G is for Glucose

I have a sweet tooth….a mouth full of them in fact! I eat pretty healthy….protein, complex carbs, lots of vegetables…but it’s the dessert. I can’t say no. Especially when it is cake. I’m not kidding when I call myself a cake addict in my tagline. Cake is my reward for completing a goal and it is my comfort when I am not feeling well (physically or mentally). Everyone teases me. My Dad even threatens to stick a bumper sticker on my car, “I brake for cake!”.

I love cake

There have been a lot of articles recently about the food-mood connection, how blood sugar and brain chemistry are related. To my dismay, sugar is bad for you. I’m not talking about all sugar. Your body does, after all, need some sugar (glucose, specifically) to function properly. Think back to high school biology, cell respiration…remember that? It all starts with glucose. Like any good thing however, too much is bad. Dessert has a lot of sugar and your body breaks it down into glucose quickly. Sugar rush!! It’s not just dessert though. Everyday foods like rice, bread, soda or fruit juice can put you over the top too.

People with low levels of serotonin (like those with depression) crave sugar. Too much sugar exacerbates mental health problems. Yes, another another endless cycle that those with mental illness have to fight. It’s not fair is it? At least now I know why I’ve always been a sugar addict.

Carbohydrate cravings have been linked to lower serotonin levels. Ingesting sugar releases insulin from the pancreas. Insulin alters the ratios of amino acids in the body causing there to be more tryptophan available and less of other amino acids. This means there is less competition for tryptophan to cross the blood-brain-barrier. In the brain, tryptophan can be converted into serotonin, the feel-good neurotransmitter that is often low in those with depression. This explains why I reach for cake as soon as I start feeling down. The relief is only temporary though. Eventually things return to normal and less tryptophan is available to be converted to serotonin. This, of course, starts the whole sugar craving all over again. Keep in mind, this is just a fragment of a hugely complex picture.

Sugar has the potential to be addicting too. The more you eat it, the more you crave it. Sugar floods the brain with another feel-good neurotransmitter, dopamine. Studies have show that sugar activates the same areas of the brain as cocaine and we all know how addictive cocaine is known to be.

There are 3 potential mechanisms through which too much sugar can be a burden on mental health.

  • Insulin and leptin resistance. Insulin resistance can impair signaling between brain cells. You know that foggy feeling you get when you are feeling low. You can’t really concentrate and you’re having trouble remembering things….insulin resistance contributes to that. Leptin is released to tell the brain you are full, building up a resistance can lead to constant overeating which leads to weight gain. And that always makes us feel great about ourselves right?
  • Chronic inflammation. Sugar overload triggers a set of reactions that lead to a low level of chronic inflammation. This doesn’t cause problems right away, but in the long term, chronic inflammation contributes to things like heart disease, Alzheimer’s and Macular Degeneration. Inflammation in the brain is also thought to exacerbate depression.
  • Less Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor (BDNF). BDNF is necessary for healthy neurons. Sugar suppresses the production of BDNF. Studies comparing those with depression to those without have found that generally, people with depression have significantly lower levels of BDNF. Meaning, sugar just lowers it even more. Ugh!

So I guess sugar is my best friend and my worst enemy.

Diabetes Care
Food for the Brain

DLP8 – It’s Worth Repeating

The Documented Life Project — Journal
(For more information or inspiration, visit the ladies at Art to the 5th)
February 21st Challenge, Week 8

Art Challenge: Repeating elements
Prompt: It’s Worth Repeating

Since I am behind with these challenges I have the benefit of seeing what others come up with first. Many people used basic shapes as their repeating element; circles, squares, etc. I saw one journal page that used cogs as the repeating element. Obviously, I loved this since I am a fan of the Steampunk look. That page inspired me to go beyond basic shapes and use something that I actually enjoy repeating…cupcakes!! Anyone who knows me, knows I love cupcakes. Hubby’s pet name for me is even “Cupcake”, lol. Anyway, cupcakes are worth repeating. I always find two are better than one! 😉

This time, I tried to seal the binding of my art journal. Paint keeps seeping through the binding onto pages that I’ve already done. I covered the binding with pink polka dot washi tape and then painted the pages with gesso. The tape appeared to have done its job. Next, I used gel medium to stick in magazine cut-outs of cupcakes. I also used a rose stencil to draw various shades of pink roses onto the page. I used Sharpies to do this. The regular Sharpies stopped working on the gesso pretty quickly. To my surprise, even the Sharpie paint markers didn’t hold up on the gesso. I switched to gel pens. They went on smoothly. I knew they were going to smudge when I went over them in paint though.

2015-03-02 23.18.29

I went over the roses and magazine cupcakes in light pink craft paint. Sure enough, the gel pen roses smudged. Oh well. I did the lettering with a Signo Uniball pen on some paper cut outs I got in my stash from Creative thINKing. At this point, I put the journal away because I didn’t need it to make the paper cupcakes. Maybe that was a mistake. When I opened it again, the tape I used to seal the binding was all messed up and stuck to itself. I don’t know if that’s just what washi does when you bend it, or if the paint was still wet… any ideas?

2015-03-02 23.36.50

The cupcakes were really fun to make, but they took a really long time. I used cardstock for the icing tops. I doodled two different types of icing and used them as templates to cut out all the tops. I decorated with Sharpies and gel pens. I made a template for the cupcake wrappers and used it to cut out bottoms from different patterned papers. Some of the paper was from my Creative thINKing stash and some was from my aunt’s collection. I drew lines on the cupcake wrappers that weren’t already textured. Finally I went to town with a fun little cupcake stamp I found in a $1 bin at a craft store.

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Self-Esteem Challenge: Day 4

This blog challenge was developed by betterthandarkchocolate.tumblr.com. If you missed the introduction or want to see a summary of all the questions, go here.

Day 4:
A habit you have that you like.
What do you do to feel better when you’re having a bad day?

Lots of bad habits come to mind. I like my habit of having dessert, but at the same time, I feel guilty for eating sweets so often. Plus it’s bad for my body. I asked my husband to help me on this one and all he said was “You’re not a habit driven person.” A big help he was. For lack of anything better, I’m going to say going to bed early is a habit of mine that I like. There is no down side to it. I go to bed early-ish even on the weekends. That’s one less thing I have to adjust to when transitioning from weekend to weekday. Going to bed at the same time every night is supposed to help with depression too. It also gives me enough time to get the recommended eight hours of sleep (when I actually am able to sleep).

When feeling bad, I try to remind myself of three things

  1. The past does not equate the future
  2. Failures are learning experiences
  3. I can adapt to change

Sometimes this helps me put things in perspective. I also have a list of things that usually make me feel good. It comes in handy for when I’m feeling bad and don’t know what to do. It doesn’t always work, but if I work my way through it at least I’m doing something and not wallowing.

  1. Eat cake with lots of icing
  2. Watch cute cat videos
  3. Put comfy clothes on (lululemon!)
  4. Cuddle Ewok
  5. Put some music on and sing or dance (often don’t have the energy for this one)
  6. Watch a “feel-g00d” movie (Phantom of the Opera, Pride and Prejudice, Memoirs of a Geisha, Definitely Maybe, etc.)music of the night
  7. Get hugs
  8. Find some company
  9. Think of things to be thankful for
  10. Drink something warm
  11. Call someone (this one is usually really hard to do, I often skip it)
  12. Doodle anything
  13. Look up positive or motivational quotes
  14. Bake dessert
  15. Sleep

Bad Things Come in Threes

A while ago, I wrote about how good things come in threes. Well, I guess bad things come in threes too.

I didn’t write a motivation progress report this week because I screwed up. I’ve been forcing myself to work and to run, but I’ve been eating junk and not tracking my calories. When I get stressed and upset the only things that seem to make it ok for a little while are eating dessert of buying stuff. Since I’ve been busy working and running, I haven’t had time to buy stuff, so that leaves eating. I really hate myself for it.

The second bad thing this week is this lesion in my mouth. It’s been three weeks and it hasn’t healed. I burned the right side of my hard palate on a nacho a while ago. It felt like the typical minor burn you get from eating something that was too hot, but then I noticed there was something hard and sharp where the burn was. Exposed bone. Great. Could I really have burned myself so badly that I exposed hard palate bone?! It didn’t hurt anymore. The burned feeling went away after a few days, but the lesion never closed. I went to the dentist to get it checked out. She doesn’t know what it is, but thinks it’s weird, so she’s sending me to an oral pathologist. Why does all this weird stuff happen to me?! I just don’t want to deal with it right now (or fork out $300 for the appointment). I took the next available appointment with the oral pathologist which is guess when….. my birthday! How would you like a bone biopsy for your birthday?! Brilliant. This bone thing was kind of sharp, so it was really bothering me. Not really painful, more annoying, like a canker except sharp. So I got fed up and I pulled it out. I don’t know if that was such a good idea, but it’s out and feels better. Now there’s a big dent where the bone was. It feels like the hole that’s left behind after you pull a baby tooth out as a kid. I saved the bone shard in case the pathologist wants it. I wonder whats going on. Hopefully I’ll find out Tuesday.

The third bad thing really puts my whole exposed bone trauma into perspective. One of our friends has cancer. She and my husband met as teenagers and have been best buddies for nearly 15 years. Since Hubby and I have known each other for 10 years, I’ve obviously become pretty good friends with her. Lynn loves animals, works at an animal hospital and doesn’t have a mean bone in her body. It breaks my heart when such awful things happen to such good people. She’s 32 and two days ago she was diagnosed with stage IV colorectal cancer that has spread to her liver. How does this stuff happen so fast?! She thought she had irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)! The doctors have told her it’s treatable, so she’ll take 6 months off work to do chemotherapy. Treatable?! Is that code for something I don’t know about? I think doctors forget sometimes that what is base knowledge to them is not to everyone else. As I scientist, I forget all the time, but it’s not my job to diagnose people and explain to them what is going on. Lynn thinks she is going back to work in six months. She’s looking at her time off as a vacation. No one explained to her what metastasis means. No one told her that there is a 6% survival rate after this cancer has spread to another organ. I’ve spoken to some of my twitter friends who have known people in similar circumstances. They had 6 months after diagnosis. I don’t know how to face her knowing this. I’m not going to be the one to tell her. She was supposed to meet with the oncologist yesterday. Hopefully they gave her a better definition of “treatable”. This is the kind of thing you see on TV, it’s not the kind of thing that actually happens to someone you care about. I’m in shock and feel totally sick about the whole thing.

I’m trying really hard to stay positive. Miracles do happen. She’s not just a statistic. She’s pretty healthy otherwise, there is hope. For now, we’re going to focus on her birthday which is on Thursday. We want to do something fun for her before chemo starts.

If anyone has known someone with colorectal cancer, or cancer with metastasis to the liver, I’d really like to hear from you, to know more about it.

Cake Binge

I like food too much. I rely on sweets, cake in particular, wayyy too much. Cake is what I want when I feel down or have had a stressful day. Cake is what I want to celebrate reaching the end of something or accomplishing something difficult. Is it weird that the answer to everything, good or bad is cake? I want it even when I’m bored. Especially now that I’m watching my calories, I think about food constantly and the urge to binge on sweets of all kinds is really strong. If I hold out and don’t binge, the urge gets stronger, but if I give in and have a piece of cake, I’m afraid I wont be able to stop myself from eating the whole thing. Sometimes I wish I were one of those people who get sick from having too much sugar or dessert that’s too rich. I’m not though. My stomach can handle endless amounts of it.

I love cake

I wish there were more dessert restaurants around here. I think that would help me with portion control. I could go out, pay to have one piece of cake and be done with it. No leftovers to worry about. All the dessert restaurants have slowly closed since I’ve move here though, even the grocery store has stopped making my favourite little treat. It seems like the only way to get my fix is to buy a whole cake these days.

I know eating is addictive. Sugar especially, activates the same dopamine reward pathway in the brain as many addictive drugs. Low levels of serotonin and dopamine, as is the case in depression, can lead to compulsive behaviour, like a binge. The medications I am on are meant to increase dopamine and serotonin. When I don’t take my meds, I end up eating even more. Also, studies have shown that people with stress or anxiety are more prone to reward-seeking behaviour. They end up losing perspective, prioritizing the reward over the regret they’ll feel later. This is definitely me!

Why can’t I stop? I know binge eating is bad for my health and my appearance. Just knowing that should be enough to deter me, but it’s not. What would my fat say if it could talk? How is binge eating helping me? If I were eating for good reasons, what would they be? I know, it’s stupid. There are no good reasons for eating like this. Life would be better without fat and binges. The parts of life that would improve if I dropped to 120lbs are not the parts that keep eating cake. But, if I keep doing something, then there must be a benefit to it, otherwise there would be no reason to do it, right?

I don’t think I’ll be able to stop until I find out what my reason for eating is. What am I trying to fix by eating? Maybe I am trying to get more joy out of life. Eating is something I have to make time for anyway, so I eat junk hoping to fit more joy into my schedule. My time is precious and I feel like I have so much to do that I need to use my time wisely, be productive. Doing something simply for the joy of it is not an option. That’s selfish and inefficient. So I turn eating, something I have to do to survive, into something that gives me joy. This links back to sugar activating the dopamine pathway in the brain which creates the feeling of joy. It also creates the addiction, which just perpetuates the cycle.

Does this make sense at all? It would mean in order to stop eating so much I would have to find a different source of joy. What do you do to to bring yourself joy or make yourself feel rewarded?

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