I am an addict. It has taken me many years to realize it, to recognize the addictive behavior, to see in myself a weakness for something that I feel I have nearly no control over.
My addiction, like many addictions, is for white powder. It is one of the most wildly abused substances in our country. It has nearly no negative stigma. We willingly give it to children and delight in watching them consume it. Entire holidays revolve around handing it out to people who come to our house.
Now wait just a minute, you say. Sugar is food.
Let’s look at the definition of drug. A drug is “a medicine or other substance which has a physiological effect when ingested or otherwise introduced into the body.” When we eat sugar, our body detects it in our blood (pancreas) and then releases insulin to help the body remove the sugar from the blood and pull it into the cells of the body. That is a physiological response.
Let’s also look at the definition of addiction. From the Free Dictionary “addiction is a persistent, compulsive dependence on a behavior or substance. It is a progressive syndrome, which means that it increases in severity over time unless it is treated. Substance abuse is characterized by frequent relapse, or return to the abused substance. Substance abusers often make repeated attempts to quit before they are successful.” Ever tried to not eat dessert? Ever tried to give up drinking soda or sweat tea? Did you start strong and then start to notice that you would think about it? Did your thoughts become so focused on your desire that you get uncomfortable? Did you feel your body “craving”? Did you feel yourself trying to resistant and struggling? Did you know that you didn’t want to eat that cookie or donut or cake but found yourself with it in your mouth anyway? Well I have. I’ve found myself surrounded by 20 candy wrappers and stilling chewing the chocolate and feeling wildly out of control and embarrassed.
I’ve watched myself prowl through the house at night looking for a hit, trying to find anything that would give me my sugar fix. I’ve thrown things away (half eaten candy bar because I was disgusted with how much candy I had already eaten) and found myself later digging it out of the trash can because “I had to have it”.
Sugar is a very powerful substance. We are hard wired to like sweets, it was part of our survival strategy thousands and thousands of years ago. The wild swings in blood sugar that occur when we eat sugar perpetuate the cycle. When our blood sugar drops, our body reacts thinking we are in trouble and triggers us to “crave”. Sugar is added to so many foods that we eat today. I was a food scientist and product formulator in the food industry for nearly 20 years. We used sugar to make foods more desirable to consumers. Sugar tastes good. Remember we are hardwired to seek it out.
There are numerous articles out there with far more details about the impact of sugar on the body. Some are very scientific and include tons of research. My intent for writing was not to wade into the details of the effect of sugar on the body, but to point out that if you are attempting to start a journey or have been struggling with your journey for a fitter, healthier lifestyle, your own sugar “addiction” may be getting in your way. If you don’t recognize it, you can’t change it. If you won’t admit it, you can’t change it. Remember, “what gets measured gets fixed.”
I challenge you to take one week and record the amount of sugar that you are consuming. For this exercise, don’t count the sugar that is coming from any whole pieces of fresh fruit. If you are eating canned fruit, fruit cocktails, drinking fruit juice – count that as added sugar. Look for sugar in your beverages, anything that is prepackaged including bread, pasta, cereal, sandwich meat, hotdogs, chips, granola mix, breakfast bars and drinks, coffee, crackers, snacks, chewing gum, hard candy, chocolate.
If you come back with a number that is greater than 25 grams of added sugar per day then you may need to consider that sugar is derailing your hard efforts to live a healthier and fitter lifestyle.
** None of the information on this site is intended to replace the medical advice of your doctor. Always seek the input of your medical provider regarding changes in diet and physical activity levels.