Sugar is an addictive substance. We unwittingly give over our power to it. There is hard scientific evidence of refined sugar’s addictive properties and its effect on dopamine (reward chemical) release in the brain. This is like nicotine and cocaine (induces the same magnitude of rewards and cravings). Because it is so addictive, it can seem almost impossible to cut back on sugar. And many times, we aren’t even aware we are hooked because sugar is so pervasive in our food supply. It is cheap and ubiquitous. Aside from the obvious like ice cream and pastries, added sugars are hidden in foods. Even those that may not even taste sweet such as salad dressings, tomato sauces, and breads.
Refined sugar provides no nutritional value whatsoever. When consumed in excess (which many of us do, again, many times unknowingly), it’s an addictive toxin. White sugar (a.k.a. sucrose) is the same compound as found in fruit, but it has been stripped of any nutrition and fibre, and is crystallized for purity. It’s refined to the point where it can’t be called food anymore, rather a food additive that can make our food addictive. Ditto for high fructose corn syrup, corn syrup, dextrose and fructose found in processed and packaged foods.
Why should you care about sugar being addictive, especially if you don’t feel you eat that much of it? Because of its HUGE impact on the Canadian population’s health and the strain it puts on the provincial health care systems. We’re seeing a rise in diseases like non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, obesity, and type 2 diabetes among adults AND children. Type 2 diabetes is on such a rise in kids that it had to be renamed from “adult-onset diabetes” because it became an unfortunate misnomer.
"One-third of the Canadian adult population has blood-sugar imbalances."
Scary fact is that according to Diabetes Canada, 9.3% of Canadian adults have diabetes and 22.1% are prediabetic (2015). That means about one-third of the Canadian adult population has blood-sugar imbalances. That’s staggering! And these are counting only the people that have received a diagnosis. I’m sure there are plenty more people who have blood-sugar issues than the stats even show. Thing is, type 2 diabetes is preventable – it’s a completely diet and lifestyle-related disease (as are many of the chronic diseases we see today). And a major diet cause is, you guessed it, sugar.
Paraphrasing what sugar expert Professor Robert Lustig says, sugar is a cheap thrill that is man-made. And any man-made thing could be un-made – if we choose to. So that’s why I’m compelled to share a bit of my story with you on how I took my power back from sugar. How I made the commitment to my health and how I got to where I am today - peaceful, positive, clear, joyful. My goal in sharing my story is to empower you so that you can release the grip sugar has over you too and/or help your loved ones with it. No more craving, no more bingeing, no more guilt. This is all about focusing on prevention instead of turning to treatment. Taking action now as opposed to waiting for a disease like diabetes or heart disease to take hold.
"Take action now by focusing on prevention."
I never thought I was addicted to sugar. I just said it was a "sweet tooth" and left it at that. But, I couldn't fathom not loving sweets above all else. If I had a choice, I would've eaten sugar for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. I grew up in a home where there were always cookies, pastries, and other sweets on hand. That was our norm. There was little self-control with sugary foods (which I usually felt guilty about afterward). I didn't make any connections between my eating sugar and certain physical and mental symptoms I was experiencing.
But there came a point when I visibly gaining weight and I developed bad acne. I often felt weak, tired, and mentally sluggish. Not to mention, I was cranky, shaky, and irritable around meal times too. I was always thinking about what I was going to eat and battling with cravings throughout the day.
I came to the eventual realization that a big reason I was experiencing all these symptoms was because of too much added sugar in my diet. It was a hard realization though because I wasn’t sure at the beginning how far I would need to go to reverse things and what it exactly entailed (read about how I started by saying bye-bye to pop HERE). But it happened to be great timing since it was only a short while afterward that I enrolled in holistic nutrition school.
While I was going through school, I learned the ins-and-outs of balancing blood sugar naturally and using food as preventative medicine. I was keen on learning everything I could about these subjects. This is when I really started making changes to my diet, including cutting back on added sugars. As a result, I began to see big changes in my health.
I no longer crave sugar. It has lost its power over me. Don’t get me wrong, I’m human and still do have sweets when the occasion arises, but I’m not obsessed with them anymore (take it or leave it type of thing). That’d be shocking for the Milka of a few years ago to hear! Now I’m able to taste natural sugars in fruits, vegetables and dairy that I used to be so dulled to.
I’m not proposing you cut out an entire taste category, because that would be impossible anyways. What I am proposing is to try and reduce your intake of added sugar (especially the white stuff) as much as you can to experience the difference it can make to your health, energy, and well-being.
Knowledge is power, my friend. I want to empower you.