Many times people who struggle with overweight or obesity berate themselves for not having the willpower to lose weight. With some of us, it may indeed be a willpower problem. However, and this is important, many people who struggle seemingly forever with their weight have another struggle going on they are probably not even aware of…addiction to sugar! If you are addicted to sugar, it’s nearly impossible to lose weight. In fact, you crave the very thing that causes you to gain weight.
For many of us, sugar has an addictive pull that rivals cigarette smoking or heroin addiction. It may seem a bit outrageous to compare our sugar love affair to these drug addictions-I mean, doesn’t just about everyone on the planet eat the stuff? Hasn’t it been around-well, practically forever? If that’s your brain talking, read on even if you don’t have a weight challenge, because you’ll add years to your life by becoming educated on the topic. And while it takes more than knowledge to change one’s habits, the tragic truth is that most people never learn the facts or the solutions to food challenges they could otherwise overcome.The first step to getting a handle on your sugar habit is to take a look at the science of sugar and its effect inside your body. But before we take a look at what happens when we eat this non-food called processed sugar, let’s talk about the law of sugar, which many of you have experienced first hand.
So how do you know if you’re addicted to sugar? Do you crave sweets? Would you like to avoid sweets but find that you can’t? Have you made a decision to avoid foods with sugar in the past but found yourself unable to follow through? Do you ever over-indulge in a sweet item to the point of embarrassment or nausea? Do you hide evidence of your “crime”? Does your mood or energy level change if you consume sugar? Does your mood or energy level change when sugar wears off? Do you find yourself obsessing about a food item? If you answered ‘yes’ to even a few of these questions, you probably are indeed addicted to sugar.
Now, why exactly does eating sugar trigger a strong desire for more sweets or calories? Eating sugar triggers the release of opiates in the brain. Opiates are chemicals which make you feel good. For anyone who isn’t sure what opiates are, understand that they are the in the same class of drugs as heroin or morphine. Eating sugar will also begin a cycle of craving or compulsion for more of the same feeling that was caused by the release of the opiates. You may not “get high” the way you would with a powerful narcotic, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t impact your mood or your brain.
We’ll talk more about sugar addiction next time. Until then, you have two assignments,Consume absolutely no sugar-containing foods for one day,Keep a journal of how you feel and what you struggle with throughout that day and the next two days.The solution to any problem begins with the identification of the problem! Let’s determine for sure that sugar addiction is a problem for you…and then, let’s deal with it.This isn’t (really) a rant about sugar because let’s face it you’ve heard it all before. You are well aware that too much sugar makes you fat and has ominous links to type 2 diabetes. You know the facts, so I’m not going to patronise you with a concoction of sensationalist stats. There is one question I need to ask though, it’s nothing special, but it is important ‘are you addicted to sugar?’ Take a minute, think about it. Addiction is when you cannot control a behaviour or action, can you control how much sugar you eat?
If you have ever heard the term “sugar blues,” all you need to know is that your blood sugar and your health will rise and fall like the Roman Empire if you eat like a king when it comes to sugar. Sugar’s effect inside our bloodstream is even more straightforward: when we eat or drink sugar our blood sugar goes up, our insulin goes up, and we throw that metabolic switch that says store body fat. Meanwhile, as we get fatter we continue to overtax the pancreas and develop insulin sensitivity, which leads into diabetes. The picture being painted is not so pretty, is it?
Here’s something amazing: even thinking about a sweet food we love can trigger a chemical response in our brains to eat it. Essentially, the chemical response and memory trace which eating sugar creates inside our brains urges us to go back for more. Meanwhile, that false sense of comfort we achieved from eating our sweets keeps us returning to the source over and over again and we form the insidious habit of associating comfort with food.
The truth is that most of us avoid thinking about the harm sugar or similarly damaging high-carbohydrate diets are causing to our bodies. We do this because of the pleasure it gives us. It’s even more pronounced when we use it as a reward or as a release from our busy, stressed-out lives. Sugar does make us feel better for a brief while, perhaps. But nearly all of us have at one time or another experienced the downside that comes with the crash, even if we didn’t know what was going on exactly inside of us to make us crash. The ultimate tragedy is that while we might acknowledge that we have a sugar challenge-some of us might even be self-proclaimed addicts-we also tend to feel powerless to do anything about it.
Having worked with many people who struggle with severe sugar cravings, I have come across some sure-fire ways of battling sugar addiction.Take every hour one step at a time. Start by giving up sugar today – just today. Focus on tomorrow when it comes.Give up sugar. This sounds harsh but like any other drug, you can’t just cut back if you are truly addicted, it’s all or nothing. Getting the taste is just a tease and will bring back all those feelings that come with a sugar hit.Ditch white bread. It has a high Gi which means it’s quickly broken down and digested. It won’t be long before you start getting cravings. Instead go for wholegrains, they are much more satisfying.Beef up protein. Protein takes longer to digest than carbohydrates so including a little protein in every meal will keep you feeling fuller and cravings at bay.
Just be aware that if you take up the challenge, you’ll have to step out of your comfort zone for awhile. For awhile, you’ll miss it like an old friend who has moved away, but like anything else, you’ll get used to it. And I promise you, once you experience the wonderful clarity of mind and feel the natural energy your body provides without sugar’s artificial high, you will never want to go back.