Sugar is one of the main players in the rise of obesity among adults and children over the past 2 decades. Sugar consumption has increased from a few pounds per year, per person 300 years ago, to 77-152 pounds of sugar per year, per person, now! From 1970 to 200 sugar intake increased 3-fold, going from 44 pounds per person per year to 120-152 pounds. At the same time, obesity in the U.S. increased by more than 3-fold. Sugar promotes fat storage by more than just excess calories. High amounts of added sugar increase visceral fat, which is the fat around your organs. Plus sugar is devoid of nutrients, and they actually deplete your body of micronutrients and ATP(energy).
Why You Are Addicted
Studies show sugar is more addictive than cocaine, nicotine, and alcohol. I am sure many of you know a smoker or drinker who gave up that vice only to pick up a sugar addiction. Humans and animals prefer sweetness over addictive drugs. How does this happen? Sugar produces the same type of dopamine hit you get from a drug, like cocaine. The reason for this is that foods high in sugar help with survival in a famine state and are only available for a short time in nature. The fat-storing mechanism sugar has on our body also helps us store more adipose tissue in times of scarcity so we didn’t starve. Genetics also play a role, some people are wired with more of an affinity for sweet taste than others and are more likely to be addicted to sugar, alcohol, or other substances.
Is Sugar a drug? It is processed like one. Just like cocaine, sugar is refined into pure white crystals from a plant. Sugar’s refinement and purification are what makes it so addictive. Access to sugar causes bingeing, cravings, tolerance, and withdrawal. From a neurochemical standpoint sugar is every bit as addictive as illegal drugs. And Unfortunately, sugar is in almost every packaged food we eat.
How to Quit
Quitting isn’t easy, I am not going to pretend it is. Giving up sugar is easier said than done, I realize this. But I have also been through it and I’ve helped dozens of clients overcome it as well. For some, it’s pulling off a bandaid and never looking back. For others, it’s a weaning-off process, and over time the desire lessens. But your first step is getting rid of the temptation. If you were an alcoholic or drug addict would you have those things in your house? Probably not. You would remove any substance that causes you to engage in abuse. So, go to your pantry, your refrigerator, or your freezer and get rid of the stumbling blocks. But, you say, it’s for my spouse or my kids…ok, my response to that is, they don’t need it either. Get rid of it and replace it with whole foods. Buy fresh fruit, nuts, seeds, and some electrolytes. Why? You might need more salt!
A lack of real salt may be driving your sugar addiction. We all excrete salt through our urine, breath, feces, and sweat. This increases our appetite for salt by activating the dopamine reward center in the brain. Due to the depletion of salt and your body’s innate need to replenish electrolytes, your body can also have an increased potential for addiction to other substances like sugar. Salt is an essential mineral and excess consumption typically only occurs when one is eating a diet of mostly ultra-processed hyper-palatable foods. Salts’ natural ability to enhance the flavor of foods produces satiety, so increasing your natural salt intake may be one simple way of curbing your sugar cravings.
My final tip to blast your sugar cravings is to eat more protein and healthy fats at meals, and this includes salting your food well. The more satisfied you are with your meal the less likely you will be to go searching for something sweet after. Most women I talk with and coach don’t eat enough, so then they are hungry, they snack, or they binge eat at night, on something that is hyper-palatable and high in sugar! A great alternative to sugary treats is a serving of good-quality dark chocolate. Try 85% or darker, it may seem bitter at first, but once you quit sugar it’s going to taste like heaven. This cycle can be difficult to break, but once you do and you have a clear vision of a way out you will be more likely to see it through. This can be a hard feat to overcome, but it is possible, and it is much easier when you have some help. If you need help book a FREE call here.
For more education on sugar its addictive properties and how your body handles it, check out these books:
“The Obesity Fix” by Dr. James Dinicolantonio
“Metabolical” by Dr. Robert Lustig
“Why We Get Sick” by Ben Bikman, PhD
“The Case Against Sugar” by Gary Taubes