I was a sweet person when I was 11, but not in the way you think! When I first realized that I could turn to food to make myself feel better, I began to bake sweet goodies. And yes, I ate them, too! Being just a young girl at that time, I had no idea that I was starting to develop sugar addiction.
To be completely honest, I had a sweet tooth for a very long time in my life, but I have lost my yearning for sweets a long time ago. My experience is a testimony that it’s possible to overcome sugar addiction. Today, my favorite taste is salty and I tend to go for anything that is crunchy. Chips have become a trigger food for me. I’ll tell you more about in another blog post!
Is There Such a Thing as Sugar Addiction?
Now, going back to sugar addiction, is it even real? The answer is yes and no. I say yes because sugar stimulates the same neural pathways in our body as does any other addictive substance or activity. It also releases opioids and dopamine, something which drugs also do. But I also say no, because we can’t be addicted to something we consider as food.
I know that you want a straight answer. Well, that’s part of the problem with sugar addiction. It’s not that simple. Food is something we can’t treat like other addiction such as drugs, alcohol or even gambling. We can’t get off food like we can get off alcohol or drugs. We need to eat in order to live.
A Sugar-Free Lifestyle?
Now, is it possible to avoid sugar for the rest of your life? Well, technically, it is possible. A life avoiding all forms of sugar could be the answer, but what a painful, boring life that is! This means never, ever eating birthday cake again (even the clean whole food version). It also means having an extremely difficult time socializing with your friends and loved ones because you are on a strict no sugar diet. So yes, it’s possible to avoid sugar for the rest of your life, but is it doable?
Here’s the real honest truth: strict abstinence is like putting a band aid on the real problem. You will “control” your problem with sugar, but never really heal it. If you want to heal your sugar cravings, you need to understand it.
How NOT to Overcome Sugar Addiction
To be honest with you, back when I was 25, I switched from sugar addiction to work addiction. I replaced sugar with another “thing.” Yes, that can happen! I have seen many women doing just that: moving from sugar addiction to food control addiction. They strictly avoid sugar and focus on obsessively thinking about food, counting calories, worrying about macro, etc. Well, for me, I replaced sugar addiction with workaholism. As you can see, replacing an addiction with another addiction is not a healthy way of solving the problem.
Overcoming Sugar Addiction: 3 Action Steps
I recently interviewed Dr. Sam Shay on my podcast, The Beyond the Food Show. Dr. Shay is a world-renowned expert in sugar addiction. During the interview, Dr. Shay shared three tips that could help you overcome sugar addiction:
- Get enough sleep. Sleep deprivation has could disrupt the normal fluctuations of the appetite hormones, ghrelin and leptin, thus increasing the likelihood of cravings. A study published on Oxford University’s Sleep Research Society website concluded that the lack of sleep may be a risk factor for cravings for carbohydrate-rich foods. So if you want to stave off sugar cravings, make sure that you’re getting enough sleep!
- Have a good breakfast. A good breakfast is nutritious and high in protein. A study shows that eating a high-protein breakfast reduces the feeling of hunger before lunch. Remember to include vegetables in your breakfast. (I usually recommend two cups of veggies per meal, and that includes breakfast.)
- TAME the BEAST of addiction. In the podcast, Dr. Shay introduced a 4-step process that you can use to overcome any type of addiction which he calls the “TAME the BEAST” model. “TAME ” is actually an acronym on how to stop the cycle of addiction:
- Take a breath
- Accept you’re in the cycle
- Make a decision to exit the cycle
- Exit the cycle
In the interview, Dr. Shay shared some eye-opening insights and facts. In fact, it was not until after this interview that I was able to really work through my tendency to numb my feelings. For more about Dr. Shay’s TAME the BEAST model as well as his valuable insights on sugar addiction, you can listen to my entire interview with Dr. Shay here or you can play the audio or video file below:
Ready to Take the Next Step?
I hope this blog post will help you understand sugar addiction. If you are addicted to sugar, there’s always hope. Armed with the right tools and knowledge, you will be able to transform yourself from being a sugar addict to an empowered food lover!
I have a free gift for you. The Crave Cure Guide is a handy little e-book that will equip you with the tools that will help you find food freedom. Take charge of your eating habits today! Download the Crave Cure Guide here.