Are you really addicted to sugar?
“Sugar is more addictive than cocaine and opiates”
You have probably heard this many, many times before. The media loves an attention-grabbing headline specifically aimed at making you question your health.
There may have been times where you’re midway through a packet of chocolate digestives thinking to yourself ‘I’m addicted to sugar’; perhaps your next sugar-fix is all you can think about? The question that I’m going to answer here is this:
Is it really possible that you’re addicted to sugar?
In order for something to be classed as an addiction, there must be both a biological and a behavioural component involved. Scientists have been arguing for a while over this question and it would seem that there has yet to be a black and white answer produced from the many years of on-going research. With that being said, Cambridge neuroscientists have said that sugar is ‘probably not’ addictive, so why is it so impossible to resist the urge to sink that packet of biscuits, tub of ice cream or bag of maltesers?
You’re not addicted to sugar.
You may be dependent on the thoughts and feelings that eating foods containing sugar gives you, but unless you are sat in front of the TV at night with a bag of raw white sugar, eating it with a spoon – it’s highly unlikely that you’re addicted.
Sugar activates the reward and pleasure centre of our brain, and signals the release of neurotransmitters dopamine and serotonin. These make us feel good. Astonishingly, your body is actually hard-wired to treat food as a reward, otherwise, why would we have hunted and gathered back in the days where food needed to be, well, hunted and gathered?
The vast majority of the time, you are more likely to be ‘addicted’ to the feelings produced by eating certain foods containing sugar. The pleasurable feeling attained by eating sugary foods leaves you wanting more and more and it is difficult to stop. You may find yourself planning when you are going to have these foods. For example:
“If I can just get through this day at work, then I can have insert sugary food of choice”
“F*** it, I’ve had a terrible day, I deserve this packet of biscuits”
It is not that you are addicted to sugar or addicted to food, but more associating these foods with the pleasurable feelings they produce.
So what can you do about this? We all know that too much sugar in our diets can cause all sorts of health problems. From obesity to diabetes, from tooth decay to chronic digestive disorders – there isn’t much to be gained health wise from the white powdery stuff!
I’m not going to try and fix your desire for sugary foods in one blog, but there are a few things you can start thinking about right now that will help you to start breaking free from the emotional connections you may have with certain foods.
One of the things I ask clients to do is to categorise their food choices into lists. Make one list of foods that you know you can eat in moderation, in the correct portion sizes, that don’t make you want to overeat or binge on them. Let’s call this the ‘green list’. In this list, write down a list of foods that don’t make you want to binge. Then, in another list (let’s call this the red list), write down the foods that you know you cannot control yourself with. This is the first step in actually acknowledging you have an issue with certain foods.
From here, I would ask clients to create an environment within their home and their social setting in which these ‘red foods’ make little appearance, and if they do make an appearance, they are planned into their weekly food plan and are not just random purchases. It is important not to cut these foods out of your diet altogether as this creates a deprivation motivation to binge.
There are lots of strategies you can implement to start addressing emotional connections with food, but be rest assured that you are probably NOT addicted to sugar.
If you would like to start addressing the emotional connections to food that may be causing your health concerns, or preventing you from losing weight – why not download your free Emotional Eating Cheatsheet and learn how to start curbing the cravings today: