- fruit juice concentrate
- high fructose corn syrup
- maple syrup
Although these clever mechanisms have lead to a product innovation and more profits for food companies, they are degrading the nation’s health, whilst catalysing an increase in obesity. Sugar addiction is no laughing matter and is not to be ignored. Large sugar intakes have been linked to a variety of health problems, including obesity, hypertension, heart disease, diabetes, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), attention and memory problems, hyperactivity, anxiety, and depression. Despite being aware of these risks, we continue to eat sugar because it is so addictive.
What Causes These Addictions? – The Science!
Physical food cravings were first recognised in 1985 by Herzog and Copeland whereby they used a series of animal studies to manipulate brain chemicals and investigate how different chemical make ups of the brain result in different appetites. It was therefore proposed that different chemical make ups may lead people to eat certain foods in abundance and means some people are biologically programmed to over eat. As humans, we are born with a natural preference for the sweet taste of sugar, however, the secret sugar contents of packaged foods have unknowingly caused the generation of bad habits within many individuals. Not only this, but studies by Avena et al. have been carried out on rats, highlighting the effects of intermittent sugar access on the production of dopamine in the body, showing specific similarities with substances of abuse. They showed that in the case of force deprivation, sugar in the form of binges caused an increase in dopamine, once access to sugar was removed again, the rats showed withdrawal symptoms correlated by decreases in extracellular dopamine. Therefore the reason behind your sugar addiction may be due to the programming of your brain, enhanced by bad eating habits, including starvation, binges and eating at the wrong times.
How To Overcome Your Sugar Addiction.
Overcoming a sugar addiction is no walk in the park, there are no magic diets or pills that will help, overcoming the dependency will require a complete lifestyle change. But I’m here to help and this post will provide you with several steps to take. Although the thought of living without those cakes and sugary treats may already be causing physical pain, it can only get easier from here!
Breaking That Habbit
Charles Duhigg, author of “The Power of Habit”, describes how bad food habits are easy to adapt. The brain adapts efficiently to habits as they require less thinking. He describes that in order to break sugar addictions caused by bad eating habits, the brain will require a new, alternative habit. Duhigg calls a “cue, routine, and reward system.” This means when that painful sugar craving comes, by carrying out new activities such as going for a walk, or calling up a friend for a chat, you can reprogramme your brain and stop the cravings. By changing the loop and enough conscious effort, your brain will start to cue your new habit automatically, breaking those habbits that got you initially hooked.
Step one- Cut Out All The Sugar!
The first step is by far the hardest. You need to cut out all packaged and processed foods! No more ready meals and leave all those excuses behind with the junk food! No matter how little spare time you have there is always quick ways to provide your body with nutritious food! Processed food companies are a major reason for why obesity and sugar addictions are increasing, it may not entirely be your fault, but becoming healthy is your responsibility. Keep all sugar and sugar products out of your house, the less sugar you eat, the less you will crave it. Going cold turkey is hard and you will get a series of withdrawal symptoms! But be strong! These craving will not last forever and once you’ve overcome the initial symptoms the long term effects and results will provide you with a lot more happiness than what any sugar treat could provide. This means the only sugar you should be consuming is natural sugar from fruit! So fill that fruit bowl!
Step 2- Satisfy Your Hunger
In order to overcome your addiction you need to satisfy your hunger by supplying your body with regular meals! Keep your blood sugar levels stable! Studies by Avena et al shwoed that sugar is not normally like a substance of abuse but by forced deprivation and starvation this can change. So make sure you eat at regular intervals and are getting 3 balanced meals with protein in every meal and healthy snacks in between, this means eating breakfast! Many people think by skipping breakfast they are skipping a meal, avoiding calories and promoting weight loss, but in fact, instead of avoiding calories you are actually encouraging your body to store more fat! So make sure you have breakfast! All of these things will help to stabilise your blood sugar levels. A lot of the time our bodies crave sugar due to hunger, by ensuring your bodies are satisfied you can avoid sugar cravings.
Step 3- Drink more water!
Im sure you’ve heard this before but drink more water! Everyone seems to forget how essential water is to our bodies! We need it to look and feel good, so make sure you are getting plenty of the stuff! Not only will you notice healthier hydrated skin, but you may also see weight loss and most importantly it will help eliminate those cravings.
Step 4- Exercise!
Exercise! Exercise can help eliminate many problems, sugar cravings being one of them! Join a gym, go for a run, join a yoga or zumba class or even do an exercise video at home! Anything! Just be active and those sugar cravings will be reduced. To help support your new workouts and exercise regimes try multivitamins and mineral supplements, they will help increase your overall health and have also been linked to reducing those cravings.
Step 5- When did it begin? Know Your History!
The above steps are ones that will help you when initially tying to overcome your addiction, but if you want to kick those bad habits forever there are a few more in depth processes to follow! First of all you should look into your past and food history, when did those bad habits begin? Is there a sentimental reason or event that triggered the initial addiction? Looking into your past may be hard but it is vital to be fully aware of your situation and to fully understand your addiction, try looking at old photographs to help jog your memory and relate back to the past.
Step 6- Be Your Own Detective! Keep a Food Diary.
Next you need to become your own personal detective! Learn those trigger foods! What foods, when eaten, cause you to continue eating or result in that never ending binging? Keep a food diary and write down everything that passes your lips, this way you are not in denial and secretly eating! Keeping a food diary will not only allow you to see where you are going wrong, but it will also help to identify your food patterns and time periods.
Step 7- Avoid Sugar Substitutes!
Don’t be fooled by sugar substitutes! They may not have the calories or those creeping carbs but they have been shown to actually increase sugar cravings rather than satisfy that sweet tooth! So reconsider those fake sugars and sweeteners. Another important reason to avoid substitutes is due to the ambiguous dangers of aspartame. Aspartame is currently under a lot of controversy in the media and is thoughts to be one the most dangerous substance added to most foods, causing a series of adverse side effects such as memory loss, headaches/ Breathing difficulties, migraines, dizziness, weight gain, insomnia, nausea and fatigue. So stay well clear!
Step 8- One Goal at a time!
It is essential not to make weight loss your main focus. Kicking that sugar addiction should be your first priority, usually weight loss will often occur as a natural consequence of giving up sugar and it is better to channel all your energy towards one goal at a time. Fitness and wellbeing for the 21st Century is more about good health habits than it is about being skinny and fitting into that size 6; have a balanced diet and be in a good enough shape so that you can be free from heart disease, high cholesterol, or diabetes.
I hope these tips will help you on kicking that addiction and your journey towards a healthier lifestyle. But don’t forget the most important step of all – remember to forgive and forget! If you relapse or give up, forgive yourself and start again! Make all your mistakes a learning experience rather than punishing yourself and falling into a trap of depression. Sometimes we have to lose motivation in order to find it again!
Dr Mark Hyman. Stopping Addiction to Sugar: Willpower or Genetics? . Available:http://drhyman.com/blog/2011/02/04/stopping-addiction-to-sugar-willpower-or-genetics/#close. Last accessed 09/06/2013.
Debbie Danowski (2009). Why Can’t I Stop Eating: Recognizing, Understanding, and Overcoming Food … . United States: Hazelden Publishing.
Charles Duhigg (2012). The Power of Habit. United States: The Random House Publishing Group.
Karly Randolph Pitman. (2009). Sugar Addiction Escape Plan: 10 steps to control sugar cravings. Available:http://www.firstourselves.org/10-steps-to-control-sugar-cravings/. Last accessed 09/06/2013.
(2012). How I Beat My Sugar Addiction. Available: http://carrotsncake.com/2012/06/how-i-beat-my-sugar-addiction.html. Last accessed 09/06/2013.
Dr. Mercola. (1997). Aspartame: By Far the Most Dangerous Substance Added to Most Foods Today. Available:http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2011/11/06/aspartame-most-dangerous-substance-added-to-food.aspx. Last accessed 09/06/2013.