Addicted to Sugar? How to Overcome Sugar Addiction
Posted on April 08 2013
The Roots of Sugar Addiction
The seeds of sugar addiction are planted in childhood from a very early age, I think with good intentions, but only resulting in a lifelong struggle with this very real physiological addiction. This addiction then wreaks havoc on not only our minds but our bodies as well.
What is an addiction?
Addiction is a condition that results when a person ingests a substance that can be pleasurable but the continued use of which becomes compulsive and can interfere with ordinary life responsibilities.
Addiction causes changes physically by developing a tolerance and because of this build up in tolerance there is a biological reaction when the sugar is withdrawn. “People compulsively use drugs, gamble, or shop nearly always in reaction to being emotionally stressed, whether or not they have a physical addiction (1).” This is why it is so important to prevent this sugar addiction from ever beginning. I hear so often from friends and family who are trying to live a Paleo lifestyle that it’s the sugar habit they just can’t seem to kick, admittedly myself included.
I can’t tell you how many times in my life I have had the feeling that I just HAD to have a slice of cake, cookie, ice cream…mainly that slice of birthday cake, you know the ones they sell individually now at grocery stores for a few measly dollars. It’s just a little bit of cake, just a small indulgence, at a price that isn’t going to break the bank.
But how did I get to the point where I would literally go out of my way to get this treat? Well, in America we begin young, and I mean young at the tender age of MONTHS old. I have seen pictures and status updates about little Sally’s first taste of ice cream and she sure does love it…and it’s just so cute to see her like something so much. Really? When our virgin gut is just developing we are introducing wheat cereals and sugar to our babies. We are setting them up for the same addictive cycles that we are dealing with as adults.
As young children we are taught from a young age that sugar products are fun, colorful, a treat to be had by those most deserving! It is flashed across our television screens, hidden in products touting to be high in fiber and full of calcium. It is on nearly every grocery store shelf, given as a reward that you get to pick out at the grocery store for being good, a treat when you go out to eat, after a bad day, you’ve earned it after all with all you’ve been through. Give sugar for gifts; whip up a batch of cookies or brownies for your neighbors because everyone likes something sweet! Valentine’s Day, Easter, Mother’s Day, Halloween, and Christmas! Surely this sweet and nostalgic treat couldn’t be harmful.
Except that it is. “Research has found (surprise, surprise) that sugar has addictive properties complete with a serotonin rise and crash as well as some cranky withdrawal symptoms (2).” When you “feed” your addiction it doesn’t help you slowly dose it down; you continually crave more and more of it. Sugar slows the body down and makes you more susceptible to disease, heightened stress responses, and an overall mental state of fogginess after the initial sugar high.
Sugar cravings signal that you aren’t feeding your body properly in other ways as well, including but not limited to a nutrient-poor diet, lack of sleep, increase in stress, and dehydration.
So what do you do to give up refined sugar?
Cold turkey is the only real way I’ve found to work for me and when you have a sugar craving replace it with something else that will fuel your body and make you feel good. That’s not to say it will be easy but here are some tips (keep in mind these are just things that have worked for me and were helpful in stepping down my sugar intake):
- Add a low glycemic fruit (berries, cherries, grapefruit, figs) to each meal to help level out your blood sugar and keep it from spiking so high that you get that unavoidable craving.
- Add spices such as cinnamon, coriander, nutmeg or lemon, lime, or pomegranate juice to your meals to add a naturally sweet flavor
- Eat a spoonful of nut or seed butter (my grandma used to swear by this to beat sugar cravings!)
- Get plenty of rest, drink lots of water, eat a nutrient-dense (Paleo!) diet, and exercise
- Be prepared. Plan to have healthy snacks with you so you don’t end up stuck hitting the nearest vending machine or fast food joint
And good luck! It isn’t easy but your body will thank you for it in the long run and from my own experience you will feel the effects on your body within just a few days, you can do it!
Paleo on the Go offers a new sugar detox menu to help assist people going through a sugar detox. The items included in this listing have no added sugars or sweeteners and they are still delicious food choices.