Have you ever felt like you could not stop eating a certain food? Or have you ever lost motivation after eating a certain type of meal?
Last week I gave you an inside look into what happens when I consume too much sugar.
It ain’t pretty.
If you didn’t read that post, find it here: Is Sugar Addiction Real?
When the sugar train starts, it’s difficult to understand what’s going on…and it’s easy to disconnect from the body.
Well, that is not living. I believe with all of my heart that we must learn how to live in our modern culture, integrating body and soul. It’s a journey, for sure. But I know freedom is possible.
As you probably know, my oldest son Eric and I work together, educating parents about porn addiction and why it happens.
We have really appreciated learning about the why. Because once we understand the why, the HOW can be achieved.
This week I wanted to share why we lose motivation for life when we eat too much sugar.
There is actually a biological reason for it. When I first learned about this, I felt relief. OH! I’m not just a weakling. There are things happening, things I cannot see.
As I connected the dots, I felt this deep desire to share with my audience, mostly because I know you probably have a similar struggle with food.
So let’s take a closer look inside the body. WHY do we overeat? WHY do we lose motivation when we eat certain foods? WHY?
Why did my 15-year old Bridget, who eats sensibly and who works out almost every day, tell me, “Mom, it was kind of weird, but after I ate some Halloween candy, I no longer wanted to work out. It was like I lost my motivation.”
So I told her what I am going to tell you: our sugar consumption has messed up our body’s regulatory systems.
In order to understand this cycle, we need to know what’s going on inside. And believe it or not, the big answer came through rodents.
In 1949 there was a group of mice that were not typical. They never moved. They just ate. They literally sat by the food trough and ate.all.day.long.
The only way they would move is if their food was moved! Then they would get up and waddle over to the new location, plop down and keep eating!
This mystified scientists. Why did these particular mice act like every meal was perpetually their last meal? Why was their only goal in life to eat?
As you can imagine, this group of mice was obese.
Here’s what I think is fascinating. Since the scientists had no clue what was going on, they simply kept the strain breeding for years, until science could catch up. Isn’t that cool? And brilliant?
So in 1994, after studying the mice for EIGHT YEARS, a group in the molecular genetic department at Rockefeller University figured out the issue.
That strain of mice didn’t have a particular gene.
Why was that important? Well that missing gene (the ob gene) was responsible for creating a hormone that was supposed to send signals to the brain to STOP EATING and GO DO SOMETHING!
Without this absolutely essential hormone, the mice literally thought they were starving even as they ate all day long. They never got the message that they were full. They never received the motivational signal to go DO SOMETHING PRODUCTIVE.
The scientists called this hormone “leptin.” (If you are into root words, it’s from the Greek word “leptos” which means “thin.”)
Once those mice were given injections of that missing hormone, leptin, lo and behold, they became very different mice. They stopped their perpetual eating. They stepped on their little rodent wheel and yes, they got skinny.
Of course the pharmaceutical industry went Lady Ga-Ga over this. A pill or injection that could make us skinny?
Yet. ADDING leptin to humans didn’t do anything. Fun fact: humans HAVE leptin. In fact, most of us have too much leptin.
Wait. How do we have TOO MUCH LEPTIN? Well, when we eat a ton of food the extra goes to our fat cells and our fat cells actually secrete leptin. The purpose of leptin: to tell the brain to stop eating.
That’s right. Our bodies produce leptin. Leptin is NOT the problem. It actually WANTS to tell the brain to stop eating so darn much.
So what’s happening? It should be a perfect loop. Food comes into the cells, once they are full, leptin races out, delivering the message that “You are Full. Now Get to Work!”
Yet that’s not what is happening.
Scientists weren’t sure why our brains weren’t receiving the message. Remember last week? My brain kept telling me to eat even when I was full.
It turns out that something is blocking leptin from delivering the message.
I find this fascinating. I am going to explain the science but I am going to explain it how I think about it.
I have always thought of my circulatory system as a giant roadway, with all sorts of vehicles going up and down my “roads” (or veins). Each vehicle has a specific purpose.
(Welcome to my brain.)
This is Command Central, literally telling each “vehicle” where they need to go within the body. It’s so fascinating. From this central location (located near the brainstem) the Command Center secretes hormones that stimulate the pituitary gland, which controls body temperature, hunger, our sex drive, thirst, fatigue, etc.
So, using my little roadway analogy, when sugar is eaten, it is like a drunk person in the body. It does not know where to go and it cannot get anywhere on its own. Sugar always needs a designated driver.
When we eat sugar, our hypothalamus, which again, is that command center, tells the pancreas to send out the “Uber driver” named Insulin.
This Uber driver, Insulin, picks up the sugar and takes it to the cell door. The cell door “opens” and receives the sugar. Insulin, because it is a smart driver, knows where the sugar needs to go and gets it there.
The more sugar we eat, the more insulin that is needed. So the command center sends out more Uber drivers (or insulin). The “extra” sugar is taken to fat cells for storage.
And Americans’ level of insulin is currently 45% more than normal. That’s a helluva lot of Uber drivers on our inner roadways.
And those extra Uber drivers have parked their little Insulin cars all around the brain stem
Leptin is being released from the fat cell. It is driving up to the hypothalamus. But it cannot find a parking space due to all of the Uber drivers (Insulin) that are blocking the way.
Without leptin’s ability to deliver the message,
the body thinks it is starving and has.to.keep.eating.and.not.work.out.
Did you get that? There is a God-given natural, beautiful feedback loop within our bodies.
When we are full, any extra goes into fat cells, which then release the hormone leptin, telling our brain we are now full and should go do something.
What jacks this up?
When we have too much sugar in our diet, the body produces insulin, which binds to the sugar and delivers it to different cells in the body.
INSULIN blocks leptin from being received by the brain.
Isn’t that crazy?
Guess which foods increase insulin?
The white stuff:
Flour and sugar.
Guess which foods don’t increase insulin?
Proteins: Chicken, Turkey, Beef, Pork, Fish, Eggs
Fats (avocados, coconut and olive oil)
I’ve known this information for almost two years. Yes, it was a massive light bulb moment for me. Yet this info alone has not been enough to change behavior.
I think that’s important to note. Information alone doesn’t have the power to change our actions.
But you know what it has done? It’s given me an understanding of the WHY.
Now I know why Bridget lacked motivation after she ate some Halloween candy. Now I know why my feeding frenzy happened last week. For someone like me, that has a high susceptibility to the addictive nature of flour and sugar, my best course of action is to stay away from them.
The one thing I do worry about: our children. Every time they turn around, they are being offered sugary, high fat treats. What once was a treat is now a way of life. No wonder baseline insulin levels are up by 45%.
We can do something about it.
“Creating my life” means creating great meals. I am busy putting together The Parenting Dare 2.0 and part of that course will be an additional area where I go deeper into food addiction and give lots of practical food tips and recipes, which I am extremely excited about.
Dr. Susan Peirce Thompson of Bright Line Eating (Susan is brilliant. And funny. I highly recommend jumping on Youtube and binge watching her. You will learn a lot and you will laugh.)
Dr. Robert Lustig from the UCSF Medical Center figured out what was causing the body to be resistant to leptin.
P.S. If you have a daughter, check out our free mini course, The Daughter Dare. I have many favorite videos in that course, especially in the 11-14 age bracket. Check it out! The Daughter Dare.