Aha Fitness

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The Sugar Monster

on January 22, 2013

I don’t drink.  I’ve never smoked a cigarette.  I’m not into drugs, gambling, or even impulsive shoe shopping.  But…I am addicted to sugar.

People just don’t understand why I choose not to eat sugar.  “But you don’t have a weight problem…anymore,” they say.  “You can get away with a cookie every now and then.”

But they don’t get it.  I am the Sugar Monster.  I can’t have ONE cookie.  A cookie for me turns into the plate of cookies and it’s just not worth it.

I am so grateful that finally more and more research is coming out about why some people like me are truly addicted to sugar.  Sugar, like heroine, cocaine, nicotine, or any other drug, stimulates the pleasure chemical, dopamine, in our brain.  Some of us can eat a little sugar, satisfy our dopamine, and be fine.  Others, however, find that our dopamine has an undesirable response to sugar.  We eat sugar and we feel good, but then our dopamine level drops.  We need more sugar to feel good and the more sugar we eat; the more we need to keep feeling good.

Dr. Mark Hyman explains, “In our brain, a little receptor, the dopamine receptor D2 or DRD2 for short, must be activated or switched on for us to feel pleasure. The amino acid dopamine triggers this response. Sugar and other stimulating addictions increase dopamine in the short term.

The only problem is it appears that those with sugar addictions, compulsive eating, and obesity have DRD2 systems that need much more stimulation to feel pleasure. Those who have sugar addiction, it seems have fewer D2 dopamine receptors and they need extra stimulation to make them “turn on”.

You can also read the study from Princeton University here and from NCBI here that conclude sugar causes addictive-like behavior.

So if you think you have a sugar addiction like me, what should you do?   Well, I think the Aha! E.A.T. protocol would really help you.

First you need to Experiment.  Are you someone who can have a little sugar or do you need to avoid it entirely?  Would you be willing to try a Sugar Detox?  Note:  you may be surprised just how much sugar you’ve been eating.  Four grams of sugar equals about 1 teaspoon.  Read the nutritional labels of the foods you are eating.  Many “healthy” cereals have between 3-4 teaspoons.  A can of soda has about 10 tsp of sugar.  Also, watch out for sugar disguised by another name such as sucrose, dextrose, fructose, maltose, evaporated cane juice, and corn sweetener.

Next, Analyze how you feel.  Do you feel better when you cut sugar out of your diet?  Do your cravings disappear?  Do you do okay with natural sugars like honey or molasses?

Finally, make sure you are Tracking your results.  It may be good to enlist the support of a friend, loved one, or a Nutrition Coach like me to help hold you accountable to your Anti-Sugar Plan.

As for me, I know I feel better when I don’t eat sugar.   I struggled with binging on sweets and the hangover and withdrawal symptoms that come afterwards for waaay too long.  I prefer to keep my cravings low by keeping my sugar intake very low.  Occasionally, I might have a taste of a dessert I cook for my husband made with natural honey or maple syrup, but I usually don’t.  I don’t need that little chemical in my brain grumbling that it needs more.  I don’t like it.  It makes me feel like…a Sugar Monster.

Now how about you?  Are you a Sugar Monster too?  How do you handle your sugar cravings?  I’d love for you to leave your comments below.

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2 responses to “The Sugar Monster

  1. […] The Sugar Monster (ahafitness.wordpress.com) […]

  2. Silja says:

    Hi Angela,
    I like your approach with AHA Fitness. Each one of us is so unique in how we use food and burn it.
    I eat dates rolled in coconut or pistachio nuts as an alternative to refined sugar products. Once I cut out the sweet stuff, I realized how my taste buds did not care for the sweet cookies any more.
    Thank you for sharing your information.
    Silja

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