Breaking Sugar Addiction

By Marinthe Sijstermans

When we think of sugar the first image that comes to mind is the sweet, white granules we put in our tea or on top of our cereal. Few people think of it as an addictive drug and perhaps even fewer think of it as the underlying cause of their weight gain. The truth is that sugar addiction is rife and if you have a weight problem the chances are it is sugar in your diet - not fat - that is the real cause.Research carried out by Nicole Avena, a behavioral neuroscientist, has gone a long way to proving that sugar affects certain chemicals in the brain (opioids and dopamine) in the same way that other addictive substances do. In short, her research suggests that a diet high in sugar results in cravings, withdrawal and bingeing - the classic symptoms of addiction. Add to this the fact that high levels of sugar in the blood trigger the fat storing hormone insulin and you've got yourself a binge eating, weight gain nightmare.[]

This helps to explain why anything that is pleasurable can potentially also be addictive. If you want to break your sugar addiction, I therefore recommend a two-pronged strategy. On the one hand you need to deal with the psychological side of your addiction, but you also need to think about how to reduce your cravings physiologically, by doing things that will help to make healthy alterations to your brain chemistry.One of the most pernicious aspects of sugar addiction is that it can easily foster binge eating in general. Repeatedly consuming large amounts of sugar can cause your insulin system to become somewhat reactive and unstable. Dips in blood sugar bring about general food cravings, and tend to push your appetite to get out of control. The presence or absence of an addiction to sugar can well make the difference between being able to control your eating habits, and being completely out of control

I've struggled with a ferocious sugar addiction myself, an addiction which at times I thought I'd never beat. I literally used to break out in a sweat when I didn't get my sugar fix. At the height (perhaps I should say 'depth'!) of my addiction, I was consuming around ten chocolate bars a day. I couldn't seem to stop. But in the end I beat my addiction and in doing so gained control of my appetite. I went from thinking about sugar constantly to scarcely caring about it at all. Now I eat sweet things occasionally, but not obsessively. And when I find myself over-consuming sweet things again, as I sometimes do, I use the techniques I'm about to share with you to regain control.

Once you've dealt with the cravings, you will find it much easier to change to a healthy diet - avoid sugar and refined carbohydrates, eat plenty of protein, fresh fruits and vegetables, healthy fats and moderate amounts of complex carbohydrates. Protein should be eaten at every meal as it helps maintain blood sugar levels by stimulating the release of glucagon, a hormone that balances the action of insulin. Fresh fruit and vegetables provide a good supply of the vitamins and minerals needed to keep blood sugar stable.It's important to avoid all forms of sugar, including so-called "healthy" alternatives such as brown sugar, honey and dried fruit. Don't be tempted to cheat - your brain is sensitive to sugar and having "just one" cookie or soda can be enough to set off cravings, trigger a sugar binge and start the cycle of craving and bingeing again.

If you find it hard to eat fruit, as I used to (partly because if you eat a lot of artificially-sweet things like chocolate and ice-cream, fruit will not taste very sweet to you), try making fruit salads. Chop up your favorite fruits, mix them together and enjoy a generously-sized bowl every day.Be aware that fruit varies in quality, so you may need to hunt around to find fruit that's to your taste. Not all apples are created equal! Also make sure your fruit is ripe before you consume it. You may need to leave fruit in your kitchen to ripen for a few days after buying.

Sugar has no nutritional value but lots of calories and it goes straight to the bloodstream where it raises blood glucose levels, stimulates the release of insulin and contributes to weight gain. Overtime, it can lead to more serious health problems like heart disease, Type II diabetes and some forms of cancer.Sugar Is Hidden Everywhere.The goal in managing your addiction is to put an end to sugar cravings and eliminate hidden sources which are lurking almost everywhere. Sugar is relatively cheap and widely available which means it is added to almost everything we eat these days. Since the 1970's, the sugar content in processed food has nearly doubled. It is found in condiments like barbecue sauce, catsup, salad dressings and pasta sauce. Unless you read the labels, you may never realize how much sugar you are consuming each day.

Sugar Raises Insulin Levels.The human body is not equipped to handle so much sugar. Consuming too much can lead to weight gain and to insulin resistance. Insulin is the hormone that regulates blood sugar. Over time, the body becomes resistant to the extra insulin, thus paving the way for Type II diabetes. This means the process of removing sugar from the blood becomes defective and the pancreas must secrete more insulin to get the sugar out of the blood. This is one of the most important reasons to end your addiction.

The type of exercise you need to reduce sugar cravings is the type that makes you breathe harder to a degree that feels taxing but comfortable, and your heart beat faster. Preferably you should be sweating. You don't have to go to the gym or run around the block; you can buy an exercise bike or cross-trainer and use it in the privacy of your own house. Even a skipping rope will do the trick. While very cheap exercise equipment may be unusable and put you off exercise, a good exercise bike or cross-trainer can be had for as little as around a hundred dollars online, and you can often rent out equipment locally.Try to get at half an hour's exercise every other day. Start your exercise with a five minute gentle warm-up. Listen to music while you exercise; find the most upbeat, up-tempo song you can that you like, and listen to them on an mp3 player while you exercise. Once your warm-up period is done, allow the music to entice you to exercise harder.

If you aren't used to exercising, you might need to start off doing only five minutes at a time while you get used to it, but rest assured you can get used to it and can learn to enjoy exercising.Once you have used these techniques to diminish your cravings, cut sugar out. You do not physiologically need sugar. Fruit contains plenty of it in a healthy form in any case. At first you may miss sugar very badly, but stick with it; the time will come, perhaps after as little as a week, when you no longer think much about sugar. Then you can allow yourself to enjoy sweetened foods occasionally as a treat. But your dependence on sugar, the thing that drives you to eat it every day and makes you feel as though you want nothing more and can't do without it -- that you must break, if you want to gain control of your eating habits.

Make sure to eat a sufficient amount of protein; maybe even more than usual. Detox is hard on the body, so it is important to keep your body nourished during the process.Avoid breads that are enriched in any way, including enriched wheat breads. Stick to whole grain, whole wheat breads, cereals, and rice. As far as bread goes, it would be wise to temporarily use sprouted grain bread or rice spelt bread as they are "slow burners", meaning they hold the blood sugar for longer periods of time.Stock up on low glycemic foods such as dark green vegetables. Click here for a list of low glycemic food.Clear your cupboards of all foods containing sugar and derivatives of sugar. Actually remove them from your house.If you're prone to headaches, stock up on some Tylenol or Ibuprofen. Also expect possible diarrhea, mood swings (possibly severe), fatigue, and general aches and pains.Need something sweet? Stock up on fruit! Just because you are working on eliminating sugar from your diet does not mean that you have to deprive your sweet tooth.Abstain from alcohol use.Mentally and emotionally prepare yourself for at least four days of no sugar. It will seem painful, maybe even excruciating at first; but after just a few short days, your body will have kicked its addiction to sugar and you can go on with your life.Should you choose to delight in sugar products after you successfully detox, be sure to only keep it at a minimum. Also, always keep an eye on the ingredient lists of the foods you buy to ensure that sugar addiction doesn't sneak up on you again.

About the Author:

No comments:

Post a Comment