Why is Sugar so Hard to Kick?
As I have been writing about my journey to better health here at The Ultrawellness Center, I realized I needed to write about sugar. Since I’ve had a sweet tooth most of my life, making positive dietary changes by giving up a lot of my favorite foods was a bit of a struggle. I realized after a while, though, that I don’t even miss most of the foods I so desperately craved before. Why is that?
Sugar is often compared to a drug because it can activate the pleasure center in your brain and give you a euphoric, temporary energy and high because it produces dopamine. Like a drug, you crave it more the more you eat or drink it because you build up a tolerance. This makes you need more to feel the same good feelings. So naturally, when you are detoxing sugar from your body, there are symptoms similar to withdrawal you would have when detoxing from a drug. I tend to get achy joints and migraines if I eat to much sugar and then try to rid my body of it.
You may be asking what is so bad about sugar? Here are just a few things sugar can do to your body:
- Increase your risk of obesity, diabetes and heart disease caused by spiking blood sugars.
- Sugar can interfere with your immune system and make it less effective
- Sugar causes oral issues such as tooth decay and gum disease
- Brain function. Sugar in fact can decrease your learning ability.
- Empty calories. If you fill up on sugar you’re not getting important nutrients your body needs
- Premature aging. Yes, Sugar can decrease skin elasticity and cause aging faster.
- Liver Damage over time (Non-Alcoholic Fatty liver disease)
According to sugarscience.org, added sugar is hiding in 74% of packaged foods and there are at least 61 different names used for it on labels. It’s important to read labels and know what you are looking for in packaged and processed foods because companies will often sneak it in. Here is a link to an article with many of the added sugar names.
Quick Tips for Cutting back on Sugar:
- Read Labels (As noted above the more you know about the different added sugars the more you can watch out for them!)
- Wean slowly. If you don’t want to quit cold turkey, start by cutting the servings of your sweet foods in half and work down day by day.
- Substitute soda with sparkling water. There are a variety of flavors out there with zero sugar! For me it’s more about the carbonation than the sweetness. Just be sure to avoid artificial sweeteners as well, they’re just an dangerous for your health.
- If you are a chocoholic switch to dark chocolate. The darker the better. Darker means less sugar, less milk, and more nutrients and antioxidants. But it’s still important to eat in moderation.
- Pack snacks. If you know you will be out all day then you know hunger will strike, leaving you more prone to reach for the nearest sugary snack. Bring nuts,seeds,veggies along with you to help you feel satisfied and cut the cravings.
From my own personal experience, cutting out soda and most sugary snacks during the day has left me with fewer brain fog issues and my migraines are fewer and farther between as well. I have also cut out gluten which could be another contributing factor in my improved symptoms. I find that now that my body has gotten used to less sugar, when I overindulge I feel tired and irritable—I get a sugar hangover. It of course has not been easy and I still have set backs, like when I have to have that gluten-free cookie or I desperately want that dark chocolate, but overall It comes down to willpower and moderation for me. Knowing what I can handle and knowing when to say “No, I’m good for today.” If you can’t cut sugar out completely, start by reducing it each day until you can handle not having it every day. I have found that once I gave up my daily sodaI felt so much better.When I do rarely indulge in one it doesn’t even taste as good as I remember and I wonder why I’m even drinking it. Just noticing how much better I feel and the weight I have lost along my journey is enough for me to keep on track (most of the time).
It is recommended that women limit sugar intake to about 4 teaspoons or 16 grams of sugar daily and men 9 teaspoons or 36 grams, but that is the maximum, and less is always better when it comes to sugar. The practitioners at The UltraWellness Center recommend avoiding as much added sugar as possible and sticking to those that are naturally occuring in things like fruits, slow carbs, or small amounts of real food sweeteners like honey and maple syrup. So, make sure you read those labels and get educated on all the different kinds of sugars that can be hidden in your foods. Click here to watch a great video about how sugar affects us.