Show compassion for us Sugar Addicts!
This is NO JOKE. The war on sugar is going on all around us – and I am one of the warriors. But in all this effort to build awareness of hidden sugars in most processed foods and the threat of getting fat, destroying brain function and a whole host of serious long term debilitating diseases, we run the risk of forgetting that we are also dealing with addictions. As such, the anti sugar campaign is not simply a short term issue of a series of separate battles, but an ongoing investment of hard work and perseverance, based on understanding and mutual support in the long term.
Spare a thought for these mice……Life is fine for them whilst they have access to the Oreo cookies they are being fed on in this experiment. They will die from liver failure or other disease and grow obese in the process, but they are happy while they are eating Oreos and have unlimited access to them. When the scientists remove the Oreos, they will be acutely unhappy, because their brains will remember the happy feelings and delicious taste of these cookies for ever and will tell their bodies they need them for survival and to become happy again.
The same happens to many of us when we stop eating sugary foods. For most adults who give up sugar, the addiction will always be there, even if we do manage to change our taste buds and habits, over time, so that we eventually become happy to eat more healthily and avoid sweets. And that is the key to staying motivated: We need to understand that it is possible to change our sweet habits and actually learn, over a relatively short space of time and with perseverance, to enjoy, for example, unsweetened cream and very dark chocolate. It simply becomes a different, but equally enjoyable taste and a non-addictive experience, compared with what the sugar has done to our brains in the past.
And that is important for friends and family to be aware of. It is hard work to stop being an alcoholic and hard work to stop smoking. It is also hard work to stop eating sugar, if you have reached the addictive stages that many of us have, through lack of information and understanding of its addictive effects, from when we were younger. In fact, even when we have managed to stop, we need support from those around us to not offer temptations or make us feel obliged to accept gifts of chocolates, sweets or special ‘favourite’ cakes made for us by loving partners, friends and family. The reason is quite simple: Give us the ‘taste’ for sweets again and we run the risk of wanting more. Our brains remember the feel-good rush from sugar and will be quick to persuade our tastebuds to seek out the sweet tastes again.
For those who recognise themselves in this description, at any stage of the process, I want to encourage you to feel proud and strong for achieving what you have achieved in your fight to reduce the amount of sugar you eat. And please don’t ever give up. But, at the same time, it may help you to acknowledge your addiction to sugar instead of trying to convince yourself that you are cured (or on the way to be cured). Please don’t think you will never lapse back to the days when you could not only eat one piece of chocolate but needed to finish the packet…….. before you headed for the biscuit tin.
If you can accept that this is an addiction that remains in your brain, possibly for the rest of your life, then you are forearmed and can be more aware of the risks. You may be fine with one or two (dark) chocolates, but be aware that one or two can lead to three, four, or more, and it quickly guides you to the slippery slide that takes you back to where you were.
So, be brave and strong and tell those around you that you don’t want the temptations. Just as people with Coeliac disease will tell you that they cannot eat gluten and people with allergies will tell their host that they will not eat certain foods, be prepared to tell your partner, family and friends what your limits are, so you help them to understand and support you the way they will surely want to do.
I write a lot about the importance of reducing or ideally giving up our sugar consumption. And I talk about it enough to bore probably even my closest friends. But if you have found this useful, would like help with your challenges or would like to debate the subject further based on your own experiences, please contact me via the contact form, or other contact details on this website.