About 5 years ago, I had a client who admitted to me that she had a REAL sugar addiction. I asked her, “How do you kn
ow?” she said because:
I’m constantly thinking of sweets all the time.
I can’t go a day without a drinking at least 1 soda pop.
After a couple of days on a healthy diet plan, I find myself in the super market with a pie in my grocery cart and I say,” Tomorrow I’ll do better.”
I’m the type of coach that never judges ANYONE because I know what it’s like to have food addictions. And because I’ve experienced them myself and I’ve worked with so many people who deal with the same issue, I feel it’s time to share the truth about sugar, why people can get addicted to it and what they can do about it.
Since the beginning of our existence as we developed in our mother’s womb, we were pumped-up to the sugar hose. Not accusing your mom of being a sugar addict, but most all natural foods and processed foods contain a form sugar so it’s natural to like sweet foods from before birth.
Sugars are classified as being glucose, fructose, maltose, sucralose, maltos, galactose, and others from the combinations of these sugars. They are part of the structures in natural fruits, vegetables, whole grains and diary as well as processed foods such as refined carbohydrates like
bagels, breads, pastas, etc. Refined sugar sources are the root of all evil and the cause of most sugar cravings and addiction.
Let’s take a step back for a minute…The fact is, we need sugars from an adequate intake of carbohydrates and these sugars are necessary for the complete metabolism of fats to carbon dioxide and water in our bodies and for energy. It was meant to come from natural foods not from all the processed foods Americans have become accustomed too.
Why is Sugar so Addictive?
Sugar has a powerful impact on the reward centers of the brain. When we eat foods that contain a lot of sugar, a massive amount of dopamine is released in an area of the brain called the Nucleus Accumbens. When we eat these foods often and in large amounts, the dopamine receptors start to down-regulate. This means that the next time we eat these foods, their effect is blunted. We will need more junk food next time we eat in order to get the same level of reward. Sugar and other junk foods, due to their powerful effect on the reward centers of the brain, function similarly to drugs of abuse like cocaine and nicotine.
In my opinion, I think all Americans are addicted to sugar at some level. You may think I’m generalizing, but unless you eat ZERO processed foods then you are not a sugar addict. AND people who eat this way do so because they know what its like to be chained and imprisoned in the sugar dungeon. But the line is drawn when we can’t stop eating sugar.
How Much Sugar Should You Have Daily?
The American Heart Association (AHA) recommends that we limit our daily sugar consumption to 7% or less of our daily calorie intake—that’s about 6 teaspoons (100 calories) for women and 9 teaspoons (150 calories) for men. But that adds up fast. Just one 12-ounce can of regular soda contains 8-10 teaspoons of sugar and 130-150 calories. One glazed donut contains 6 teaspoons, and a half-cup ice cream (the standard serving size, although most portions are much, much larger) contains 4 grams of added sugar!
Despite the claims from health agencies, there still seems to be so much controversy around what is considered a right amount of sugar intake. I think it’s about comes down to how YOU decide to relate to sugar. Here is a simple test to see if you are addicted to sugar.
Below are a series of statements. For each one you must give yourself a score of 0 (you never do it) to 4 (you do it four or more times a week.) At the end add your scores up, to see where you sit on the sugar scale. Please score yourself honestly!
Here is your score criteria:
0 – Never
1 – Once per month
2 – Two to three times per month
3 – Two to three times per week
4 – Four or more times per week
Answer each question truthfully:
- I find myself consuming certain sugary food or drink even though I am no longer hungry.
- I worry about cutting down on certain foods, even healthy organic foods.
- I often feel sluggish or fatigued because I overeat carbohydrates.
- I find myself searching for something sweet after meals.
- I have had physical withdrawal symptoms such as agitation and anxiety when I cut down on food containing sugar (Do NOT include caffeinated drinks: coffee, tea, cola, energy drinks, etc.)
- Eating certain food containing sugar, such as cakes, biscuits or fizzy drinks cheers me up.
- My behavior with respect to food and eating causes me significant distress.
- Issues related to food and eating decrease my ability to function effectively (daily routine, job/school, social or family activities, health difficulties).
Score 0-8 – You are not a sugar addict: You do not have a problem with sugar, and do not need to worry about sugar.
Score 9-16 – You are on the borderline: our sugar cravings are under control, but keep an eye on them, so they don’t stray into higher figures.
Score 17-24 – You are climbing over the fence: Your sugar is getting out of control…you need to seriously cutback.
Score 25 and over – You are a sugar addict: Your reliance from sugar is out of control and you must cut back now, the amount of sugar you consume could be damaging your health.
So how did you do? If your score led you to discovering that you are in the sugar danger zone, what can you do in moving forward?
How to Stop Sugar Addiction
I believe it’s a personal thing, and I don’t think people should suffer. It’s a challenge to lose weight and to have to deal with a sugar addiction at the same time. I believe in taking baby steps. That’s why it took me 3 years to lose a little over 100 pounds where some people have taken a shorter amount of time. It’s because I had to deal with a lot of food addictions. Some people feel giving up sugar cold turkey is best. Perhaps its all up to personal preference and personality type.
When I was addicted to carbs and sweets, everyday I made sure I had naturally sweet foods in my diet from fresh or frozen fruits. When I first stated out, I ate all the calorie-reduced desserts, but over time, my taste changed after eating more naturally sweet fruits and I no longer wanted the artificial sweetness from low calorie desserts and sugar substitutes.
Getting to the Root
According to Louise Hay, the popular metaphysical healing practitioner, the root cause of craving sweets is that your life is missing sweetness. I mean think about it, there maybe some truth to this. If so, get to the root by changing your lifestyle and incorporating things people and activities that make you feel good about life and yourself.
Sugar by far is a hard habit to break. Thank goodness there’s so many natural ways to get ‘sweetness’ in your nutrition so that you have the good of both worlds.
Let me know your thoughts…