Halloween candy, Thanksgiving pies, Christmas cookies, and pumpkin spice everything. As we enter the holiday season many of us start to prepare ourselves for the smorgasbord of sweets that inevitably inundate almost every part of our lives. They’re hard to resist but have you ever stopped to think about what that sugar does not just to your waistline but to your brain?
Sugar in all it’s many forms, granulated sugar and honey to the more hidden types like sucrose and high fructose corn syrup, find their ways into our foods with shocking frequency. It’s in practically all processed food items we consume and in the era of expedient eating, that’s almost every meal. That sugar hits our systems and triggers a chain of events leading to the release of dopamine, your “Dr. Feel Good” neurotransmitter, in the pleasure centers of our brains. That sounds good, right? What’s wrong with that? The problem with any over-consumption is that we begin to become desensitized to the good feelings we get from our food and the cravings hit telling you to eat more, more, more!
In a recent Australian study scientists have determined that eating excessive amounts of sugar can actually affect your brain in the same way as early childhood trauma and excessive stress. It contributes to higher-than-normal levels of the stress hormone cortisol which leads to general feelings of anxiety and can even lead to a depressed immune system and illness. Sugar is literally making us sick and making us feel more stressed.
What can we do about this? The answer is not new although it is a bit more complicated than simply not eating sugar. The solution is moderation, moderation, moderation. Will power is your friend and it can help you navigate the sweet, sweet waters of holiday eating. It will not only help your weight but it’ll help your mental well-being. Do yourself a favor and look for fresh fruit /vegetable options (apple pie does not count you silly willy) and try to limit yourself to minimal portions. Can’t help yourself because you just have to have a slice of Aunt Bertha’s pumpkin pretzel crunch pie? Then do it but only do a little. Your body and your mind will thank you for eating more fresh, unprocessed foods during these times and all year through.