What’s more addictive than alcohol, cocaine or even heroin?

Sugar, that’s what! In fact a study by Dr Serge Ahmed in 2009 suggested it’s 8 times more addictive than cocaine to be precise. And this is why cutting junk food out of our diets can be so hard. It’s not because we’re weak willed or ill-disciplined, it’s because we’re biologically programmed to crave it. 

Whilst most of us know that too much sugar in our diets is bad for us, many people don’t understand what actually happens to the body when we consume it. So here’s my short and simple summary.

  • Our bodies are programmed to crave sugar because it wasn’t readily available to our caveman ancestors and the extra energy or calories stored as belly fat would keep them going when food was scarce…which is never the case for us.
  • When we consume sugar, our bodies produce insulin to try and stabilise our blood sugar levels. As insulin is a fat storage hormone, the more sugar we consume, the more insulin we produce and therefore the more fat we store around our waist.
  • High levels of insulin also block our appetite suppressing hormone, leptin, which is why you can still feel hungry after eating a substantial amount of sugary food. And if you make another poor choice, you simply go back around the loop.
  • The more our cells become resistant to insulin, the more insulin our body produces, which creates more belly fat, more inflammation and more health issues like diabetes. 
  • Similarly, the reward centres in our brain (our dopamine receptors) fire when we eat sugar and junk food. And over time their tolerance increases and they become less receptive so we need more and more to generate the same buzz.
  • It’s also worth noting that different types of sugar are processed in different ways. Without making it overly complex, some sugars are processed directly in our liver (rather than in our cells), which switches on lipogenesis…a process that turns sugar directly into fat.
  • And sneakily, most foods advertised as low fat are in fact loaded with sugar to make them taste nice.

You might also find this article an interesting read on the effects of high blood sugar on exercise.

So having given you a whole list of negative facts, know that our body is capable of amazing things and all of this can absolutely be undone. In fact, studies have show type 2 diabetics being able to come off medication in as little as a week with significant changes to their diets and their metabolism returning to normal after 12 weeks. So investing a week or two in this can have fantastic results for your health and wellbeing.

Be warned though – significantly reducing or removing sugar completely from your diet might well cause withdrawal symptoms such as headaches, irritability and insomnia, particularly in the second half of the first week. However, most people report improved sleep, mood and energy once they get past this, so hang on in there and we’ll talk about this more in a few days!

To help manage those cravings and stop you from falling off the wagon, think about:

  • Eating lean protein in each meal to keep you fuller for longer and therefore less likely to crave sugar
  • Having healthy snacks available at home, at work and when you’re out and about to address genuine hunger
  • Posting your goals, a picture, a quote, something that feels positive and motivating in plain sight in the kitchen to remind you why you’re doing this
  • what’s in your diary for the next week or so so you can plan ahead 
  • And try distracting yourself with other nice things that you enjoy doing

So sugar detox…what do you think?

And whilst you’re thinking about it, do a bit of detective work today to get a sense of how much sugar is in your diet and and areas where you might be able to reduce it. 

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