My concern, which has been a personal concern for me for some time, is the addiction of sugar as this can get you into a bit of a cycle. It also doesn’t help that artificial sweeteners or “no calorie” sweeteners such as aspartame, saccharin, sucralose (for more info I highly recommend this site http://liveto110.com/complete-list-of-artificial-sweeteners) help stimulate our cravings even more so! They do this by tricking our bodies into thinking we are about to digest a high amount of calories, which causes our brains to tell us to eat more until that very expectation is met!
Then we have the effect that sugar has on our mood (and again, our brain chemistry). We get our sugar fix and all is calm for a moment. Then we crash when our blood sugar levels drop, and we become a bit irritated. Then we eat more. Once we start building up a bit of tolerance (just like with coffee or alcohol) we seem to require more sugar in higher doses with shorter time periods between crashes. We start to want more, more often, in higher amounts.
AND THEN there is the triglyceride problem! Triglycerides are what I call “Fat Sugars”. They are fatty acids bonded to a glycerol molecule. Triglycerides are a major energy store for us, called upon when we need energy (particularly during sustained high-intensity workouts). This makes them a stubborn form of energy as we will always burn available sugars in our system first when we exercise.
What this means is that when we are consuming more energy than we need through eating a diet high in sugar, even if we have a low-fat diet, we are still getting fat as we are literally giving our body no reason to burn fat as energy!
AND THEN when we start to burn fat as fuel, the triglycerides are broken down into their individual parts, which means sugar will enter our bloodstream and we will inevitably crash again, then crave more sugar, and if we already have a sugar addiction then we will most likely eat something sugary to cure the crash, which means consuming more energy, which means that no matter how much we exercise we cannot lose weight! Then to help self-medicate our sugar cravings we often turn to no calorie sugar alternatives to help us, but it turns out they’re just making it worse and are increasing our sugar addiction!
AND THEN we start to look at the ingredients in our food and realise that EVERYTHING has some form of sugar and sugar alternatives! White carbs or refined carbs (bread, pasta, rice, cereal), diet foods, soup, plain-ish crackers, soy or almond milks, yoghurts – the list could go on! Reading the ingredients on many of our daily foods only makes us give up hope that we could ever have a low sugar diet, let alone get release from our sugar addictions.
For me, fighting this addiction and coming up with a diet and lifestyle that can be low in sugar, has been a never ending battle.
But since I have become more and more conscious of the seriousness of sugar, and its effects both on my mood and my weight, I have been able to cut back and seen dramatic changes in my body and mind. I started this journey into fighting my sugar addiction about a year ago after meeting a Raw Vegan guy called James Painting, who I met on my PT course taught by Lara Painting. His passion for the Raw Vegan lifestyle inspired me to think about my own diet, and how everyday foods were really affecting me. I cannot say I have completely removed sugar from my diet (can anyone say that?) as carbs are sugar and not all carbs are bad. For example, fruit contains the sugar fructose, milk contains lactose, and some vegetables contain starch, and these are all healthy foods (some will debate whether or not milk is healthy). But what I have done is taken account of how sugar affects me.
Here are my tips for taking control of my sugar addictions:
1. Find out when you most likely crave sugar in the day
You’ll be surprised that you often crave sugar at similar times in the day every day. Find out when those times are and pre-plan a few healthy snacks to fill you up.
2. Source healthy carbs for your diet
When the cravings get really bad your will power will be tested. Sadly, sugar is so addictive that there is very little we can do against a bad craving. What we can do is fix our cravings with nutrient rich foods that contain sugars. Fruits are ideal, as are unrefined carbs (brown pasta).
3. Eat more protein, more fibre and drink more water!
When you need energy your sugar addicted brain will tell you to go and get sugar (or sugar like products). You can suppress this before it happens by including protein in your diet, increasing your water intake, and eating more leafy greens! Leafy greens are also incredibly good for you. I would urge anyone to increase their water intake and intake of leafy greens.
4. Get more sleep!
Sleep deprivation causes you to crave energy boosting foods and drinks such as caffeine and of course sugars. Get a good nights sleep to prevent this. Stress and exhaustion also have the same effect on your cravings, it will increase them.
5. Remove nutrient empty sugary foods from site
More often than not we are tempted by what we see. This is difficult when we shop for our food online or in the supermarket as those companies will play on our addictions to make a sale. Don’t let them beat you down this way. Keep the bad food out of sight, out of home and out of mind.
6. Don’t quit cold turkey!
Sugar is addictive. If you have an addiction then you need to find a way to consume less. Going cold turkey will cause major upsets to your system, so reduce your sugar intake gradually. Remember that your sugar addiction is caused by the sugar suppressing your natural pleasure producing chemicals by replacing them. It’s similar to self-medication, which any GP will recommend against. Gradually bring back your natural pleasure producing brain chemicals. Which leads on to my next point…
7. Exercise more!
Exercise stimulates a fulfilment to both body and mind, releasing those natural pleasure chemicals in our brains. Use exercise to suppress your sugar cravings by seeking out your brains natural reward system without using sugar
Sugar is an addiction, and the only way to get over that addiction is to not eat sugar. Sadly this is impossible as our bodies need carbs for energy. But we can cut down a lot of our sugar intake, take control of our lives, and not have our shopping or dietary habits, our moods, or our motivation affected by this everyday drug.