Sugar Crazy

March 15, 2018

Sugar, it’s everywhere!  In our morning coffee creamer, sweetening our breakfast parfaits, in our salad dressings for lunch, condiments and sauces at dinner, and in our beverages between meals.  We are constantly bombarded with choices that sneak the sweet stuff in without us even knowing.  What’s more frustrating, even when we know it’s there, we can’t seem to turn it away.  It has this magnetic pull that instantly improves our mood and boosts our energy during that afternoon lull or as a post-dinner treat.  Like zombies, we mindlessly reach for it despite all efforts to eliminate it.  But why?  Why do we have such a difficult time turning it down and why does it even matter?

 

Are we really consuming that much sugar, and if we are, why does it matter?  Over the past few years we have research supported evidence to prove the case against (too much) sugar.   Americans are consuming, on average, more than 3x the recommended amount of sugar each day according to the Center for Disease control.  When we put that added sugar into numbers, that’s 19.5 teaspoons or 82 grams per day.  Keep that daily average going for 365 days and the average American has suddenly consumed about 66 pounds of added sugar.  If that number isn’t enough of an eye opener to consider your daily sweet-stuff quota, let’s discuss what that excess means to our health long-term.

 

According to the BMJ Open Medical Journal, we would save $31 billion dollars by 2035 in healthcare costs if we capped our daily sugar intake to the recommended amount of 6 grams per day for women and 9 grams per day for men.  That’s because the harmful effects sugar has on our body is killing us slowly.  Excess sugar causes inflammation.  That inflammation may be the cause of your joint pain, or even increase your risk of developing rheumatoid arthritis.  Your skin takes a beating, aging you faster by damaging the collagen that keeps your skin firm.  The increase in blood sugar does a number on your liver, kidneys, and heart.  Too much sweet stuff increases your risk of developing type 2 diabetes, fatty liver disease, heart disease, heart attacks, stroke, kidney damage or even kidney failure.  Need more incentive to drop that donut?  The daily sugar consumption can lead to about one pound per month in weight gain, decrease your sex drive and negatively impact your mood.  But with enough reasons to stop, why are we still reaching for the sweet treats?

The challenge with sugar is its effect on the brain.  Like other addictive substances (think drugs and alcohol), when we consume sugar we receive a massive surge of dopamine.  This naturally occurring “feel-good” chemical produced in the brain has us going back for more.  It’s that reason we may have a difficult time stopping at just one cookie.  So it’s no wonder our consumption has gotten out of control.  Even if we had the will-power to turn away the slice of cake after dinner, we’ve already triggered the sugar effects from the pasta and salad dressing.  The sugar that has snuck into the “deemed healthy” food choices are actually heightening our craving for more sugar. 

 

Here’s the good news; these daily sugar cravings are stoppable.  The bad news?  Expect to have to go “cold turkey”.  Just as one quitting smoking or drinking alcohol, that dopamine is triggered with just one bite of sugar.  Now, that’s not to say one might not hold enough will power to say no at a second helping, but for the majority of us, we can’t control it. 

 

While 99% of the time lifestyle change and healthy living promotion excludes any labels or extreme measures to eradicate a specific genre of food, sugar falls into that 1%.  With research to support its addictive characteristics, extreme cravings call for extreme measures.  Our 21-day Sugar Detox combines several models for eliminating added sugar in what ends up being a realistic diet.  Through four phases over three weeks, you’ll initiate the detox with the not so simple “cold turkey” method.  But by the final week we can look at the “diet” as a realistic approach to a healthy, whole food way of eating.

 

After getting rid of the additional sweet stuff in your diet you can expect quite a few positive changes.  For those that have eliminated added sugar from their diet they reported the following results:

  • Increased energy

  • Improved sleep

  • Weight loss

  • Less cravings

  • Clearer skin

  • Improved mood

  • Less gas/bloating

While the results are real, here are a couple of symptoms you can expect during the initial phase of eliminating sugar:

  • Headache

  • Fatigue

  • Mood swings

  • Irritable

  • Cravings

Not quite ready to take our detox challenge?  Maybe you’ll consider some baby steps to becoming more aware of your daily sugar habit.  Here are a few tips to bring more awareness to your sugar consumption and how you can make improvements.

  1. Start reading labels!  It’s important to not just look at the amount of sugar listed on the label (as some foods do have naturally occurring sugars in them), but instead the ingredients, and any additionally added sugars.
     

  2. Know the different aliases.  Sugar likes to go undercover far too often, so educate yourself on the other names of sugar so you can better identify it when you’re reading labels.
     

  3. Track.  I’m not saying forever.  But a day or two (or seven), track the grams of added sugar you’re consuming.  That means EVERYTHING.  Awareness is the first step.
     

  4. Set a goal.  Once you have an idea how much extra sugar you’re consuming daily, set a tiny goal to reduce that.  One teaspoon of sugar in your coffee instead of two, raw fruit instead of the dried stuff, water instead of soda.  Pick ONE thing to modify, and run with it.

If you are ready to take the leap for the 21-Day Detox and have additional questions contact Mallory Peterson at mpeterson@myreccenter.org

 

 

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