When someone suggested to me a few years ago that sugar could possibly be addictive, I felt the strong desire to explore the theory. There wasn’t as much public information about it at that time but when I read a medical journal discussing the effects of sugar on the brain I was convinced this was my problem. So the first step is admitting there is a problem. Figuring out how to manage in a world full of sugar and other addictive substances was a completely other ball game.
I began to eliminate sugar from my diet. “High Fructose Corn Syrup” was the first to go and I certainly noticed the withdraw symptoms, by no means was it easy. I had a headache, was fatigued, and lacked focus for at least 4-5 days. As time went on I was able to mostly eliminate it by baking my own treats or buying organic products with cane sugar. Once I was off of it I would occasionally revisit it and was immediately disgusted by the physical reaction to the substance. Not only did I feel like crap but I craved more of it. I found myself craving sugary products and becoming compulsive about it at times. I would compulsively eat cake, pies, cookies, ice cream – I would even sneak it so no one knew that I was cheating on my diet or eating THAT much. I would shamefully give in to the cravings, beat myself up about it later and find myself looking for more comfort with food. An ugly cycle I was happy to put a big stop sign in. Now HFCS is completely off the menu and if I do ingest it I am very aware of its addictive properties.
I try to do most of my own baking and cooking, this greatly reduces sugar and salt intakes. You can eliminate sugar in yogurt by simply buying plain yogurt instead of vanilla, instead add honey to the yogurt. You can bake your own bread if you cannot afford to pay for organic varieties. You can make your own salad dressings, ketchup and drinks. I began to learn to make more and more things from scratch. I also got better at freezing whatever I made and finding time to squeeze it into a very full life. It became a priority after a while and I made it non negotiable, as if sugar was a poisonous substance. Sugar acted like poison each time ingested it and certainly hurts the body in so many ways. As scientists learn more and more about the effects of sugar on the body it becomes easier to identify sugar as poison.
I found that honey, agave nectar and cane sugar had less addictive responses. Honey and agave nectar seem to have very little if any addictive responses. Cane sugar has some but its much easier managed than HFCS, for instance. I don’t find cane sugar compulsively irresistible but I know HFCS drives me to compulsive over eating and binging. This discovery took time and forgiveness with myself. I had to eliminate the substances and then reintroduce them slowly. Then I had to pay attention to my responses. I had to forgive myself when I gave into these substances and then reprogram my brain to notice how shitty they made me feel. Each time I would eat them I would pay attention, then note just how sick and ill I felt. I didn’t always feel sick from eating sugar. I didn’t realize just how shitty it made me feel until I eliminated it and fell off the wagon. When I did fall off I would think to myself and usually share with at least one other person just how shitty I felt. I would note what I ate, how much and how I felt a little while later. At first I found food journals to be very helpful with this. Not just writing what you ate but also how you feel, emotional state and stress levels. Food journals are fantastic tools to help you to a better understanding of your habits.
I also noticed that if I am active my addictive responses are less because I greatly reduce my daily stress. If you greatly reduce your stress levels your addictive responses will be less intense. So slowly I trained my brain to think of exercise, doing yoga or taking a walk when my stress levels got too high. There were sometimes that I would reach for food compulsively, more often than I care to admit. I would have to forgive myself and find the silver lining. The silver lining of falling off my wagon? Simple I get a chance to reprogram my brain. I would Notice what I ate, how much, and how it made me feel. Then I would tell my brain that sugar does not feel good and its just fooling me with its addictive traits. It wants to take over my brain, it is poisoning me. The times I have stopped myself from eating a cupcake on a stressful day at work in the break room I often walk away from the cupcake feeling grateful for the work I have done. This gratitude reinforces this marvelous behavior. The trick is to convince yourself that sugar and fast food make you feel sick, soon enough you will get the message.
Addiction is hard and some of us struggle with it more than others. Personally I have been a sugar addict my entire life, I have only recently had it under control. I have also found myself addicted to cigarettes, alcohol, and sex. Regardless of my drug of choice it was always about the same thing, numbing my emotions. Addictions can take over your entire life and create havoc with your health, relationships and work. I have found that addiction is better dealt with emotionally. Meaning, find a way to comfort yourself so that food is low on the list. Prioritize your list of comfort measures, try the healthiest ones first. This conscious choice to pick the healthiest comfort measure before you reach for food is the hardest part – it requires deep passionate intense self love.
Self-love is something I have struggled with a lot in my life. I often struggle with patting myself on the back or compliments because I don’t want to be egotistical. I also don’t want to brag or be in people’s faces. I have greatly improved my self-love but there are days I struggle more than others. Self-love is so important for your holistic health and often I like to start here. This post is NOT about self-love but I include it in this post for one very important reason. Self-love is the KEY to recovery from addictions. No matter how you develop it I strongly recommend that this is your highest priority. I want you to fall in love with yourself, I assure you no arrogance needs to be expressed. Self-love requires reaching inside and harvesting all your talents and skills. Once your self love grows you will find that you will naturally take better care of yourself and that addictions will seem counterproductive.
I have and still do work to keep my addictions from taking over. I harvest my self-love daily in order to create a wall between me and my addictions. I do not completely refrain from sugar, alcohol, or sex but for sure I am aware of my addictive personality and pay attention to my emotions when I find myself reaching for them too much. Its OK to have one slice a cake a week, its an issue when its the whole cake or every day. Its Ok to have one beer, its a problem when your drunk all the time. A healthy balance is what I am looking for because never treating myself to these little pleasures is a form of self abuse. Developing a balanced lifestyle is the key to permanent weight loss. Its a constant effort to adjust my lifestyle to be more holistically balanced but the struggle is what keeps the balance. If you stop struggling to balance you will slip one way or the other. Only YOU can decide what balanced looks like for you and the best way to discover what balanced looks and feels like to you is to simply harvest self-love.
In my exploration of the newest information online regarding sugar and its effect on the body I found this great video. It seems to be part of a series that I plan to check out. Watch this video to better understand how sugar addiction works.
The Skinny on Obesity (Ep. 4)
Food and sugar addictions are not a passing theory, they are reality. It was so refreshing to see this video regarding the hard evidence of food and sugar addiction. I found this video to fully explain the effect sugar has on the brain. The information in this video is accurate, informative and complete. I was impressed with the simple explanation of such a complicated process inside the brain. I have one criticism… the assumption that the results of obesity, sugar and food addiction cannot be reversed. At the end they discuss that there is quite possibly no answer the to the problem. I strongly disagree! I am physical evidence and there are plenty of others just like me. I cannot be convinced that sugar and food addiction are incurable, especially since I have the cure right here! If you struggle with addiction of any kind give me a call and let me help you in your journey!
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[…] This explains why sugar keeps us coming back again and again. Our brains reward us for it because from its perspective we should be rewarded for eating so many calories. The brain knows you normally eat 2500 calories before 4pm and will help you remember to do so. The brain programs itself to reward you for eating, but doesn’t understand when those 2500 calories are McDonalds or some other empty calories. Then when the body desires certain nutrients it will ask you to eat again and when you reward it with another 1000 empty calories it rewards you again. The reward center for the brain works this way with a lot of things. Sex, alcohol and drugs are great examples of high reward behaviors. This is part of why addictions usually fall upon these behaviors and can lead to dangerous places. Sugar gets a lot of us in trouble and I get into the details of that in my article “Sugar in an Addictive substance” […]