How to beat those sugar cravings and overcome those sugar crashes. (Photo: Kenji Aoki-Trunk Archive)
Since I was small, sugar has always been my drug of choice. It’s easy to see why. It makes you feel happy. It’s fun, colorful and alluring, not to mention, delicious. It can make you feel more energetic, as well as have the opposite effect and make us feel calm. However, despite all the appeal sugar is extremely addictive because it releases brain chemicals that make us feel good emotionally, albeit temporarily. Following the initial rush of flavor, excitement and comfort, comes the crash! And, just when you were feeling up, you are likely to feel worse than you did before, so you will want and need even more. It can be a hard cycle to break.
It turns out, sugar is more addictive than cocaine. Studies have shown that it releases the pleasure center in the brain. Plus, unlike cocaine, it’s readily available, found in nearly all food and is socially acceptable. Sugar addiction is a difficult one to recover from. With increasing intake, it can lead to general systemic inflammation, which is the foundation of underlying health issues. With continual consumption it can lead to diabetes, brain fog, mood disorders, joint-pain and compromised immune function. It also causes, candida, a yeast overgrowth that feeds on sugar and refined carbohydrates that turn to sugar. It is an underlying issue for muscle and joint pain, such as fibromyalgia and arthritis.
The average American consumes 150 pounds of sugar per year. That’s 12.5 pounds a month or almost 3 pounds a week. You may be thinking that you’re not average because you really don’t eat that many sweets. The majority of sugar we consume is hidden in processed and fast foods, cereals, snacks and white flour products. It’s even in salad dressings, sauces, and beverages. Products that are labeled “healthy” are often loaded with sugars. Potatoes and white rice quickly convert into sugar and elevate blood sugar levels.
Your food cravings are partially not your fault. Food companies hire food scientists to create foods with tastes and textures that are hard to resist. It’s their job to find that perfect ‘pleasure point’ of the food being “manufactured.” They know there are certain substances that people will want more of. There’s a science to it.
The first step to controlling your sugar intake is simply to start being aware. You do not have to make changes right away. I recommend my clients keep a food diary for a few weeks. This helps bring awareness to what you truly eat. It gives a snapshot of how much you are eating and over time, will help you make necessary changes by eliminating or reducing both the obvious, and hidden sources of sugar. You can than start swapping out high sugar foods, for ones with less. For example, there are about 17 grams of sugar in fruit sweetened Yoplait yogurt. However, there are yogurts on the market such as Sigg that have 9 grams or less
As a nutritionist, I have an arsenal of tricks that I share with my clients for reducing daily sugar consumption. Definitely start the day with a balanced breakfast of protein, fat and carb, not just a coffee and scone. Eat every two or three hours to never truly let yourself get hungry. To stabilize blood sugar levels, have balanced snacks and only eat about a fist full size of food at each meal. Eat before going to an event or party to focus on the people and conversation more than the food. Watch out when drinking alcohol as it is all sugar.
Consider detoxifying your body by doing a cleansing program to clean out your liver and intestines which will bring down the bodies overall systemic inflammation. If you eat clean and eliminate sugar for at least three weeks, you can even heal candida. However, the elimination includes all sugars including fruit. It may seem daunting, but you will not only lose your cravings for sugar, but lose weight, inflammation and heal other underlying health issues. I have seen acne clear up, joint pain and muscle pain be removed, neck and back pain heal, and eczema clear up. The list of conditions that can be improved is endless.
It may be difficult to get off the sugar roller coaster, but by creating the desire, getting to a readiness stage and finding the right support, you will be able to commit to removing excess sugar from your diet and change your overall health. When you ditch the sugar, you will feel better, lose weight and have more energy, which makes ditching the sweets absolutely worth it.