Did you know that sugar is just as addictive as cocaine or heroin?
Sugar stimulates our nucleus accumbens, which is the area of our brain that we often times refer to as our reward center. When our nucleus accumbens is sparked, it releases neurotransmitters in the brain such as serotonin and dopamine – our so called happy hormones – and we quickly feel very good. The more sugar we consume, the more happy hormones are released and the bigger is the high we experience.
However, just like with cocaine, heroin and other addictive drugs, over time our brain needs more sugar to generate the same high and our sugar addiction grows stronger. Some people even experience physiological changes within the brain when they consume sugar.
It is important to realize that our sugar addiction doesn’t just mean we emotionally rely on sugar. If we can’t resist sugar, it has nothing to do with will power anymore. Our body has adapted to depend on sugar, just like a heroin addict craves his or her next fix and we go through tremendous withdrawal when we try to remove sugar from our diet.
But don’t give up hope just yet. Sugar addiction can be broken within 1-2 weeks and your body and mind can be freed from its addiction to sugar.
If you are looking for help to break up with sugar, here are our TOP 10 tips to begin to heal your sugar addiction.
#1 Practice Self-Care
Before we try to get rid of something from our life, we have to make sure to add something to it, so that we don’t operate from a deficit but rather from a place of overflow. Eliminating sugar from our diet will create a void, so it is important to fill that void with something nourishing and empowering such as self-care and self-love. Instead of focusing on eliminating your sugar addiction, shift your focus on something else that feeds and nourishes you. Whether you take up a new hobby, spend more time connecting to family and friends, learn a new skill or simply make sure you do something pleasurable for yourself every single day, incorporate self-care that feeds you, relaxes you and gives you pleasure, just like sugar would, but in a more healthy, long-term way.
#2 Be a Detective
Learn about your body and experiment with different foods to find out what makes you feel best. Really pay attention after every meal or snack to figure out how you feel. Sugary, highly processed foods have a different affect on our body than organic whole foods like veggies, grains and fruit or lean proteins. Tune into your body and learn by trial and error to find the foods that satisfy your hunger the most and stabilize your mood. This way you don’t just implement rigidly a new way of eating that you found somewhere and deem to be perfect. This only adds stress and tension to your attempt to breaking up with sugar. Instead, make it a fun experience and experiment with a variety of foods that you come to enjoy.
#3 Identify Specific Feelings
A lot of people turn to sugar to deal with uncomfortable feelings. Identify those feelings and learn to respond to them appropriately. If you are tired, take a nap. If you are bored, find something inspirational to do. If you are lonely, reach out to a friend. To be successful in our quest to break up with sugar, it is important to really pay attention to how we feel and respond to those feelings by giving ourselves what we really need rather than using sugar as a substitute.
#4 Remove Sugar From Your Home
To make your life a lot easier, make sure you remove all temptations to eat sugar, while you work on eliminating your addiction. Remember, there are plenty of foods that seemingly aren’t sugar, but highly processed foods for example are quickly converted into sugar once you eat them. So go through your pantry and cupboards and get rid of everything that contains sugar, from sugary drinks to breads and baked goods to cereals and snack bars. Commit to throwing it all out and not to bring these foods back into your house until you are confident that your sugar addiction has been broken permanently.
#5 Keep Your Blood Sugar Level Stable
Make sure that you eat on a regular basis and incorporate complex carbohydrates, lean protein and healthy fats with every meal or snack to stabilize your blood sugar levels and keep your energy and mood at an even level. A lot of times we crave sugar because we are hungry. Eat enough whole foods so you are satisfied and make sure you don’t skip breakfast. To maintain a steady blood sugar level, have a healthy snack every 2-3 hours.
#6 Drink Lots of Water
Most of us don’t drink enough water and that constant dehydration not only amplifies our sugar cravings, it also causes our body to store fat and slows down our metabolism. A good rule of thumb is to drink at least eight glasses of water a day. However, we believe this should be the bare minimum. Consider your lifestyle, how physically active are you? For example if you exercise, you need to add another glass of water for every 20 minutes that you work out.
#7 Get Quality Sleep
Like with any addiction, cravings can become more intense towards the end of the day. Research shows that sugar cravings are deeply connected to your sleep patterns and circadian rhythm. If you don’t get enough quality sleep or your sleep schedule is highly irregular, your sugar addiction will intensify. One of the simplest ways you can take towards improving your sleep is to set a bedtime and stick to it. Develop an evening routine that helps you to unwind before going to bed and helps you fall asleep faster. Unplug from all your electronic devices at least half an hour before going to bed, read a book, listen to relaxing music, maybe take a bubble bath, whatever helps you relax, incorporate that in your evening routine and enjoy more and better Zzzz’s.
#8 Move Your Body
Eliminating our sugar addiction heavily depends on if we are able to balance our blood sugar levels. Remember, when we eat sugary foods, our body has two options… Either store it as fat or use it as fuel. Daily exercise is the perfect outlet to get rid of excess blood sugar. Now this doesn’t necessarily mean you need to run to the gym every day. There are plenty of options to stay physically active. Take the stairs more often, go for a walk, hop on a bicycle, run around the block, dance the night away, get a dog, don’t just watch a yoga video, actually do the poses yourself… You get the picture. Whatever gets you moving, do it and do it often.
#9 Lower Your Stress Levels
Chronic stress makes it hard to overcome our sugar addiction, because that high from eating sugar can be used to temporarily reduce stress and anxiety. However, there are plenty of stress-reduction techniques that are a lot healthier and can help you eliminate your sugar addiction at the same time. When you are stressed out, stop for a moment and focus on your breath. It can be that simple. Start a meditation practice every morning right when you get out of bed, have a gratitude practice right before you go to sleep. Take up yoga, listen to chill out music, take a long, relaxing bubble bath, get a massage, take a walk in the park… Find the technique that works best for you and helps you to relax and lower your stress levels and breaking up with sugar will be a lot easier.
#10 Forgive Yourself
Sugar addiction is something that happens to the best of us. Don’t feel ashamed about it, but rather release that shame and know that none of us is perfect. If you have food issues, treat yourself with compassion and kindness. Sugar addiction is often due to deeply ingrained programs and habits, our environment and an array of other factors. Remember that sugar addiction is not a character defect, so forgive yourself and see the bigger picture. A lot of times when we can let go of blaming ourselves and start to forgive ourselves, we can also release the sugar from our life.
Sugar addiction is more common than you think. Americans consume an average of 20 to 30 teaspoons of sugar a day. This high consumption of sugar has been linked to a variety of health problems including obesity, diabetes, heart disease, hypertension, anxiety, depression, hyperactivity and attention and memory problems. While breaking up with sugar isn’t easy, you can absolutely eliminate your sugar addiction and feel a lot better afterwards. Remember the first few days will most likely be the hardest, but you will start to feel amazing in no time.
BREAK UP WITH SUGAR AND CONDITION YOUR PALETTE TO PREFER LESS SWEETS
Joschi & Monika