"Sugar is a recreational drug. Now and then, I might have a drink, I won't have a glass of alcohol in my hand all day. But that's what we're doing with sugar."
- Dr. Mark Hyman, 9x NY Times Best-Selling Author, and chairman of the Institute for Functional Medicine
The purpose of this article is simple: to help you kick sugar now, so you can enjoy the rest of your life without the 'minor' effects of sugar: the fatigue, the mood swings, the insomnia, the brain fog, the yearly colds, etc. Sugar is a stimulant devoid of nutrition, and it is added in some form to most processed foods we eat. This article will illuminate the costs of sugar, the various forms it comes in, and the path off sugar.
The Cost of Sugar
Sugar is made in much the same way as cocaine and heroine. All three of those substances (sugar cane, the coca leaf, and the poppy flower), start out harmless, but through extreme refining, become highly addictive stimulants.
Sugar is a stimulant, devoid of nutrition.
Plus, when we do sugar, we generally do it with either a lot of fat (chocolate, ice cream) or with refined flour (cake, muffin, donut). We don't eat sugar with veggies. With eat it with grains or fat, and usually that's refined grains (flour), and low quality fat.
So you get energy but in fact you're starving yourself. Then when the sugar/refined-carb high ends, you feel worse than you did before. And...you want more sugar. Welcome to addiction :-).
Sugar stimulates your body to burn up its energy and nutrient stores. Then when the sugar high wears off, you feel worse than you did before. Now you're likely to reach for a different addiction to make yourself fee better: caffeine, chips, tv, even shopping.
In a very real way, all addictions are connected in a web. Once one has pulled you down, you're then more susceptible to doing one of the others. (Let them all go at once!)
Sugar is also one of the most inflammatory foods we eat. And we now know that inflammation is a main cause in chronic illnesses of all kinds. Reducing inflammation is therefore a key to healing whatever you have going on, and reducing or eliminating sugar is a BIG step in that direction (and refined grains too - which are basically sugar).
"Sugar is safe sex" - Dr. Gabriel Cousens, author of Spiritual Nutrition and the Rainbow Diet
More Bitter Truth About Sugar
Sugar is made the same as cocaine or heroin. It's a highly refined substance.
Mice will choose sugar over cocaine. Sugar is the more addictive one.
Sugar is a socially accepted drug.
The sugar industry demonized fat - destroying many people's health in the process.
Depression can be connected to sugar.
Chronic fatigue can be connected to sugar.
Cancer loves sugar. Common cancer advice: 'Cut out sugar'.
Azheimer's has been called "Diabetes type 3" - high blood sugar.
Sugar depletes your body of minerals - osteoporosis.
Sugar ages your skin. Want wrinkles? Eat lots of sugar.
Sugar is one of the 'three white poisons" (also flour and conventional table salt)
Many things can change your life: going to the gym, making more money, getting counselling. But one of the most impactful is quitting sugar.
Sugar comes in about 30 different forms...anything ending with -ose is sugar (lactose, sucrose, maltose, fructose, dextrose, galactose...), and -itol (maltitol, sorbitol...), plus corn syrup, honey and maple syrup of course.
High blood sugar is one of the main things that makes you fat.
Sugar is one of the most inflammatory foods you can eat. And most chronic health conditions are a result of chronic inflammation.
You can be skinny and unhealthy. Aka 'skinny fat', a state where you're not fat, but you still have unhealthy metabolic markers.
Alcohol is another form of sugar.
Refined flour raises blood sugar even more than sugar.
Sugar makes real food taste bland. So you avoid real food.
One top functional clinician I know of won't even see a client until they are off three things: sugar, gluten, and dairy.
Sugar wears out your body prematurely, in many ways.
Rats, Sugar, And "Rat Park"
An researcher did an experiment with rats. First he got them addicted on sugar. Then he created 'rat-park', a kind of amusement park for rats, with everything they could want: food, exercise, sex... everything. And he found that in that environment, they were able to easily skip the sugar. But rats in a cage deprived of all those enjoyments weren't so lucky. They continued to be addicted to sugar.
For many of us sugar isn't a problem. If you are living a basically healthy, happy life, then you may find that you can easily say no to it. The problem is many people today live isolated, city life-styles, work long hours in stressful jobs, and don't make enough money. Add to that trauma in your past, and something like sugar then becomes a reliable escape, a source of relief. And many of us were raised on sugar. You may not know how to eat in a day without turning to cereal, bread, or other addictive substances. You may not know yet how to make vegetables tasty (find out!).
Sugar and Other Drugs Got Us Through
But as a culture, our sugar addiction is understandable. Things like sugar and alcohol got us through the great depression and other very hard times.
Sugar (and alcohol, etc) became part of our culture.
Today, life is still hard, but it is much easier than it used to be. We now have things like cars, washing machines, central heating, and condoms (imagine life before condoms! Yikes.)
We also have a much greater understanding of the path off sugar, and many wonderful healing technologies and supports for making the transition.
Just like we are now ending our addiction to fossil fuels, it may also be time to end our addiction to sugar.
The Path Off Sugar: 3 Levels of Intervention
When I read labels, the first thing I look at is "how much sugar per serving?"
Level 1: Just Change Your Diet The first level is the simplest, and for some people this is all they will need. They may decide to make all their meals at home, batch cooking on a Sunday evening for the rest of the week, or they might simply find low-sugar substitutes for what they usually eat. They might start by cutting out sugary soda drinks or fruit juice, and go from there. They might swap out sugary treats for an apple instead or a piece of dark chocolate that's 85% cocoa.
And for some people, that will be enough. They change their diet, and sugar is gone.
Level 2: Change Your Lifestyle, Too Many people will also want to make a lifestyle change, to make letting go of sugar easier. They might take space from a toxic relationship. Or they might quit a job that sucks their soul. Or they might move closer to work to turn a 1.5 hour commute into a 20 min commute. Or they might just get better lighting in their home...whatever is needed to greatly reduce stress, or loneliness, to feel better - making sugar a lot easier to let go of.
And those first two levels can be much easier with a support person, like a health coach for example. Someone who can help you make those changes (hey...I'm a health coach!).
Level 3: Healing This level is the one most people don't think about, but it may be needed. If you've tried again and again to let go of sugar, you may have something else going on, too.
Is there anxiety? Or depression? What about hypoglycemia or candida? Because any of those things can drive sugar cravings. Sometimes sugar cravings are a symptom of a separate health condition.
So if you have a concurrent health condition, you may want to face that first, or face that directly. If you are depressed, or toxic, or exhausted, for example, you may want to face that problem directly. Then you'll find sugar becomes much easier to let go of, and becomes naturally a much smaller part of your diet, something you can enjoy now and then, or go completely without.
And for deeper healing I especially recommend Energy Medicines, because they are profoundly rebalancing, reaching into every corner of your being. In particular I recommend homeopathy.
The other good option would be to see a Naturopath or Functional Medicine clinician. More on that below.
For some, diet change alone may be enough. For others, a life-style change may be needed. And for others still, healing may be required.
Practical Tips To Get Off Sugar
I can't write a blog without including real, practical take-aways... so, here you go!
Nourish Frequently - one good way to do this is to batch cook, and carry snacks and meals with you. Nuts make a good snack. Or hummus and veggies.
Always Have Water With You - lots of water can really reduce sugar cravings
Cook at Home withNatural Sweeteners - the best ones are probably un-pasteurized honey, stevia, xylitol, and coconut sugar. But really anything is more nutritious than white sugar. The less processed, the more natural it is, and the better it will be for you. For ex molasses is more nutritious than brown sugar.
Tell Your Friends - get the support of your friends and family by telling them of your commitment to be sugar free... before they offer you a piece of chocolate cake :-). And if they are big sugar addicts themselves...then it might be best to avoid them until you're more in the clear!
Increase Sweet vegetables - carrots, beets, onions and peppers all have a natural mild sweetness, plus fiber and nutrition.
Find Your Ideal Diet - my body likes to eat paleo. Which means grain free and dairy free. When I deviate from that, I feel worse and crave more sugar. You want to experiment and find your ideal diet.
Eat More Fat - for some people, this makes them feel much better. It replaces carb and sugar cravings. Best fats are coconut anything, avocado, olive oil, and nuts and seeds. I sometimes enjoy unsweetened chocolate almond mylk in the evenings with stevia.
Hire a Health Coach - like me! A health coach will help you improve your diet, your lifestyle, drink more water, and find a tasty transition into naturally sweet foods without the refined sugar.
Hire a Functional Medicine specialist - if you've struggled and struggled, you might benefit from more science :-). FM clinicians, say 'test don't guess'. They will find out if you have any deficiencies, parasites, etc, and help you resolve that in stages.