When most people think of addictions the first thing that pops in most people’s minds are drugs, alcohol, and even caffeine. However, there is a more sneaky addiction, sugar. Sugar is actually the #1 addiction. How is this so? Actually it is very simple.
Ritual of Reward
From the time we are infants we are introduced to the sweetness of milk. As young children we are rewarded with “treats” such as candies and cookies, signaling our brains to chemically respond to sweets as a mood enhancers.
While this seems innocent, the truth of the matter is that even as adults these sweets have become “comfort foods” and we constantly crave them to feel satisfied. We “self-reward” and “self-medicate” using sugar to enhance our moods, temporarily. The problem is what comes up must come down. That temporary “good” feeling you get from a sugar binge goes away leaving you empty once more and the cravings begin again.
Just One Hit
“Cravings” is just another way of saying “addictions”. The American Psychiatric Association defines addiction to include three distinct stages; binging, withdrawal, and craving.
When we eat sugar our brains get dosed with natural opioids, producing feel good feelings and reward signals in the brain. Just like with illegal drugs our self-control has a hard time against the rewarding feelings of these chemicals, and an addiction is born.
Just like with illegal drugs, beating the addiction takes planning and consistence. Addictions to illegal drugs can destroy your health, and similarly addictions to sugar can as well.
Diabetes, high blood pressure, obesity, high cholesterol, and premature aging are all symptoms of sugar addictions. The hardest part is addictions to sugar are completely acceptable. There is no “addict” stigmata associated with sugar addictions as there is with addictions to cocaine or alcohol. This makes it difficult to diagnose as an addiction and difficult to treat.
How can we stop craving food that contains sugar?
The key to stopping an addiction is simple and contains several important steps:
- Choose whole foods. The closer the food is to the natural form, the easier your body can digest it and the less likely it is to contain processed sugars.
- Eat a healthy breakfast containing fats and proteins. The fats and proteins aid in the increase of the metabolic rate, aiding in fat burning. The typical breakfast is loaded with sugar and starts the cravings throughout the day.
- Take your vitamins. Nutrient deficiencies can elevate cravings, take at least a multivitamin and fish oil (omega-3).
- Exercise. Moving your body produces mood boosting chemicals in the brain also and can zap sugar cravings.
- Get plenty of rest. Sleep deprivation can lead to sugar cravings as our body looks for quick energy.
- Distract yourself. A typical craving only lasts 20-30 minutes.
- Drink plenty of water. Sometimes cravings for water can present themselves as sugar cravings.
- Eat a piece of fruit. The natural sugars in a piece of fruit can help with the cravings in a healthier manner.