Nityia Photography

Nityia Photography

Dying from an overdose; not just heroin that’s killing us

A monthly column about mindfulness and health.

  • Thursday, June 13, 2019 1:30am
  • Life

By Dora Gyarmati

Special to the Reporter

As I was waiting for my flight to Orlando, Fla., the flight attendant was calling for boarding according to groups — “Group A, as in apple pie is ready to board.” That was followed by “Group B, as in butter biscuit.” And yes, you guessed it, “Group C, as in cotton candy.”

I turned to Des, my friend and colleague, and asked smiling, “What’s up with the sugar pushing early in the morning?”

Des just looked at me and smiled, “Oh Dora, you are always the sugar-addiction police.”

I ended my last article, by defining addiction as our desire to mask the unpleasant experience, and that to heal, we need to avoid avoidance. This flight to Orlando sets up the perfect environment to write about our addictive mind.

Sugar is one of the most addictive substances, but it is also the most widely accepted comfort foods. We don’t bat an eye at a “cotton candy” announcement at 7 a.m., or cookies every night. Even though we know overconsumption of sugar is the leading cause of most of our illnesses in modern life, we are OK talking about sugar as a celebrated and loved substance. Imagine talking about alcohol this way — we all love a glass of wine, but we realize that we need moderation, and if we are thinking about drinking at 7 a.m. at the airport we may have a problem.

Des, an ICU nurse, has seen her share of illness due to sugar. We are headed to Orlando to present at NTI with our company Spira Mindful Wellness. Our lecture is on mindfulness practices for nursing professionals. The last slide of my presentation is: Cut down on sugar. It is impossible to be mindful with a brain high on sugar.

We are seldom aware of our addictive mind beyond substances such as drugs and alcohol.

We have evolved to avoid the bad and to seek out rewards. We chase after the feel-good experience because, from an evolutionary perspective, good feelings caused behaviors that helped the survival of the species. Sugar at the time of caloric scarcity helped us survive. Speed ahead 70,000 years at the time of plenty and sugar is not only not serving us, it is literally killing us.

Sugar was a rare find for most of history, but it was restricted to honey and fruits. It is only with the arrival of cane sugar processing that we got easy access to the substance. Before 1600, an average person consumed fewer than 7 pounds of sugar per year, but currently, an average American is consuming 120 pounds of sugar per year. No wonder we have a problem.

And sugar is hiding everywhere. Complex carbohydrates like bread, pasta and potato all break down to form sugars in our bloodstream.

You don’t have to eat sugar to have a high sugar diet. From an evolutionary perspective, we are consuming an inordinate amount of carbohydrates and move considerably less than our hunter-gatherer ancestors. The human body functions best with a diet high in leafy vegetable with moderate protein and fat. Grains are a late addition to our palette — they came with agriculture about 5,000-3,000 years ago (a blink of an eye in evolutionary terms). We keep craving sweets and grains because they are high in calorie compared to leafy vegetables. Thus our brain still considers them as advantageous for our survival.

This brings me back to my initial statement. To heal, we need to avoid avoidance.

One of the reasons we love sugar is because it suppresses our “bad feelings.” But in order to heal, we need to be aware of the problem.

When we present on this topic, this is right about the time when Des shouts out, no, we are not the “fun police.”

We are not saying no cake, no cookies, no pasta — we are saying considerably less. Once you recognize these behaviors and substances as addictive, you will make different choices. That donut in the office break room will become less attractive, and maybe you’ll exchange eating pizza with home cooking. Where there is awareness, there is a choice, and without awareness we are stuck in the blindness of addiction.

Sugar is addictive. It is a leading cause of obesity and morbidity in the U.S. So, no, it is not OK to think about chocolate cake at 7 a.m. That is a sign of addiction, and it is about time we recognize our problem.

Addiction is everywhere in our modern life.

Dora Gyarmati teaches yoga and mindfulness classes. She owns Spira Power Yoga in Issaquah and West Seattle. Her company M3Bmethod also lectures on resiliency and stress management to health care professionals.


In consideration of how we voice our opinions in the modern world, we’ve closed comments on our websites. We value the opinions of our readers and we encourage you to keep the conversation going.

Please feel free to share your story tips by emailing editor@valleyrecord.com.

To share your opinion for publication, submit a letter through our website https://www.valleyrecord.com/submit-letter/. Include your name, address and daytime phone number. (We’ll only publish your name and hometown.) We reserve the right to edit letters, but if you keep yours to 300 words or less, we won’t ask you to shorten it.

More in Life

Courtesy photo
                                The Snoqualmie Valley Evergreens 4-H club will host a rabbit show on Feb. 29 in North Bend.
4-H rabbit show on Feb. 29 in North Bend

The show is open to the public. There is no admission for spectators.

(Pixabay photo)
Master Gardeners workshop on Feb. 15

Topics include soil, food and climate change.

The archway at last year’s Relay For Life of Snoqualmie Valley event. Courtesy photo
Relay For Life of Snoqualmie Valley kickoff

Dessert auction event Feb. 1.

Award-winning play ‘The Good Adoptee’ coming to Mercer Island

The autobiographical drama was penned by acclaimed playwright Suzanne Bachner.

Embrace the struggle for a complete picture | Health column

A monthly column about mindfulness and general wellbeing.

20 recycling resolutions for 2020

A monthly column from Waste Management.

The time for gratitude is now

Being grateful for the present and focusing on what you have versus what you don’t have is the key to mindfulness.

KCLS continuing to build connections in 2020

A monthly column about library happenings.

The Snoqualmie Lunar New Year Celebration will be held at the YMCA Community Center on Jan. 25. File photo
Snoqualmie Lunar New Year Celebration set for Jan. 25

The celebration will be held at the Snoqualmie YMCA Community Center.

From left: students Riley Retinger, Abby Smith, Mimmi Hubbard and Sadie Rabinowitz. Photo by Calah Webb
‘It’s one of my favorite places to be’: School of Rock Issaquah gears up for January shows

In January, students will be paying homage to the Beatles, Black Sabbath, Chris Cornell and others.

Seahawks legend Alonzo Mitz signs Herb Altmann’s 12’s flag at Sno-Valley Senior Center on Dec. 13. Stephanie Quiroz/staff photo
Seattle Seahawks Legends visit Sno-Valley Senior Center

The 12 Days of Goodness made a stop in Carnation on Dec. 13.