First off, a disclaimer: I am not talking to every HGK reader.
So let's get that out of the way right off the bat here.
We are all wired differently and there are plenty of folks who do perfectly fine eating a little sugar now and then, bread and flour products daily and an alcoholic drink or two at appropriate times.
This series on sugar addiction is in no way meant to imply that no one can eat sugar.
If you can moderate your use of sugar, more power to you!
That just wasn't me, and I suffered for so long, that with my relief came a passion to share my message with the world.
If you SUFFER from sugar addiction, and I believe you know if you do, than this blog posting is for you.
Sugar addiction is a beast, and if you are susceptible to processed food addiction (another term for the same thing) you may have tried eliminating sugar from your diet in the past. Maybe you had a good couple of months being "sugar" free, but maybe you were white knuckling it the whole time. At some point, you gave in to your overwhelming impulse to eat sugar again, and you probably beat the crap out of yourself for doing it.
I'm here to tell you that there is another way.
You can experiment with not just getting the sugar out of your diet, but all flours (at least for a good long while), all artificial sweeteners and all alcohol too.
Because as it turns out, the brain doesn't care where your sugar comes from. Even if you think, "Bread, bread isn't my thing! Cake and cookies, now that's my thing!" It just doesn't matter. The brain doesn't know the difference.
Here's why this all matters, in my kindergarten level of scientific understanding (a big thank you to Susan Pierce Thomson for educating me on this subject):
In our limbic brain lies our pleasure center, the nucleus accumbens. This is where we have dopamine receptors. Anytime we experience something pleasurable, the chemical dopamine is released into the body. When we eat something that is hyper pleasurable (like sugar in any of it's forms) there is a BIG dopamine release. And the brain does something in response to their being so much dopamine.
It says, I don't need so many of these dopamine receptors, and it kills some of them off. This is called down-regulation.
That makes feeling pleasure a little more tricky.
And each time we eat sugar, again, in any of it's forms, we get that BIG dopamine dump and more and more of our precious little dopamine receptors are GONE.
That's also why we need more and more sugar fixes as time goes on just to feel okay any more.
It's truly a viscious cycle. It's harder and harder to feel pleasure from the simple things--like a bath or a walk or a talk with a friend. We want our FIX of sugar.
For more science on this subject, go here.
But here's the good news, the brain has an incredible capacity to heal. Our dopamine receptors will actually regenerate if the brain stops having so much dopamine dumped into it every day.
You've got to give your brain a chance to heal.
So when you see those sugar foods, that bread and the alcoholic drinks, you have to start thinking, "Do I want to hurt my dopamine system or do I want to heal it? Do I want to be forever enslaved to sugar or do I want freedom from this obsession?"
What's it gonna be?
It's been a good long time for me of allowing my brain space from sugar so that it could heal. The following are the results/benefits that I have seen from this experiment:
- weight loss
- clear skin
- ability to get intense pleasure from simpler things, like exercise
- intense enjoyment of whole, natural foods in their natural state
- loss of cravings for sugar
- a take it or leave it attitude toward sugary treats that come into my personal space (I never take it!)
- ability to eat some flour, like in the form of a corn tortilla, occasionally and not be set off into sugar cravings (this varies a lot from person to person so you just need to see how you react to potential trigger foods)
- ability to cultivate healthy habits, like exercise and reading great books, for pleasure
Have you tried the full (no sugar, no flour, no alcohol, no artificial sweeteners) experiment yet? What was your experience?
If not, do you want to? What are you afraid of?
If you're looking for the rest of my series on sugar addiction, catch all of the posts here:
The Reader Question
Part I-Why Vegetables are not the Cause of Your Sugar Addiction