re you overweight? If so, you’re on a slippery slope to diabetes – but a diagnosis is not a foregone conclusion. You have the power to create a healthy future: some estimates suggest that the risk of type 2 diabetes could be slashed by as much as 58% with just 30 minutes of moderate, daily exercise and a 5-7% loss in body weight. While in adults over age 60, the decreased risk jumps to over 70%.
If it doesn’t take a lot to minimize the risk, why do we continue to make choices that put our health on the line? Why do we continue to choose the sofa over a stroll, and a soda over a salad?
Friends may have something to do with it. According to a 2011 study, strong links exist between health behaviours and social networks. Teen research
determined that friendships influence decisions regarding weight management behaviours including sports, exercise and fast food consumption. Peer groups also share such habits as the number of hours online, watching TV or sleeping less than six hours a night, and whether they eat breakfast on weekdays (see ‘Breakfast makes the grade’ pg. 58). As the number
of teens diagnosed with diabetes rises, researchers conclude that strategies for curbing adolescent obesity must focus on harnessing peer support in changing
Why we are so easily affected by our peers remains unexplained. Why does the status quo (they’re fat so it’s okay for me) trump a personal desire to have a healthy body? Are we lazy? Or does it go deeper? With only 32% of Canadians who consider themselves ‘very happy,’ does feeling joy-less drive us to find solace in other things like food and drink – and a lot of it? Is our obesity epidemic pinned on the cliché ‘misery loves company?’ Maybe. But there’s more.
A value-less society
Most participants on TV weight loss programs share a common belief: they
don’t consider themselves worth the effort to be healthy. Somehow, the low self-value message of being not pretty, smart, loved or some other version of ‘not enough’ subconsciously undermines every decision. So, self-sabotage by overindulging in unhealthy choices makes sense. This subconscious behaviour may show up in the form of excuses, including: the kids need me; I have bad knees; no time to exercise; can’t afford it. If this sounds familiar, reach out; find a life coach or therapist to assist you in finding the answers to silence the negative voices in your head. Allow yourself to stop being a victim of circumstance, powerless to change.
Over 75% of us have an emotional connection to food. A ‘bad day’ can lead directly to drowning sorrows in a pint of ice cream. (See ‘Emotional eating,’ Spring 2010) Until we address the underlying emotional trigger, we’ll continue to use food as a band-aid. But according to Dr. Vera Ingrid Tarman, Medical Director of Renascent in Toronto, Ontario, a physiological response feeds the cycle.
“People often eat to assuage emotional turmoil,to self-medicate,” says Dr. Tarman. “When you ingest sugar or high
glycemic index starches, a burst of energy-dense chemicals creates a short-lived euphoria, provided by ‘feel good’ neurochemicals. Endorphins provide a calming, anesthetising effect, numbing emotional distress. This euphoria is followed by a mood ‘crash,’ triggering cravings for more sugar.”
Tarman also explains that once obese, a feedback mechanism heightens the neurochemical imbalance, increasing the emotional connection to food: the more obese, the more insulin dysregulation,
||the more the sugar cravings increase, and the more emotionally imbalanced one becomes. Some people may be born with a genetic imbalance of neurochemicals, requiring more self-medicating food to feel normal in a stressful world.|
And there are biological explanations for why this cycle is so difficult to break. “The compulsion to eat – the addiction – isn’t in the rational brain, but in the powerful, primal limbic part of the brain,” says Tarman. “Someone who is highly sensitized to sugar experiences a heightened imbalance.”
Breaking the cycle
Is food addiction keeping you from losing weight? If it’s a possibility, Tarman believes the only solution is to go ‘cold turkey’ by not eating the powerful triggers that upset blood glucose balance: sugars, starches and white flour. Work with a trained nutritionist to design the perfect eating plan to balance your blood glucose levels.
If you’ve tried countless ‘diets’ without success, try a different approach to avoid becoming a diabetes statistic. With the appropriate expert assistance, examine beliefs about your self-value and those of your peer group.
Do friends support healthy change, or want to stay stuck? Seek friendships that align with your goals. Be honest with yourself about whether food addiction is playing a role in your weight, and seek appropriate help.
Your story doesn’t have to end with diabetes: you have the power to change your future and create a happy ending. Only you! And you’re worth it! H&L
Hear Lisa on LisaLive radio
Saturdays 10AM at NewsTalk
610 CKTB and online LisaLive.ca