

What they fail to point out is the amount of restriction from sugar that study participants (mice in many cases) under went prior to being given open access to sugar. Case in point...

The pleasure center in your brain would light up in many situations where you've been restricted from something pleasurable - seeing a loved one or pet after a period of absence for example. That doesn't mean you're addicted to that person or pet. Yep, I hear you, "but Amanda, what about health, what about cavities, what about my kids being hyper!?!" There are a number of nuances to this controversial conversation. So here's an example...

If you deprive yourself of, let's say cookies, or sugar in general out of fear of gaining weight or being unhealthy, and you decide to "have a cheat day" on National Cookie day (yep, that's a thing, December 4th!) 'cause a national holiday is giving you permission to do so, guess what?

You're going to feel immediate pleasure on your taste buds and your pleasure center in you brain will light up like a Christmas tree! You'll likely also feel out of control like you'll never stop eating cookies or sugar. Both completely normal responses! Normal because you're human and we humans dig sweetness. Normal because science shows that deprivation of sugar will only intensify your pleasure and make you feel like you're addicted to it. But it's not a true addiction.

Consider some research...Here are a few great places to start...

Emily Fonnesbeck's blog "Your Aren't Addicted to Sugar" Stephanie Webb's "You Don't Have to Quit Sugar" Nutrition Redefined podcast

Marcie Evans blog "Sugar Addiction: A Summary of the Science"

Just a few colleagues who have written or spoken about this very topic.

So here's an idea I invite you to consider. Have some cookies today - just because. Have some tomorrow. If you start feeling out of control with sugar. Sit with that feeling. Acknowledge your fear of gaining weight. Get pissed at the fat phobia, weight stigma cultural norm that causes you to feel these emotions. In retrospect friends, embrace the sweetness of the holidays - all aspects of sweetness...foods, time with family and friends, colorful decorations, etc. Life's too damn short not too! And above all else, keep eating cookies! Because if you do, you won't be sitting in the diet cycle, guilt-shame storm by this time next year. Promise!