In my last post I mentioned the difficulty we have avoiding sugary foods and drinks. At least in Western society. I consider sugar to be one of three socially accepted drugs today. The others being caffeine and alcohol. I find our relationship with all of these drugs disturbing, but the ‘sugar drug’ is one that seems to have become most accepted.
Sugar in Society
Sugary treats are all around us: advertisements on TV, at the checkout in supermarkets, in the high street, and even in association with sporting events (Coca Cola sponsored the Rio Olympics)! This kind of exposure has become the norm and has been recognised by some as a problem.
Governments are talking about ways to combat this problem. In fact very recently Theresa May abandoned plans to cut ‘junk food’ advertising and wants to target manufacturers and introduce tax instead. There are similar discussions to improve diet through taxation and education in Germany, too.
The kind of attention sugar is getting shows the trouble we’re in. Companies have too much money and power and seem to be abusing it, to the detriment of our health. But I don’t think it’s all their fault.
I think it’s too easy to blame corporations and media. Schools and government should act more responsibly too. And I don’t mean by adding tax to generate money for the state, I mean by providing better education on healthy living.
Even with good intentions at home your child can go into a supermarket, school, or even to a friend’s birthday party, and be bombarded by sugar. Our society considers sweet things a treat. But what they seem to forget is its addictive nature.
My Sugar Addiction
I grew up with cupboards full of chocolate and fizzy drinks. I actually suffered quite severely from blood sugar fluctuations during my teenage years. This was most evident when my sugar dropped and I would break into hot and cold sweats, shake profusely and lose all concentration. At least until I filled my face with a barrage of sugary snacks to recover.
This was the first sign of sugar addiction! If I had known this, instead of believing sugar was my ‘cure’, I could have gotten out of the vicious sugar cycle sooner.
I was dependent on sugar. This didn’t necessarily have to be sweets either. I recall eating lots of fruit salad. While this was a little healthier, it was still packed with fructose (fruit sugar). It’s a terrible cycle to find yourself in. The more sugar you eat, the more you rely on it and the more you need it.
I believe sugar addiction is both psychological and biological. The psychology: It gives us a good feeling inside, as we tend to associate it with something positive (a treat). And the biology: When we eat the sugary ‘treat’ it stimulates parts of the brain and body, giving you a surge of energy. On top of this the sugar will feed certain bacteria in your gut (the bad ones) and if they are thrown off balance, these bacteria (not you, but the bacteria!!) might even start to crave sugar.
So, can you break the sugar cycle?
The answer is yes, if you really want to! As you know, I don’t believe in complete pleasure deprivation, but if you feel you are trapped by sugar and are suffering from peaks and troughs, it might be wise to pay closer attention to your sugar intake.
It takes a strong will power and a lot of trust that the cravings will eventually dissipate. And they will, if you stick with it. How? Start replacing sugary snacks with nuts and grains. Keep a close eye on the hidden sugar in foods and drinks too – the world health organisation recommends a sugar intake of 10% or 5% of total energy consumed e.g. for 2000 calories 50 or 25 grams of sugar a day, respectively.
And if you still want that sweet taste, consider using alternative natural sugars at home. Take a look at the sweeteners body ecology recommends. They aren’t all alike and remember zero calories isn’t always the most healthy.