It happened slowly and then, all at once. Suffering from postpartum depression and overall grief after the loss of a child, a friend stopped by with a dozen hot, glazed donuts from Krispy Kreme to make me feel better. Drowning in my sorrows, I took a bite of one of the donuts and the next thing I knew, the dozen was gone. I took me only a few hours to polish the box off, all by myself.
At home, I stopped using sugar and switched to honey almost a year before, and hadn't had a slice of cake, a cookie, or donut in many months. When eating sugary snacks, I practiced restraint and honestly had never eaten this much sugar all at once. It was the grief and the sugar gave me some sort of comfort because sugar releases massive amounts of dopamine, hijacking the brain, just like a drug.
By the end of that week, I was clamoring for another box of donuts and over the next month, I would eat 3 dozen, plus cookies, cakes, and a random Rice Krispie Treat. I was hooked. I was craving sugar like never before and it became very obvious to me that I was addicted to the stuff. So, I started doing some research about sugar addiction and this is what I learned from WebMd:
Effects of the Brain:
Sugar fuels every cell in the brain. Your brain also sees sugar as a reward, which makes you keep wanting more of it. If you often eat a lot of sugar, you're reinforcing that reward, which can make it tough to break the habit.
Why do you get a rush when you eat a midday candy bar? The sugar in it -- called a simple carbohydrate -- is quickly turned into glucose in your bloodstream. Your blood sugar levels spike. Simple carbs are also found in fruits, veggies, and dairy products. But these have fiber and protein that slow the process. Syrup, soda, candy, and table sugar don't.
Your body needs to move glucose out of the bloodstream and into your cells for energy. To do this, your pancreas makes insulin, a hormone. As a result, your blood sugar level may have a sudden drop. This rapid change in blood sugar leaves you feeling wiped out and shaky and searching for more sweets to regain that sugar "high." So that midday candy bar has set you up for more bad eating.
Retrain Your Taste:
You don't need sugar as much as you think you do. In fact, you can train your taste buds to enjoy things that aren't as sweet. Try cutting out one sweet food from your diet each week. For example, pass on dessert after dinner. Start putting less sugar in your coffee or cereal. Over time, you will lose your need for that sugar taste.
How I'm Kicking This Temporary Habit:
- I have gone back to my regular diet, which includes a decent amount of natural sweets, including the golden raisins I pop into my homemade trail mix and chicken salad.
- I went back to eating fresh fruits and even baby carrots, which have a slight hint of sweetness to them.
- Then, of course, I am sure not to deprive myself of the cakes and cookies I love so much, but I am also sure to have these sugary snacks in moderation––maybe twice a month.
- I also increased my water intake from 3 liters a day to 4, flushing my system as I make the transition back to my rightful diet.
There are enough natural ways to get sugar into the body without me adding processed sugars into the mix. Starches, grains, alcohol, legumes, and even dairy contribute to our sugar intake and that's enough for me. For others, even that is too much and there are fun sugar detoxes on the market for those who wish to cut out all sugars from their diet. I can't personally recommend one, but a little research will lead you in the right direction if a full detox is what you're looking for.
Ten Tips For Cutting Back on Sugar:
- Cut out soda: Try to eliminate it entirely with this 28-day soda quitting plan, but if you feel like this is too drastic, start with a different goal, like only having one soda a week.
- Choose complex carbs: Refined carbs like white bread, white rice, and pasta have the same effect in your body as a dose of white sugar, and they often contain a high amount of hidden sugar as well. Choose whole grains over refined to help stop the sugar rush.
- Read labels: Added sugars are everywhere. Your best bet is to forgo junk and processed foods as much as you can, but if you ever reach for a packaged product, be sure and check the label for one of these hidden sugar ingredients. If you see them, try to steer clear or limit how much you eat of the food.
- Opt for fruit: When you're craving something sweet, make the smarter choice. Fruit contains fiber, which helps slow down your body's processing of sugar so you avoid the spike.
- Sweeten with spice: Opt for cinnamon or vanilla in your coffee — they help sweeten your drink without the sugar.
- Drink more water: It's always a good idea to hydrate, and drinking water when cravings hit can help you forget about them.
- Nix the artificial sweeteners: You may think replacing sugar with zero-calorie stuff will help, but it actually may make you crave the real stuff even more.
- Move more: Exercise is a great way to flush out your system and shake off that sluggish feeling. Try and get 30 minutes of exercise a day to detox and feel better.
- Go easy on condiments: Store-bought dressings and sauces like ketchup tend to be very high in added sugars. Try making a low-sugar homemade dressing or opting for hot sauce to flavor your meals instead of sugary sauces.
- Don't let yourself get too hungry: When you're ravenous, your favorite indulgence seems like the easiest option. Eat well-timed meals that are full of lean protein, fresh veggies, and fiber so that you set yourself up for success, no matter how many treats are calling your name.
The above list is courtesy of PopSugar.
New York Times bestselling author and founder of The Gorgeous Girl's Guide, Steffans Publishing Enterprises, and Karrine & Co.