Friday, December 12, 2008

My name is Caitlin, and I'm a sugarholic.

Yesterday, a Princeton University professor presented evidence that sugar can be addictive. His studies with rats indicate that binging on sugar affected the rats' brains in the same way that drugs and alcohol affect the brains of humans. After their sugar binges, the rats became dependent on sugar and went through withdrawal when their supply was cut off. Then, when the sugar supply was reintroduced, the rats consumed more than ever. The rats experienced craving and relapse, and underwent chemical changes in their brains that mimic those caused by drug and alcohol addiction.

I am not remotely surprised by this discovery, because I have known for many years that I am addicted to sugar.

When I was a senior in high school, I never had time for breakfast, my first free period was late in the day, after my friends had already eaten their lunches, and I often missed dinner due to play rehearsal or other activities. There were days when I subsisted on nothing but a Frappuccino and candy from the vending machine. A few years ago, I became very determined to change my eating habits, so I decided I would no longer have cookies or candy in my dorm room. Instead, I stocked up on healthier snacks like fruit and granola bars. It wasn't long before I broke down and started eating the sugar cubes that Ed and I had for coffee. But I never experienced any other type of disordered eating. I have never binged on other types of food, I have never starved myself, I have never purged. I don't typically overeat.

I'm more in control of my sugar addiction now. I only let myself buy candy occasionally, but when I do, I still eat too much, too quickly. If the government outlawed sugar, I would probably be healthier and better off. But that would be absurd. The fact that I have difficulty controlling my sugar consumption does not lead me to conclude that the choice should be taken away from me, or from those who find it easy to enjoy sugar in moderation. I may decide to eat a single piece of candy or an entire bag of candy or to never eat candy again. But either way, it's my body, and it should be my choice. If I were eating so much candy that it became a threat to my health, I would hope that my loved ones would encourage me to change my lifestyle. And if I were unable to control my sugar consumption, I would seek professional help. But since I am able to indulge my sweet tooth without falling into destructive habits, I expect to be allowed to make my own decisions about what goes into my body.

If it isn't obvious by now, I think that the same logic applies to drug prohibition. Imagine if we arrested people with eating disorders, or spent $44 billion a year in an utterly futile attempt to prevent people from eating junk food. That wouldn't make much sense, would it?


thegayrecluse said...

Omg, I'm a sugarholic too. Though for the most part functional, like you. And I totally agree with your drug-policy analogy! Btw, the Hills has been pretty bad lately, don't you think? There's no good teevee anymore!

Caitlin said...

"The Hills" has been pretty bad lately. I can't decide whether I want to give "The City" a chance or not. But "Lost" will be back soon, so there's light at the end of the TV tunnel for me, anyway.