Why do we feel like we are entitled to carbs? That we cannot live without them?

by Marshall Brain

Imagine that you are talking to a person who is obese (for example, me last year). It doesnt seem to matter if the person is 50 pounds overweight or 250 pounds overweight. The person proclaims that he or she would like to lose weight. So you say to the person, well, if you would cut way back on carbs, chances are you would lose weight. You might even try eliminating carbs completely and see what happens. Depending on where the person is on the dieting spectrum, the next question might be, what are carbs? And the answer is, anything with sugar, flour or starch in it: Cookies, cakes, ice cream, soda, breakfast cereal, pizza, pasta, rice, potatoes, milk, fruit juice, etc.

The reaction almost inevitably is, “Are you kidding? I cant live without ___.” Pizza might fill the blank, or Oreo cookies, or whatever. You might even hear, “I would commit suicide if I had to give up ____.” There would be no reason to go on living or something similarly hyperbolic.

So you say, But look at yourself. You are 200 pounds overweight. You are a heart attack waiting to happen. You are probably pre-diabetic, and diabetes is a nasty disease. The carbs are addictive, and they are killing you. That doesnt seem to matter. Carbs are more important than health, even if the lack of health is obvious to everyone in the form of blubber.

Even now, nearly two months into this Dukan diet thing, I suffer from this problem. Having eaten approximately no carbs for 50 days, I still lust for carbs when I see them (although I can now completely control the lust, and if I dont see the food I no longer lust for it). However, I doubt I will ever be able to eat carbs again I now know exactly how addictive they can be and how dangerous they are to my health and well-being. If I start to eat them again, I fear, it might be like a reformed alcoholic drinking a beer.

What is different about carb addiction? For example, the vast majority of people can drink alcohol without becoming alcoholics. But I think carbs are somehow different more like nicotine based on the fact that more than half of the country is now overweight. I have had people say to me, Its not carbs its just the fact that Americans eat way too much. But I really think it is the carbs. Now that I am not eating carbs, I no longer eat too much. I no longer pig out, or binge. I simply do not eat bowl after bowl of cottage cheese in the same way I would eat bowl after bowl of frosted flakes. There is definitely something about carbs that is different. I think I am normal in that, rather than abnormal, based on current statistics.

And the idea of entitlement and necessity that goes with carbs is quite bizarre. Why do people feel like they cant live without carbs? This idea that we deserve the treat or reward of an ice cream cone or a piece of cake is weird. So is the idea that we would die without pizza (or whatever) in our lives. Is it purely psychological, jammed into our brains at the youngest age by birthday parties, Halloween, Christmas candy, lollipops at the doctors office and a Twinkie after every soccer game Along with a million commercials for carb-containing foods? If so, how would we as a society go about deprogramming all or that in order to improve the nations health?

If you read this article, you will find that diabetes is costing the nation more than $100 billion per year. If we were to tax the sale of carbohydrates at a rate of about one penny per gram, we would be able to raise enough money to cover that bill and its expected growth rate. So the tax on a 12 ounce can of soda containing 39 grams of carbs would be 39 cents. All the money raised by the carb tax would flow into treatment and prevention of diabetes and related diseases. What would be the nations appetite for that?

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