The Dark Side of Sugar

Halloween Candy

Halloween is a celebration of sugar. Cloaked in creative costumes, we savor sweets in several settings, whether parading from house to house with kiddos or partying with friends. Somehow these evenings often end with a massive sugar stash or a major sugar crash. They are often inseparable.

But for those in recovery, is there a hidden danger in this excessive consumption of sugar? Is it wise for addicts in recovery to limit their consumption of sweets or is sugar intake irrelevant? I have wondered this for some time myself.

In an article by Christina Veselak, LMFT, called Relapse and Sugar Dysregulation, these questions are addressed head on. Veselak explains that “consuming a high sugar diet” is a “primary relapse trigger for all recovering addicts”. As it turns out, eating simple carbohydrates (like candy) has a rapid effect on blood sugar that can be detrimental to those in recovery. The article describes why this is true, noting how blood sugar spikes lead to “unpredictable mood and behavior swings” that “strongly induce relapse”. Conversely, “cravings, relapse, and addictive use” are induced as blood sugar drops. Dr Kelly McGonigal (12:50) echoes this perspective, sharing about how these blood sugar peaks and valleys negatively impact the brain as well. In her book The Willpower Instinct, she describes how excessive sugar obliterates self-control. For these reasons, it appears evident that sugar is a strong trigger for addictive behavior. To read about how these processes occur in the brain and body, check out this article for further details.

Another harmful character trait of sugar is that it is highly addictive (see video below). For addicts, cross-addiction with sugar is a valid possibility. In times of stress or suffering, choosing not to turn to a “drug of choice” but instead to sugar can create a new dependency. This is not successful recovery but instead trading one addiction for another.

Choosing Not to Crash

In light this information, what can be done? Dr McGonigal recommends avoiding blood sugar crashes by eating foods that give you lasting energy (click here for specific food recommendations). Similarly, in The Psysiology of Willpower: Linking Blood Glucose to Self-Control, Michael Gailliot explains that “restoring glucose to a sufficient level typically improves self-control”.

With this information as a guide, it is recommended that moderation and mindfulness be exercised on this popular holiday and in everyday life. It is my hope that this information will not limit your enjoyment of the festivities but instead add to a more meaningful experience with minimal triggers. May you savor this season, experiencing an abundance of  joy and authentic connection.

For additional useful tips for managing recovery over the holidays, check out “Holiday Recipes for Relapse & Recovery”. Another relevant resource is Nutrition in Addiction Recovery. For those experiencing food/sugar addiction, check out our treatment program for those seeking recovery in this area, called LifeStyle Transformation.

If you benefited from this article, please “follow” us and share this with others. Thank you!

-Written by Forest Benedict, MA, SATP-C, LMFT, Clinical Director of LifeSTAR of the Central Valley If you benefited from this article, please “follow” us on this blog and on Twitter, “like” us on Facebook, and SHARE this article and blog with others. Thank you!

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The Moment YOUR Child Sees Pornography: How to Prepare

girl computer shame

Every child will see pornography. After years of studying the impact of pornography on children and its widespread availability, I am convinced of this. Still, most parents optimistically hold to the “not my child” belief. But that’s not what the stats tell us. And with perpetual technological advances, the numbers will only increase. As parents, we must prepare for our children to see pornography.

But how can we prepare? I regularly present publicly on this topic, in an attempt to both warn and prepare parents for what may lie ahead in their children’s experience with pornography. There any many options in the area of prevention, yet, this still does not guarantee protection. As I share in my presentations, we must protect our children both externally and internally.

While I am unable to share all of my suggestions now, let me direct caring parents to a few great resources:

Children, Teens, and Parents – LifeSTAR Resource Page

What Teens Wish Their Parents Knew When Addressing the Issue of Pornography

Good Pictures, Bad Pictures: Porn-Proofing Today’s Young Kids

The Guideline: A Parent’s Guide to Addressing Pornography with Children

Why Schools Fail to Protect Kids Online (free download of 10 Things Every Parent Must Learn About Their Child’s Digital Education)

Educate Empower Kids

Internet Safety 101

Purity Works

I know education is a crucial start and I’ve heard stories like this one that reveal this:

“Just wanted to say thank you for this night, this topic, this information. On Forest’s recommendation, we bought the book “Good Pictures, Bad Pictures,” read it with our kids, and learned that at 9 (daughter) and 7 (son), our kids have both already viewed pornographic images. This allowed us to have a discussion we would not have even thought to have! Thank you!”

If you live locally and want to attend one of these presentations, stay tuned (follow blog) for announcements of future talks. The next scheduled talks are December 2 (parents) & 9 (teens and up) at North Fresno Church. Also, for teenagers addicted to pornography, I have created a treatment program based on my expertise in this field. YouthSTAR of the Central Valley is a great resource for struggling teenagers. Additional YouthSTAR program are available in other locations.

There is much we can do to both protect and prepare our children for their fight against pornography. For continual information and updates on this Movement, please join us on Facebook and check out our friends at the National Center of Sexual Exploitation. Also, I would love to hear how any of this information has benefited you and those you love. It is my courageous conviction that we can change the course of history for our children. Let’s start today.

*Originally posted here

-Written by Forest Benedict, MA, SATP-C, LMFT, Clinical Director of LifeSTAR of the Central Valley If you benefited from this article, please “follow” us on this blog and on Twitter, “like” us on Facebook, and SHARE this article and blog with others. Thank you!

 

Yes, Your Young Child Will See Pornography (Seminar for Parents)

Boy Laptop

One of my missions is to educate and equip parents about how to protect their children from pornography. After a recent seminar in late September, one mother’s response reaffirmed why this information is so relevant and vital for all parents:

“Just wanted to say thank you for this night, this topic, this information. On Forest’s recommendation, we bought the book “Good Pictures, Bad Pictures,” read it with our kids, and learned that at 9 and 7, our kids have both already viewed pornographic images. This allowed us to have a discussion we would not have even thought to have! Thank you!”

Having researched this topic for years, this is not a surprise to me. The average age of exposure to pornography has dropped to 9 years of age. This is especially disturbing when we look at how pornography impacts the brain.

If this story touches you, I hope you will consider attending my upcoming free seminar on October 18th at Action Community Church (101 Sunnyside in Clovis) from 6-8pm as we explore the “Dangerous Access” our kids have to pornography and what we can do about it (adults only please). If you are not local, check out our resource page for Parents. Please share!

-Written by Forest Benedict, MA, SATP-C, LMFT, Clinical Director of LifeSTAR of the Central Valley If you benefited from this article, please “follow” us on this blog and on Twitter, “like” us on Facebook, and SHARE this article and blog with others. Thank you!

The Pursuit of Addiction is the Path of Distrust

Reach

It is becoming clearer to me that the pursuit of addiction is the path of distrust. In moments of stress or distress, any numbing or self-destructive response is sin because the unspoken, underlying statement is this: “I am unsafe and do not trust that love will be there if I reach out to it”. This is the narrative I have written throughout my life but it is not grounded in reality. Lack of love is an illusion. God and several dear others have shown themselves faithful. Will I walk in faith today, trusting that no need must go unmet and no pain must go un-comforted because  love in abundance is available in any given moment? Today, may I have the “heroic courage to trust in the love of God no matter what happens” to me. This is true recovery. This is my life’s path.

Forest Benedict

Not About Guns, But Grief

child cry-594519_1280

I love a good gun debate. When reports of violence ripple across this world, I am often eager to announce my opinions to my Facebook friends. And I thrive on the ensuing, escalating arguments, though nobody concedes or converts.

Yet, as I sit in the stillness with my Savior, he gently guides me to different response. I see that dashing into debate has the strong stench of sin. These were human lives lost. Knowing my Father’s heart, I imagine many tears spilling down his divine cheeks, as he quietly sits with the families and friends torn by this tragedy.

For the first time, I consider the countless children, wives, husbands, fathers, mothers, and others whose safety was shattered on that dark day. I wonder how I, as a recipient of this ravaging news, can return comfort to this community. I will prayerfully ponder this.

I imagine that traumatized town receiving truck loads of letters offering messages of condolence. Or the college Facebook page flooded with endless notes of encouragement. I could seek out the victims in their pain or reach out the shooter’s family in their shame. Almost effortlessly, I could trade time in wasteful debate for any effort that responds with respect and reverence.

May those of us who know of and experience Christ’s love separate ourselves from the numbness and noise surrounding those suffering. May we connect with God’s sorrow with those grieving and for a world that has lost its way.

Father, connect us with your care and compassion. Teach us to mourn with those who mourn.