I vividly remember one of the times when I swore off sugar once and for all, when I went looking for my equally sugar-addicted coworker. The drill went like this, I’d whisper “they like you,” about the pastry chefs we worked with, “pleeeze get us a treat, they’ll give you anything you want,” full well knowing I’d long out-used my ‘just this once’ ‘pretty please’ reasoning with them.
We’d turn the corner greedily swallowing what ever sweet-fix we could get, giggle, lick our sugary fingers and swear off sugar yet again.
Maybe like me, you too experience some of the common signs of sugar addiction:
- You crave sweets
- You eat even when you’re not hungry
- Your tired from overeating
- You use every and any other form of ‘healthy’ sugar to satisfy your sweet tooth
- You’ve tried to control or quit eating sugar, but you just can’t
I felt liberated in a sense, when I saw the lecture that Robert Lustig posted on YouTube entitled, “Sugar: The Bitter Truth,” in 2009, which now has over 6 million views. In this lecture, Lustig refers to sugar as a ‘toxin’ and poison 13 times.
I watched in horror thinking, no kidding!
And then in my research to better understand this thing that felt like a straight-up addiction, I learned that students at a nearby liberal arts college found that eating Oreos activated more neurons in the brain’s “pleasure center” than exposure to drugs of abuse.
The student’s research found that high-sugar foods stimulate the brain in the same way that drugs do, which explains why I couldn’t resist sugary foods.
Actually, the average American today eats 150-170 pounds of sugar a year. If you do the math, this means ‘you’ are eating 1/4 – 1/2 pound of sugar a day!
I found a study that says rats — a whopping 94 percent — preferred sugar or saccharin, rather than cocaine!
Sugar is problem for more than just me, but you still might be saying, so what? So what if I love a lot of sugar?
Your gut microbiome has more than 100 trillion bacteria living within the gut wall. Sugar causes an imbalance between the good bacteria in your body, and the bad bacteria, candida albicans. Candida albicans thrives on sugar. Sugar feeds the yeast so it can continue to grow.
An unhealthy balance of bacteria in your body, brought on by a high-sugar diet can actually affect DNA expression and lead to increased inflammation, a key factor in issues like poor digestion, coronary artery disease, elevated blood pressure, Alzheimer’s, diabetes, cancer and even everyday memory and focus!
Sugar increase the uric acid levels in your body. High uric acid levels put you at risk for heart and kidney disease and an overly acidic body, which leads to poor digestion, weak bones and mineral deficiency. Sugar puts undue strain on your liver, leading to potential liver damage. Sugar causes metabolic dysfunction, including weight gain, abdominal bloating, imbalanced blood pressure, elevated blood sugar and high blood pressure. Sugar prematurely ages.
Craig Thompson, president of Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, one of the leading cancer research centers, said in the April 2011 issue of New Yorker Magazine, “I have eliminated refined sugar from my diet and eat as little as I possibly can, because I believe ultimately it’s something I can do to decrease my risk of cancer.”
I offer you 10 things that I know will help you curb and eliminate your sugar cravings:
- Eliminate processed and packaged snack foods. These foods contain high amounts of sugar.
- Reduce or eliminate caffeine. Caffeine causes metabolic fluctuations, including dehydration and blood sugar swings, which can lead to sugar cravings.
- Avoid artificial sweeteners and foods with added sugar. Use a natural sweetener like stevia instead.
- Move your body. Physical activity helps balance blood sugar levels, boosts energy, and reduces tension.
- Drink water. Sometimes sweet cravings, and cravings in general, are more a sign of dehydration. Before eating a sugary food, have a glass of water, it may be all you really need.
- Get more sleep. If you are chronically tired, your body will crave sugar for the instant energy it provides.
- Eat vegetables and the less sweet fruit, like berries, green apples, grapefruits, lemons and limes. Their natural, healthy sugar will satisfy you.
- Include with spices. Coriander, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, and cardamom will naturally sweeten your foods and reduce your cravings.
- Reduce the amount of animal food you eat. According to yin-yang principles of eating, like Macrobiotics and Traditional Chinese Medicine, eating too much animal food, which are yang, can lead to cravings for sweets, which are yin.
- There are many ways to add sweetness to your life, beyond just food. Look for non-food ways to sweeten your life, like in your relationships and your career. Cravings often carry a psychological or emotional component. By identifying the psychological causes for your cravings, you better understand how to choose healthier choices.
One last thought. Many will tell you it’s OK to eat sugar in moderation. Depending on the severity of your sugar cravings, it’s actually better to avoid sugar completely for a healing interim. Since research shows that sugar is more addictive than drugs of abuse, it’s better to eliminate it completely, until you feel you’ve got your cravings under control. And who knows, you may feel so great from this abstinence period, that you may choose to forgo this highly questionable substance.
Has sugar caused you problems?
You know I gave up sugar for a healing interim to get to the other side of my sugar addiction. I’m curious, do you think sugar could be holding you back from achieving your healthy breakthrough?
Which of the ideas above gave you an aha moment?
I look forward to reading your stories and thoughts in the comments below.
Ready to start eliminating sugar from your diet with a healthy start to your day? Get my 9 nutrient-dense smoothies guide to kickstart your healthy goals!