So often people come to the Smart Therapy Centre saying they cannot stop ‘comfort’ eating and they need to see a psychologist to help them work out why they overeat. They often think there is something mentally wrong with them compared with other people.
But, in my more than 30 years of clinical experience, I would say that it is usually just that they are having too much sugar!
Therefore, the first question I ask these people is what quantities they eat of sugar and other complex carbohydrates like white rice, bread or pasta (that get broken down quickly into sugar giving them a high GI or Glycaemic index).
In our western society, the answer is usually far too much! Even with children. Complex carbs (even fibrous, wholemeal ones with a low GI that are slower to break down to sugar) ought not exceed 15-20% of a meal. Most of any meal should be vegetables.
Having been a registered nurse before becoming a clinical psychologist, I know that when we eat sugary foods or foods that break down fast into sugar, our bodies are forced to release large amounts of insulin from the pancreas to cope with the onslaught.
The pancreas pumps out large amounts of insulin because our blood pH MUST remain quite neutral (even slightly alkaline) or we die, and sugar is highly acidic. Releasing large amounts of insulin helps to transport the sugar inside the cells and gets it out of the bloodstream quickly before it does too much damage.
This sudden burst of insulin means our blood sugar levels fall sharply from their ‘spiked high’ (immediately after food intake) as the excessive sugar is pushed rapidly into the cells. (This toxic acid is often stored then in our ever-expanding fat cells where it perhaps does the least damage.)
Now, with suddenly low blood sugar, we become ravenously hungry for even more food despite having barely finished eating the last lot!
This quickly becomes a vicious cycle of overeating sugar, followed by ‘extreme’ hunger, then followed by more overeating of sugar (to try and get blood sugar up), followed by more ‘extreme’ hunger (as the insulin pushes the sugar out into the cells), and so on – maybe for decades or until our digestive organs tire and fail.
People often feel completely out of control. Here they are, stuffing masses of food into themselves only to feel like they are desperately starving soon afterwards. To make matters worse, while their insulin levels surge, they biochemically cannot access their stored fat to burn it and so the fat continues to increase over time.
But, like I said, this is NOT usually a psychological problem at all.
It is a physical addiction to sugar. Remember that rats will choose sugar over heroin in experiments. So, sugar is very appealing! Keep in mind too, that alcohol is full of sugar and therefore highly attractive also!
It is important for people, especially in our ‘over-sugared’ society, to stop focussing on their weight and instead focus on WHAT they are eating: TOO MUCH ACID (sugar, alcohol and high GI foods).
Overall, people need to try and ‘flatline’ their insulin levels by choosing more alkaline and low GI foods. This opens the fat stores for burning and stops people becoming excessively hungry, allowing them to finally break-out of this vicious cycle of compulsive overeating.