Your brain is innately hardwired to love sugar because it sees sugar as a great source of energy. So, the fact that you love sugar is not just a lack of willpower after all. Nature has taught us to eat sweet fruits at the peak of their ripeness, when they are sweetest.
When you eat sugar, your brain sends out pleasure signals, which encourages you to eat more sugar to repeat the reward. Sugar stimulates the same part of the brain opioids do. It’s that powerful! Dopamine, which makes people feel a sense of pleasure, is released in the brain when sugar is consumed, which creates the desire for more sugar. A similar stimulant reaction also occurs in the body with morphine and heroin. Today, sugar consumption-related illness is considered an epidemic of progressive nations, where heart disease, diabetes, and blood pressure lead the mortality boards.
Okay, so we understand that the more sugar you eat, the more you want. But here are some physical symptoms you may be experiencing that could be related to sugar consumption:
- Headaches, including migraines
- A suppressed immune system
- Increased risk of coronary heart disease
- An upset mineral balance in your body
- Fluid retention
- An acidic stomach
- Weakened eyesight
- Hyperactivity, anxiety, concentration problems, and crankiness in children
With added sugar hiding in 75% of packaged foods and most Americans today eating only packaged foods, breaking the sugar addiction can be really hard. According to a study in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism, eating sugar when you are stressed quiets the stress signals to the brain. That is why you literally feel better and calmer after inhaling a pint of ice cream or a chocolate bar. So, when battling sugar addictions and cravings, you need to have a solid plan!
Here are some of the best tips to help kick your sugar addiction to the curb and regain a better balance in the mind and body.
Having a positive, winning attitude is important when it comes to winning the sugar battle. Psychology Today argues that there's a major correlation between feelings of shame and turning to sugar for comfort or emotional relief. Mindset is extremely important and is one of the most indicative factors of your ability to overcome a sugar addiction. Getting rid of shame is part of achieving a healthy mindset. Surround yourself with people who uplift and encourage you to make healthy and positive eating and lifestyle choices. Stop with the sabotaging or critical self-talk. Your strong sugar cravings and waistline will soon follow your positive attitude, and you’ll feel better along the way too.
Get Rid of Timed Sugar Routine
Recognize the specific times you turn to sugar — like picking up a snack from the vending machine at 3 pm or donuts on the way to work. Be mindful of the choices that you are making that are covered in sugar, coupled with habits that do not serve your health, mood, or waistline. It’s often not really the sugar you want, but more of the routine and motion you go through. Instead, drink a tall glass of water and go for a walk outside. Reach out to a friend and do something meaningful together. You’ll see this simple swap fills your cup much better, and with much greater results!
Eat More High-Quality, Lean Protein
A diet rich in lean protein keeps you full, satisfied, and less likely to crave sweets. When people first drop sugar, especially cold turkey, they often tend to eat more fat. So, keep high-quality, grass-fed, organic and lean protein around. Plan breakfast around eggs and lunch and dinner around baked chicken breast, fish, and grass-fed meat like bison. If you're vegetarian, make sure you know what your plant-based protein sources are. When you finally drop sugar enough, your body may kick into a state of ketosis and rely on protein for energy, which is a great way to lose weight and keep sugar cravings from ruling your life.
Steer Clear of Saboteurs
The sad truth is that often people in your life will try to sabotage your low sugar diet. You’ll run into that pushy person at the office who insists that you eat a breakfast danish, the well-meaning family member who dishes you up a bowl of ice cream, and the friend who comes over with a plate of her home-baked cookies. The best strategy is to sincerely thank the sugar-pusher for their gift, tell them you wish you could eat it, and then ask them to help you reach your health goals.
Try Dark Chocolate
For those moments when your sweet tooth is relentlessly badgering you, ditch the super sugary candies and stick with a small square of very dark chocolate. Chocolate that is 70% or higher in cacao content should be the only candy that you keep on hand. The antioxidant health benefits of the cacao, in addition to the low sugar content, make dark chocolate an occasionally justifiable treat.
Stick with Fruit
Though fruit is filled with a lot of sugar, it also has fiber, enzymes, vitamins, and minerals that keep your immune system up and digestive tract healthy. So if you must have sugar, then a few pieces of fruit are just fine. Organic, seasonal fresh fruit is truly nature’s candy, but the key here is to have a few pieces. Also, keep in mind that as you begin to limit your intake of refined sugars, you’ll find that your tolerance for sugar decreases. This means that something that didn’t taste sweet before—say a green apple—now has uncanny depths of sweetness. What’s happening is that your sweet receptors are becoming more finely tuned now that you’re not overwhelming your palate with sickly sweet refined sugar.
Start Moving Your Body
A regular, challenging exercise routine will not only get you into amazing shape, it also reduces your cravings for sugar. The endorphin rush brought on by vigorous exercise is an even more powerful feel-good feeling than the short-lived pleasure cultivated by indulging in sugary foods. Set some short-term goals. Get outside and walk at the times when you feel most challenged by your sugar desires.
Hydration is very important to helping you stay away from sugar. Many times, when you are eating and craving sugars or reaching for the on-the-go (not good for you sugary snack) food, you are really just thirsty. Keep a glass bottle with you always and sip on fresh (not bottled) water throughout the day. Add in some essential oils (citrus) or slices of cucumber, orange, watermelon, or lemon for more flavor. Sorry, but teas, coffees, and sodas do not count as "water." They often have tons of hidden sugar in them.
Know Your Food Triggers
Write down and track your mood and food triggers when you most feel intense urges to have sugar. Understanding why you crave what you do and when is a great opportunity to set yourself up for success and avoid sugar binges. For many people, their food triggers are crunchy and salty or cold and sugary. Know the junk foods that you go to in times of stress and avoid them. These are usually snacks that are easy to eat an entire bag or bowl of—high in fat, salt, and sugar. Make sure your food triggers are not in the house so you can avoid them altogether.
Get to Bed
Research has determined that people who stay up past their body detoxing hours (between 12 am to 3 am) are more likely to gain weight. People who skimp on sleep, or those who work night shifts or call themselves night owls often, over time, see their waist line increase. Sleepless nights stress the body, and that stress turns into bad fat. Guess what that fat is telling the mind? Yes, I need more energy and reserves to stay awake and in survivor mode. So, you go for caffeine and sugar. Best to cut the caffeine after 2 pm, get to bed at a reasonable hour, turn off your electronics, and sleep!
Even though nature has predisposed us to love the sugar and be attached to it when we taste it, there are many ways to arm yourself and win the battle over sugar addiction. Incorporate these to-do’s and make sure your family and friends are aware that you are doing it for support. Chances are they will feel empowered to kick their poor sugar habits as well. With more mindfulness and less sugar ruling your life, you will find a more balanced, more energetic, and healthier YOU.