Can I be honest here and tell you how much I love sugar? I know last week’s post was all about the inflammation that is caused by too much sugar but I don’t want anyone running around thinking I don’t love the stuff as much as the next person. I love the taste of almost anything sweet (except for circus peanuts, those things are gross). I love the way it makes me happy and the world more sparkly. I love the way I feel when I have that first bite of ooey, gooey chocolate cake.
But, of course, that’s where the problem lies. I love sugar so much because it triggers a release of certain chemicals in my brain that make me feel joy, love and pleasure. When I eat sugar, my brain lights up like a cowboy smoking a Marlboro. And with that first flood of dopamine comes the incessant craving for more. When you feel like a crack addict around sugar, you probably are more like that addict than you would care to know. When you feel like you can’t resist that homemade brownie, it’s probably because it will physically hurt to turn it down. Unfortunately, the more sugar you eat, the worse the cravings get. Just like an addict.
Some of us prefer a nice glass of wine at the end of a hard day. Sometimes we need to go blow off some steam with some retail therapy. We know we look at our phones WAY TOO MUCH. Binging on Netflix seems like an innocent way to unwind. These actions release the same chemicals in our brains that sugar does or for that matter crack. Our brains have gotten used to that almost constant hit of dopamine and sugar is a cheaper and socially more acceptable way to get that high. It is no wonder we struggle with resisting and with weight gain. The deck is truly stacked against us.
So, how do we change? Awareness of the problem is the first step. For the next couple of days, calculate how many teaspoons of sugar you consume (formula to follow). Don’t just look at the processed foods too. Go ahead and count the teaspoons in vegetables, fruits and dairy products. You should aim for around 5-10 teaspoons a day. Doesn’t take long to get to that level does it? A small apple is around 3 teaspoons of sugar and a 12 ounce cola has around 26 teaspoons of sugar. Are you starting to see the problem? We are flooding our systems with a chemical that changes our brain chemistry so that we crave that substance more and more and more. So be aware and then decide to do something about it.
Once you have awareness and a desire to change the behavior, you are on the path to regaining control of your brain. You don’t have to eliminate sugar completely. Try decreasing your intake by 25% for a few weeks. Continue to decrease the amount a little at time. Stop drinking colas. Have dessert only 4 days a week instead of with lunch and dinner. Stay away from rewarding yourself after a hard day with a candy bar. Start simple and build. You can also go all in and stop flour and sugar for 6 weeks. The benefit to going all in is that your cravings will markedly plummet after the first week. Your brain will start to down regulate the receptors that result in dopamine release. You will no longer feel like Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde around sugar.
If you think this is something you would like to try, reach out to me for help. I will be opening my next group around the first part of October and I would love for you to join me. I know that this is a tricky time to be avoiding sugar but trust me when I tell you how happy you will be come January first and you don’t have an extra 10-15 pounds to lose. To learn more, you can schedule a free 20 minute session with me by going to the home page and hitting the scheduling button. You can also schedule a session with me on my Facebook page. There are lots a ways to find me so don’t be shy.
For those of you who do not want to join a formal program, I also offer my magic through A Better Weigh MD TV on YouTube. I’ve recently started a 60 weeks to permanent weight loss and I would love to see you there. Even if you don’t want to lose weight, there is plenty to learn about getting healthy and learning to let food be food. And it’s free. So why not join me over the next 12 + months and together we can learn how to eliminate the sugar from our daily existence and free our brains from the tyranny of dopamine. See you there!