If you snack or eat fast food more often than you would like, you’re not alone – 1 in 4 Americans will visit a fast food restaurant today. Nutritionists advise limiting fast food meals to once per month, but how many people follow this advice? University of Alberta researchers recently found that a drink and a snack from a vending machine would provide 15 teaspoons of sugar and 433 calories—roughly the caloric equivalent of a McDonald’s Quarter Pounder.
60% of Americans are overweight or obese, and the Surgeon General has stated that “fast food is a major contributor to the obesity epidemic.” This isn’t surprising, considering a single meal at a fast food establishment can fulfill your total calorie intake for the day. It’s also not hard to see how uncontrolled snacking can contribute as well.
And whether or not weight is a concern for you, processed foods are not a healthy part of any diet. Yet potatoes are the most consumed vegetable in America – in the form of French fries, and how far down the list do you think potato chips fall?
No one walks into a fast food chain like Wendy’s or Burger King expecting a nutritional and healthy meal. We know the risks, we’ve been shown the statistics, but we still spend billions of dollars on fast food every year. Or how about the quick stroll down to the office snack machine?
Why do we maintain this destructive relationship with unhealthy food?
The most commonly known answer is in the label itself: fast food. As the national average work week increases, you’re left with less and less time to plan and prepare meals. As a result, many Americans are more concerned with convenience than health when hunger strikes. We’ve also been conditioned to use food as a response to outside circumstances. Did you have a bad meeting and need to respond? Difficult conversation with a friend or loved one? We habitually turn to food.
The argument of the availability of unhealthy food isn’t new. But new studies are suggesting an additional factor that makes it so hard to beat an unhalthy food habit.
Have you ever considered the added sugar in processed foods?
On average, Americans consume between a quarter and half a pound of sugar. Every day. That’s 800+ calories with no nutritional value. You don’t just love the taste of a Frosty, you’re addicted to it.
Studies have been conducted on rats regularly receiving cocaine through an IV. When they have the option of switching to sugar, almost all of them switched, and those who switched ending up binging on sugar more than cocaine. If a rat is given total 24/7 access to all of the cocaine it could want, it will eventually stop eating and stop sleeping. It will use more and more cocaine until it dies.
Guess what happened when rats were given that kind of access to sugar? (Hint: they didn’t join Weight Watchers).
Added sugars (present in about 75% of packaged food in America) activate the same pathways as other addictive substances, and have parallel effects. Drugs like cocaine, heroin, and nicotine all change the way your brain processes dopamine. Over time, this leads your brain into an increasingly violent cycle between withdrawal and reward.
So when you want to avoid snacking or the drive-thru, it’s not as simple as packing a lunch in advance. Your brain has been programmed over time to function on snacks and fast food to satisfy its addiction to sugar, and it will produce intense cravings when you try to stop!
This can be good and bad news. The good news: if you’ve tried and failed to avoid snacks and fast food in the past, you can’t put yourself entirely at fault. There are more factors going on than the strength of your willpower alone. The bad news: while you can absolve yourself from total responsibility, this also means it’s a lot harder to stop than you thought.
Luckily, there’s more good news. Every time you sip your shake, the sugar activates the reward pathway in your brain, and this pathway works in reverse!
This is the basis of aversion therapy. Just as you can get your brain to make positive associations, you can teach it negative associations that work in your favor. Today, with America’s growing dependence on sugar, there are a lot of self-proclaimed ‘professionals’ out there trying to monetize the epidemic with expensive programs to help you quit.
Examples include a collection of slideshows pairing pictures of junk food with morbid and disgusting images, hypnotists who will come to your home (and charge by the minute), and detailed guides containing cleanses and recipes that will dictate what you’re allowed to eat for the rest of your life (plus shipping and handling).
The way to start curing sugar addiction is to treat it for what it is: an addiction. Snacking and fast food has rewired your brain, so attention must be paid at the neurological level.
Consider drugs like nicotine and alcohol. They function in several different ways, but both of them, like sugar, raise the concentration of dopamine in the brain — making you feel rewarded, and ultimately causing addiction.
Electrical aversion therapy, which pairs a mild electric shock with the drug, helped the majority of those addicted to nicotine and alcohol quit in five (or fewer) days.
Sugar has various effects on the body, but recent research has shown it shares its main effect on the brain with these drugs. So if electrical aversion therapy can cure the majority of smokers and alcoholics, wouldn’t you rather give that a try before you start cold-calling hypnotists?
We know convenience is important to you. Pavlok is a wristband with a simple one-button system to deliver a safe shock, and you can adjust the intensity to a level that’s comfortable for you. Electrical aversion therapy has always been effective, and now, it’s more convenient than ever.
The actual addictive qualities of the sugar in your snacks and fast food were only revealed recently, and researchers are still working to understand the full extent of its ability to change how your brain works. Meanwhile, Americans across the country are continuously starting and ending magic fixes and extreme diets. And they all support the idea that if you fail, you are the one to blame.
But we now know that your snacking and fast food habit is more than that. Your brain has been altered to want sugar, and will give you cravings if you try to resist!
That’s why Tasha had been trying for years to stop eating sugar, but was never able to make a permanent change in her diet. But she started using Pavlok the same day it arrived in the mail, and has not had refined sugar since!
You’re not expected to be able to ignore your brain’s needs on your own, and Pavlok can help reverse this reward circuit in five days or less.
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Habits, Technology & Behavioral Change