More and more people are becoming aware of the severity of sugar addiction, but it seems that the general consensus is that sugar is bad, but I’m not sure how. It’s no simple matter to just give one or two answers, either; sugar is a leading contributor to many health risks and diseases from obesity to cancer. I can’t cover every single thing that sugar does, but I won’t just gloss over it.
Heads up! This post will be linked to a lot of actual scientific studies about sugar and what it does, so you can see the actual statistics if you so choose. I know that when it comes to health, I prefer to see the numbers and actual scientific relations other than just word of mouth or general opinion.
Is Sugar Addiction Really a Thing?
It’s sad to say, but there are many people out in the world who think that sugar addiction is pure hokey pokey. I personally feel that many of them are in denial that sugar addiction is a problem because they are probably already addicted to the stuff. I know I am, and I’m aware of the problem! So, here’s some definitive proof.
In an interview, James DiNicolantonio, a cardiovascular research scientist at St. Luke’s Mid-American Heart Institute, states that sugar is even more addictive than cocaine. Think that he’s exaggerating? He went on to say that when they took rats and hooked them up to an IV drip of cocaine until they were addicted, they introduced sugar. The results were that most of the rats preferred and switched to the sugar!
Why? How? They preferred the sugar because it had similar dopamine release responses in their brains as the cocaine, but the sugar’s was more powerful.
Sugar Addiction and Health
Excessive sugar intake and sugar addiction are the leading contributors to obesity, which comes with its own slew of health risks and diseases. There’s just something in the chemical composition of sugar when it breaks down that triggers the body to mass produce fat cells. However, I’m more concerned with the health effects of this than the “aesthetic allure” of my fellow humans (which, by the way, makes me cringe. You don’t have to be a size 2-6 to be beautiful!).
Sugar addiction can lead to liver damage, Type II Diabetes, and liver disease! This can happen through the sugar-induced fat gain, but it can also happen without any fat gain at all. How? Sugar totally overloads the liver. The liver has to filter out all of the pollutants in the blood, and sugar in mass quantities can damage the liver and messes up insulin production.
Consuming excessive amounts of sugar can also lead to heart damage, heart failure, and heart disease. That’s right. Sugar addiction contributes to more than just weight gain and diabetes. Sugar addiction can cause irreversible damage to your heart if you don’t get sugar levels under control!
The sweet stuff can also lead to memory loss and impaired cognitive functionality. Haven’t you ever binged on sugary stuff (cookies, soda, cake, ice-cream, candy – the list is seriously endless) and felt that your brain was in a fog afterwards? Are you plagued with always forgetting small details or physical objects? The good news, if there can be good news, is that the effects of sugar on the brain can be treated with the intake of Omega-3s, or n-3 fatty acid. But if you don’t make sure you’re counteracting the sugar, your poor brain will just stay in a fog.
One of my most scary findings is that sugar can actually be a contributor to cancer. If that weren’t scary enough, actual scientific tests revealed that excessive sugar intake and sugar addiction can hinder cancer survival rates. I do not say this lightly. Cancer is a serious medical condition and personally effects not only myself, but probably every single one of you reading this. There are TONS of scientific articles that talk about the relationship between sugar and cancer. I encourage you to read up on some of them if you even had the slightest doubt that sugar is bad for the human body.
How Can I Tell if I am Addicted to Sugar?
Interestingly, but not surprisingly, sugar addiction reveals itself in the same way that drug addiction does in bingeing, withdrawal, cravings, and sensitization.
Basically, you can get an idea if you are addicted to sugar by answering these questions:
- How often do you eat sweets?
- How much sugar do you consume in a day?
- If you go without sugar, do you become irritable?
- Do you constantly crave eating something sweet?
- Do you reward yourself with something sweet?
If you answered along the lines of everyday, way more than the recommended amount (which is only 6 teaspoons a day for women and 9 teaspoons a day for men), yes, yes, and yes, you might be addicted to sugar.
Granted, I’m not a doctor, nor do I have the ability to actually diagnose you or anyone with anything. But, if you think you may have a problem, don’t hide behind denial. Your health is one of the most precious things you have in this world!
How I am Kicking My Sugar Addiction
So, most of you know I’m not a fan of fad anything. I don’t like fad diets, fad fashion, etc. I especially loathe fad cleanses. They usually do more harm than good. Some may ask, “But, Lindi, if you don’t cleanse yourself of sugar, how are you going to get rid of your addiction?” Easy. Time and self-control. If I were to just stop eating sugar cold turkey and ‘cleanse’ my body of it, I would go into sugar withdrawal, which would actually probably lead me to binge eating more sugar to feel better. There is no quick fix for drug addiction; there is not quick fix for sugar addiction. But it’s worth it to kick the habit.
I’m Monitoring Food Labels
I know this might seem a little extreme, but I always scan the ingredients list. If sugar (high fructose corn syrup, brown rice syrup, glucose [anything really ending in -ose], cane juice, dehydrated cane juice, cane juice solids, cane juice crystals, dextrin, maltodextrin, dextran, barley malt, beet sugar, corn syrup, corn syrup solids, caramel, buttered syrup, carob syrup, brown sugar, date sugar, malt syrup, diatase, diatastic malt, fruit juice, fruit juice concentrate, dehydrated fruit juice, fruit juice crystals, golden syrup, turbinado, sorghum syrup, refiner’s syrup, ethyl maltol, maple syrup, or yellow sugar) are listed in the top 5 ingredients, I don’t buy it.
Not only do I check for what is in my food, I make sure that the amount of sugar per serving isn’t outrageous. The lower the amount of sugar, the better.
I’m Drinking Lots of Water
Usually, I find myself wanting to eat something sweet when I’m bored or am getting hungry. Water does a really good job at helping me feel full in between meals, and it helps keep me hydrated (so I’m not reaching for those sugary drinks!).
Drinking lots of water can also help with the effects of a lot of sugar (for when I break down and binge or decide that eating that piece of cake and a soda and a candy bar were good ideas).
I’m Not Cutting Out Natural Sugar
Ok, so let me explain. I’m still going to eat fruit. Even grapes. (gasp!) I personally feel that natural sugar found in fruits and vegetables are okay in moderation. I’m not going to go and stuff myself with apples and grapes and pears. But I’m not going to quit on fruit either. There are just too many nutrients in fruit to justify cutting them out of the diet. So, I won’t. Some of you may think that natural sugar is just as bad as processed, and that’s fine. Just as long as we are all aware of the effects of excessive sugar and the self control to moderate how much we eat and in what form it is in, we can end our sugar addictiveness together.
I’m Learning to Say No…and Yes
A piece of candy every once in a while is fine. A piece of cake at every meal isn’t. If someone were to invite me to try their newest cake creation, I’m not going to say no. I’ll just ask for a smaller piece, preferably one with minimal icing.
The whole trick to successfully overcoming sugar addiction is to know how much is too much. Binge eating ice-cream with the hubby while watching Netflix is a no, but a small scoop should be okay (that is, if I hadn’t already reached my daily sugar allowance).
It’s all about balance. You don’t need as much sugar as you think you do. And, as time passes after you’ve begun to cut back on sugar, less sweet things will satisfy your sweet tooth (this is because sugar actually morphs the taste buds into thinking that only sugar tastes good).
There was a time in college when I had successfully weaned myself out of my sugar addiction, and it was WONDERFUL. No mood swings, no cravings, no headaches, no body aches. And then I got addicted again because of stress eating and ‘rewards’. I remember my roommate and I made some ginger cookies with only a few tablespoons of sugar in the whole batch, and you know what? They were delicious! And as time wore on, I found that regular cookies, cake, pie, and most sweet stuff that I had loved only a month or so before tasted so sweet, they were sickening.
But, again, the trick to reach this point is to moderate sugar intake and actually stick with it.
Are You With Me?
I’m not going to lie; when I announced on the Facebook page that I was quitting sugar, my body (not my mind) panicked and I have been craving the stuff since. That just goes to show how addicted I am, huh? I confess, I may have caved in my pre-sugarless endeavor and devoured cake, candy, and a Starbucks frap in one day. Okay…one sitting. But this is exactly why I am doing it!
I am addicted to sugar. I am not saying this lightly.
Beginning today – mark that! Today, Friday June 3, 2016, I am beginning down the path of overcoming sugar addiction again. Join me! It only took me a few weeks to finally not crave sugar and begin to think that most desserts or junk food were too sweet, and the process wasn’t painful or anything.
If anything, the only inconvenience that I experienced was having to take the time to read the nutrition labels on the boxes and understand the sugar content of fruit, but once you get the hang of it, you won’t even notice yourself doing it!
Will you join me?