Ellen Whitney
September 15, 2016
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Sugar Sucks!

I’ve loved sweets since I was a little girl. It’s characteristic of my dad’s side of the family, and my mom is sure to remind me of that whenever I’m complaining about how I need to quit. Put some fast food or a bag of chips in front me, and my willpower is rock solid, but with a stack of chocolate chip cookies in front of me, I could clean the plate with absolutely no problem.

As Americans, we have a deep-rooted attachment to sugar. We indulge for every special occasion from birthdays, weddings, baby showers, promotions, anniversaries, a casual hump-day…and the list goes on. With the era of processed food upon us, manufacturers and chefs sneak sugar into everything, and yes I mean EVERYTHING- just take a glance at the ingredient labels in your pantry, I’m sure you’ll be shocked to discover how much sugar you’re unknowingly taking in.

Even though I don’t eat processed food like candy, and I’ve never liked soda, I’ve discovered first hand how even the “healthier” versions of sugar I ingest, like honey and dark chocolate, still trigger my brain to go on a vicious hunt for more. I’ve tried to quit before, but it’s just down right hard. (If you read my blog on Stress Eating, you know that my sugar addiction was at an all time high this time year when I was binging from the emotional turmoil I was experiencing at work and in my living situation.)

What is it about this stuff that makes us keep wanting more? Even though I eat very healthy- I’m talking; popping brussel sprouts like chips, healthy- I still can’t shake this raging addiction. It’s a love-hate relationship I have with this delicious substance, but one I’m hoping to divorce after being reminded of these negative side effects it has on my body:

Energy Rollercoaster– Sugar is counter productive. We often reach for something such as a candy bar for an afternoon pick-me-up, only to be left with a feeling of unrelenting sluggishness once the energy spike wears off.
Addictive– Some studies show sugar is 4 times as addictive as cocaine. Continued exposure to excess sugar leads to repeated dopamine signaling- your “feel good” hormone. While this may seem nice in the short run, overtime your brain becomes tolerant to sugar, meaning you need even more of the chemical to receive these same sensations. Overtime, your dopamine receptors begin to down-regulate, so there are fewer receptors for the hormone, which can lead to mood disorders such as depression.
Hormonal Imbalances– Eating too much sugar reduces your body’s natural ability to tell your brain you’re full. Fructose specifically can suppress leptin (your fullness hormone) leading you to still “feel” hungry even though you’ve had more than enough calories.
Inflammation– Added sugar causes spikes in your blood sugar, leading to increased insulin in the bloodstream. Overtime, this can lead to insulin resistance, hypo- and hyperglycemia, and diabetes. Additionally, increased insulin in the bloodstream stimulates inflammatory processes in the body leading to sickness and other issues such as skin breakouts.
Weight Gain– Not only does fructose mess with your hormones and trigger your liver to store fat more efficiently, but it also delivers “empty calories” — calories unaccompanied by fiber, vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients. Too much added sugar can crowd healthier foods from your diet, leading to a weight gain and a wide a variety of conditions resulting from being over-fed yet under nourished.

I wish this article could end with the steps to take in order to quit sugar, but up until this point, I don’t have a foolproof method. I have tried to give it up several times before, but always end up with it back in my diet on a regular basis. However, I am re-committing to eliminating sugar throughout September and October to hopefully tame my sweet tooth before Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmas come around and sweets are every where I turn.

My hope is this post can open your eyes to the negative effects this seemingly innocent ingredient not only has on our bodies, but the consequences that can spill over into our lives from its mood and performance altering properties. Even if you can’t quit cold-turkey, just making a conscious choice to start consuming foods with less sugar will surely gain you great results, as the less your body receives, the less it will crave.

Do you have any quitting tactics that have worked for you in the past? What are some of the ways your tame your sweet tooth? I’d love to hear them in the comments below!

-Ellen Whitney


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