Obesity is now considered to be a pandemic, with over one-third of the North American population classified as obese.
The blame is usually placed on the wide availability of foods that cause people to become overweight, namely, foods that are laden with sugar and fat. These foods are certainly a major culprit, along with the addictive properties of sugar. However, obesity is sometimes a symptom of underlying mental/emotional problems.
Eating to Feel Better
We often think about obesity as a consequence of eating too much of the wrong food. But why do some people who are obese eat the wrong kind of food in the first place? Its wide availability is the obvious answer. For some people, however, the reason is the same as for people who are addicted to alcohol or to recreational drugs, such as heroin and cocaine: They are addicted to sugar because it makes them feel better while they are consuming it and a short while afterwards. Eating sugary foods is their way of self-medicating deeper emotional problems, such as childhood abuse.
These people can go on fad diets and lose weight, but if the underlying triggers and emotional issues are not resolved, the weight will come back because the reasons behind the sugar cravings and binge eating have not been addressed.
Many people who are obese eat sugar-laden foods as a means to self-medicate. The addictive substance, in this case sugar, can change the way you feel. In fact, sugar affects the same feel-good centres in the brain as recreational drugs do. However, just as with recreational drugs and alcohol, once the high wears off, the person goes back to feeling the way he or she did before, and sometimes even worse. Symptoms of low blood sugar after a sugar high include dizziness, irritability, anxiety, sweating, and shakiness.
Once the reason for the food addiction has been addressed, weight loss becomes a lot easier.
How can naturopathic medicine help?
Naturopathic medicine can help by supporting a person with a food addiction to address the underlying issues causing the addiction. Also, people addicted to sugar are encouraged and supported to make simple, step-by-step dietary changes that introduce more complex carbohydrates into the diet and slowly reduce sources of simple sugars that fuel the addiction. A healthy lifestyle is taught in which food is no longer used as an emotional crutch.
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