I appreciate science that debunks the notion that we eat and gain weight because we are emotionally out of control and we just need to buck up and make better decisions: Push away from the table. Drop the fork. Hit the gym. Ignore the fridge. Science tells us it’s not that simple; food may be a complicated “addiction.”
Many of my blog world friends are talking about food addiction: Here’s the most recent post on that topic from Beth, the Weight Maven, who has many well thought-out posts on the concept. Barbara at RTR, is also using the “A” word.
I struggle with the notion of calling eating that leads to fatness “addiction.” It is likely inaccurate for many people. Moreover, it doesn’t prevent fatphobic lay people from pigeon-holing and demonizing fat people. (Do NOT go to My Fat Spouse and run a search on “food addiction”; just trust that you will be disappointed.) On the other hand, the word seems to help doctors get beyond the notion that their patients merely need to “get serious” and be “compliant.”
In Science Daily, there’s a nice summary of a study out of Sweden, that links a gene variant, that affects the signalling system for the neuropeptide ghrelin, to cravings for sugar and alcohol (and, by leap, then, to binge eating and alcohol addiction). Here’s the actual study.
In simpler words, the study links ghrelin to sugar-seeking (and alcohol-seeking) behaviors, by way of a genetic variant. Sugar seeking, sadly, is not my issue, darn it (and this blog is about me, after all). I have said before that I am painfully aware that my internal chemistry has changed since my radical weight loss, which makes maintenance of that loss a hell of a lot harder than popular celebrities like Jillian Michaels would have us believe. And, given past research that links voluntary radical weight-loss to a 24% average increase in Ghrelin throughout the day, I have blamed Ghrelin. I may be wrong.
When I wander to the kitchen, driven by my “eat now” impulses (which may or may not qualify as “hunger”), I am more likely to attack a brick of cheese with a dull knife or pop the lid on a jar of nuts than I am to upend the aerosol whipped cream into my mouth (my husband’s MO). In fact, to some degree I use sugar judiciously and medicinally. If I give myself two squares of really high quality, 88% cocoa chocolate, I may be able to stop myself from that fateful binge walk to the fridge. I keep this chocolate in my medicine cabinet – away from the kid and husband who cannot make it last an amount of time commensurate to its co$t. (My friend NewMe, is lucky to be able to share expensive chocolate with her family. I am jealous.)
So if Ghrelin isn’t my demon, then what is? Sigh. So many dancers at the chemical cotillion.
My husband has picked up on the jargon du jour: “There’s an app for that.” Thankfully, he’s also a bit of a technophile, so he’ll download it for me. (He’s also particularly delighted when the app comes free.)
I look forward to the day that our doctors can say “there’s a genetic variant for that.” Or, more likely, just as “application” has been shortened to “app,” they’ll say “there’s a gene-var for that!” And then they’ll download a (free of side effects) drug cocktail that addresses our individual concerns. Sigh.
Despite my appreciation for access to the whole study, I admit, I haven’t read beyond the abstract yet, but have printed it off for future enjoyment. I see among the scientists there may be some conflicts of interest, and will read with that in the back of my mind. I invite you, gentle readers, to look it over and comment, and to talk about your own food bugbears. I’ve, obviously, got a thing for protein and/or fat, my husband’s thing is sugar. And, I’m willing to believe, they’re both genetically programmed to some degree. What’s in your gene pool that makes a particular food attractive/addictive, and how do you deal with it?