Potatoes Not Prozac Book

Alcohol, Addiction, Potatoes… and yes, Britney!*

Day 5 of Britney-Watch and now that K-Fed is starting to look like the normal, mature person in that relationship… I am thinking about how lucky I am to have avoided the trap of addiction.

My father was a hard-core alcoholic. Vodka was his drink of choice. Oddly enough, considering some of the things I do remember from my childhood, I do like vodka, too – but it doesn’t call to me like a whispering mistress in a dark room.

Something my mother said to me in my teen years probably saved me from that. “Alcoholism is hereditary. And when you feel you *need* a drink is exactly when you should not have one.” So, thanks Mom – because that simple conversation has always stayed with me. Oh, I did my fair share of drinking in college… but anytime I felt like I NEEDED a drink, I avoided it like the plague. I was scared to death of becoming my father.

And I still drink as an adult, and even over-indulge now and again. (Those present for Cranium Night last Saturday can attest to that). But what really interests me, is how different types of alcohol affect me differently. Vodka should probably make me want to lick a path to the door of the nearest liquor store given my dad’s unshakable addiction to it. But, eh. Not so much. I like it because it’s fairly tasteless and mixes well. That’s about it. Beer is nice. Champagne is nice. Margaritas are nice. But the alcohol that makes me smack my lips for days after drinking it is dark rum. Lucky I did not discover Hurricanes and Dirty Monkeys in college or maybe I would be an alcoholic right now. Because, I fight the urge to have dark rum again after I drink it. I assume this is at least in part due to the high sugar content in dark rum (Right? Or why else would it taste so good?) and it’s assailing my poor little diabetic blood vessels left and right.

Which reminds me of a book that my endocrinologist (fancy word for diabetes doctor) made me read several years ago: Potatoes Not Prozac by Kathleen De Maisons. It was fascinating for me, because De Maisons work is based on the theory that alcohol addiction is affected by sugar sensitivity similar to diabetes, so if you treat the sugar imbalance you have a better chance to staying sober. My endocrinologist told me to skip the “program” part of the book, since she and my nutritionists were working with me on a specific plan and she is not a big believer in “one size fits all” diets anyway – but she felt the chapters on brain chemistry were really well written for the layman (i.e. dumbasses like me). Of course, true to form, I had to read them more than twice to understand them.

What it came down to is that, when we eat white foods (i.e. refined sugar with no other purpose in life other than being sugary, such as candy and alcohol), receptors on our brains open wide up… and the next day they continue to be wide open, looking for more sugar to fill those holes. Thus you crave sugar (or alcohol). Makes total sense to me, since I used to NEED candy at the same time every single day. (It feels weird to even type that since now I am only allowed to have candy on national holidays).

But the really funny part was The Sugar Sensitivity Quiz. She asks: If you walk into a room a warm plate of chocolate chip cookies that just came out of the oven, and they smell wonderful sitting there on the counter, but you are not hungry, would you eat them? If you say yes, you may be sugar sensitive. If you laughed so hard you fell out of your chair, you absolutely are sugar sensitive. Guess which one I was. And I don’t even like chocolate chip cookies. It’s hardly a surprise though, given the diabetes on both sides of the family and alcoholism too.

Oh, and what do potatoes have to do with it? You know the fabled “tryptophan high” from turkey on Thanksgiving? It’s actually turkey + mashed potatoes that change the trypotophan into serotonin, the same chemical Prozac unlocks in your head (or in my case, Lexapro). Serotonin is your feel-good brain chemical. Her assertion is that the balance between protein and good carbs is essential to keeping your brain happy.

All interesting stuff. And I kept thinking as I read, I wonder how much of this was my dad’s chemistry? His weakness? And how much really could have been food/sugar issues? Of course, knowing how my dad was – a huge portion of it was his inability to accept that he had a problem at all – so I am sure if such a book even existed back in his day, he wouldn’t have felt he needed it anyway.

But I just wonder if it could have helped him.

And I feel so very lucky to have escaped it.

Potatoes Not Prozac Book

*Let’s all remember I am a graphic designer, not a doctor, and got this all from a book with the word Potatoes in the title, OK? … But seriously. It’s an interesting book.

This article has 8 comments

  1. joansy

    Great points. As the daughter of an alcoholic, I have lots of rules for my own drinking:
    * never when upset or made
    * never before 6 p.m.
    * never more than 2 nights in a row, even when on vacation
    I even quit entirely for a year, just to make sure that I could.

    But . . . I seldom pay attention to sugar and food issues, even though I know I should. I’m definitely going to check out the book.

  2. Anonymous

    With the few things you remember from your childhood, I’m very glad the talk with your mom stayed with you…….

  3. danille

    you are allowed to have candy on national holidays, popables when you go to the movies, and gummy bears when you fly!

  4. g-man

    Mom’s an alcoholic. I can see addictive tendencies in some other aspects of my life. Fortunately I can see the addictive tendencies in the other aspects of my life, and can deal with them. (like video games and smoking) I did quit smoking many years ago, but I still like to stand next to people who are smoking so I can sniff the air.

    Nice post. I’m glad that her words stayed with you and you can recognize more than your dad did.

  5. greeblemonkey

    Ha ha Danielle – very true!!!

    and thanks everyone.

  6. Tree

    You mom’s simple wisdom is worth remembering. Thanks.

    I find the brain chemisty and body chemistry fascinating. And what you have said makes complete sense.

  7. Mrs. Wheezer

    My family is the poster-child for hereditary alcoholism and addictive behavior. I will note that 50 years ago my grandma figured out that a healthy dose of chocolate was enough frequently ward off my grandfather’s drinking binges.

    Anyway, part of the reason I don’t indulge is that I am scared to death of turning into my uncle, grandfather, great grandfathers, grandmother, great grandmother, etc. etc. etc.

  8. Mitzi Green

    well, that would explain why i feel so damned good when i’m shoveling turkey and mashed taters down my throat by the shovel-full every thanksgiving…

    i’ve been exploring this issue a lot myself, lately–now that i’ve given up my favorite drug in the entire world (nicotine) and am trying to stop the emotional overeating that has apparently taken its place.

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