Is Sugar Addiction Real?

is sugar addiction real

One of my lowest moments was being about 25 pounds overweight, constantly ‘saying’ I wanted lose weight, but hiding out in the pantry, terrified of being caught, while I shoved cupcake after cupcake in my face because I literally could not control myself.

So if you ask me, personally… Hell yes, sugar addiction is real.

If you ask my husband, who’s always been able to just have a bite or two and walk away… well, he doesn’t really know. But he can tell you that he feels that way about potato chips.

As a nutrition specialist, I now know that there is mounting research supporting ‘food’ being addictive, including sugar.

For some, sugar alone is what will get them. For others it could be the salt, or even the combination of the flavors like fat + sugar, or fat + salt. Food companies have spent billions of dollars figuring this out. And make no mistake: their interests lie in making sure you keep coming back for more.

As a nutrition specialist and recovered sugar addict (and mom), I get asked this question over and over: Is sugar addiction real? Like really real?

And although the answer has taken many forms over the past several years, my answer to the question is a resounding YES, sugar addiction is really real. And I’ll explain why.

My relationship with sugar started as a kid from the south whose family knew no bounds of cooking with sugar and white flour. This meant dessert after many a meal, and the biggest, sugary-est birthday cakes you’ve ever seen. I loved the sugar and butter combination (or sugar and shortening), and by the time I was a teenager would always request the piece of cake with the absolute most icing flowers on it.

I never knew the damage all the sugar was doing to my gut bacteria, nor that it could have an effect on my moods, hormones, and definitely not my neurotransmitters or immune system.

I developed asthma around 12 and had terrible hayfever that I never really shook. By my teen years, I had terrible acne, was constantly irritable, and forever anxious.

It wasn’t until adulthood when I started studying nutrition that I really took a step back and thought through my constant depressive symptoms as a teen and young adult, and put a few pieces together for the ups and downs of my moods, skin, and hormones.

But it wasn’t until after having gestational diabetes for 2 out of 3 pregnancies (type 2 seems to run in my family) that I noticed that I felt a thousand percent better when I nixed the sugar.

But quitting sugar wasn’t as easy as just saying ‘no thank you’.

Every birthday was a struggle (and it sometimes still is). I’ve been in the throes of postpartum depression 3x where I would hide in the pantry to stuff as many cupcakes in secret as I could into my face before anyone could see. I’ve binged for hours, alternating sugary and salty snacks, in secret when my husband was out of town for work.

I know that I can’t eat more than a bite or two of anything like that without falling back down that slippery slope.

So I can attest first-hand what it feels like to be addicted to sugar. No matter what kind of logic your brain tells you about how crappy you’ll feel the next day (physically and emotionally), that crazy part of your brain takes over and mutes the logic.

The Science Behind Sugar Addiction

While in my master’s program we had to do many projects on various topics that all require peer-reviewed studies to back our answers. Part of the studies I sought out revolved around sugar addiction. At the time one professor pointed out that the only study thus far involved rats that preferred sugar over cocaine.

Also at the time, the book of diagnostic codes contained mental health diagnostics for food addiction, but not specifically sugar. The reasoning was that they, at the time, couldn’t definitively prove that sugar itself was physically addicting, further confusing the ‘Is sugar addiction real?’ question altogether.

I personally have a problem with this, because many people (including myself) have felt the withdrawal symptoms of coming off sugar. These side effects are definitely not imagined, and some have described them as feeling like having a mild case of the flu.

The clincher of sugar is that when consumed, it occupies the same receptors in the brain as drugs like cocaine and heroin. It gives a dopamine hit, which makes you feel good. So it activates those reward systems in the brain and essentially ‘programs’ the brain to want more and make you think you need it.

And once you keep eating it, cravings will start for it.

From that point, it can be very difficult to satisfy the craving and keep yourself from seeking anything to replace it until you completely get off it.

Another thing that happens is that you build tolerance. This is when the brain receptors get a lot of the dopamine hits but eventually adapt and need more to get that reward response.

This tends to be one of the hallmarks of a definition of ‘addiction’, but again– the issue is whether it specifically is sugar, or is another component of the food you’re eating, or even a combination of components. These possibilities need more research before the medical system will consider giving a specific diagnostic code for sugar, specifically.

Do sugar detoxes work?

The last few years have seen a rise in people doing sugar detoxes to get off sugar in hopes of kickstarting weight loss, beginning a diet to manage conditions like diabetes, or simply wanting to eat more healthy in general to feel better and manage their daily energy. Many have questioned if these actually work to help control the cravings.

In my experience, the answer is yes. But there are a few things to know:

  1. You have to be vigilant about staying off sugar. If you’re one of the people (like me) that truly feel an addiction to it, it can be really hard to take ‘just one bite’ of anything and quit. You need a plan, and probably an accountability partner for things like birthdays.
  2. You have to know what qualifies as sugar. You’d be shocked at what the food industry has done to get around the term ‘sugar’. They’ve done their best to trick us into not knowing what we’re eating. But they need sugar for taste and that addiction factor so you’ll keep buying. So educate yourself on all the hidden terms.
  3. Know that grains (especially refined ones) can react the same way in your body that sugar does, kicking off that dopamine hit and reward response. For this reason, many experts recommend quitting anything with grains in it. This includes breads, pastas, pastries, etc. This part can be tough, but when you see the benefits of how you feel, you’ll figure out how to make it happen consistently.

Bottom line is that, although studies are slowly catching up, it’s a very real thing.

There is also evidence of a genetic component to some people feeling addicted to sugar. The gene that controls the dopamine receptors in our brains can have mutations that impair the reward system in the brain, thereby triggering some people to show addictive behavior toward sugar.

Given the current research, it’s just a matter of time before the studies come out to give more definition to the specific addictive properties of sugar, as well as the food combinations that food companies already have the data to back up.

Ready to get off sugar for good? Grab your 1-Week Sugar Detox Meal Plan + 5 Steps to a Successful Sugar Detox below! 👇

is sugar addiction real, sugar detox

How to Drink More Water Every Day With These 7 Hacks (even if you hate water)!

How to Drink More Water With These 8 Hacks Every Day.

Waaaay back when I was in high school and college, how to drink more water wasn’t on the forefront of health news. And they certainly hadn’t started bashing added sugars, nor begun scolding us for drinking sodas. So back in those days, my beverages consisted of mainly straight juice, sweet tea (I am from the South), and sodas. All full of sugar. Like, LOADED with sugar!

I couldn’t understand why certain weird and undesirable things were going on as a teenager and young adult in my body. Things like terrible skin, horrible mood swings, and what I now know was the beginning of my panic attacks.

Being dehydrated, or even almost dehydrated can cause some really crummy things to go on in your body. And as a busy Mama, these crummy things are just some of the little things that stress us out, and put us on edge when we’re already being pushed to our limits in day to day life. Being hydrated by learning to drink more water is part of self-care because it’s crucial to health and processes going on in our bodies. This includes having enough energy every day. I constantly promote finding the magic ✨ place where healthy + efficient merge, and drinking more water 💦 every day absolutely holds a place high on the list of things that tick off both boxes.

how to drink more water when you don't like water or aren't thirsty

 The Importance of Staying Hydrated

Being properly hydrated every day is so, so important! It helps you think better, it gives you energy, and it keeps your systems running properly.

Think about how well a dish sponge would work with only a tiny bit of water in it. It would be extremely hard to get a dish properly cleaned with a ton of goop and not enough water, right? That’s what happens in your body.

But also, your kidneys are trying to balance the minerals in your body (which affects your circulatory system!) They get bogged down when there’s not enough fluid in your body. So don’t underestimate the importance of staying hydrated properly!

What happens when you drink more water?

>Improves your skin, hair, and nails

>Relieves headaches

>Reduces muscle cramps

>Helps to flush out your body

>Improves weight loss efforts

>Gives you more energy

>Helps wounds heal faster

>Improves concentration levels and mood

ALL of those things make it uber worth it to me to drink more water!! How about you?!

How much water should you drink in a day?

The amount of water needed in a single day has had lots of debate over the past few years. But here’s the reason why: Every person’s body composition is different, every person’s health situation is different, and every person’s activity level is different. Plus every person lives in a different climate. There are so many variables that it really depends on several different things. But here’s where to start:

Calculate your body weight, then divide by 2. That’s how many liters you should start with each day. Or-

The Mayo Clinic suggests starting with 11.5 cups/day for women and 15.5 cups per day for men.

However—if you live in a very dry climate, if it’s summer, if you’re sick, if you’re taking meds that make you dehydrated, if you drink lots of coffee, AND if you’re very active—you should drink more than that!

I challenge you to start out with the basic formula, then
add as needed. See how you feel every few days and add more if you feel like it.

How can you drink more water when you don’t like it or when you’re not thirsty?

1. Drink It Before Every Meal

The first tip for drinking more
water on a regular basis is simple – just have a full glass before each meal
and snack you consume
, including before your morning cup of coffee. This is
one of those simple reminders that allows you to drink more of the good stuff,
without really having to think too much about it. Train your mind to know that
if you are going to put anything into your body, whether it is your breakfast
or a late-night treat, you have to drink 8 ounces of water first.

This provides multiple benefits. First, it reminds you to drink another glass. It’ll also
going to help your food digest a little better. Plus, it
prevents you from overeating since it helps to fill you up a little. It’s not
uncommon to think you’re hungry, when you’re actually thirsty. (Especially if
you’ve eaten a super salty meal earlier in the day!) If you’re not hungry after
a full glass, wait a bit before eating.

You should also try to drink a glass
of water before or after every other beverage you drink. Force yourself to
drink the same amount of it as the other beverage you’ve consumed.

2. Infuse or Flavor It

A common problem people have with
drinking water isn’t that they don’t remember to drink it, but they’re just not
interested in it.
This is totally true for me, and
was a big issue when I was pregnant. I finally found one brand that I sort of
craved. (Yeah, that had to do with hormones, those darn things!) The good news
is, you have some other options. You don’t necessarily have to drink just plain
filtered or tap water all day, every day. There are many ways to add flavor and
make it more interesting, without piling on the sugar and calories.

The Simple Method

If you are short on time and just
want a super quick way to add flavor, go with lemon water. All you need
to do is add a few lemon wedges, squeezing in the juice first, then putting the
wedges in it. Lemons have a lot of tart juice, so this will flavor your water
quickly and easily. You can also try a mixture of lemon and lime, or use other
juicy fruits like grapefruit. (Just one tip is to not let it sit for a long
time, even in the fridge. The rinds have a tendency to leech out super bitter/sour
taste if left too long. Trust me. It’s mouth-puckering.)

Fruit or Vegetable Infused

This is one of my absolute
favorites! And when I make this ahead of time and store it in a beautiful
pitcher in the fridge, I find that I crave it all day! When you can spend more
time on it, you can use other fruits, vegetables, and even herbs to flavor
your water
. This is called infused water, since it’s a longer infusing
process. You aren’t just flavoring it with these ingredients, but adding more
nutrients from the produce and herbs.

To make infused water, you should
have a glass pitcher and access to filtered water preferably. Prepare your
fruits, veggies, and herbs depending on what they are. Berries should be sliced
so you can access the juice inside, fruits with hard skin should be peeled
first. Veggies should also be peeled and chopped. Muddle your herbs to release
the oils and flavors.

Add the ingredients to the bottom of
the pitcher, cover with ice, then add your water. Let it sit in the
refrigerator for as long as you can before drinking it, which really allows
those flavors and nutrients to come through. And oh goodness, are they
delicious!

3. Choose a Cup You Love to Use

Do you want to encourage yourself to
hydrate more? It’s all in the cup! Seriously, I’m so guilty of this, and it
drives my husband nuts! If you use boring water bottles you don’t like, then
you probably won’t drink as much as you should.
A good way to have fun with
it and remember to bring the bottle everywhere with you is to choose a bottle
or cup that works best for you.

This might mean the overall look and
color of it, or the ease of holding onto it while walking. There are so many
small details that determine if it’s a good fit or not. For example, if you
drive a lot, you want it to fit perfectly in your cup holder. On the other
hand, if you bike for exercise, you may want it to have a tight lid, but one
that is easy to pop off when drinking while riding.

Try out a few different cups until
you feel like you have found the one that is perfect for you.

4. Limit Other Drinks You Consume

Another little trick for drinking
more water is to reduce all of the other drinks you consume. This
doesn’t mean drinking water 100 percent of the time. But, it does help to
reduce the ‘bad’ beverages, so that when you are thirsty, you go for water
instead. This eventually increases your water intake simply because you’re
going for water when you feel thirsty, and not other beverages.

5. Track Your Water Intake

This isn’t something you need to do
every day for the rest of your life, but for now, it might be hard to determine
how much water to drink, and if you’ve even reached your goal for the day. Start
by figuring out a good way to track your water. This can be an app on your
phone, a notepad, a planner you keep in your purse, or a program on your
computer. {Or just download the one below!}

Start by tracking your water for a
few days before trying to increase how much you drink. This lets you know how
much you’re currently drinking on an average day. If it’s less than 8-10
glasses of water (8 ounces each) a day, you need to start increasing it. Once
you are tracking daily, it helps you know how and when to drink a little more
throughout the day.

6. Enjoy Fruits & Veggies with High Water Content

If you find that you simply can’t
drink enough water, then eat your water instead! You should still try to
drink as much as you can, but this is good for the days when you’re a little
below your water intake goal. There are fruits and veggies that have a high
water content, therefore helping to hydrate you.
(Read: This does NOT mean
drinking these as a juice–this means eating the fruit or veggie, thereby
getting the fiber to offset the sugars you’ll be ingesting.) These include:

Cucumbers
Grapefruit
Apples
Pineapple
Lettuce
Celery
Radishes
Watermelon

7. Try These Reminders

If you enjoy water, but you often
forget to drink more of it, these little reminders can be helpful for you.

  1. Drink water before every meal, snack, and other
    beverage
  2. Have a glass first thing when you wake up
  3. Hydrate before or after your workouts
  4. Drink a glass of water after every trip to the bathroom
  5. Have a glass or bottle every time you enter your office
    or your home

As long as you keep these reminders
in the back of your mind, and follow the other tips mentioned, you should be on
your way to dramatically increasing your water intake and reaping the awesome
benefits from it! I promise your body will thank you!!

What tricks do you use to get more hydrated? Let me know in the comments!

Know someone that could use help with increasing their hydration? Please SHARE this post!

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