Are you stuck? The Five Letter Dirty Word That Could Be Holding You Back
“We cannot reach our optimum in life if we are not firing on all four cylinders… and ****r stands in the way.”
By Karla Hardin, M.S., LPC
By Karla Hardin, M.S., LPC
Got your attention? You may be surprised.. It is… [drumroll] .. SUGAR.
I am sure you are thinking I am being a little dramatic linking the problem of too much sugar to getting control and reclaiming your life. But actually I am dead serious and this is why.
Our four-circle logo was designed to capture a “true truth” that impacts us whether we acknowledge it or not. The truth is that every part of who we are affects the other parts. We are physical, emotional, social and spiritual. Our parts were designed by God and seen clearly in His Son in Luke 2:52 where Jesus was constantly in a “growth” process in all four areas.
Problems occur when one or more of these areas aren’t working or growing, because the struggling or neglected part will eventually wear down the others. We see this simply when we have a headache. Not only is our head throbbing but we can’t concentrate at work, we feel slightly depressed, and certainly self-preoccupied vs. God-focused.
Bottom-line: We cannot reach our optimum in life if we are not firing on all four cylinders.
And this brings us to the problem of sugar.
When it comes to the brain, every time we do or ingest something pleasurable, we get a hit of dopamine, a surge of “feel goods” -a natural brain response. However, our brain’s reward pathway becomes easily hijacked when exposed to drugs of abuse such as nicotine, cocaine, heroin, and SUGAR. It makes sense when we think how stressful our lives can be, sugar is an accessible relief. The problem? The brain becomes tolerant to sugar – and more is needed to attain the same “sugar high.”
So just like other addictions, when sugar is overdone, it negatively impacts all four areas of your life.
Let me start with the “not so obvious” area it is affecting – your spiritual circle.
As a therapist, I am constantly trying to help people courageously face the hard realities in their lives instead of trying to avoid, numb or disconnect. It is easy to call out addictions to alcohol and porn as unhealthy ways of coping since we can quickly show how harmful they are to relationships, brain function and quality of life.
Beyond these obvious negative consequences, we Christians know that choosing our addictions over God is idolatry. Yes, choosing to make myself “feel” better above all else is selfish. I can’t be connected to God in the way He designed when I choose “self-soothing” over God-honoring behavior. (Matthew 6:24) God honoring behavior includes what goes in my mouth.
Now I am not saying this in a legalistic way or some extreme self-deprivation theology but rather that as we walk with God we want every area of our lives to honor Him. Therefore we are willing to look at all things and how they impact us in our walk.
You may wonder if I’m putting sugar in the same category as alcohol and other addictive substances - I am in a certain sense. Sugar is as strong of a craving as cocaine and triggers the same region of the brain. Lab rats will die trying to satisfy their sugar addiction and we are not above it. I believe as Christians we need to see a sugar addiction as an area to be surrendered if it is compromising our overall health and well-being.
I am personally tempted to indulge in some way every day. I don’t mean taking care of and nurturing myself – I mean over-indulging myself. I am never past being tempted. But knowing that giving in to a self-centered focus - in whatever form - distances me in my walk with God, is what motivates me to get honest with myself about what is first in my life.
Sugar also affects our emotional circle. Researchers believe that blood sugar swings, neurotransmitter dysregulation and inflammation may all be reasons for sugar’s detrimental impact on mental health.
A study following 8,000 people for 22 years showed that men who consumed 67 grams or more of sugar per day were 23% more likely to develop depression. Recent statistics showed that 60% of Americans report clinical signs of depression. Poor gut health, triggered by inflammation, is credited for the lack of production of serotonin – our “happy” hormone.
As a result of these findings, I now specifically address a person’s diet when treating mood disturbances. So, look at your mood and those around you and ask, “Is there a sugar factor?” Good emotional health is hard to come by, so make a commitment to support both your and your family’s emotional circle.
Our social circle is often overlooked when we think of the effects of sugar, but it actually shows up in in several negative ways. The Centre for Human Psychopharmacology in Australia, examined the markers of brain health determined by MRI scans. Those studied who drank soft drinks and fruit juices displayed smaller than average brain volumes and poorer memory function.
In the US, added sugars account for up to 17% of the total calorie intake of adults and up to 14% for children. So can you see how this could affect schoolwork and job advancement?
Also, foods high in added sugar quickly spike blood sugar and insulin levels, leading to increased energy.
However, this rise in energy levels is fleeting and can lead to what is called a “crash”. Having constant blood sugar swings can lead to major fluctuations in energy levels.
So, wonder why you just want to sit in front of a screen all day and all night? Sugar can actually be impacting the way you spend our free time – what a thought!
Well last – but certainly not least – is our physical circle. We are a nation who is sitting in a doctor’s office trying to get a prescription for our IBS, Crohn’s disease, arthritis, gout, gall bladder attacks and the list goes on and on. Most all of these diseases have one thing in common – INFLAMMATION. Can you guess what is going in your mouth that produces inflammation? You guessed it – Sugar.
Illness and diseases directly linked to sugar intake:
For one, heart disease. When liver cells break down fructose, one of the end products is triglyceride – a form of fat – that builds up in liver cells over time. When it is released into the bloodstream, it can contribute to the growth of fat-filled plaque inside artery walls.
Cancer. Diets high in sugar increase inflammation in your body and may cause insulin resistance, both of which increase cancer risk.
Type 2 Diabetes. Two large studies in the 1990s found that women who consumed more than one soft drink or fruit juice per day were twice as likely to develop diabetes as those who rarely did so.
Acne. Sugary foods quickly spike blood sugar and insulin levels, causing increased androgen secretion, oil production and inflammation, all of which play a role in acne development .
Premature aging. Consuming a diet high in refined carbs and sugar leads to the production of AGEs, which may cause your skin to age prematurely.
Are you seeing a pattern?
If we only had one of these symptoms in one circle it would be frustrating. But the truth is that the average American is struggling with several symptoms in each circle. That is why we need to consider if our quality of life is being compromised by our consumption of too much sugar.
So what is the motivation to get sugar “under control”?
Consider what it would be like to feel more centered spiritually, more joyful, more connected to others, mentally sharper and more energetic for starters.
There is great reward in living fully as yourself, firing on all cylinders!
Try cutting your sugar down to under 15 grams a day and see if you don’t find the better version of yourself!
TIPS and RESOURCES
*Use monk fruit and stevia as sugar substitutes as they are natural and low glycemic alternatives!
Read the Omni Diet for more helpful tips!