How to Stop Sugar Addiction
Sugar addiction is one of the most threatening dietary conditions in The U.S. The dangers of sugar and it’s connection with obesity and other health problems are well documented. In fact, eating large quantities of refined sugar has a correlation to obesity that’s just too strong to ignore. One could well argue (and I have, repeatedly), that the best weight loss strategy is to stop eating all forms of refined sugar. If you’re addicted to the stuff, that’s tough. Here’s how to stop sugar addiction.
How Much Sugar DO We Really Eat, Anyway?
That’s great, but what if you’re addicted to sugar? How can you stop sugar addiction in it’s tracks and eat a diet free from the dangerous sweetener, which Americas consume at a prodigious rate. Lest you think that I’m making this up, in 2009 the average U.S. per capita cane and beet sugar consumption was 13.4 teaspoons per day. That’s actually down substantially from it’s peak in 1970, when we downed over 22 teaspoons daily.
Have we lost our taste for the sweet stuff? Are we turning our backs on sweetened foods? Hardly! While our consumption of actual sugar is down, our consumption of high fructose corn sweetener is way up, from virtually zero in 1970 to 10.6 tablespoons daily in 2009.
This is actually down somewhat from our peak consumption of 13.4 teaspoons 10 years ago. (All sugar consumption figures courtesy of the USDA) So, just counting those two kinds of refined sugar, Americans munch down 24 teaspoons each and every day. That’s well over 100 lbs per year. It’s easy to see why obesity and other diseases like diabetes are such a problem.
What the heck can you do if you find that your personal sugar consumption is through the roof? After all, if you’re overweight, or even if you’re not, this level of sugar can have a serious affect on you, health wise. I’ve railed on and on about the dangers of high glycemic index carbohydrates as it pertains to that adipose layer around your midsection. Sugar is obviously a high glycemic index carbohydrate, and eaten in the quantities we Americans tend to, will make you fat.
Sugar Eating Dangers
In addition to obesity, what other dangers does sugar pose? Here are some of the more serious ones:
• Immune System Suppression – Sugar consumption suppresses your immune system. It helps lower the phagocytic index, an indicator of immune system efficacy, by competing with vitamin C for cellular entry. More glucose means less vitamin C.
• High Triglyceride Levels – Simple sugar consumption has been tied to elevated blood triglyceride levels, which are produced by your liver from unneeded sugars. Recent research indicates that high triglyceride levels are an excellent predictor of cardiovascular disease.
• Decreased Insulin Sensitivity – This is a serious problem and a primary cause of Type 2 diabetes. A 2008 study at U.C. Davis concluded that “These data suggest that dietary fructose specifically increases DNL, promotes dyslipidemia, decreases insulin sensitivity, and increases visceral adiposity in overweight/obese adults.” So, another nail in the coffin of high fructose corn sweetener, one of the primary sweeteners used in our foods today. Note the term “visceral adiposity”. That is the scientific term for belly fat!
• Clinical Depression – Harvard researchers have linked excessive sugar consumption to increased likelihood of suffering clinical depression. In addition, study results from research performed at the Bergen Regional Medical Center, in Paramus, New Jersey and presented at the 2009 American Psychiatric Association annual meeting, revealed a causal link between elevated blood sugar levels and clinical depression. What does clinical depression feel like? Symptoms include (but aren’t limited to) persistent feelings of sadness or emptiness, helplessness, hopelessness, guilt, and worthlessness, coupled with a loss of interest in pleasurable activities, including sex.
• Increased Body Fat Storage – Well, here’s the big one, isn’t it? In fact, if you are to one thing to help yourself lose weight, it is to cut out all the refined sugar form your diet. Sugar promotes the perfect fat storage storm in your body, so removing it from your diet will have an almost immediate effect on how you feel and how much you weigh.
• Vitamin and Micronutrient Depletion – Sugar adds no nutritional value when consumed except pure energy. The problem is that digesting and disseminating it to your cells requires nutrients such as vitamins and minerals. That means it has a net negative balance of everything it needs in order to be processed by the body. The nutrients used by sugar can not be used by your body for the more important processes that require them, because they’ve been used to metabolize the sugar.
• As if these weren’t enough, many other problems have been linked to excessive sugar consumption as well, including: rising (LDL) cholesterol levels, tooth decay, periodontal disease, increased facial wrinkles, increased livelihood of ulcerative colitis. DAMN!!
What to Do About Sugar Addiction?
Sugar addiction is no easy thing to kick, but the hardest part is the first step. Many sugar addicts report that if they can just get by the first few days or a week without sugar, their cravings almost entirely disappear. The problem is that if they fall off the wagon even once, the sugar jonesing comes back with a vengeance. It’s like they never stopped at all.
That points to one key strategy – get all the refined sugar out of your house and never buy more. Sure, you can still trip up by visiting a mini-mart, restaurant, or coffee shop, but the best thing is to remove all temptation from your immediate vicinity. Often, it’s that quick craving that would be relatively easy to face down if you had no sugary treats staring you in the face that proves to be your undoing. If you have nothing which to grab, you can get past it. If there’s a plate of cookies, a slice of cake, or a box of sweet crackers within reach, all bets are off.
Sugar, It’s Hiding Everywhere – Here’s How to Find It
I’m not only referring to the sugar you add in to things a sweetener. You have to dig a bit deeper, and toss the plethora of foods that are virtually nothing but sugar in disguise, and there are a freakin’ ton of them in most people’s pantries and kitchens. Most breakfast cereals fall into this category, as do the obvious things like cake, cookies, donuts, and crackers. Read the ingredients when you buy things to find the hidden sugar. If it ends in “ose” it’s sugar. You’ll discover that many foods have 3 or 4 kinds of sugar in them, like one wasn’t enough.
Exercise is another powerful strategy to help fend off the sugar Jones. Not just any exercise, either, but high intensity exercise, where you really take it to yourself. There is a bear in the woods with the exercise strategy you have to watch out for, though.
In many cases, intense exercise will make you hungry, and you may want to reach for some sweets. This is especially true if your blood sugar level is a bit low when you’ve finished with your workout. Not only that, but the “I just worked out really hard, so I can have this Snickers Bar.” is an all-to-easy trap to get snared by. Obviously, exercise has the additional benefit of itself being an excellent weight loss tool.
How to Stop Sugar Addiction: Realize Sugar Doesn’t Own You
One important thing to beating sugar addiction is to realize that sugar doesn’t own you. It doesn’t control you, either. No, sugar is not able to physically make you eat it, although you do have cravings for it.
Although sugar addiction does have some things in common to drug addiction, technically, you don’t get physically addicted to sugar as you would heroin or meth. Sugar addiction is actually sugar dependency. You become dependent on the changes sugar can cause, and the taste of it , but if you stop, you won’t experience physical withdrawal symptoms. In addition, it doesn’t fundamentally alter your brain chemistry. So, while it may be difficult to cut yourself off from sugar, realize that you have nothing physically forcing you eat it. Grasping that concept is important, and it’s knowledge is powerful when you’re trying to kick the sugar habit.
New research suggests that there is the possibility that while sugar addiction may not be a full fledged addiction, ala heroin, it may share certain elements with drug addiction. A 2002 Princeton University study discovered that rats fed a very high sugar diet and then removed from it did exhibit some of the classic withdrawal symptoms of drug withdrawal, such as shakes similar to those experienced by addicts in rehab. The study’s authors however, indicated further research was required before any real conclusions could be reached.
What Else Can I Do To Fight Sugar Addiction?
• Eat low glycemic index fruits. The sweet taste will help you blunt your sugar cravings, but the low glycemic nature of these fruit’s carbohydrates will not have the same impact on your body as refined sugar will. In addition, you’ll get valuable nutrients from the fruit. Apples are a great one, and my favorite.
• Brush Your Teeth More Often – Don’t laugh, many people report that this actually works to help fight off sugar cravings, and it should be done in any case to preserve your dental health.
• Eat 6 Times Per Day – Not big meals, but small ones. This is a great strategy to help lose weight anyway. You body feels full more of the time, and is better able to utilize nutrients in your food when you eat smaller meals more often, rather than 3 or 4 huge meals each day.
• Eat Enough Protein and Vitamins – Take supplements if you must. Chromium, vanadium, and b-vitamins can help you control your sugar Jones a bit.
• Stay Hydrated – This is another strategy that is vital to optimize fat loss and athletic performance, but it is also valuable to help blunt sugar cravings. Sometimes dehydration can trigger sugar cravings, so nip that in the bud before it even gets started.
Sugar addiction is no freakin’ picnic.
I’m fortunate in that sugar has never really done it for me (except oatmeal raisin cookies and coffee ice cream). I’ve got other food demons to kill. It is one of the most destructive foods in our diets though, especially in the quantities many people consume. Hopefully you can use this info to help put your sugar addiction genie back in the bottle. It’s in your mind, just like any addiction, but that doesn’t make it any less real. Harvard even says so.
For some really tasty ways to eat without all that sugar, and nutrition info that will revolutionize the way you eat, take a look at my latest cookbook and nutrition secrets guide. It’s on Amazon. You can find it in the sidebar on the right.
If you have a strategy that’s worked for you and you think may help others, please leave a comment and let me know.