Is Bread Sabotaging Your Weight Loss? Why Bread Is So Addictive

by Suzanne Andrews

Bread is a notorious diet-buster. The flavor, texture and high carbohydrate content makes it difficult to stop eating bread once you've started. In fact, many people undergo a chemical process while eating bread that triggers them to eat more and more. It's no wonder many diets advise us to stay away from bread, especially bread made from refined white flour.

Are You A Bread Addict? Take The Quiz to Find Out

  1. Do you get strong cravings for bread products (including pastries, cakes, crackers and cookies)?
  2. Do you experience a compulsion to eat bread products instead of other foods
  3. Do you find it difficult to stop eating bread products when full?
  4. Do you experience a feeling of calmness and well-being after eating bread products?
If you answered yes to those questions, you might have a bread addiction. The good news is that you're not alone; it's been estimated that up to 75% of all overweight people have an addiction to bread and other carbs. Now that you've figured out whether or not you're addicted to bread, let's move on to the next question…


Why Is Bread So Addictive?

After all, isn't it made from grains? Doesn't bread contain healthy fiber and carbohydrates? How can a natural food cause addiction-level cravings in so many people?

Different people react to bread in different ways. Some individuals can happily eat a dinner roll or a slice of toast and go about their day without any repercussions. Others find themselves obsessing over bread, sneaking carb-laden snacks to quell their cravings, and then eating more bread with their next meal. For the latter group, bread is as addictive as a drug. When these people eat bread, their bodies release too much insulin, also known as the “hunger hormone.” Insulin stimulates the appetite, making it easy to overeat. Over time, the person can develop insulin resistance. Insulin resistance occurs when a person's body stops using insulin properly. This malfunction causes glucose, which normally fuels the internal organs, to stay trapped in the bloodstream. Type 2 diabetes can result. High blood glucose levels also trigger hunger, which makes the person crave high-carb foods. Eating these foods causes more insulin to be released and ignored by the body, and then blood glucose levels spike higher. It's an unhealthy cycle.

Add to this the psychological effect of eating bread, a popular "comfort food", and it's easy to see why bread is so addictive. Comfort foods are strongly associated with feelings of well-being. That's why so many people eat high-carb foods, like bread, when they are feeling lonely, stressed out, sad or bored. Needless to say, the bread is only a temporary fix and does not address the person's real underlying issues. People who self-medicate in this way are prone to overeating without finding true long term satisfaction from the food. It's important to note that whole-grain bread doesn't seem to have the same addictive properties as ultra-refined white bread. The human body digests white bread very quickly. It does not differentiate between a slice of white bread and a slice of cake. Both are broken down into sugar, causing blood glucose levels to spike. After this rapid digestion, blood glucose quickly plummets, resulting in hunger and additional carb cravings.


How To Break A Bread Addiction

Breaking a bread addiction can be challenging, but the health benefits are worth it. If you’ve had a hard time trying to lose weight, seriously consider breaking your bread habit. Start small by giving yourself a two-week break from bread. You might find that your cravings disappear altogether after a week or so.

When you do eat bread, eat a small amount of multigrain or rye bread instead of white. Also, make sure to indulge in your favorite treats occasionally (small portion and 1x a week) to keep yourself from feeling deprived. Then get back on your diet plan immediately to avoid cravings that might keep you off track. From personal experience I know that breaking a bread habit is not easy, but it can be done.  Just keep your eye on the prize – your health and/or your weight loss goal. 


Suzanne Andrews founded Functional Fitness in 2008, the most popular fitness series for boomers and seniors broadcasting on over 159 Public Television stations throughout the US and Canada.

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