We all know that sugar isn’t good for us. That sweet stuff in cookies and cakes is also hidden in dozens of other foods. If you’re wanting to know how to break a sugar addiction, you’ll need to get very familiar with all of sugar’s hiding places.
Sugar is known by 52 different names. It’s in everything from processed meals to energy drinks. Even some breads, Deli Meats and sauces contain sugar.
What’s wrong with sugar?
It’s probably a whole lot more simple to write about what’s right about sugar.
The reply would be Nothing. Nada. There is not one good thing to say about this zero nutrient.
Sugar is 100% carbohydrate.
Eat some of this and you are guaranteed an insulin spike within minutes. Insulin will trigger the body to store spare glucose as fat.
A few hours later, when your Insulin levels have dropped, you will feel tired, thirsty and hungry even if you’ve just had a large meal.
Your insulin spikes because there is a relatively small range of blood/glucose levels which are healthy for your body.
Insulin seeks to keep blood/glucose within this range. It is also responsible for allowing cells to absorb and store the glucose.
Without Insulin, your blood/glucose levels would be dangerously high. This is the problem for type 1 diabetics, who cannot produce or use Insulin.
Chronic high blood/glucose levels increase the risk of serious diabetes complications such as:
- Heart Disease
- Kidney failure
When you continually spike your blood/glucose levels by eating too much sugar you will do much more harm than simply feeling thirsty or tired and hungry too often.
You will be increasing your risk of developing metabolic syndrome, type 2 diabetes or many other diseases triggered by the inflammation that sugar causes.
Eating sugar will cause a long list of very serious diseases. The main trigger for many of these diseases is inflammation.
Inflammation is a normal and protective process within our bodies.
It is inflammation which causes swelling around a site of injury. This helps to protect the injury, and also sends vital blood cells to the site to aid repair and to fight infection.
However, when inflammation becomes chronic, it can cause many health problems, both now and in the future.
It will make you more susceptible to some of the neurodegenerative diseases which are becoming epidemic among older people such as Alzheimer disease and Parkinson disease.
If you’re not too familiar with inflammation, and why it’s something that you should avoid, read:
Among the diseases caused by inflammation are:
- Rheumatoid arthritis
- Inflammatory Bowel Disease such as Ulcerative Colitis and Crohn’s Disease
- Some cancers
- Neurodegenerative disease such as Alzheimer and Parkinson Disease
Sugar is the biggest single cause of inflammation in your body.
How do you know when you have a sugar addiction?
Addictions tend to follow a pattern, and an addiction to sugar is no different from an addiction to alcohol or drugs.
In fact, when a sugar addict eats something sweet, it triggers the same neuro chemical in the brain as a drug addict receives after getting high.
This neuro chemical, dopamine, is a powerful “feel good” trigger, and is the driving force behind most addictions.
Many people who suffer “food addiction” are actually addicted to sugar.
This is because high carbohydrate foods such as bread have the same effect on blood/glucose as eating a few teaspoons of sugar.
Carbohydrates are chains of sugars, sometimes described as sugars holding hands. Too many carbs will cause an Insulin spike in exactly the same way as pure sugar.
Pure sugar is 100% carbohydrate.
So, what are the signs that you have a sugar addiction?
- Do you crave sugar regularly, and the craving won’t stop until you’ve eaten some sugar?
- Will you go out of your way to walk or drive to a store that sells your favourite source of sugar?
- If you have a high carb food such as bread, cake or cookies, will you eat until you actually feel sick?
- Have you tried to stop sugar before, but have always given in and gone back to it?
- Do you feel ill a few hours after sugar, but will still eat the same food again?
- Is your health or your weight causing you issues, but you can’t stop using sugar?
If you answered yes to two or more of these questions, then the chances are that you have a sugar addiction.
How can you break a sugar addiction?
First of all, recognize that you have an addiction.
This is a real thing, and you are not greedy or weak willed or any other negative thing you’ve been calling yourself.
We are surrounded by marketing aimed at getting us to eat as much sugar/carbohydrate as possible. These foods are packaged up with lots of fat, making them especially irresistible to most people.
When you’re surrounded all day every day by these types of foods, it’s no wonder that a percentage of people go on to develop a real and serious addiction to them.
The food industry has an interest in developing the types of foods that appeal to a lot of people.
They know that many will find the mix of fat and sugar irresistible.
For some, this sweet tooth will develop into something altogether more serious, a full-blown addiction.
So, you can stop beating yourself up about this. You can’t walk away from the sugar, and it’s probably causing you a lot of health issues and extra weight.
Thankfully, there are some strategies that have been shown to help with addictions.
One of the main causes for sugar craving is low blood sugar.
When your body is used to a regular supply of glucose, it will send you a very powerful message to eat more as soon as that supply runs low.
The best way to balance your blood/glucose levels so that you are not triggered by low levels is to make sure that you limit your carbohydrate intake.
This means limiting your intake of grains as well as sugars. Ideally, consider the keto diet. This very low carb diet is known for its ability to stabilize blood/glucose levels.
For more information about the keto diet and food addiction read How to stop food addiction with the keto diet.
Make sure that you’re eating a nutritionally complete diet.
A lack of some minerals especially magnesium and chromium have been shown to trigger sugar cravings.
Some magnesium rich foods are:
- Green leafy vegetables
- nuts, especially almonds, cashews and Brazil nuts.
- Fatty fish, especially Salmon
Some chromium rich foods are:
- Green Beans
- Dairy products
You’ll need to eat a healthy amount of fats and proteins with each meal. These are both very satiating, and will help to keep you feeling full.
Keep sugar filled items out of your home
Don’t store cookies or cakes for that special occasion, or tell yourself that you’ll only have one cookie out of the packet.
You wouldn’t tell an alcoholic that it’s OK to keep a bottle of wine at home, and have just a small glass each evening.
Your addiction to sugar is just as strong.
You won’t stop at one cookie. The chances are that they are going to be calling your name until the whole packet is eaten.
Be kind to yourself and don’t buy the foods you have trouble with.
Read the labels on foods, sugar hides under many names. Often sugar is found in foods that you wouldn’t expect it to be in.
Some examples of hidden sugar are:
- Pasta sauces
- Salad dressings
- Breakfast cereals
- Tomato sauce
- Some breads
- Alcohol mixers
- Instant oatmeal
- Coffee from specialist outlets
- Non Dairy milks
- Deli Meats
Be vigilant about checking, even a small amount of sugar will trigger a craving. As with all addictions, eating a little isn’t an option. You need to stop sugar completely.
Make things a little easier by not having anything containing sugar within easy reach. You’re much less likely to drive to the store than walk to your store cupboard.
When you are stressed you release cortisol which is known to increase the desire for sugar.
Look at ways that you can reduce your stress levels. This may mean joining a yoga class, or learning to meditate at home.
Exercise is also a great stress buster and resistance training is especially good at reducing stress levels.
Resistance training will also help:
- Improved sleep
- Decrease anxiety
Once you are experiencing an improvement in these areas, you will find that you are seeking sugary treats less often.
Poor sleep will directly effect the hormones that control appetite, as well as making you feel tired and stressed the next day.
Unhealthy balance of gut microbes
There is a lot of evidence that when our gut microbes are out of balance we can crave sugar.
This is because the sugar craving could also be a symptom of our particular group of microbes noticing the lack of their favourite foods, and sending you a strong signal to start eating it again.
Those among us who crave sugar may possibly have more of the sugar loving microbes than people who can take or leave anything sweet.
Luckily, when we stop eating sugar we can alter the level of these microbes withing 24 hours or so.
For a more details about the role of gut microbes in sugar addiction read Who’s craving sugar, you or your gut bacteria?
It is an addiction like any other, and it is not caused by you being weak or greedy.
If you believe that you’re addicted to sugar, you will need to take this very seriously.
Take care of your diet and make sure that you are eating nutritionally dense foods. Reduce your carb intake, and consider the keto diet.
It may be tempting to reduce your food intake, but being hungry will only serve to make it more likely that you will experience a sugar crave.
Make sure that you’re eating sufficient protein and fats so that you feel full between meals, without the need to snack.
Don’t buy or store in your home any foods that contain sugar.
Give up sugar completely and quickly. This is the only way to manage an addiction. The first few weeks will be tough, but the cravings will reduce and fade.
Make sure you minimize stress and get enough good quality sleep. If you need to read more about this visit this article.
Consider starting a program of resistance training. Not only will this reduce your stress levels and sugar cravings, it has multiple health benefits too.
Sugar cravings can be overcome, but you will need to cut sugar out of your life altogether.
You will feel healthier, your mood will improve, and you will be at less risk of many diseases.
By eating a low carb diet you will also see a reduction in your weight, which will make giving up sugar well worth the effort.
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