Well it’s October which means the holiday season is in full effect. While Santa might not yet have made his appearence (any day now…) the other staple of the holidays is large and in charge. I’m talking of course, about sugar.
A cornacopia of colors emerge in October. Candy that is orange, green, gooey, gummy. This is followed by the feast of November, usually in the form of pies like pecan or apple. Then we trudge into December, the cruelest month of all with it’s onslaught of holiday parties, fruity drinks, gelt, candy canes and chocolate that have been manipulated into shapes representing holiday icons. Then January arrives and with that, our resolution to stop eating sugar, get to the gym, drink more water. We’ve usually failed by the end of January, just in time to drown our sorrows in Valentine’s day chocolate. Thank goodness for St Paddy’s day in March, at least then we have an excuse to drink. Oh wait, there’s sugar in that as well.
Sugar is everywhere. It’s in candy, but it’s also in bread. It’s in granola bars and ketchup. It’s in our milk. It has many different names, some of which are corn syrup, barley malt, beet sugar, dextrose, maltose,glucose, honey, fruit juice and sorbitol.
Sugar is yummy and our brain craves it. It’s probably the worst addiction our nation is facing. “When we eat sugar, our dopamine receptors turn on, Dopamine is one of our “feel-good” neurotransmitters that is largely responsible for our motivation and reward systems. And also like drug addiction, this sugar bingeing causes changes in the expression and availability of dopamine receptors in the brain: the next ‘high’ will require even more sugar to achieve the same effect. ” And like other drugs, when you don’t get the sugar you crave, you get moody and irritable. Anxious for your next “fix.”
If that doesn’t freak you out, consider this. Sugar is the leading cause of type 2 Diabetes. By 2030 it is estimated that over half the population will be overweight or obese because of eating processed, refined, sugary foods. Sugar contributes to heart disease and there are recent studies showing that there is a correlation between sugar and Alzheimers. This stuff is seriously scary.
We can make changes to get over our sugar addiction. Cut out/down bread. It’s so processed and just breaks down into sugar in the body. Up our protein intake-this keeps our energy levels up so we don’t reach for the sweet stuff. Try some healthy fats like avocado or almonds. Our brains and bodies need fat and its filling so again, you don’t reach for the treat. Set limits. Find alternatives. Exercise, take a nap and drink more water. Over time you WILL find that your cravings diminish. If they don’t, try keeping a journal. What’s going on in your life at that moment you have to have that candy bar. Are you eating for sustenance or for emotions?
And finally, try to break the cycle of addiction before it begins in our children. This is perhaps the hardest of all. Schools have parties and parties have donuts. There are bake sales and candy sales and Girl Scout cookie sales. We need to find the line between indulgence and excess. This is probably another blog post entirely as it is something that I, as a parent struggle with every day. But if you set a good example at home, get them to drink water, get their sugar fix from fruit (which has natural sugars instead of processed ones), encourage movement and most importantly, try to talk to your kids about what sugar does to their bodies (you get tired, can’t run as fast, clouds your brain so homework is harder) and also about advertising and the messages ads send. I’ve been telling my kid about marketing since she was 3. You don’t really have to buy the fruit roll ups because Dora is on them. It is possible to make an impact on their bodies and minds as well.
If you simply must have your sweet snack reach for fruit. Or even better, try making it yourself. The effort of cooking itself might diminish the craving. If it doesn’t, then you can set the amounts of sweetener in it. I like to use dates, agave, honey or coconut sugar. Yes, these are still sugars but they are less refined, better for you and I’m controlling the amount being used.
No one is saying to deny yourself everything. That only serves to make us unhappy. But, like so many other things, its about moderation. And in the case of sugar, extreme moderation. Because it’s a drug. And if abuse of this drug continues at our current levels, it will kill us. Slowly but surely.
DISCLAIMER: I am a Health Coach, not a Doctor. If you have diabetes or any type of illness that is worsened through consumption of sugar in ANY form, please speak to your health care provider about what you can and can not eat. My work is to empower and support you so that you can follow those instructions and live your life to its fullest. It is not to provide diagnosis or treatment of any kind.
To learn more about sugar addiction, losing weight and healthful living, I offer a free health consultation to discuss your goals and how to accomplish them. You can find me at www.roslynwellness.com, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org, follow me on Twitter .
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About the Author: Courtney Abrams is a Health Coach and Founder of Roslyn Wellness. Trained at the Institute for Integrative Nutrition, she helps clients work within the realities of their day to day lives to find ways to make small and manageable changes to their health that can maintained over time. Her clients include people trying to lose weight, beat sugar, increase their energy, cook simple healthful food and reduce stress to name a few. She also shares a passion for food policy and educating people about the foods they are eating and the governmental role behind much of it. You can learn more about Courtney and Roslyn Wellness at http://RoslynWellness.com.