In recent years, when talking to people about food and eating, it’s become increasingly common to hear: “I’m addicted to sugar.”
“Okay,” I might respond. “Tell me about it. What does that look like for you?”
In recent years too, it’s become increasingly common to get the question: “So, can you really be addicted to sugar? I mean, is it an actual addiction?”
Depending on the situation, I might answer in a few ways.
I could, for instance, point to research showing that, yes, sugar (and refined carbs) do indeed have addictive qualities.
Or I could explain things from a Chinese Medicine angle, bringing special attention to how foods, behaviors and emotions can cause imbalance in the body…and contribute to an unhealthy cycle.
You might find one or both answers interesting. Or you might not.
Regardless, neither may be particularly useful for you, in this moment, if you’re trying to change your patterns around sugar (or carbs or comfort eating or binging or anything else food related).
Thing is, the words “addiction” and “addict” – whatever perspective you take and whatever your drug of choice – are just words.
For such words to be useful, we need to explore what, exactly, we’re talking about.
So, today, rather than answer for you whether sugar (or pizza or ice-cream or comfort eating) is addictive, I’m going to share a working definition of addiction…then put the question back to you. Ready?
The Alchemist Eating definition of addiction goes this way:
of any substance or action
that attempts to temporarily fill a personal void
but which results in
pain for self and/or others and
validation and reinforcement for the origins of the problem.”
Well? Are you an addict? Let’s take it bite-by-bite.
- Is your using (of a substance or action) patterned and repetitive?
- Are you attempting (knowingly or unknowingly) to fill a personal void? Or make up for some lack? Or soothe some wound?
- Does it result in pain (or another sort of hurt) to you or to others?
- Does it validate and reinforce the origins of the problem? Put differently, does using – and its consequences – feel like a painful cycle on repeat?
If so, what then?
It’s okay if these questions are uncomfortable. As best you can, allow space for that. Meet it with curiosity and gentleness.
On the one hand, “addiction” and “addict” are just words. Relative, ultimately empty labels that, really, could apply to any of us humans. Even when they do apply, they still aren’t ALL of who we are.
On the other hand, exploring these words and what they mean can help us better understand something that’s off -something that needs healing.
That’s why I offer you this definition…then ask you to take another look.
These are big questions, and there’s no pressure to figure it all out, pick a label, or know what to do.
When I work with Alchemist Eating clients, exploring them is a ongoing process involving mindful investigation of physiological, mental-emotional and behavioral patterns.
But even on your own, the simple act of asking questions is useful – and can lead to change.
That’s the first part of stepping out of an addictive cycle…and into something different.
I’d love to hear how this working definition lands with you. Please share, if you’d like!
. . .