I know what it is like to feel addicted to sugar as I spent about 20 years of my life feeling this way. The constant promises to myself that tomorrow I wasn’t going to eat sugar but finding myself unable to fulfill the promises to myself. The feeling of shame, guilt and frustration at myself was compounded by the highs and lows of energy, the weight gain and the mood swings that came with my obsession with the sweet stuff.
I knew that sugar was not serving me well, but I just couldn’t go through a whole day without eating it, even when I was experiencing incredible discomfort after binge eating. I felt like I had zero willpower.
Many studies have shown that sugar takes over the chemistry in your brain producing changes that are similar to what takes place in those who use illegal drugs or alcohol stimulating the pleasure center of your brain. The act of eating sugar triggers the release of dopamine and you experience the pleasure sensation and the feel good factor.
This can soon develop into a habit as the more sugar you eat, the more the pleasure centers get desensitized and you crave more sugar to experience the relief or the pleasure. This is how the cycle of cravings and withdrawals happen, you eventually feel like you are on a roller-coaster of high and low blood sugars which can take you a step closer to developing dis ease in the body.
You know that this habit isn’t serving you as it gets in the way of you losing the excess weight, impacts your concentration at work and also raises the risk of you developing a chronic disease but you find yourself reaching out for the very thing which is harming you as it makes you feel better for a short period of time.
I know as I did it for years. It was an unconscious pattern that I had learnt to deal with stress, unpleasant emotions, and boredom.
Of course, the truth is that food doesn’t really deal with unpleasant feelings at all, it simply masks them. I realise now that often when I feel a need to reach for food it is often because I am wanting to satisfy another emotional need in my life. When I try to satisfy theses needs with food, I just feel empty as sugar can not replace my need for company, excitement, sleep, relaxation, meaningful relationships, or developing my purpose in life.
So not only does sugar impact you on a physiological but also on a psychological level. You are being pulled by your biology and your emotions to satisfy your needs. It is no wonder that some people find it hard to say no to sugar. It is not that because you have weak willpower.
When you next reach out for food try and pause for a moment and really assess if you are in fact experiencing the sensation of physical hunger or an emotional sensation. If it is due to an emotional need you may sense that you need to satisfy a need to rest, to socialize, to connect with others or to do something which fulfills you. That need will still be there even if you do eat that bar of chocolate.
It is also worth keeping in mind that sugary or high carbohydrate foods will tend to cause rapid fluctuations in your blood sugar levels, leading you to crave more of them which impacts your mood. There are many studies showing that a low mood is a catalyst for emotional eating.