Posted by Rebecca Cooper
Proven to be more addictive than cocaine, a closer look at Sugar may help to explain America’s rise in obesity, diabetes and the new focus on food addiction.
A 2007 study (Lenoir, Serre, Cantin, Ahmed), found that intense sweetness surpasses cocaine reward even in addicted and drug-sensitized subjects leading to increased aggression upon withdrawal and a disruption of the dopamine/acetylcholine reward balance in the brain.
The alterations on brain functioning brought on by highly palatable foods produce many of these hallmarks of addiction - including intense craving, the inability to control or stop use, a pre-occupation with the substance, and withdrawal symptoms - the idea of dessert becomes elevated to a whole new level.
Research is supporting evidence that food addictions has behavioral and neurological qualities that resemble substance abuse and dependence. Increased craving for food or food-related substances leads to a heightened state of pleasure, energy, or excitement (Zhang, et al., 2011).
I think it is ironic that when the government ordered cocaine removed from all Coca-Cola beverages no one would have guessed that an even more consequential substance would take its place. High Fructose Corn Syrup hit the markets in the 1970s as a wonder product. Cheaper than sugar cane with an intense sweetness we associate with confectionery delights, High Fructose Corn Syrup is now used to sweeten candies, juices, cookies, cakes, and has even found its way into less palatable tempting items including bread, soups, snacks and other pre-packaged foods.
Intense sweetness triggers the same receptor pathways of other ingested addictive chemicals, including cocaine and opiates. It alters the transmission of certain brain chemicals including endorphins, dopamine and serotonin, which, in turn, trigger the pleasure center of our brains, leaving us wanting more. (Nicole, et al., 2008). It is important to note that with the incorporation of HFCS into food products have raised more than 1000% since 1970 (Bray, Nielsen, & Popkin, 2004).
As an eating disorder treatment center, we consistently see what happens with patients who have an addiction to sugar and what happens when they stop eating sugar. When they eat sugar they get a sugar rush, then their blood sugar levels drop, they become tired and sleepy, they become depressed then they crave more. For some these cravings lead them back into their eating disorder.
Certainly, we can find studies to support any opinion, and much like eating disorders, every one of us is different and the effects of sugar may vary. At Rebecca’s House, we have found that when a person has the courage to realize that their relationship to food is out of alignment or is one of addiction, they can begin to change. Many clients have found that once they are freed from the bondage of sugar, their cravings and binges go away, they are less depressed, they maintain a normal weight without dieting or obsessing and they are able to improve their total health.
It’s so hard today to promote the fact that sugar is an addictive substance, leaving one craving more and more. Unfortunately, there are still many nutritionists, dietitians, and professionals who don’t believe sugar can be addictive to SOME people. In all my years of work with eating disorder sufferers and emotional overeaters - as well as the new scientific studies - prove otherwise. It is just like alcohol. Some people have no problem having a few drinks, but others cannot stop after that first drink.
Millions of people are addicted to sugar and do not even realize it. The “food” manufactures are only concerned about their bottom line. They know that sugar is toxic and addictive; they add it to make us want their products, to feel that we must have more. We are getting sicker because our addiction to sugar, as well as our eating habits in general, have weaken our immune system. Our health care system cannot keep up with the high costs associated with obesity, diabetes, and associated diseases.
We are in the midst of an obesity crisis in this country and I’m convinced sugar addiction is a major culprit. I’ve known this from working with disordered eating patients for decades and now with new scientific evidence maybe we can educate the general public that for some sugar can be the gateway drug to a life of obesity, diabetes, and/or addiction. Nothing less than the health of our nation is at stake. If you, a friend or a loved one has an eating disorder, go to rebeccashouse.org for a free consultation and help.
10.14.13 at 7:57 am | Keep a positive attitude and invest time making. . .
7.18.13 at 8:11 am | We are in the midst of an obesity crisis in this. . .
6.25.13 at 11:07 am | Eating disorder can be deadly. They can lead to. . .
5.21.13 at 7:43 am | He will inspire other men and bring awareness to. . .
3.4.13 at 8:54 am | Eating Disorders affect every social economic. . .
1.28.13 at 12:47 pm | The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. . .
3.4.13 at 8:54 am | Eating Disorders affect every social economic. . . (4)
1.28.13 at 12:47 pm | The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. . . (3)
10.14.13 at 7:57 am | Keep a positive attitude and invest time making. . . (2)
June 25, 2013 | 11:07 am
Posted by Rebecca Cooper
Amy Winehouse’s brother, Alex, reported to the Observer Magazine that he believes bulimia killed his sister.
Although the family knew Amy suffered from an eating disorder since her early teens, Alex says no one talked about it. The Winehouse family is indicative of so many other families who have a loved one who is suffering with an eating disorder. The family thinks, “it’s not that bad” or “she will grow out of it.” Sometimes the signs are there, but you just don’t want to believe it.
Michael Jackson also suffered from the classic symptoms of an eating disorder. Like Amy he was reported to die from an overdose. Although the physical signs of his deteriorating health were so obvious, it was never mentioned that his eating disorder was killing him. His strenuous dance routines made him famous but it also may have contributed to his death. Many people with bulimia nervosa use strenuous exercise as a way of purging calories. Like most people with eating disorders, Michael Jackson obviously had problems regarding his body image and perfectionism. He had numerous plastic surgeries, and was constantly trying new diets and body cleansing routines. All this had become his eating disorder obsession to change the man in the mirror.
There are so many deaths that are really caused by an eating disorder but attributed to other causes. People with anorexia nervosa are reported to die of organ failure and we hear of extreme athletes in perfect condition suddenly die of a heart attack. The general public does not know that heart attacks can occur from electrolyte and potassium imbalances brought on by eating disorders. Anorexia has the highest mortality rate of any mental illness.
So how is it that all these celebrities can suffer in silence and no one do anything about it? Over the years, as a therapist, I have seen so many people report having alcohol and drug problems but they will deny having an eating disorder. Eating disorders are where alcoholism treatment was 20 years ago. Eating disorders are still not talked about or understood. It is killing people in plain sight. The sufferer or the people around them do not recognize or acknowledge eating disorders.
One thing that even therapists miss is that some patients who develop alcohol and drug problems are doing so to cope with their underlying eating disorder. It is common to find that patients who enter eating disorder treatment discover that as an adolescent they struggled with weight, body image and dieting. Eating disorders are often used to deal with stress and emotions. When someone with an eating disorder tries alcohol or drugs they may find a temporary relief from the eating disorder obsession. The stress-relieving benefits of the eating disorder are replaced by the use of alcohol or drugs.
Currently there are no statistics about the prevalence of eating disorders present before progressing to addictions; but it is a common phenomenon that when people with addictions stop using alcohol and drugs they often turn to food and eating disordered behaviors. Some recovering people will struggle with obesity for the rest of their life. Others will be ashamed of their secret disordered eating behaviors and relapse. Others may decide to use appetite suppressants or other medication that lead them back to their addictions. We see many eating disorder patients using stimulates like Cocaine and Methamphetamine as a way to remain thin.
Here are some signs and symptoms of eating disorders:
Anorexia is usually detected by a significant loss of weight and an intense fear of gaining weight, even though underweight. It is important to realize that due to chemical disturbances in the brain they really do see themself as fat. They may be hospitalized due to dehydration, gastrointestinal complaints, stress or exercise injuries, depression, anxiety, headaches or dizziness but the eating disorder often goes undetected.
At the dinner table someone with anorexia may say, “I am not hungry” or “I have already eaten.” They will avoid whole groups of food, eating only salads, raw vegetables, fat-free, or low carb foods. They may excessively chew every bite and shift food around on the plate to look like they have eaten. They want to cook their own food to make sure nothing fattening was added. They will eat the same few foods at all meals. Some other noticeable signs are:
Bulimia is characterized by eating more large amounts of food, but not gaining weight. They may hide food to eat alone. They may want a snack even after a large meal. They will frequently go to the bathroom during or following meals to purge the food. They will be defensive when asked about eating or exercise. The family may notice significant weight fluctuations. They may have callouses on their knuckles if they are using their finger to vomit. They will exit the bathroom with bloodshot eyes and act like nothing is wrong or they may say they are sick. Other signs and symptoms include:
Binge eating and compulsive overeating is used to deal with life stresses or emotions. They may have periods of time where they eat a lot of food in a short period of time and then restrict food intake later. They will go on one diet after another and “relapsing” between diets. They can be of any physical size. Other symptoms are:
Food Addictions are the most overlooked contributing factor to an eating disorder. Not all people who have an eating disorder have a food addiction. The most common foods that can be addictive are sugar, fat, flour, refined processed foods, and fast foods. People who are unaware of the effects these foods have on them will have difficulty recovering from an eating disorder.
Eating disorder can be deadly. They can lead to other addictions, depression, health problems, suicide, obesity, and death. Someone with an eating disorder needs professional help from a licensed professional who is an eating disorder specialist. It may be important to find an eating disorder treatment program to interrupt the eating disorder cycle and build a foundation for lasting recovery.
Rebecca Cooper is a California licensed therapist, Certified Eating Disorder Specialist, and the author of Diets Don’t Work®. She has been treating people with eating disorders and disordered eating for 20 years. She the founder of Rebecca’s House Eating Disorders Treatment Program™ in Southern California. www.Rebeccashouse.org. 800-711-2062.
May 21, 2013 | 7:43 am
Posted by Rebecca Cooper
Recently, People Magazine came out with an article about Ashley Hamilton talking openly about his struggles with an eating disorder. I applaud Ashley for coming out about having an eating disorder. The shame, guilt and misunderstanding of eating disorders makes it hard for anyone to come forward and get help, but it is so much harder for such a public figure to do so. He is very courageous!
He will inspire other men and bring awareness to the erroneous myth that eating disorders are a young woman’s disorder. It is amazing how many people still think this and because of this ignorance many men are suffering in silence. He will make a big difference by going public.
Ashley, 38-year-old son of George Hamilton has recovery from alcohol and drugs but still struggles with his eating disorder. He told People, “I suffered from bulimia and anorexia since I was a teenager. I believe it was my problem before I got into drugs and alcohol. I used the drugs and alcohol to control the food addiction.”
At Rebecca’s House Eating Disorder Treatment Programs we have heard that quote from so many of our patients. Many people with addictions will come forward about their alcohol or drug abuse but will not admit to having an eating disorder, even if that is the primary problem. Just like Ashley, many find that when they look at the start of their addictive behavior, they find the eating disorder actually came before the other addictions. Alcohol and drugs are often started as a way to control the uncontrollable obsession with food. Eating disorders usually start around puberty. If the eating disorder is addressed at an early age, people do not have to go down the path of alcohol and drugs addiction.
Eating disorders can be the hardest disease to recover from. With alcohol and drugs you can just stop taking them, but you must continue to eat. Many people find that once they get clean and sober the eating disorder rears its ugly head. They may have had years without the eating disorder because of the using other addictions. Many people in recovery relapse due to this secret or because of the extra weight brought on my replacing the addiction with food.
With sobriety is so important to be able to be honest. That is why many people come forward about their addiction, but when you come out about your eating disorder you usually hear things like “just stop” or “why do you do that?” The general public has a very poor understanding of eating disorders.
As I read the article written by People Magazine, I saw many factors that contribute to getting an eating disorder.
Growing up in the shadow of such a successful father figure probably contributed to his sense of perfectionism and striving to achieve success. External beauty had to be very important in his family. Second, Ashley remembers being bullied by being called “Fatley” at Beverly Hills High School. There are many studies today that have shown that being bullied as a teenager can have dire consequences especially eating disorders, depression, anxiety, low self-esteem and suicide. Third, Ashley has struggled with weight fluctuations, which is very typical of someone trying to control an eating disorder. Usually the weight gain is due to metabolism disturbances and electrolyte imbalances brought on by dieting or restricting food. These disturbances levels out after a while when you get into recovery, but many people in early recovery are terrified of gaining weight so when water weight accumulates on the body, many relapse into the eating disorder or other addictions.
I wish Ashley Hamilton success in every area of his life. He has shown his character and determination to set aside the ego and chose what is best for him and to help other men to come forward and get the help they need.
Rebecca Cooper, MA, LMFT, LPCC, CEDS, is the Founder of Rebecca’s House and the author of Diets Don’t Work®. For more information about her programs, call 800-711-2062 and/or see www.RebeccasHouse.org
March 4, 2013 | 8:54 am
Posted by Rebecca Cooper
Sixty-six percent of America’s adult population is overweight. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported earlier this year that 35.7 percent of adults and 16.9 percent of children age 2 to 19 are obese.
Marketdata Enterprises, Inc., an independent market research firm who is an analyst of the U.S. weight-loss industry since 1989 reports Americans are spending over $60 billion on dieting and weight loss products each year. Weight loss has become a national obsession! At any given time, 25 million Americans are seriously dieting. Only 1 out of every 200 dieters loses their weight and keeps it off for a year or more. There are now more overweight people in the US than any time in history. Obesity is costing our healthcare system over $147 billion annually. Something is drastically wrong! We have 12.5 million children who are overweight or obese and twelve million people in the U.S. with an eating disorder.
Eating disorders most often start between the ages of 11 and 15 years old. Eighty-six percent of people with eating disorders report that the onset of the disorder started by the age of 20. It is reported that 50% of girls ages 12-14 say they are unhappy because they “feel fat” and 45% of elementary age children report wanting to be thinner. This sends some into the abyss of an eating disorder.
But today we have more and more older women admitting to our eating disorder treatment center. The U.S. Census Bureau, 2010 reported that 46.3% of the US are women age 40 and older. Older women often fly under the radar with their disorders. They may not seek help because they fear they will be forced to gain weight or stigmatized as having a teenager's disease.
At a more mature age there are many additional stresses that may trigger an eating disorder. Among women 42.3% of those aged 60 and over were obese compared with 31.9% of women aged 20–39. These stresses include body changes, divorces, financial strains, blended families, career changes, parenting young adults, caring for older parents, empty nest, and health problems. Sometimes an eating disorder can be camouflaged during earlier years because the focus is put on being a wife and mother, child rearing, and/or climbing the corporate ladder. When these activities are ceased the eating disorder will resurface or appear for the first time.
The International Journal of Eating Disorders reports 13% of women ages 50 and older struggle with an eating disorder — some for the first time in their lives.5 In this on-line study of 1849 women 79% said their weight or shape affected their self-perception, 71% said they are trying to lose weight, 41% checked their body daily, and 40% weigh themselves a couple of times a week or more. This is not normal behavior, their disordered eating and thinking is affecting their quality of life in many ways.
Researchers from the University of North Carolina conducted a similar survey showing that 62 percent of the women reported that their weight negatively impacted their lives, 8% reported purging and 70% said they were in the process of dieting or trying to lose weight.
Often-neglected symptoms for some patients suffering from obesity or eating disorders are food sensitivities or food addictions. The most common being sugar. Scientific evidence has shown commonalities between overconsumption of sugars and drug addiction.5 A French Scientist’s research demonstrated that intense sweetness can surpass cocaine reward, even in a drug-sensitized and addicted individuals.6
Our food supply has so many different types of sugars and artificial sweeteners. Even health conscious people who read the labels on processed foods need to take into account that the first few ingredients on the label may not be the ingredients with the most volume. The label may include ten or more different words that are all a form of sugar. If all those ingredients were combined many processed foods would be required to list sugar as the first ingredient. The best foods to buy do not need labels or at least we should be able to understand the words on the label. “If we do not understand the ingredients, our body does not either.”
People are becoming more aware of the effects that sugar is having on them by abstaining from sugar for 5 days or more. For some people this is no problem, but for others they will experience headaches, mood swings, and flu like symptoms. People with sugar sensitivities experience cravings to eat more even when full. At Rebecca’s House Eating Disorder Treatment Programs we have seen some patients obtain recovery from their eating disorder after omitting this one substance from their diet. Many have tried to recover for years without knowing that sugar was causing their cravings or binges. There is much deliberation about sugar being addictive right now. It is important to remember that not everyone has this reaction to sugar. But some people have a reaction similar to an alcoholic having one drink. The person with alcoholism would have a different reaction to the drink than a non-alcoholic.
In January there will be a Sugar Awareness Week where people will be commenting on their experience of omitting sugar from their diet for 5 days. You can also take the challenge and record your experience at www.SugarAwareness.com. You can also read about other people’s experience with the sugar awareness challenge.
There are also dire medical consequences for the older woman with an eating disorder including severe osteoporosis, cardiomyopathy leading to sudden cardiac death, muscle wasting and gastro esophageal reflux disease. An older person who forceful vomits may rupture the esophagus resulting in a medical emergency or even death.
Now we are seeing complications from patients who have had gastro-bypass surgery. Some are experiencing weight gain 18+ months post surgery, medical complications and suppressed immune systems due to the malabsorption of vitamins. Thirty percent of post-bariatric patients develop substance addiction.8 It is so important that the underlying reasons for developing obesity are addressed in conjunction with this type of surgery or dealt with before the surgery.
Eating Disorders affect every social economic status, gender, and age. It is important to recognize the signs of eating disorders and seek professional help. Eating disorders do not just go away. Once in the destructive cycle of an eating disorder it is very hard to break out of the disorder.
If you a friend or loved one that needs treatment for an eating disorder, go to rebeccashouse.org or call 800.711.2062
January 28, 2013 | 12:47 pm
Posted by Rebecca Cooper
Have you been on more than one diet? How many? Just answering that question tells you a lot. If diets worked you would not be spending your money on one diet (plan, book, program, supplement, diet foods, pill, etc.) after another. Marketdata Enterprises, Inc. (2011), an independent market research firm who is an analyst of the U.S. weight-loss industry since 1979 reports Americans are spending over $60 billion on dieting and weight loss products each year. The FTC reports an estimated 4.8 million of U.S. consumers were victims of fraudulent weight-loss products in 2007.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported in 2011 that 35.7 percent of adults and 16.9 percent of children age 2 to 19 are obese. There are more overweight people in the US than any time in history. Weight loss has become a national obsession.
Diets don’t work! Even before a person starts a diet the thought of going on a diet begins to influence their overeating. They think, “I’ll go ahead and eat that cake now because tomorrow (or on Monday, or the first of the month or year) I am going on a diet.” So they overeat now and the day to start the diet may never come.
So how do we get hooked into the diet trap? Now let me contradict myself and say that “all diets work” . . . at least temporally. The problem is that people eventually go off the diet. Only internalize behaviors can be followed for a lifetime. Most people rebel against external controls. They get fed up with the diet and eat all the things they have been deprived of.
Then they gain the weight back… plus more. Due to the food restrictions of the diet, their metabolism has slowed down. The body thinks it is experiencing a famine; it is in starvation alert mode and is trying to store every calorie. The result is that they gain weight with a vengeance, faster than ever before.
It is reported that 95% of all dieters will regain their lost weight in 1-5 years (Grodstein, Levine, Spencer, Colditz, Stampfer, 1996). When they “slip” on their diet they mentally beat themselves up for not having the willpower to stay on the diet. With every repeated failure their self-esteem suffers. They become depressed, withdrawn, or anxious because of their eating patterns. It affects every area of their lives and their family’s lives too.
Some people who are struggling with their weight eventually give up dieting and just accept obesity as their lot in life. Binge eating often starts as a direct result of dieting. Thirty-five percent of "normal dieters" progress to eating disorders (Shisslak, Crago, & Estes, 1995).
Because of following a diet (external control) a dieter becomes disconnected from their appetite. In fact they think they are being “good” if they are truly hungry, but not eating. It can become difficult to know when they are physically hungry or full because they depend on an outside source, the diet, to regulate their food intake.
Some people start using food for emotional reasons. They may confuse an emotion or feeling with being hungery. They use food or the compulsive thoughts about food, weight, diet, or body image as a way to push down feelings. After awhile they do not even know what they are feeling so they mistake any uncomfortable feeling with hunger.
Dieting or thinking about what to eat or not eat can become the primary focus. The most common characteristic of disordered eating is the obsessive thinking about food, weight, diet, exercise, and body image. People with eating disorders report 80-90% of each waking moment is consumed with these thoughts.
There are some people who have an addictive reaction to certain foods, especially sugar. Once they have one bite they experience a craving for more that seems impossible to control. Many people are not able to stay on a diet because they are not aware of their reaction to sugar or other substances found in processed foods.
To summarize, the reasons that diets don’t work are:
If you think you need help with your relationship with food, Rebecca’s House Eating Disorder Treatment Programs provides free phone assessments by calling 800-711-2062 or go to rebeccashouse.org today.
November 28, 2012 | 7:45 am
Posted by Rebecca Cooper
As the holidays are well upon us, you man be looking for that perfect diet. You want to look your best for the family and friends you may not have seen since last holiday season. You have to lose those ten pounds you gained since last year. So you diet and restrict as the holidays approach.
Then you eat more than you intended. You think, “well I’ve already blown it so I may as well eat some more.” You will get back on your diet tomorrow. You promise yourself that the New Year will be different, and it is for a few weeks. And so it continues year after year after year.
So how can this season be different? I would like to offer you a recipe for sensible eating to try this holiday season:
Keep a positive attitude and invest time making authentic connections with loved ones. This is much more important than obsessing about food, weight, diet, or how you look on the outside. The results will be that you will enjoy the holiday season and not gain weight!
If you a friend or loved one that needs treatment for an eating disorder, go to rebeccashouse.org or call 1.866.931.1666.
November 1, 2012 | 10:04 am
Posted by Rebecca Cooper
As we enter November's National Diabetes Awareness Month , a closer look at Sugar and High Fructose Corn Syrup may help to explain America's rise in obesity, diabetes and the new focus on food addiction.
Ironically, when the government ordered cocaine removed from all Coca-Cola beverages no one would have guessed that an even more consequential substance would take its place. High Fructose Corn Syrup hit the markets in the 1950s as a wonder product. Cheaper than sugar cane while still packing all the intense sweetness we associate with confectionery delights, High Fructose Corn Syrup is now used to sweeten tons of candies, juices, colas, cookies, cakes, and creams and has even found its way into less palatable tempting items including bread, soups, and other pre-packaged foods.
Shadowing the same receptor pathways of other ingested addictive chemicals, including cocaine and opiates, High Fructose Corn Syrup alters the transmission of certain brain chemicals including endorphins, dopamine and serotonin, which, in turn, trigger the pleasure center of our brains, leaving us wanting more. It is important to note that with the incorporation of HFCS into food products have raised more than 1000% since 1970.
A 2007 study (Lenoir M, Serre F, Cantin L, Ahmed SH ), found that intense sweetness surpasses cocaine reward even in addicted and drug-sensitized individuals leading to increased aggression upon withdrawal and a disruption of the dopamine/acetylcholine reward balance in the brain. As the alterations on brain function brought on by HFCS produce many of these hallmarks of addiction - including intense craving, the inability to control or stop use, a pre-occupation with the substance, and withdrawal symptoms - the idea of dessert becomes elevated to a whole new level.
It's so hard today to promote the fact that sugar - and particularly high fructose corn syrup so overused in foods today - is an addictive substance, leaving one wanting more and more. Unfortunately, there are still many nutritionists, dietitians, and professionals who don't believe sugar can be addictive to SOME people. In all my years of work with eating disorder sufferers and emotional overeaters - as well as the new scientific studies - prove otherwise. It is just like alcohol. Some people have no problem having a few drinks, but others cannot stop after that first drink.
We are in the midst of an obesity crisis in this country and I'm convinced high fructose corn syrup is a major culprit. I've known this from working with disordered eating victims for decades and now with this new scientific back-up maybe we can educate the general public that for some sugar or HFCS can be the gateway drug to a life of obesity, diabetes, and/or addiction. Nothing less than the health of our nation is at stake.
If you a friend or loved one that needs treatment for an eating disorder, go to rebeccashouse.org or call 1.866.931.1666.