Health

Why Sugar and Porn Are Way More Alike Than You Realize

Published On 11/02/2016 Published On 11/02/2016
sugar porn
Daniel Fishel/Thrillist

When I was 11, my cousin and I went to play video games with his friend, Chris. Wouldn't you know it, Chris knew where his dad's collection of Playboys were. This would be my first glimpse of a fully naked lady.

We probably approached the speed of light flying through the pages, one image leading to the next. I remember being confused, but as a chubby little guy, I saw boobs in the mirror all the time -- they weren't so foreign to me. Mind thoroughly melted, I held the images in my head seemingly forever. It would be a long time before I saw pornography again.

Around the same time, I dressed up as a nun for Halloween. As a boy in a fairly small Catholic grade school, I thought this was hilarious. I was 100% right. But the fun that year didn't stop at cross-dressing satire. In my habit and character-correct orthopedic shoes, I set a personal candy-collection record. Filled a whole pillow case with sugar and chocolate.

More importantly, I remember being left with the B team, consisting of Smarties and Tootsie Rolls, in just a few days. I eviscerated that cotton sack of sugar. I was embarrassed, though, because I knew this wasn't healthy -- even an elementary-schooler understands that a human body probably shouldn't absorb that much candy in that little time. It only took me two decades to change much about my eating habits.

The '90s were a boon for porn and sugar

Everyone knows that the internet fundamentally changed porn (and pretty much everything else in life). Before the internet, new material could be so hard to come by it was practically mythical. The internet's arrival erased forever the days of trying to fool the guy behind the corner store counter with my "left the ID at home today" excuse.

Free streaming porn means there's a worldwide spank bank with the vault door wide open for any 14-year-old to walk right in. For me and my friends at the time the internet became widely available, it truly was a golden age. Porn, the Holy Grail of adolescence, was now everywhere. No more stealing from an older brother's stash, or trying in vain to see a nipple on the scrambled porn channels.

As my friends and I swam, Scrooge McDuck-like, through the newfound sea of pornography, the American diet was also drastically changing, along with the country's collective waistline. The adolescent obesity rate quadrupled from 1981 to 2012, during which time fat became the public enemy, and it was systematically removed from processed food.

Sugar was pumped in, replacing the fat. It was cheap, accessible, and tasty as hell, helped along by the powerful corn industry, which promoted high-fructose corn syrup -- another cheap, government-subsidized product became available for use by large companies in the food industry.

As the American diet changed, so did our health concerns. Obesity rates have hit epidemic proportions, diabetes runs rampant, and heart disease is still the No. 1 killer.

All that access creates a warped reality

Porn and refined sugar are sweet, both literally and figuratively. Similarity between the two isn't limited to bad puns, though: They're both concentrated versions of nature, and they’re both found in large quantities at gas stations.

Sex and sugar exist in the natural world; they're essential, in fact. But the absurd amount of sugar in a single soda, for example, certainly doesn't exist in the natural world any more than the kind of manicured, on-demand sex depicted in porn does.

Think about a typical lunch an average, otherwise unaware American might have: tomato soup and iced tea. A can of Progresso's tomato basil soup has 28g of sugar in it, and a 20oz lemon iced tea can contain a whopping 31g. Eating 51g of sugar in your midday meal is ludicrous -- put another way, that's almost 13tsp of sugar you've just swallowed, more than a quarter cup. Of course it's going to be difficult to cut out sugar when you expect everything to be that sweet.

Similarly, some people form unrealistic expectations of their partners based on what they've seen a porn star do, or if they don't, they might find sex itself has lost the appeal it once had.

These products are designed to be over-consumed

The infamous "bliss point" is the magical combination of sugar and fat processed food scientists employed to get consumers literally hooked on their products. While there's no scientifically determined set of "related videos" that guarantees a viewer will continue clicking, researchers have already pointed to potential similarities between obesity, food addiction, and pornography addiction.

Whether behaviors like eating or watching porn can be addictive in the same ways a drug like heroin is addictive is still a matter of debate. But sugar does seem to cause the brain to release dopamine and opioids, which can lead to compulsive consumption… not unlike what happens with porn.

You don't need all that sciencey jargon to understand, though. You probably already know how easy it is to house too many brownies or to spend way too much time surfing porn.

Maybe, just maybe, things are better when they’re not so instantaneous. As counterintuitive as it seems, having everything prepackaged, processed, and ever at the ready feels exhausting sometimes.

Each can have its place… in moderation

I realize the craziness of arguing against the existence of sugary, processed foods. That'd be like arguing against, well, the consumption of porn.

Look, they each have their place. When viewed with your partner, adult movies can open lines of communication and spark creativity in the relationship. Sugary treats can be great simple rewards for completing a goal or marking a special occasion. I'm not advocating the abolition of birthday cakes or American flag cupcakes at a Fourth of July party. A donut doesn't need to be added to every morning cup of coffee, though.

Processed food is often marketed as convenient, but apples and pears aren't difficult to operate. Plus, they both have the sugar everyone loves, not to mention a lot of fiber. Fiber is what helps the body process sugar, and it can help regulate blood sugar spikes. Refined sugary foods aren't balanced like this -- they're designed to taste good, be readily accessible, and have a long shelf life. Easy to sell, but not easy on the body.

There's a reason Valentine's Day is all flowers, chocolates, and Trojans. Humans love sugar and sex, but our drive for sustenance and fornication can be unnaturally influenced. People naturally crave sugars and carbs for survival, but consume the refined and imbalanced versions that can wind up killing them in the long run.

Sex is basically the only reason humans exist, but for it to perform its survival function, at least two people need to be involved. Porn, on the other hand, is usually consumed alone -- both pervert their original forms into an opposite, destructive force. Mostly that's because of convenience. It’s easier to fire up a laptop than be vulnerable with a partner. It’s easier to throw some fast food down our mouths because quinoa, vegetables, and hummus are for crazy "health nuts." 

OK then, Mr. NoRefinedSugarOrPornPants, am I ever allowed to have fun?

Of course! I think a pretty easy-to-follow rule is 80/20. Eat a balanced, whole-food diet 80% of the time, and the few times (20%) you stray, you can do so guilt-free.

The next time you want to watch an adult movie ask your partner to watch with you. Watching porn is so much more fun with another person! And if you don't have a partner, maybe try, when you can, to go out into the world and interact with humans rather than opening 30 tabs and staying in every night.

I went from more than 350lbs in my 20s to a sustained 230lbs in my early 30s. I did this almost entirely by removing as much refined, processed foods as I could from my diet. I try to focus on a healthy, whole-food, plant-based diet. I'm no longer the kid trying (poorly) to fool local store owners into selling me boobie mags as I eat a fistful of candy. Thankfully.

I especially appreciate the diet transition -- it's hard to fully explain just how good your body feels when you stick to a whole-food, plant-based diet. Type 2 diabetes and obesity rates in this country are Ron Jeremy-sized. Eating healthy now will help mitigate health concerns in the future, kind of like a savings account for your body. Food should grow from the ground, and shouldn't need to be pumped full of sugar to make it taste better. It should occur organically… kind of like sexual intercourse.

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Rich Williams is a health-conscious writer and comedian who's feared by salads worldwide. Learn how to lose weight and follow his journey on Instagram @richmwilliams.

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