Let’s get it out there: I have a sweet tooth. Big time. And maybe you’re like me and you saw Buddy the Elf’s dessert pasta and thought “huh...he’s onto something.” Or, maybe you prefer savory foods like bagels, pretzels, fries, and pasta. If that’s the case then you can skip this series on sugar...IN OPPOSITE LAND. SUGAR IS EVERYWHERE, HAVE YOU LEARNED NOTHING?! Just because you’re not living off of candy bars and frappuccinos doesn’t mean you’re avoiding sugar. So you might ask; what’s the harm in a cookie after dinner? My only response is a series of tangential, cryptic follow up questions: is it really just a cookie after dinner? Or, do you feel wiped out and shaky when your sugar drops? Do you eat certain foods even if you’re hungry to satisfy cravings? Do you feel sluggish after eating? If you try to eat better, do you experience mood swings? Depression? Anxiety? Crankiness? Anger? Difficulty concentrating? Headaches? Did you answer yes to any of those questions? You could be addicted to sugar. Not in the quirky way that you joke with your friends about when you simply must have a morning donut, but actually, physically addicted to sugar. It’s a thing! And it’s probably more common than you think.
In fact, sugar is one of the most addictive substances. It acts on our brain a lot like cocaine does. Yeah, that’s right. I said cocaine. COCAINE. When you eat sugar, it can create a short-term energy spark. A high, if you will. Kind of like cocaine WHICH I REALLY FEEL IS WORTH EMPHASIZING. Studies show that dopamine receptors in our brain light up when we eat sugar, similar to the way they do if we abuse alcohol. Additionally, sweetness is an evolutionary signal that the food is safe. We were literally born to like sugar. Our brains see sugar as a reward, so if we overindulge, we reinforce that reward. Simply put, you build up a tolerance, so the more you eat, the less you feel the reward. As a result, you just end up eating more. And more. And more. JUST LIKE DRUGS. I CAN’T BE THE ONLY ONE FLOORED BY THIS COMPARISON.
There is also the question of emotional dependence on sugar. Comfort food is aptly named, and emotional eating is not a petty problem. Like a number of other compulsions or addictions, people with low moods, anxiety and stress are especially susceptible to sugar addiction. Those who are constantly tired may try to combat the feeling with the rush from carb-rich sugary foods. A quick fix, these release endorphins in the body and combine with other chemicals, resulting in a surge of energy. A danger is that once you mentally connect sugar with this energy, then comes the dependence and you may begin to crave sugar to solve more of your problems, balance irritability, and get you through emotional lows.
This might sound like a lot. It kind of is, especially if you’ve been telling yourself for years “uh I could stop if I wanted to.” But, deep breaths! It might be hard, but luckily we’re here to help. We’re here to inform, guide, and support you! We understand that reducing sugar intake is a daunting task, but it’ll be worth it.
Until next time, be well!