Overcoming Sugar Addiction

If you follow my blog, you know that I am attempting the Dr Oz three day cleanse, starting today. In the meantime, I have been doing a lot of research into sugar addiction, because, I sure do crave sweets! I also have a high fasting glucose and high triglycerides (and I rarely drink alcohol).

If you are addicted to sugar you may have trouble controlling how much sugar you consume during a day. My biggest sugar fix comes through Mountain Dew, but I am always craving candy, cake, cookies, and other sweets.

So, can you really even be addicted to sugar? According to Web MD, The answer is complex.A pattern of avoiding and binging may lead to addict like side effects. Sugar even affects the same “feel-good” brain hormones as street drugs. Nobody would say sugar is the same as heroin, but it can still mess with your brain and body. Anyone can use sugary foods in ways that aren’t healthy

To formally define addiction, let’s turn to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Volume IV (DSM-IV). It tells us that we have chemical dependence on a substance if we experience at least three of the following symptoms in twelve months:

  1. Increased Tolerance: Needing more for the same effect- You know how some people need two packets of sugar to make something sweet, while someone else may only need half a packet? As we get used to sugars our tastes change, and we tend to want sweeter and sweeter things.
  2. Withdrawal: Significant negative impact if we stop. You may feel bad when you skip your daily cookie “fix.” These low blood sugar symptoms include feeling a little nervous, shaky, or even having a cold sweat. (Hmm, I do not think I get cold sweats, but then again, I don’t think I have ever actually avoided eating sugar, lol) Ever tried to give up sugar? If so, how did that feel? If not, give it a whirl and you will experience how deeply this substance affects your brain.
  3. Overuse: Consuming more than intended -If you’re like most people in the U.S., you eat 19 teaspoons or more of added sugar a day. That adds up to 285 calories, which health experts say is way too much. How much sugar should you be eating? No more than six teaspoons daily for women.That’s 100 calories. Men should get a max of nine teaspoons. That’s 150 calories.
  4. Loss of control, like eating reaching for two cookies and eating the whole pack
  5. Exceptional Effort to Obtain: Going beyond what is reasonable to get it (do you hide cookies, go out of your way to get a piece of cake?) Ever waited in line for way too long or gone way out of your way to obtain a sweet treat?
  6. Over Prioritization: Allowing its use to interfere with more important activities (Like our health, perhaps?) Ever been late to an appointment or meeting so that you could get your hands on something sweet?
  7. Ignoring Negative Consequences: Continuing use regardless of disproportionately negative consequence
  • Weight gain from eating more fattening food to get your sugar-fix.
  • High triglycerides, increasing your risk of heart disease.
  • Tooth decay from excessive bacterial growth.
  • Metabolic syndrome, leading to diabetes.
  • Poor nutrition from empty calories.
  • Lack of immunity to disease.
  • Periods of depression.
  • Make you age faster

If that is not enough.. let’s think of it like this, sugar is to obesity what smoking is to lung cancer. Obesity can be linked to:

  • Depression
  • Discrimination
  • Osteoarthritis
  • Rheumatoid Arthritis
  • Birth Defects
  • Breast Cancer
  • Cancer of the Esophagus
  • Colorectal Cancer
  • Renal Cell Cancer
  • Cardiovascular Disease
  • Impaired Respiratory Function
  • Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
  • Chronic Venous Insufficiency
  • Daytime Sleepiness
  • Deep Vein Thrombosis
  • Type 2 Diabetes
  • Gallbladder Disease
  • Gout
  • Heart Disorders
  • Hypertension
  • Impaired Immune Response
  • Infections
  • Infertility
  • Liver Disease
  • Low Back Pain
  • Obstetric and Gynecologic Complications
  • Chronic Pain
  • Pancreatitis
  • Sleep Apnea
  • Stroke
  • Surgical Complications
  • Urinary Stress Incontinence
Given the horrible negative consequences of excess body fat, could overindulgence in sweet treats be one of the world’s best examples of ignoring negative consequences?

Sugar fuels every cell in the brain. When you overload on sugary foods, it may alter the parts of the brain that control how much you eat. In lab studies, rats that binged on sugar had brain changes like those of getting off drugs. In humans, just seeing pictures of milkshakes triggered brain effects like those seen in drug addicts. (This sounds like sugar is a mind-altering substance, even more proof that you can indeed be addicted to sugar!)

I always get a nice rush in the afternoon, with my snickers bar and my Mt Dew. The simple carbohydrates quickly turn to glucose in the blood stream and my sugar-level spikes. Next, the pancreas makes insulin, a hormone that regulates carbohydrate and fat metabolism in the body. As a result to the insulin, blood sugar levels drop and this is that afternoon crash we are all so familiar with. We end up searching for more bad carbs to fuel our afternoon.

Craving other carbs like chips, french fries, potatoes is just as bad. These starchy foods are broken down in your body the same way. If we eat them without better, higher protein foods, we end up crashing. These starches include white bread, pretzels and pasta.

Overcoming Sugar Addiction – 
  1. Admit that you’re a sugar addict. Just like with any addiction, the first step in overcoming sugar addiction is to accept that you’re an addict and understand the consequences. Sugar addiction can cause:
  2. Know the benefits of a sugar-free life. Besides reversing all the drawbacks listed above, overcoming sugar addiction helps you lose weight, greatly improve your health, energy and endurance – both now and in the future – and makes you look and feel younger and healthier.
  3. Make a plan and stick to it! If you know the most likely side-effects and have a plan to get past them, you are more likely to be successful. A It takes 3 to 7 days to overcome the physical addiction. But overcoming emotional attachments to sweet comfort foods could take longer
      • Most physical cravings for sugar will usually subside within three to four weeks after removing it completely from your diet. You may experience lightheadedness, headaches or a lack of energy during the first week or two of the diet. The physical cravings will be easier to overcome as your body removes the toxins.
      • You may experience mood disorders while your body undergoes the detoxification process. Sugar is an addictive substance and produces highs in the body when the blood glucose levels are elevated. Many become addicted to this high and the temporary energy it provides and will find it difficult to avoid using sugar as a crutch to better their mood. Many sugar addicts have an emotional link to eating foods high in sugar, so in addition to losing a physical addiction they will also need to deal with the underlying emotional conditions beneath the problem.
      • The body’s largest eliminatory organ is the skin. You may experience rashes, itching, pimples or other skin irritations during the first few days of eliminating sugar from your diet. Drinking plenty of fresh water will help your body to detox quickly. A mixture of bentonite clay and aloe vera may help soothe skin eruptions. Generally, these types of irritations are usually short-lived
  4. Expect cravings and have a plan to kick them
    • Drink a lot of water, it will help fight the cravings. Water is a natural detoxifier, it will help you flush the sugar and other toxins from your body. It will also help you feel full longer and less likely to reach for a sugary treat. Many times people mistakenly think they are hungry when they are actually thirsty, so make sure you are drinking at least sixty-four ounces of water every day. Drinking a lot of water also help flush the sugar and other toxins out of your system.
    • Keep yourself busy Of course, keeping busy with different activities will keep my mind of the sugar.  You had to know the “E” word was coming!  Exercise can’t “cure” a sugar addict. But it could change the way you eat in general. As people who work out start to feel better, they often feel a desire to eat more healthy foods. Do what you like, such as walking, riding your bike, or swimming. Just try to do it for at least 30 minutes at a time, five days a week.
    • Increase your Protein Intake – While you are slowly decreasing your sugar intake it is a good idea to increase the amount of protein you eat during the day. Sugar provides an instant energy upswing, with a violent crash a little later. By eating more protein your energy levels will remain constant and you won’t have the severe crash. Also, when you are starving, sugar attracts your attention. Hunger robs you of the willpower to resist those sugar cravings. Protein helps curb those cravings because we digest protein slower, keeping you full, longer. Protein doesn’t make your blood sugar spike the way refined carbs and sugars do. Pick proteins like lean chicken, low-fat yogurt, eggs, nuts, or beans.
    • Add Omega 3s: They will allow you to sustain an energy level and you will feel satisfied throughout the day and give you sustained energy and leave you feeling satisfied during the day.
    •  Eat Fruit: You don’t have to give up sweetness. Just get it from other sources. Try fresh berries or pureed fruit on oatmeal instead of sugar. Explore fruit that’s dried, frozen, or canned fruit (without too much added sugar). A glass of low-fat milk or low-sugar yogurt can help. Munch on fruit or “sweet” vegetables when you have the craving for something sweet. Sweet potatoes, carrots and peas are some veggie options that might curb your sweet tooth. When choosing fruit, you should opt for those with a lower glycemic index such as apples or pears as they will keep your blood sugar from spiking.
    • Increase your Fiber Intake: Fiber helps fight a sugar itch in many ways. First, it keeps you full. High-fiber foods also give you more energy. Because they don’t raise your blood sugar, there’s no hungry crash after. Look for soluble fiber from fruits and vegetables, as well as insoluble fiber from whole grains. Or smear some peanut butter on an apple for a protein/fiber combo.
    • Eliminate the Salt: Keep salty snacks to a minimum. Not only does something salty often bring on a desire for something sweet, but many salty snacks are actually high in carbohydrates, which is simply a form of sugar.
    • Hide the Sugar! Plan ahead, part of being successful is getting the temptation out of sight. Clean out your pantry and keep healthy snacks available in your kitchen and at the office.
    • Mind the Company you keep: Make friends with naturally sweet people. If you were a recovering alcoholic, you wouldn’t hang out in bars with drunks. So make friends who support your sugar-free lifestyle. When eating out, break whole grain bread with wholesome people and choose tasty sugar-free foods.
    • Focus on the Sugar: Don’t start a new diet or exercise program while still going through sugar withdrawal. Weight loss is usually a natural result of giving up sugar.
    • Eat More Often: Eat smaller meals 5 or 6 times a day. Don’t get hungry. Have protein with every meal or snack to keep your blood sugar stable.
    • Use the low glycemic diet and list of glycemic foods to help you choose healthier, more appropriate comfort foods to sooth cravings.
    • Start your day with a meal rich in lean protein and complex carbohydrates, such as eggs and whole grain toast. The combination of these foods will help you feel satiated and keep your blood sugar stable, making it easier to abstain from sweet, sugary snacks
  5. Start Slow – Some articles suggest a cold-turkey approach, but most suggest a slower, more controlled approach. Slowly eliminating the sugar will help prevent the side-effects mentioned above. Elimination of all carbs is never a good idea, your body needs carbohydrates for fuel and such a drastic change is difficult to maintain, it sets you up for failure from the start! To prevent failure from such a drastic change, try the following techniques to slowly reduce the amount of sugar in your diet. Over time, you will lose your need for that sugar taste. Cut out a little bit of sugar each week. After a few weeks, you’ll be surprised at how little you miss it.
    •  If you have sugar in your coffee, eliminate it from the first cup of the day for the first week, then the second cup and so on.
    • If you drink several sugary sodas throughout the day, replace one or two the first week with water or another non-sugared drink like herbal tea.
    • Pass on dessert after dinner.
    • Slowly reduce the sugar in your cereal.
    • Start buying foods without sugar and add just enough to satisfy your taste.
    • Eat fewer processed foods which pack on the sugar
    • Replace “white” food for whole grain food
  6. If you slip up, forgive yourself, have some protein to stabilize your blood sugar, brush your teeth, drink a cup of mint tea, take a walk or do whatever it takes to get back on track in a sugar-free groove.
  7. Avoid Sugar-Like Substances – There are other substances that should be avoided if you are trying to break the sugar habit. Many processed foods contain lots of sugar but are not listed as “sugar” on the label Become a “hidden sugar” detective. Sugar is hiding everywhere. Don’t stick your head in the sugar bowl or get blind-sided by sweet temptation. Know all the different sugar names and choose healthy low glycemic fods from the glycemic foods index to keep blood sugar stable. Sugar, by any other name, still addicts the same.
    • turbinado sugar
    • sucrose
    • maple syrup
    • molasses
    • maltodextrin
    • high fructose corn syrup
    • malt syrup
    • Agave nectar
    • Brown rice syrup
    • Dextrose
    • Evaporated cane juice
    • Glucose
    • Lactose
    • Malt syrup
    • Molasses
  8. Wait before you sprinkle that packet of artificial sweetener into your coffee. It may leave you craving more sugar. That can make it harder, not easier, to control your weight. The problem is that fake sugars don’t help you break your taste for sweets and your body treats the fake sugar the same way as it does the real thing, so you end up having the same “crash.”
  9. Be a Sugar Sleuth: Sugar can hide in foods where you least expect it. Although they don’t seem sweet, ketchup, BBQ sauce, and pasta sauce can have loads of sugar. So can reduced-fat salad dressings, bread, baked beans and some flavored coffees. Get in the habit of reading labels. Filter out high-sugar foods before they hit your shopping cart.
  10. Learn to love nature’s natural sweeteners. Once you get through the first few days, fruits and other natural foods will start tasting sweeter. Stevia, a naturally sweet herb, can help sweeten food and drinks, but don’t go overboard. Your objective is to reduce your taste for super sweet foods and excess use of artificial sweeteners only keeps mental cravings alive. Eat fructose instead of glucose. You will find fructose in fresh fruits. You can use honey as a natural sweetener.

It’s going to be a challenging road, but those who have done it before us, assure us that we will feel better in a matter of days, so much better that we will not want the sugar in our lives anymore. I have been 1 week without cigarettes now, I am still craving them, I still think about them, but I am going to start my detox today and then try to cut out the sugar when the detox is over. I am going to see how it makes me feel. I DO NOT Plan to give up all my sugar at once and I am certain that my Mountain Dew will be the last thing to go!!

Do you have a plan to cut out sugar from your diet? Have you done it before? Do you have any pointers?








One thought on “Overcoming Sugar Addiction

  1. The amount of sugar I consume has curiously decreased over time from when I was a kid. I think exercising in combination with eating a healthy diet might have had something to do with it. Basically, I trained my body to desire good things instead of evil things.

    If I’m going to exercise the next day or even a few days from now, I’m sure not going to eat some sugary or fatty garbage because I know that will kill my blood sugar and ruin my exercise routine. I’ll eat healthy things, and then when I exercise I’ll be able to blast off like a rocket ship. You can’t run an engine properly unless you fill the fuel tank with the right fuel. Basically, eating healthy food makes exercise more fun, and I’d rather exercise than sit around like a sugar drug addict. It’s more satisfying. It makes feel strong, rather than weak.

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