Thursday, March 4, 2010

Mar. 4: Sugar Addiction

Lots of people make jokes about being a "chocoholic" or a "sugar junkie" but sugar addiction is real, and it's no laughing matter. Why are some people addicted to sugar? The short answer is this: refined sugar causes the same effect on the human brain as HEROIN! Sugar and heroin both cause the production of dopamine, a neurotransmitter that causes stimulation in the brain that feels positive. In animal studies, scientists have discovered that the lab rats will perform nearly any task when rewarded with dopamine. Dopamine is key in the treatment of drug addictions. That should tell you exactly how powerful sugar can be!

Before I started eating clean, I was going to the dollar store once a day. I was buying 2 of those big bags of mints that you would use to fill a candy dish, and that was my afternoon snack every day. I was consuming an unbelievable amount of sugar and calories every afternoon. I truly could not stop crunching those candies. It really bothered me if someone else ate a couple of them. I also drank about 2 liters of Diet Coke per day. I was a true sugar junkie.

Artificial sweeteners can trigger many of the same effects on your body as actual sugar. They can cause carb cravings and make your sugar addiction stronger. The body begins "searching"for the calories to process once the sweetness of the artificial sweetener is ingested. When the calories aren't there, you begin to feel hungry, craving more sugar calories to replace the absent ones.

In detoxing from sugar, you are on your own. There are no rehab facilities for sugar junkies, there is no 12 step program and no Sugar Eaters Anonymous. There are websites where you will find supportive people, but for the most part, it's a journey you must undertake on your own. Here is what worked for me.

1.) I went cold turkey from both real and artificial sugar. It took about two weeks before I no longer wanted the sweet stuff.
2.) I use only natural, unrefined sweeteners now. I use honey or sucanat (raw sugar). I use very little of it. I have a teaspoon of sucanat in the morning, split over a few cups of coffee. Any other addition of sweetening is rare for me.
3.) If I am at a special event and dessert is served and there is NO polite way of getting out of it, I generally only eat a bite or two. It tends to be satisfying and doesn't send me into a sugar overload.
4.) When I really do have cravings (usually pms time) I make some homemade treats with honey or sucanat - they don't send me spiralling out of control.

You really can set yourself free of this craving and addiction. It's tough, but a key step in weight loss.

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