Addiction is a complicated disease. We now know, for instance, that sugar is addictive. It seems like an innocent enough substance. It just sweetens our food, after all. But it turns out that sugar activates the same reward and pleasure centers in the brain that drugs like cocaine do. It can lead to binging sessions, cravings and withdrawal. Our addictions to sugar lead to obesity and a wealth of health problems. So how can you kick your sugar habit?
Take a Sugar Addiction Inventory
Do you crave sweet treats on a daily basis? Do you feel bad when you can’t get your afternoon sugar fix? Do you binge on candy, cookies and other treats, eating more than you should and feeling bad afterward? If you answer yes to these questions, you have a sugar problem. Even if you aren’t sure you have an addiction, chances are you eat more sugar than is healthy.
Sugar is hidden in many foods. If you have the typical American diet, you are eating too much sugar and putting yourself at risk for a sugar addition, becoming obese and developing serious health problems. The recommended amount of added sugar that you should take in every day is around 25 grams. That’s less than one can of soda. Start reading your food labels to see how much sugar you consume each day.
Cutting Back on Sugar
Now that you realize you’re eating too much sugar, it’s time to take steps to cut back. If you eat so much that you are experiencing the signs of addiction (cravings and withdrawal), quitting isn’t going to be easy. It’s important for your health that you kick this habit now. Here are some tips to help you make it happen:
- Find a better reward. Too often we use sugar and food as a reward. You got through that tedious, day-long meeting, so you eat a big cookie to reward yourself. You finally cleaned out the basement, time for ice cream. Learn to reward yourself with something that’s actually good for you. It could be watching that movie you want to see, a quiet hour with a good book or a massage at your favorite spa.
- Avoid replacement addictions. In selecting a new reward, be careful that you don’t choose something else that could be addictive. A glass of wine or a shopping spree, for instance, would be bad choices. They stimulate the same reward centers in your brain and could become substitute addictive behaviors.
- Get rid of sugar. If sugary treats are not easily available, you will be less likely to cave in to cravings. Sure, you can always get in the car and go buy more, but your willpower will be stronger when sugar is far away. Clear your kitchen of all sweet treats and replace them with fresh fruits, vegetables and other healthful snacks.
- Choose low glycemic index fruits. Added sugar is the real culprit for a sugar addict. Fruits and vegetables with natural sugar are less harmful. When you need a sugar hit, turn to fruits that are lower on the glycemic index, meaning they are lower in sugar and will not spike your blood sugar levels. Good choices include berries, papaya, peaches, nectarines, grapefruit, apricots and cantaloupe.
Sugar addiction is a real condition and even if you don’t have a full-blown case, you could probably stand to cut back on sugar. It won’t be easy and you might experience some cravings. Overall, though, you will begin to feel better and will be glad to have cut this drug largely out of your life.