Does the thought of living a sugar-free life fill you with horror? If so, you may unknowingly be addicted to sugar! The good news is that sugar addiction is far more common than you think, and there are tips, tricks and tools like The Sugar Free Revolution, to help you deal and understand your cravings. It often triggers a compulsive pursuit of foods rich in sugar and carbohydrates in response to both positive feelings – like, "Let’s all celebrate with cake and cookies!" – as well as negative associations with sweet foods.
In fact, sugar is believed to be eight times more addictive than cocaine! Some people are more sensitive than others, but the more sugar you eat, the more likely it has taken hold of your addictive pathways and is driving you to eat and drink far too much.
So what’s going on in your body when you eat sugar?
When sugar hits the bloodstream, it stimulates release of a brain chemical called dopamine, which makes you feel good... but the feeling is usually short-lived. By the time you’re licking the chocolate off your fingertips or picking the last crumbs of cookies from the plate, your dopamine levels will probably have fallen, taking you into a mini-withdrawal.
This can trigger cravings for more sugar, urging you, against your better judgment, to pick up another biscuit or break off another square of chocolate so your brain can have another hit of dopamine. Right away, the biological signals that would normally control hunger and fullness are swiftly being overwhelmed by this dopamine stimulation, to the point where your body and brain starts listening only to sugar’s cues and ignores the fact that you have already eaten far more than you need.
If you have even the mildest addiction to sugar, there is every chance that your ‘off’ switch no longer works properly in response to eating, either. That’s why one biscuit or scoop of ice-cream never seems like enough, even after a huge meal! The more sugar you eat, the more your tolerance adapts, so you end up needing more and more sugar to get the same boost — drug addicts and alcoholics experience the same cycle.
Quiz: Are you addicted to sugar? Answer the following questions honestly.
1. Can you eat sweet, starchy or fatty foods until you are over-full?
2. Do you feel hungry even after eating a full meal?
3. Can you eat large quantities of sweets or stodgy foods even when you’re not feeling particularly hungry?
4. Do you ever feel ashamed (self-loathing, disgusted or depressed) about your eating habits?
5. Do you ever turn to sugar when you are feeling down or upset?
6. When things are bad, do you find you need more and more sweet foods to feel better?
7. Do you plan to eat a small portion (such as one biscuit), but end up binge-eating (demolishing the whole packet)?
8. Do you find starchy, sweet or fatty foods the most difficult to cut back on?
9. Do you find it difficult to stop once you start eating starches, snack foods, junk foods or sweets?
10. Are your eating habits having an impact on your social life, work or physical abilities?
11. Do you find it impossible to stick to healthy-eating resolutions?
12. Do you feel you need to (have to) have something sweet after lunch or dinner?
13. Do you eat sweets and chocolates secretly and hide the wrappers because you don’t want anyone to know?
14. If you cut yourself one piece of cake, do you then find yourself coming back for more and more?
15. Do you get a foggy head after big meals (or mid-afternoon)?
If you answered ‘yes’ to five or more of these questions, you could be a sugar addict. Your relationship with food may be stuck in a destructive pattern. Perhaps you comfort eat or binge eat; perhaps sugar fills a greater void in your life than just satisfying a physical craving or mindful eating.
Don't worry – food addiction is not your fault.
It's not because you are lazy or lack willpower to resist sugary, processed foods, there are specific biological mechanisms that drive addictive behaviour. These behaviours arise from primitive neurochemical rewards centers in the brain that override normal willpower, and, in the case of food addictions, overwhelm the ordinary biological signals that control hunger.
While some of us may be more genetically predisposed to the addictive properties of food, if you examine your own behaviour, and your relationship to sugar in particular, you will likely find that your behaviour around sugar matches up perfectly with why you can't control your eating habits.
If food does in fact have the potential to be legitimately addictive, that doesn't mean that everyone is addicted to it. Everybody overeats and abuses food once in a while, but it doesn't mean you are a food addict! The important thing to remember is that some brains are more vulnerable to food and other addictions, and that quitting sugar is the nutritional reset that will enable you to break the cycle of reliance and addiction and help you lead a happier and healthier life! If you feel like you need some extra support check out the Sugar Free book!
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