Potatoes Not Prozac : Simple Solutions for Sugar Sensitivity, by DesMaisons, Kathleen
- ISBN: 9781416556152 | 141655615X
- Cover: Paperback
- Copyright: 1/1/2008
|Introduction to the New Edition||p. 1|
|The Science||p. 1|
|The Experience||p. 4|
|Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde||p. 7|
|Sugar Sensitivity||p. 9|
|Naming the Problem||p. 10|
|"Don't Tell, Don't Feel, Don't Share"||p. 12|
|Turning to Sugar for Solace||p. 13|
|Lessons from the "Drunks"||p. 15|
|Discovering Food as Pharmacy||p. 16|
|Finding Out Why It Worked||p. 18|
|Are You Sugar Sensitive?||p. 22|
|Diagnosing Sugar Sensitivity||p. 24|
|Can You Be Addicted to Sugar?||p. 31|
|It's Not Your Fault||p. 40|
|The Level of Sugar in Your Blood||p. 42|
|Brain Chemicals: Serotonin||p. 43|
|Brain Chemicals: Beta-endorphin||p. 44|
|A Delicate Balance||p. 46|
|The Ups and Downs of Blood Sugar||p. 54|
|How Normal Blood Sugar Works||p. 54|
|The Impact of Sugar Sensitivity||p. 56|
|Adrenal Fatigue||p. 59|
|Brain Chemistry 101||p. 63|
|Neurotransmitters: Messengers of the Brain||p. 64|
|Cleaning Up and Regulating the System||p. 67|
|How Antidepressants Work||p. 73|
|Sugar and the Beta-endorphin Response||p. 76|
|Sugar and Isolation Distress||p. 77|
|Sugar and Learned Helplessness||p. 78|
|Why Not Sugar?||p. 84|
|Cravings and Relapse||p. 85|
|The Sugar-Sensitive Dilemma||p. 86|
|Balance Once Again||p. 88|
|The First Step: Getting Started||p. 90|
|Don't Use the D-Word||p. 91|
|Take It One Step at a Time||p. 93|
|The Seven Steps to Feeling Great||p. 95|
|Eat Breakfast with Protein Every Day||p. 96|
|Have the Right Amount of Protein||p. 97|
|Eat Within an Hour of Waking Up||p. 100|
|Have a Complex Carb with Your Meal||p. 103|
|Do It Every Day||p. 104|
|The Second Step: Keeping a Food Journal||p. 109|
|Starting Your First Food Journal||p. 112|
|What to Do If You Don't Know How You Feel||p. 118|
|Learning to Read Your Body||p. 121|
|The Third Step: Three Meals a Day||p. 126|
|Adequate Protein at Each Meal||p. 126|
|Foods with Protein||p. 128|
|A Protein That Raises Serotonin||p. 131|
|What About Cholesterol?||p. 132|
|Just Do Three Things||p. 136|
|The Fourth Step: Increasing Your Serotonin Naturally||p. 140|
|Vitamins to Ready You for Detox||p. 140|
|Finally the Potato||p. 143|
|Giving Tryptophan a Helping Hand||p. 144|
|The Fifth Step: Going from White to Brown||p. 148|
|The Carbohydrate Continuum||p. 150|
|Simple Sugars||p. 152|
|"White Things"||p. 158|
|"Brown Things"||p. 164|
|"Green Things"||p. 170|
|More About Fruit||p. 171|
|Shifting Your Place on the Continuum||p. 175|
|The Sixth Step: Dealing with Sugars||p. 176|
|Reducing or Eliminating Sugars||p. 177|
|On the Trail of Secret Sugars||p. 178|
|Take It Easy||p. 181|
|The Next Step||p. 182|
|Going Off Sugars||p. 184|
|Planning Your Sugar Detox||p. 185|
|Doing It||p. 187|
|The Seventh Step: Coming Alive||p. 191|
|Living Your Radiant Recovery||p. 197|
|Activities to Support Your Radiant Recovery||p. 199|
|Safeguarding Your Progress||p. 205|
|Stopping the Journal||p. 214|
|Holding It||p. 215|
|Continue Your Food Journal No Matter What||p. 215|
|Maintain Your Blood Sugar Level||p. 215|
|Enhance Your Serotonin Level||p. 216|
|Enhance Your Beta-endorphin Level||p. 216|
|Enhance Your Dopamine Level||p. 217|
|Discerning Food Issues from Life Issues||p. 219|
|There's No Such Thing as Perfection||p. 219|
|Detoxification from Alcohol||p. 221|
|George's Shake||p. 245|
|Motivational Tools||p. 246|
|Support Groups||p. 247|
|Weight Loss||p. 247|
|Online Classes||p. 248|
|Consulting with Kathleen||p. 248|
|Radiant Recovery Store||p. 248|
|Table of Contents provided by Ingram. All Rights Reserved.|
Before you delve into this second edition of Potatoes Not Prozac, I want to give you some background on our program for healing sugar sensitivity. It helps to have context when making a decision to trust a healing program. How can you know whether this program works? Is this just one more promise that will turn to dust over time or is there really something to it? To answer those questions, let's connect with the power of both the science behind the methods and the lived experience of those who are doing the Potatoes Not Prozac program.
Science is an exciting tool in helping you understand how your body works. Countless men and women working in academia around the world are asking questions and seeking new answers: They develop careful experiments to test a hypothesis. Then they publish their experimental results in peer-reviewed journals to invite critique and confirmation by their peers. The process is rigorous and demands careful scrutiny on one question at a time.
The strength of this process comes with the scientific dialogue over years of validation. A major constraint of this process is that it takes years to evolve and also depends upon funding that may be affected by a changing political climate. Even more problematic is that science books are about data rather than real people who are living complex, messy lives. Scientists work to exclude the complexity and contradiction of messiness by focusing on one variable at a time, attempting to exclude what are called "confounding variables."
Field clinicians work directly with people rather than simply manipulate numbers. Clinicians are in the trenches of every-day life.
When I started the process of looking at the science, I was a clinician in the field of addiction. I brought years of experience to the table. I had worked in mental health, nutrition, and public policy. I had started and run an addiction treatment center and had listened to thousands and thousands of clients. This professional experience, added to the personal background I will tell you about in chapter 1, motivated me to find more answers in science.
My educational training was nontraditional and interdisciplinary. Rather than enter a field, I wanted to create one. Rather than narrow my scholarly work to one question, I wanted to find answers to the questions that arose in my work with people. So I came to the scientific literature from an outside-the-box perspective and started reading in many fields. I read the literature for addiction, psychology, nutrition, and neuroscience. Here are the facts I gathered and began writing about in the first edition of this book.
The brains of alcoholics are different from other brains. This special configuration is inherited.
There are people who are sensitive to carbohydrates and have a more powerful blood sugar response to eating them.
When needed, the brain releases opioids (natural painkilling chemicals), and these can affect your choices of what you eat.
Sugar acts like an opioid drug, such as morphine and heroin, in the brain.
The kind of foods you eat and the timing of your eating can affect your mood.
All these facts had been established in the scientific literature by 1996, but the very nature of scientific research (which looks at one thing at a time) meant that the people doing the alcohol studies were not looking at the nutrition findings, and the nutrition folks were not thinking about the connection to genetics. For example, the questions being explored about sugar as a drug were along the lines of "Can we use sugar as a painkiller in infant circumcision?"
Because my clinical experience was based on listening to people's experiences -- which did not divide themselves neatly into discrete scientific categories -- I was able to conceptualize a theory that crossed all the relevant disciplines. My working hypothesis was:
There is an inherited biochemical condition called sugar sensitivity that has predictable and specific effects on the brain and on a person's behavior. The foods a sugar-sensitive person eats and when they eat them will affect them profoundly.
Sugar has the same painkilling and euphoria-stimulating effect in the human body as opioid drugs do. These drug effects of sugar are heightened in sugar-sensitive people. Sugar addiction, like drug addiction, is real and can open the gate to other addictions.
Changing what sugar-sensitive people eat and when they eat it can have a profound effect on their well-being and behavior.
Using this working model, I wrote Potatoes Not Prozac, which (despite the title) was really about healing sugar sensitivity. Since the book's publication in 1998, there have been more developments in the field as science continued asking questions and finding answers. Early in 2000, Bart Hoebel, a senior researcher at Princeton University, heard about the hypothesis I had developed on sugar sensitivity and decided to test it in his laboratory. In 2002, Hoebel and an undergraduate student, Carlo Colantuoni, published a paper confirming sugar addiction in rats, titled "Evidence that intermittent, excessive sugar intake causes endogenous opioid dependence." In 2005, Cyrilla Wideman published the results of a study demonstrating that the effects of sugar addiction, sugar withdrawal, and sugar relapse are similar to drug addiction, withdrawal, and relapse (the article was entitled "Implications of an animal model of sugar addiction, withdrawal and relapse for human health"). Not only was the term sugar addiction being published in peer-reviewed scientific journals, but reference was now being made to sugar addiction in humans.
While science was catching up, the first edition of Potatoes Not Prozac offered people a way to understand what was going on with their sugar-sensitive bodies and heal themselves. People found the book and started to connect with me and with each other on my Radiant Recovery® website. The heartwarming success I had seen with the alcoholics in my clinic was now happening with sugar addicts, binge eaters, yo-yo dieters, people with eating disorders, and people dealing with depression and a multitude of other diagnoses. These people were hugely comforted to discover that their sugar addiction was real. Just as when Alcoholics Anonymous redefined alcoholism as a disease, when I explained that sugar addiction is caused by a chemical imbalance, not a character defect, sugar-sensitive people were suddenly free of societal (and self-) condemnation. But there was more to the story than just the science of it.
The lived experience of people doing the program revealed to me a kind of code to behavioral change that I could then embed in the steps. The seven steps of the program are not just about changing your food (such as eating sufficient protein at each meal), they are about participating in a process that converts addictive behaviors into recovery skills. You will heal your unbalanced, sugar-sensitive brain by following the program, but you will do much, much more. You will heal your addictive behavior and begin a life of radiant recovery.
Being born sugar sensitive means that pretty early on you get wacky. Even as a child, you can start being moody, impulsive, mouthy, withdrawn, stubborn, dramatic, or reactive. As your diet stays off-kilter, these early responses set in as behavior patterns. People think this is your personality. You buy into this, and as you grow older the behaviors expand to include all-or-nothing thinking, self-absorption, grandiosity, helplessness, and a deep feeling of being "less than," despite outward appearances. You develop the Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde dichotomy that I will talk about in chapter 1.
Doing the steps of Potatoes Not Prozac slowly, in order, and as outlined creates a process that makes for deep behavioral change as well as dietary change. The steps are infused with a "miracle drug" called recovery. You learn to listen, to yourself as well as to others. You learn to wait, to have patience, to plan, and to go slowly -- all of which may be anathema to you now. You learn to see the consequences of your choices, you make connections between what you eat and what you feel. You learn to ask for help, let others guide you. You move out of isolation and find that you are not the only one with this problem and that change is possible. What you thought was your personality is not who you are at all. It was a result of your sugar-sensitive biochemistry, your imbalance, and your old way of eating.
Each of the seven steps builds on the one before it. The process is developmental. You are never given more than you can do based on the biochemical healing that is happening. As you do the steps, the process heals you. Your "personality" shifts and the best of sugar sensitivity (yes, there is a good part) emerges. You enjoy being smart, intuitive, compassionate, tenacious, funny, thoughtful, and skilled. You become someone you really like. And the other shoe does not drop. Life simply gets better and better.
The wonderful thing is that you do not have to work on all these behaviors individually. You do not have to master your blood sugar and your serotonin and your beta-endorphin, you just "do the food." When you do the food, your body and your process take care of the rest.
There is a part of you that has sensed this truth all along. It is why you respond so deeply to the content of the books I write. This new edition of Potatoes Not Prozac is more specific in its recommendations, and it has been expanded to reflect ten more years of experience with sugar-sensitive people doing the program. We are no longer cutting a new trail -- now you have a superhighway clearly marked to get you home!
Chapter 1: Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde
Are you aware of yourself, smart and sensitive to others' feelings? Are you committed to your own personal growth? Do you care about things deeply? Do your friends value you and respect your opinion? Are you successful in your work? Are you usually confident and hopeful about your future?
But do you sometimes feel your confidence slip away, leaving you in self-doubt and despair? Does it seem "crazy" that you can be so clear one day and so desperate the next? Worse, you may drop from the heights to the depths in the same day. It's almost as if another person were inside you.
You hate to admit it, but you can be moody and impulsive. You want to get things done, but your attention drifts. You lose energy and get tired. You crave sugar and turn to sweets and snack foods to get yourself going again. Sometimes you eat compulsively. You put on weight. You seem to have no self-discipline. You often feel depressed and overwhelmed.
You may have consulted your doctor. You may have gotten counseling from your pastor or a psychotherapist. You may have been put on Prozac or one of the other antidepressants. But something is still wrong. Your life is still not the way you want it to be and you can't seem to find an answer that works.
If this description fits you, you may be sugar sensitive. Your body chemistry may respond to sugars and certain carbohydrates (such as bread, crackers, cereal and pasta) differently than other people's. This biochemical difference can have a huge effect on your moods and your behavior. How you feel is linked to what you eat -- and when you eat it.
Listen to Emily's story:
I was overweight, depressed and exhausted all the time. I had a lot to be grateful for in my life, but something was wrong. Why didn't I feel better about myself? Why was my battle with those extra twenty pounds so hopeless? Why didn't I have the energy to do more in life? I was so discouraged.
I drank several cups of coffee a day, snacked on gummy bears, and ate healthy foods like pasta, vegetables and fruits. I avoided fats and high-calorie desserts. Sometimes I grazed throughout the day, sometimes I'd skip meals and eat only once a day. Although I had tried lots of diets, I always regained the weight I lost. I would start an exercise program, stick to it for a few weeks, then go off my diet and stop exercising. I still was overweight and hating it. I felt like a failure in this part of my life and I was ashamed of it.
Often I couldn't sleep and I was plagued by anxious feelings. Sometimes my heart would start racing for no reason. I had sudden outbursts of crying or anger. I tried therapy, figuring I was just "not right." But it wasn't enough.
So I went to my doctor and told her my long list of problems. She looked concerned and ordered a series of exams. I too was concerned. Maybe I was starting menopause early. I even worried I might have a brain tumor. A week later my doctor called. "I have good news and bad news," she told me. "The good news is that you are not in menopause and you don't have a brain tumor. The bad news is that I don't know what is happening. Your lab tests and your physical exam results are all normal."
Frustrated and depressed, Emily came into my private practice in Addictive Nutrition. She told me she was a recovering alcoholic with nine years of successful sobriety and had heard that I was using nutrition to help people with her symptoms. After listening to her story and asking her some questions about her background and her eating habits, I recognized what was wrong. I had seen it time and again in women and men seeking help for compulsive eating, alcoholism, drug addiction or this strange collection of symptoms that had not responded to other treatments.
Emily was neither clinically depressed nor suffering from the effects of a bad childhood. She was not weak-willed or lazy. She was sugar sensitive. Emily had a special kind of body chemistry that made her more vulnerable to the mood-altering effects of sweet foods and refined-flour products than her friends were. She was caught in a vicious cycle of highs and lows controlled by her blood sugar levels and her brain chemicals. Emily responded to sugar as if it were a drug.
Sugar sensitivity turns a person into Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. It's like having two different people live in your body. From one moment to the next your fine sensitivity and openness turn into moodiness and irritability. Your confidence and creativity dry up, only to be replaced by low self-esteem and hopelessness. Your visions for the future dissipate into the frustration born of not following through.
This emotional Ping-Pong remains inexplicable without an understanding of sugar sensitivity. Like Emily, millions of people who have sugar-sensitive bodies are caught in the pain of not understanding a problem that controls their lives. Sugar-sensitive people seem to know instinctively that something is wrong but cannot make sense of what it is.
Do you feel this way? If so, your intuition may be right on target. If you are sugar sensitive you are not inherently weak-willed or without self-discipline. Your behavior reflects a skewed body chemistry which you have tried to correct unconsciously by self-medicating with sugars and carbohydrates.
Your sugar sensitivity is a problem that you inherited. You did not create this dilemma. It is not your fault. What's more, it is a problem that can be solved. I have an answer that you have been seeking for a long time. Clear and simple, the solution to sugar sensitivity makes perfect sense. As you begin to understand how your blood sugar levels and brain chemicals work and interact, you will start to appreciate the power of your own body. Instead of being driven by your body chemistry, you will begin to chart your own life. You will find a straightforward explanation for the behavior you have struggled with for so long -- and a straightforward solution based on giving your body the kinds of foods it needs to keep your emotions in balance and your life in forward gear.
This book tells the story of sugar sensitivity.
Naming the Problem
The story of sugar sensitivity comes out of my own personal history and my work with thousands of clients in addiction treatment. After a long career in public health I started an addiction treatment center in 1988 because I wanted to make a difference in people's lives. The typical recovery rate for alcoholism is dismally low. People relapse. People relapse again -- and again and again. Although addiction experts have tried many alternatives, the picture remains pretty grim. A 25 percent success rate is considered good. But accepting not being able to help three out of every four people who came into my clinic was out of the question for me. I knew there had to be a better way -- and I set out to find it.
My determination to beat the odds comes out of my personal history. When I was sixteen my father died of alcoholism at the age of fifty-one. He was a brilliant, sensitive man who couldn't find his way out of the bottle. They say he loved to party as a young man; by the time he reached middle age he was drinking a fifth of vodka every day.
My father stayed sober for one year, the year I turned eleven. He was a career officer in the Air Force and his superiors had threatened to discharge him from the service if he didn't stop drinking. So he went into detox and rehabilitation for the first -- and only -- time. I remember that year well. With my father sober, life was so much better for all of us. Everything I had secretly dreamed of was happening and we finally lived like a normal family.
One year later, despite being sober, my father was discharged from the Air Force for alcoholism. Past job evaluations had followed him and the Air Force did not recognize -- or perhaps did not believe -- his commitment to sobriety. In losing his job, my father was cut from his lifeline. His sobriety and our family's newfound stability careened rapidly downhill. Five years later he was dead.
It took me twenty-five years to grieve the loss of my father. At the time I felt only relief -- relief that I no longer had to be ashamed of his drinking. All I wanted then was a normal teenage life. After Dad's death, we all colluded in creating a family myth that he had died suddenly of pancreatitis. In reality, he had been dying of alcoholism for five years, but not one of us ever talked about it. We just carried on, folding our wounds into the tapestry of our lives, each trying to make sense of the tragedy alone.
"Don't Tell. Don't Feel. Don't Share."
My history has shaped me deeply. Because of my father's alcoholic behavior I learned to pay close attention to the interpersonal dynamics around me. I learned to immediately "read" the emotional temperature of almost any situation. I learned to grow up early, become a high achiever, be the hero in my family. Most of all, I learned the inviolable rules of an alcoholic family:
"Don't tell. Don't feel. Don't share."
"What you see isn't really happening."
"Everything is fine, even though you feel something else."
I learned to live in dissonance. I kept confronting the discrepancy between what the folks around me said was true and what I experienced in my body and in my heart. I challenged my mother about the lies of our family life. I challenged my religion teachers about the difference between what the church said and how people acted. I constantly asked questions about the gap between the ideal and the real. I studied everything I could to try to find a solution for the dilemma of this discrepancy. I wanted to live what I believed and I wanted the world to do the same.
At nineteen, still dreaming of the perfect family, I married and had three babies in rapid succession. But the gap between my ideal life and my real life still loomed large. Although smart and successful both in school and as a new parent, I was overweight and subject to extreme mood swings and sudden drops in energy. Sometimes I was filled with self-confidence and felt clear and focused. At other times I would drift into a sort of "la-la land" and forget to buy milk for the children. My husband thought he'd married Dr. Jekyll and ended up getting Ms. Hyde, too. He wondered how my behavior could change so quickly. As for me, I didn't really notice my own behavior. I was well trained to overlook dysfunction, including my own.
My marriage stopped working when my youngest child was six months old. Neither my young husband nor I knew how to make a relationship work or how to ask for help. Single again, I returned to college, worked full-time and threw myself into the task of raising my children. In the evening, after I had put everyone to bed, I sat on the couch with Coke and popcorn, reading philosophy and folding laundry.
When I was twenty-six I came down with mononucleosis, which damaged my liver. Because my liver was impaired, alcohol made me sick, so I stopped drinking. It was a straightforward decision, but it probably saved my life. As with most children of alcoholics, I was a sitting duck for alcoholism. My body chemistry was primed to need alcohol, and had I kept drinking I would have gone from enjoyment to dependence to abuse.
Turning to Sugar for Solace
But abstinence from alcohol nudged me onto a different path of addiction. Alcohol hadn't hooked me, but sugar, ice cream, pasta, bread and soda did. These seemingly harmless foods wrapped me in a cocoon so thick and numbing that I never missed the alcohol.
When I finished college I went on to complete a master's degree in management and counseling. The high-achieving child of an alcoholic that I was, I was hired as the director of a nonprofit program before I even finished my degree. Eighteen months later I was promoted to supervise a hundred staff members. On the outside I appeared successful, competent and skilled. On the inside I was running from my own feelings. I sensed a huge pool of pain swirling below the bravado. I wasn't aware of the impact of my father's alcoholism on me and I hadn't a clue about what was driving my life.
Finally, at the age of thirty, I could no longer ignore my pain. I realized I needed help and I went into therapy. Because I was the head of a community mental-health center, I thought I should maintain the appearance of being emotionally "together." So I traveled two hours and a hundred miles each way every week to see my therapist. She encouraged me to express my anger. "I won't," I would say. "Anger kills. It isn't safe." For a whole year we argued. Finally I let myself go and got angry. But my anger was directed not at my father or my family -- it was directed at my therapist. I was angry about the direction of my therapy and the dissonance I felt between what she was saying and what she was doing. Two days later she committed suicide. It was hard for me to understand that her death was not my fault. I was just thirty and no one even knew I had been in therapy. "Don't tell," "don't feel" and "don't share" still drove my response to pain.
I didn't have the skills to make sense of the pain so I turned to doughnuts, a new town and a new job. Perhaps a new life would make things better. I moved to a place near the ocean. I was comforted by the sea. I lived next door to an ice cream parlor. I was comforted by the ice cream. I gained more weight. The early pattern my ex-husband had identified continued. I was still Dr. Jekyll and Ms. Hyde. When I was good I was very, very good, and when I wasn't, I fell apart. I tried hard to hold it all together, but when I hit forty I realized that my life would unravel if I didn't try again to face my pain. The old gap between my inner feelings and my external life had stretched to the limit.
My solution then was to move to California, where the softness of the hills, the sound of the sea and the openness of the people all soothed me. I reconnected to the child within me who loved to swim and dance and laugh. I started feeling good about myself, but my weight and my mood swings continued to plague me. After every diet I gained back the weight I'd lost. Because I thought my problem with food had its roots in emotional wounding, I worked on my inner development for years. I read hundreds of books, attended dozens of groups and seminars, and filled countless journals with poetry.
No matter how much inner work I did, though, I seemed to be fighting a losing battle. The needle on my bathroom scale was now nearing 240, but I thought the problem was just a matter of willpower. When I developed enough discipline, everything would be fine. As time went on and things didn't change, I lived with deeper and deeper feelings of inadequacy.
Lessons from the "Drunks"
In spite of -- or perhaps because of -- an inner sense of hopelessness, I continued to be committed to helping others heal. I was asked by the county I worked in to start a treatment center for alcoholics and drug addicts. To me, the idea of doing this work felt like "coming home" and I leapt at the chance. Once the clinic got going I found myself frequently abandoning my desk to work directly with our clients. The alcoholics who came into our clinic mirrored both my father's story and my own. They were trying to keep their lives from crumbling beneath them.
Although I had spent twenty years working in public health, I only really began to get it about alcoholism and drug addiction when I heard these people's halting voices and listened to their painful stories. What I learned was that what we were doing -- counseling, support groups and pleas for abstinence -- didn't work particularly well. Even "good" treatment done by sensitive, caring and trained professionals didn't help much. Our clients kept relapsing despite their best intentions to "work the program." Our recovery rate was no better than the national average. I needed to find out why.
The more I listened to the "drunks," the more I was struck by some missing link between what I heard them say and what I felt. I knew in my heart that their addiction to alcohol was not about a lack of willpower. I knew drinking wasn't just an easy way out to escape unpleasant feelings. Something else was going on. I was convinced that if I discovered this missing link our treatment program for alcoholism might succeed.
At the same time there was a troubling discrepancy between my work at the clinic and my own life. Although I hadn't used alcohol in eighteen years, I had never been in any kind of recovery program. I didn't see my compulsive use of food, particularly sugars and carbohydrates, as an addiction. I just thought I was fat and that this was a function of my early childhood issues. A thousand failed diets had convinced me that I was a slug who couldn't get it right. Since I was successful on the outside, I hid my feelings of despair and put in even longer hours.
Yet as I worked with alcoholics and drug addicts, I started being drawn subtly into recovery. At moments, I wished I were an alcoholic myself so I could put words to my own suffering. I didn't have a name for my story then, but I began to see that I was going to have to live out the ideas I was teaching. I didn't want to just teach recovery, I wanted to have it.
This meant I had to confront my past. So I started learning what it meant to be the child of an alcoholic, what it meant to be codependent, and how playing the role of the hero -- taking responsibility for others' needs instead of my own -- had shaped my professional development. My ending up in charge of an alcoholism treatment center, surrounded by a "bunch of drunks," was no accident. By the grace of something much bigger than myself, I stayed with the process -- working on myself while I worked with the men and women at my clinic.
Discovering Food as Pharmacy
My recovery focused on using the Twelve Steps which originated in Alcoholics Anonymous and started with the idea of surrender to a "higher power." The idea of surrendering to a higher power didn't work for me. But surrendering to something "deeper" did. So I handed my life over to the something deeper and asked for help. One day, by chance, a friend told me that she had been following a food plan that had really worked for her. She was eating protein and vegetables. I tried it and started losing weight, which surprised and pleased me. But even more astounding was what happened to my moods and behavior. I didn't crave sweet things. I didn't dream about bread and pasta. My emotional ups and downs evened out. I wasn't confused or foggy at certain times in the day. I was able to think clearly. I got things done. I set goals and moved toward them without a constant struggle to stay focused.
Although I had done a lot of work on my inner self, I knew the changes I was experiencing were not psychological. They werephysiological.I hadn't suddenly gotten my act together. Something had happened in my brain and in my body, and it felt like the missing link I'd been searching for. I had changed my food -- mostly by cutting down on sugars and starches -- and subsequently experienced a huge change in my physical and emotional well-being. I began to wonder whether, being the child of an alcoholic, I had inherited an alcoholic's body chemistry. Perhaps alcoholics and compulsive eaters like me are hypersensitive to sugar. Perhaps my body physiologically craved sugar the same way my father's body had physiologically craved alcohol. If so, I thought, wouldn't this hold true for my clients as well?
So I went to my clients. Asking these men and women what kinds of foods they ate revealed data that was no surprise to me. My clients' eating habits closely resembled my own previous eating patterns. No wonder I felt such an affiliation with these "drunks"! Almost none of them ate breakfast, few ate regular meals, most ate a very high percentage of white bread, pasta and cereal, and all ate a great many sweets. Whenever I talked to clients who were unable to stay sober, I found they were eating primarily sweet things and refined-flour products.
Almost immediately I added nutritional awareness as one of my clinic's steps to recovery. I put together a food plan for sugar-sensitive people, a plan based on protein, complex carbohydrates (like whole wheat, potatoes and brown rice), fruit and vegetables. The food plan was simple, easy and affordable. The plan I developed filled in the gaps I had experienced in my friend's program when I had used it myself. I intuitively knew that eating only protein and vegetables wasn't the best alternative -- our bodies need more carbohydrates on an ongoing basis than her plan provided. But if I kept the basic concept, addedcomplexcarbohydrates and continued to minimize the use of sugars, I was sure the revised food plan would work. I also added an educational component directed at the addictive personalities of my clients.
I told my clients that this food plan was not a diet but a way of eating for life. I explained to them my theory about sugar sensitivity and how it might be predisposing them to alcoholism. When I told them that eating sugar could sabotage their recovery from addiction by priming them to crave alcohol, they sat up and paid attention. Then they tried the food plan -- and got remarkable results.
As my clients changed their diets, their lives began to improve in a number of ways. Compared to other clients we had seen at the clinic, their withdrawal symptoms passed more quickly and gave them less discomfort. Their mood swings mellowed. Their cravings diminished. Their energy increased. They were more enthusiastic and commited to their recovery than ever. People who had never been able to achieve sobriety began getting -- and staying -- sober.
After using the food plan with several hundred men and women, I found we were achieving unusual success with alcoholics and drug addicts. The track record told me it was time to establish a scientific basis for the changes I saw coming from my food plan. I decided to leave my job and sell my house to start working on my Ph.D.
Finding Out Why It Worked
My doctoral research took me into professional journals and academic textbooks on nutrition, endocrinology, psychopharmacology, psychiatry and addiction. I learned about the wide-ranging effects of blood sugar and the powerful emotional impact of certain brain chemicals, chemicals which can get pushed out of balance by an overuse of sugar.
One of these brain chemicals, serotonin, was becoming better known to the public, thanks to the advent of Prozac, the new antidepressant that boosts serotonin levels and brings feelings of optimism, creativity and peace of mind. To my astonishment, the other brain chemical I was learning about, beta-endorphin, was as critical to emotional well-being as serotonin but was not being discussed outside scientific circles. My reading showed me that beta-endorphin has a direct impact on a person's self-esteem, tolerance for pain (including emotional pain), sense of connectedness to others and ability to take personal responsibility for action. You'll learn all about this amazing brain chemical later in the book. For now, let's go back to my story.
As I worked on my doctorate I found that all of the biochemical facts I was learning fit with my clinical results to form an elegant and compelling story. My research confirmed my suspicions -- and the name I had given to that story. Sugar sensitivity has a basis in rigorous science. I was amazed that no one was telling the public about it.
For my doctoral dissertation I conducted a study to measure the effect of my food plan on the toughest audience I could find -- multiple-offender drunk drivers. These people -- mostly middle-aged men -- had not been able to stay sober despite huge court sanctions and intensive drunk-driving education and counseling. All of them had already gone through an entire forty-hour first offender program, had paid thousands of dollars in fines and fees, and had now lost their driver's licenses for eighteen months. I worked with a group of thirty of these "hopeless" alcoholics for four months and at the end of my outpatient treatment program,92 percent of them had gotten sober and stayed sober.These clients weren't drinking and for the first time in their lives they were experiencing recovery. Eighteen months later I checked back with them and only a few were back to serious drinking. The rest maintained their sobriety or had significantly reduced the level of their drinking. These same results continue as the program has grown to serve close to two hundred people.
In addition, my success with sugar sensitivity went far beyond helping people to stop drinking. At the same time I was working with drunk drivers, my private practice was filled with women and men who were overweight or ate compulsively, adult children of alcoholics who felt tired, crazy and depressed, and former addicts and alcoholics who, though clean and sober, still didn't feel well.
I became known as "the lady of last resort." When people had tried everything and still felt rotten, they came to me. I explained to them how their blood sugar, serotonin and beta-endorphin worked and showed them how to use my food plan. When they tried it, these people experienced the same miraculous shift that my drunk drivers and I had experienced. Not surprisingly, word began to get out. More and more people from across the country called me for help. I promised I would write a book about sugar sensitivity and the crucial role of beta-endorphin.Potatoes Not Prozacis that book. It offers you a simple program for counteracting the effects of sugar sensitivity and shows you how to make that miraculous shift happen in your own life. What's more, you will be able to do this without going on another deprivation diet. You will not have to throw away the foods you love. You will not have to make radical changes that drive you crazy.
The seven-step program you'll learn is a gentle, simple process that respects your style and your needs. You will be able to read your body and design a food plan that works for you. During this process I will help you understand the "why" of feelings you have never been able to resolve. You will come to understand what you have known intuitively but been unable to name. You will find an answer you have been looking for.
Potatoes Not Prozacis for every child of an alcoholic and every man and woman who is tired of looking good on the outside while feeling bad inside. It is for everyone stuck in addiction, depression, low self-esteem and compulsive behavior. This book is my story and it is your story. It is the story of all of us who have waited so long and tried so hard to get free of these "crazy" feelings and our Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde behaviors. One powerful answer is biochemical. One answer is sugar sensitivity.
Copyright © 1998 by Kathleen DesMaisons, Ph.D.
While we think of sugar as a food, it is actually a drug -- an external substance acting throughout the brain and body on cellular receptors designed for an internal chemical called glucose. Since glucose is usually the only fuel the brain can ever use, and is critical to mental clarity, mood states and the controlled release of energy in the body, it is astounding how cavalierly we sprinkle sugar, its inferior substitute, into everything from children's breakfast food to ketchup. If sugar were to be put on the market for the first time today, it would probably be difficult to get it past the FDA.
Like many drugs that work through receptors, sugar has a paradoxical effect characterized by two phenomena: First, the more of the drug you take, the less of the drug's internal analog is produced in your brain and body. Second, the receptors for sugar or any other drug become less sensitive -- sometimes actually decreasing in number -- as protection against the drug bombarding them. We can easily become physically dependent on exogenous sugar for mood boosts -- but our habit now results in depression instead of well-being, exhaustion and anxiety instead of a burst of energy. I have long suspected that the increase of clinical depression in our society is linked to the increased consumption of sugar.
How exciting it was for me, then, to hear about Kathleen DesMaisons's efforts in developing a working hypothesis about sugar sensitivity and its role in addictive behavior. I have been aware of her work for many years. Her vision, personal warmth and passionate commitment to finding answers have always touched me.Potatoes Not Prozacnow moves her vision into concrete, specific guidance that brings her clinical skills to a wider audience.
Dr. DesMaisons has a unique gift for taking very complex ideas and making them accessible for regular folks who are trying to feel better. Her thesis is persuasive. Her combination of clinical experience, personal honesty and scientific curiosity have led to real benefits for her clients. While the stories remain anecdotal from a scientific perspective, they are powerful to hear. As Dr. DesMaisons suggests, something is going on in the relationship between diet and behavior -- something beyond what scientific research has already shown about biochemistry and mood.
As a scientist I could never entertain that the size of my childhood trick-or-treat bag at Halloween could have any meaning. But as a woman who has struggled with some of the problems Dr. DesMaisons talks about, I would not be so quick to dismiss her ideas. Sometimes science is nudged by pioneers from the field who put studies together in new ways and ask questions from an unexpected perspective. The scientific story will be tested in the laboratory. But the day-to-day impact ofPotatoes Not Prozacwill be tested in the hearts and bodies of the people who identify with the profile Dr. DesMaisons has so powerfully outlined.
Foods can act as drugs, and we must be aware of how our moods and physiology -- mental and physical -- are so inextricably intertwined that what and how we eat can have an enormous impact on our lives. I highly recommendPotatoes Not Prozac,which I believe contains novel and important information for everyone from the most sophisticated nutritionist to the individual who is just beginning to realize that what and how we eat helps to explain why we feel the way we feel.
Candace B. Pert, Ph.D.
Author ofMolecules of Emotion: Why We Feel the Way We Feel
Department of Physiology and Biophysics
Georgetown University Medical Center
Copyright © 1998 by Candace Pert, Ph.D.
Excerpted from Potatoes Not Prozac: Simple Solutions for Sugar Sensitivity by Kathleen Des Maisons
All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.