The concept of a sweet tooth takes on a different meaning when we realize it's not just a matter of liking something sweet after dinner, but sugar in our coffee and an afternoon treat as well. Without the constant sugar boost we feel deprived. Sugar can be a drug of choice, and constantly grazing on even so-called healthy hidden-sugar foods can train a body to demand it constantly. Here's the hopeful news: sugar addiction is not your fault.
“Being addicted to sugar and flour is not an emotional eating disorder,” says Dr. Mark Hyman, author of The Blood Sugar Solution 10-Day Detox Diet. “It’s a biological disorder, driven by hormones and neurotransmitters that fuel sugar and carb cravings — leading to uncontrolled overeating. It’s the reason nearly 70 percent of Americans and 40 percent of kids are overweight.”
Studies confirm a food addict’s brain operates similarly to a drug addict when they think about eating sugary, fatty foods. As these and other studies emerge and prominent experts speak out, sugar addiction has become a legitimate, concerning focus as sugar consumption, particularly as high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS), escalates.
“Animal studies have shown that refined sugar is more addictive than cocaine, heroin or morphine,” says Dr. Pamela Peeke, author of The Hunger Fix. “An animal will choose an Oreo over morphine. Why? This cookie has the perfect combination of sugar and fat to hijack the brain's reward center.”
It’s not just the immediate gratification that creates damage. Sugar addiction also sets the stage for future hunger, cravings, and food intolerances. Unfortunately once you are hooked on sugar hormonal havoc ensues. High blood sugar elevates insulin, which blocks your satiety hormone leptin. High levels of cortisol, your stress hormone, increase your urge for comfort foods. High cortisol during sleep increases ghrelin, your hunger hormone, so you’re more likely to ask for a stale donut the next morning with your caffeine fix.
The good news is with the right strategies, you can crush your sugar addiction in just weeks. In my office I help patients identify the so-called healthy foods that could also feed that addiction. Bottled drinks, vinaigrette dressings, and glazed meats are among the many “sneaky sugars” that add up. Going cold turkey isn’t the answer in my office. Instead, I want you to gradually taper off sugar so you never feel deprived or struggle with withdrawal. It helps if things from your diet are replaced with healthy alternatives so you don't feel so deprived.
You’ll really shift from sugar burner to fat burner when the weight falls off and you reset your body and taste buds. You can break permanently your sugar addiction in just weeks, without feeling deprived, hungry, or struggling with miserable withdrawal. Simply transition to low-sugar impact foods and before you know it, you’ll be a 24/7 fat-burning machine!