Do I really have to give up my sugar?
No, you do not have to really give up your sugar.
That is, if you do not mind being a part of the 95% of dieters who fail at their diets.
Sure, there are a few of you reading this who have no problem over controlling their intake of sugary foods. But it you are one who is struggling with weight management, you are most likely not one of those people. When we are being honest, none of our “HANGRY” cravings are ever for healthy vegetables, are they? If you had those “hangry” feelings towards vegetables, you would not have a weight problem. But since vegetables are not loaded with sugars, you do not crave them as you would a bowl of ice cream.
If you wonder why we crave foods with added sugars and simple carbs rather than foods without, the answer is Dopamine and Serotonin. We crave these foods because we have conditioned our brains to crave sugary and fatty foods. We desire these hyper-palatable foods because they make us feel good. This feel good sensation is a direct result of the release of Dopamine and Serotonin from our brains. These chemicals make us feel good like a drug will. Comfort foods from our childhood really were a comfort to us, that is one reason they bring about fond memories. Are there any foods from your childhood that were not full of sugar and fat that brought about the same feelings of wellness as a cookie? You may enjoy boiled cabbage, but I would bet you do not get the same cravings for it as you would for a piece of chocolate.
Daily bingeing on sugar repeatedly releases dopamine!
Several published studies claim that sugar is just as addictive as drugs like cocaine and heroin. These publications cite research that shows lab rats are just as and sometimes more likely to choose Oreos over injections of drugs like morphine when given the choice. This is due to the link between sugar and dopamine, the “pleasure and reward” chemical in the brain. (1)
It is a fact that there is a link between sugar and dopamine. Dopamine is the chemical that gets released in the body during illicit drug use. What this means is that sugar and drug addiction are similar in a lot of surprising ways. And for newly sober addicts and alcoholics, the chemical process of addictive substance use in the brain can cause intense sugar cravings during early recovery. If you feel that life is not worth living without sugary foods, it is no different than taking dope away from a junkie. We feel lost without it. To give up sugar for most people is no different than alcohol or drugs for others. It is not a matter of will power when you are fighting a chemical biological response within your body!
But I can’t quit eating!
You can reason with yourself that we need food, but we do not need alcohol or drugs to sustain life. The truth is, you do not need foods with added sugars and unhealthy fats to sustain life either. Our health is actually far better when we do cut out these food choices.
For alcoholics and addicts, sugar cravings may be especially intense in early sobriety. That’s due to a few reasons. Alcohol has a high sugar content, so alcoholics’ bodies and brains are adjusted to a high level of sugar from daily or frequent drinking. When alcoholics get sober, the brain loses out of the daily sugar rush it is accustomed to from drinking. This can create intense cravings for sugar, and many alcoholics report overconsumption of candy and sweets during this adjustment period. Addicts who are used to another drug of choice, such as heroin, may miss the high dopamine levels produced by substances, especially in early recovery. The loss of the dopamine rush from drugs can cause the brain to crave a substitute, such as sugary foods that produce dopamine. (1)
Serotonin and mood.
Serotonin is a brain chemical that influences mood and behavior. It’s derived from the amino acid tryptophan. It’s responsible for things like self-control and impulse control. When your serotonin is at an optimal level you feel relaxed, hopeful, and focused.
When you have low levels of serotonin, you may feel depressed, reactive, or scattered. You may also have intense carb cravings or act impulsively. These feelings will continue until you give up sugar in your diet if you are low on serotonin.
Our bodies crave things which will increase our serotonin levels. Unfortunately, the foods which boost it the most are treats such as cookies, candies, breads and pasta. Since low serotonin may leave you feeling impulsive or having no self control, it’s common to over eat these foods. Skipping the bread placed on your table at a restaurant isn’t an option. You’ve eaten several pieces before you even notice you’re eating the bread. You basically have no brakes around these types of foods.
We need balanced nutrition!
When we fail to balance macronutrients in our meals and eat primarily carbohydrates, our glucose levels soar and as result our body’s seek the “high” again, causing one to crave sugar. If we eat sugary treats, we have thrown our nutritional needs out of balance. You will realize that once you cut out sugar and truly develop healthy nutritional habits, you will no longer crave carbs.