Beating a food addiction is tough. There are emotional and physiological processes you have to conquer. Where sugar addiction is concerned, it can be as hard to beat as drug dependency. This is due to the way sugar communicates with your brain. Once you understand the process, you’ll know why cutting back on sugar can be difficult.
Let’s explain in simple terms why your brain loves sugar. This is important to note, and it helps you realize that
you are chemically hardwired to love sugar. It’s partially not your fault when you reach for a sugary snack instead of something healthier. However, it is within your control.
There are certain chemicals sugar uses to sweet-talk your brain. These chemicals are responsible for the sugar rush that makes you feel so good. By the way, eating a bit of sugar now and then is not necessarily a bad thing. That means you need to know how much sugar is too much.
- Women – 6 teaspoons per day
- Men – 9 teaspoons per day
Those are the max levels of sugar you should consume. Just remember that as you start to remove excess sugar from your diet, you may experience withdrawals. You are going to have to deal with sugar cravings. Now let’s explore the language sugar uses to romance your brain.
How Sugar Sweet-Talks Your Brain into Thinking It’s Good for You
Sugar is sneaky. It’s like that used car salesman that convinces you to buy a lemon. You instinctively know the car isn’t worth the price tag. There’s no way the purchase makes sense, but you end up making the buy.
The salesman knew exactly how to talk to you, and he knew just what words to use to make you justify the purchase in your mind. Before you know what’s happening, you are signing on the dotted line and driving a clunker home.
Sugar does the same thing. It knows how to “talk” to your brain, and it also knows it’s the #1 preferred fuel source for your brain.
Your brain contains around 86 billion nerve cells (neurons). These nerve cells are what your brain uses to communicate with your central nervous system and every part of your body. If you took your brain out for dinner, it would select sugar from the menu every time.
That’s because sugar is the preferred fuel of your brain. Your brain demands more sugar energy than any organ in your body, and it burns up half of all the energy created by the sugar you eat. If you think you suffer from an addiction to sugar, the love your brain has for that sweet, simple carbohydrate is much stronger.
Do you know what that means?
Simply put, it means it’s difficult to beat sugar addiction. By the way, you might think addiction is too strong a word. The truth is, if you find it difficult to cut back on the amount of sugar you eat, you are addicted to some level. On the positive side, it also means you can stop beating yourself up about not being able to quit sugar. You are chemically hardwired to love it.
The Chemicals Sugar Uses to Romance Your Brain
Sugar romances your brain by giving it feel-good chemicals. Insulin is released any time you consume some type of sugar, whether it is processed sugar or the natural sweeteners found in fruits. This insulin production is accompanied by a release of special endorphins linked to happiness.
Endorphins such as dopamine and serotonin are responsible for the happiness you feel shortly after eating sugar. They can also calm you down and give you a feeling that all is right in the world.
Your brain doesn’t want you to feel bad. So it rewards sugar, making you feel good. It thanks sugar for triggering the release of these feel-good chemicals by reminding you to eat sweet things when you’re hungry (and sometimes when you aren’t hungry at all).
What’s Wrong with Sugar Anyway?
So far, this doesn’t sound too problematic, does it? You need fuel. Every cell in your body needs energy. So if sugar is the preferred fuel of your brain and your brain is responsible for regulating and controlling so many physiological processes, shouldn’t you eat a lot of sugar?
The problem is simple to explain.
You need more than just fuel to survive. You need specific minerals, nutrients, and vitamins. You need dietary fiber and good fats. While every cell requires fuel, they also need lots of protein.
The trouble is, sugar does not deliver those nutritional requirements.
This explains why you can eat lots of sugar-filled foods and still feel hungry. Your body is telling you that something is missing: nutrition. Most food with lots of refined sugar is deficient in the minerals and nutrients your body requires to keep you healthy.
When you eat sugar, something funny happens. Your brain loves sugar, and it releases those happy hormones and chemicals we mentioned earlier. This means you feel good. You get that sugar rush of happiness. At the same time, though your brain absolutely loves you for eating sugar, it reminds you that you have nutritional needs which are not being met.
It sends out hunger signals. These signals simply tell you that you need protein, complex carbohydrates, dietary fiber, healthy fats, and other nutrients. Unfortunately, the same brain that tells you to eat healthy foods has also programmed you to love the feeling you get from sugar.
So instead of eating food that has what your body requires for health and wellness, you reach for some sugary food that has little or no nutrition.
Incidentally, this not only leads to poor health because you aren’t getting the nutrients you need. It also raises your risk of developing many diseases and health problems linked to being overweight or obese.
How Eating Too Much Sugar Makes You Fat
Sugar (glucose) is a simple carbohydrate with a very simple and basic construction. This means that when you eat sugar, it breaks down quickly.
A little bit of sugar delivers a lot of energy. When you take in too much sugar energy, it can’t be used right away. What does your body do? It stores this excess energy in your fat cells. Basically, the more sugar you eat, the bigger you become.
This can lead to becoming overweight and even obese. Besides making you feel sluggish and causing your pants to feel too tight, carrying too much excess body weight, especially around the middle, can lead to the following health problems.
- Liver disease
- Type II diabetes
- Heart disease and stroke
- Gallbladder disease and gallstones
- Some cancers
- High blood pressure
- Sleep apnea
- Sleep-related problems
- Skin and hair problems
These are just a handful of the well-known problems with being overweight. There are plenty of medical journals filled with research that show being overweight or obese can lead to a long list of health concerns.
Sugar is highly addictive. The more sugar you eat, the fatter you become. Carrying around too much excess body fat can cause minor and very serious health problems. Cut back on refined sugar in any way you can for better mental and physical health and wellness.
The key to success is starting small. Don’t try to go cold turkey. Cut back a little at a time. Use healthy, natural sugar substitutes. Consume processed foods and increase the number of fruits and veggies. Keep at it, and you can re-program your brain to prefer natural food sweeteners instead of refined sugar in as few as 4 to 6 weeks for some people.