When you ask recovered addictive eaters ask how they’ve overcome their food addiction, the most common denominator in their answer is ‘no sugar, no flour’.

You’ve probably heard about the negative health consequences of eating a high sugar diet because it’s all over the news these days. Sugar is the new tobacco. It’s quite trendy to ‘quit sugar’.

But what about flour?

Well, before we tackle that question, let’s just briefly recap on what the research says about the bad health effects of sugar.

Sugar is actually a poison called chronic dose-dependent hepatotoxin, according to Dr Robert Lustig.

When we eat sugar, our body produces insulin to process the glucose contained in sugar. The more sugar we eat the more insulin is needed. With our modern day excessive sugar consumption insulin levels get so high they actually block the function of the hunger-regulating hormone leptin. This means we no longer know when we’re full. Even worse, this creates a kind of insatiable hunger and leads to more eating.

Sugar also releases dopamine in the brain, which makes us feel good. Eating lots of sugar overstimulates the dopamine receptors in our brains to the point that the brain has to downscale their activity. As a result we get really strong sugar cravings and need more and more sugar to get the desired feel good effect.

Sugar makes us fat because while the insulin is in the blood dealing with all the glucose, it tells our fat cells to hold on to the fat. That’s because part of insulin’s job is to make sure excess energy is stored in case it’s needed later. So it actually turns off our fat burning processes.

If you want to learn more about this, check out That Sugar Film and read the research of Dr Susan Peirce Thompson.

Ok, so we’ve recapped on the sugar, but what about flour?

Food addiction specialist Kay Sheppard says that addictive eaters usually binge on highly refined carbohydrates (including flour) because they rapidly convert into sugar.  So, flour has a similar effect on the body as sugar because it contains a high amount of glucose.

According to the Food Addiction Institute, the problem with flour is that the highly processed nature of the grain in powdered form releases too much glucose too fast. This is called bioavailability, or the ease with which something is absorbed from the digestive tract.

The higher the bioavailability of a food, the greater the total absorption and rate of absorption. The faster a food is absorbed, the more quickly it turns to glucose in the body. So, we’re getting a hit of too much glucose too fast, and that sets off similar insulin spikes as with excess sugar consumption.

Even though whole grains have been in our diets for thousands of years, the process of  milling and grinding grains is fairly recent. The more refined a flour is, the more bioavailable it becomes. While it’s said that whole grains take much longer to be digested that refined flours, for addictive eaters all flours are highly addictive.

Dr Susan Peirce Thompson says that while the research on the addictive qualities of flour is not yet as advanced as the research on sugar addiction, it’s clear that food addicts who cut out sugar usually start overeating on flour. Think about it, when you’re craving food, what do you crave first? Isn’t it usually a food that contains sugar and/or flour? Pizza is one of the most addictive foods in the world! And what about bread? Pastries? Cakes? Pies?

Try giving up sugar and watch yourself heading straight to the bakery.

Now, picture the appearance of sugar and flour. They’re highly refined white powders, which have been processed to concentrate the properties of the original natural substances they’re made of (sugar cane and grains).

As William Dufty said as far back as 1975, this is not much different from heroin, which is taken from the juice of the poppy and then refined into opium, morphine and heroin. Or, as Gary Taubes says, think about cocaine, which is derived from coca leaves. Same thing. White powder derived from a natural source but highly processed to concentrate the natural properties.

In their original state (be it sugar cane, grains, poppy or coca leaf) these substances are not that addictive. It’s their processed nature that makes them so addictive.

So, the answer, as recovered addictive eaters will all tell you: If you’re eating addictively, stay away from those white powders. No sugar, no flour. EVER!

Or, would you tell a heroin addict to ‘shoot up heroin in moderation’?

There are other nifty things that recovered food addicts do to lose weight, keep it off and discover life beyond food. If you’d like to hear about them, get in touch!