“I try to be so good and eat like I’m supposed to, but after Thanksgiving, I just can’t resist. People bring cookies and candy into work, and everyone you visit puts a plate of treats out. They’re all so good, but I feel terrible for how much I eat. I think I’m addicted.”
There’s a lot of debate over whether people can become addicted to sugar in the same way they can be addicted to alcohol or drugs. One thing is for certain, though: many people find sugary foods impossible to resist.
In addition, there is a physical component to cravings for sugar. Our brains think of it as a treat, which is why we often use it as a reward. But each time we do that, we only want more of it. Sugar is what’s known as a simple carbohydrate, which means our bodies quickly turn it into blood sugar, also known as glucose. That’s what gives us that “sugar high,” which is soon followed by a slump as the pancreas creates insulin to transform blood sugar into energy. How do we respond to that slump? Another piece of candy will pick us back up, right? Or maybe a can of pop?
Many people decide they’re going to kick the sugar habit and tell themselves they just won’t eat anymore. But the reality is that we like that taste and the feeling it gives us, so we cheat a little. Before too long, we’re back at it.
While completely eliminating sugar from your diet isn’t realistic for most of us, reducing the amount of sugar you eat can have tremendous effects on your physical health and your overall mood. Over time, you can train yourself to enjoy things that aren’t quite as sweet. When sugar cravings hit, instead of reaching for the simple carbs in a piece of candy, you can have some fruit or low-sugar yogurt. Eating more fiber and protein will satisfy your hunger and keep you feeling full longer, so you’re less likely to grab a sugary snack.
As you consistently eat less sugar, your body will want less of it … and you may reach the point where those sugary holiday treats become too sweet for your taste buds. Believe it or not, regular exercise such as daily walks will also reduce your cravings for sweets. As you find yourself feeling healthier, you’ll probably reach for healthier foods, too.
There’s no magic way to eliminate sugar from your life, but there are ways that make it easier to cut back and head off your bad habits. Not only will you be better able to face the holidays, but you’ll probably also see a significant important in your health. Start by making an appointment with one of our professional counselors to discuss your challenges with sugar or eating in general, so we can recommend ways to get you moving in the right direction and making life sweet without reaching for cookies.
Tracy Teipen is a certified Christian counselor, focusing her work at Care to Change with teens and adults who struggle with food and body image issues.