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Breaking the Cycle of Sugar Addiction

Breaking the Cycle of Sugar Addiction 960 640 Janie

Sugar has been shown to be one of the most addictive substances we can consume and there is a very good reason for this. Our ancestors only ate 22 teaspoons of sugar per year – so the body evolved to make the most of sugar on the rare occasions it was available.

When a pre-civilised human happened upon a sugar source (usually fruit or perhaps honey – most likely in spring or summer) the human body learned to consume as much as possible as it was a ready source of energy that could be stored as fat to get through the harder times. The insulin surges were few and far between and there was no real need for a sugar satiation feedback mechanism as there was very little sugar in the environment, and it was beneficial for the body to eat as much sugar as possible to survive winter.

Fast forward some hundreds of years and the average Westerner now eats 60-80kg of sugar per year. That’s a massive increase that our digestive and hormonal systems have simply not learnt to cope with, and we have certainly not yet developed a sugar satiation feedback system to stop us wanting to eat it. In fact, the reverse is true, when we eat sugar we want more. And there is a never a winter with no sugar.

And now we find ourselves in the situation where 1 in 2 children born today will be diabetic or pre-diabetic in their life-time. This is a staggering statistic that needs to be addressed – and the way to address it is to understand that we are simply not designed to eat this much sugar. We are experiencing an evolutionary response that does not suit our current environment.

Breaking a sugar addiction is extremely difficult – and it is no easier than breaking a cigarette addiction. You have to be determined and you have to have will power to get through the the withdrawal period. Here are the steps to help make it happen:

  1. Educate yourself on the dangers of sugar consumption – you have to fully understand the implications on your health so you have a highly motivating reason to get through the withdrawals – check out the image at the bottom of this article and do your own research.
  2. Initially make the decision to stop eating sugar for at least 4-7 days (the longer the better). Simply reducing sugar intake does not work as well because the act of eating sugar itself stimulates cravings. Going cold turkey is the most successful method.
  3. Nourish your body with real food – a nourished body is less likely to experience strong cravings. Eat lots of vegetables and quality natural proteins and fats. Fresh fruit should be limited but for some people can be the best way to deal with cravings.
  4. Read labels – practically every food product contains hidden sugar. Do not eat foods containing these ingredients during your detox:
Agave nectar
Agave syrup
Barley malt
Beet sugar
Brown rice syrup
Brown sugar
Buttered syrup
Cane sugar
Cane juice
Cane juice crystals
Carob syrup
Confectioner’s sugar
Corn syrup
High fructose corn syrup
Corn sugar
Corn sweetener
Corn syrup solids
Crystalized fructose
Date sugar
Diastatic malt
Evaporated cane juice
Fruit juice
Fruit juice concentrate
Glucose solids
Golden sugar
Golden syrup
Grape sugar
Grape juice concentrate
Invert sugar
Maple syrup
Raw sugar
Refiner’s syrup
Sorghum syrup
Turbinado sugar
Yellow sugar
  1. Remove all sweets and sugar containing food products from your house so you don’t have to rely on will power alone. If you don’t want to throw them out, give them away or seal them up in a box or store at a friend’s place.
  2. Avoid sugar substitutes (eg xylitol, stevia). These produce the same insulin surge as if you had eaten sugar anyway and do not teach your body to live without sugar.
  3. Plan sugar free meals and have the ingredients in your house and recipes on the bench so that you are less likely to turn to convenience foods. Always shop with a list and never shop on an empty stomach.
  4. Expect to experience withdrawals (the first 2 days are the worst) and decide on alternative behaviours you will implement when you do experience cravings – eg nuts, fresh fruit, herbal tea, go for a walk, drink water. You will need to find something that works for you through trial and error.
  5. Address mental cravings – ask yourself why you want to eat sugar when you get a craving – are you bored? emotional? angry? Is it because everyone else is doing it? Is it a reward?  This is a time for gaining awareness into your eating habits so you are empowered to change them rather than succumb to them.

It will take 6-8 weeks to form new habits and integrate new behaviours into your lifestyle, and over that time your tastebuds will change and you will no longer crave sugar. It is at that point (and not one day before) that you can reintroduce sugar in small amounts so long as it is for an occasional treat, and not from habit or cravings, but until that point you are just feeding the fire.

You CAN learn to love food without sugar and it is well worth it because when you do, you will experience health benefits such as reduced risk of cancer and diabetes, mental clarity, better sleep, weight loss and higher energy levels.