by GameChanger Strength & Nutrition Coach Rob Riccobono
Are sugary treats your downfall when it comes to nutrition? Some people attribute this to a sugar addiction- they crave it constantly, and when they taste a little, they can’t stop eating it. Is your love for sugar so strong that it’s beyond your control, and you have to avoid it completely to get fit? Does your body treat sugar like a drug?
In a word- NO.
You Have More Control Than You Think
Think about it logically. Picture a time when you binged uncontrollably on sweet foods. Why did you do it? Were you in physical pain that only went away shortly after eating? Did you feel so sick that you couldn’t perform normal activity, and eating something sweet cured this? Probably not, and those are symptoms of addiction. Too often, people equate their enjoyment for sugar to a physical dependence, and this isn’t the case.
Sugar Tastes Good!
Eating sugary foods is pleasurable. Like anything enjoyable, when we have it, we want more of it. That doesn’t mean we have a physical dependence on it.
You might’ve heard about a study that showed rats experiencing the same pleasure from eating Oreos as they did with cocaine. Former research scientist Eveleyn Kocur reveals what you probably haven’t heard about this study. “The same regions of the brain light up during sex, exercise, making silly faces at babies and petting puppies.”
You enjoy petting your dog or cat, but would you call yourself addicted to it? Enjoying something is not the same as having an addiction. If you stop eating sugar or ban yourself from making smiling faces at babies, you won’t go through physical withdrawals like you would from eliminating drugs, alcohol, or even caffeine.
“Eating Addiction” rather than “Sugar Addiction”
You can, however, use pleasurable activities and substances, like eating sweet foods, to fill an emotional need and develop a behavioral dependence. Researchers refer to this as an eating addiction, rather than a food or sugar addiction. The behavior is addicting, not the substance. Maybe you treat stressful emotions with sugar. When you come face-to-face with tough situations you might eat sweets to make yourself feel better, and you rely on sugar for those situations. If sugar is holding you back in this regard, it’s those emotional and behavioral aspects of your life you should focus on, and better nutrition will follow.
You Enjoy Sweets- So Does Everyone
People with a true eating addiction are in the minority. Chances are, you eat sugary foods because they taste good, and if you want to eat less you just need to use more self-control or try different methods. This is easier said-than-done, but the good news is you’re fully capable of doing it. It might take practice and time. It might take you longer than others, but you can do it. Find your motivation, try different strategies, and focus. Remember to aim for progress, not perfection.
You can try limiting yourself to small portions at a time, or only have sweets once in a while like in a “cheat” or “free” meal. The only way to know what works best for you is through trial and error.
High-sugar foods usually aren’t very filling, and you can eat at a lot of calories in even small portions. But they aren’t addictive, dangerous, or toxic. Don’t think you’re behind the eight ball just because you like eating chocolate.
Sugar isn’t addictive, dangerous, or toxic. I could lie to you and tell you it is, like many well-known nutrition personalities do. You’d probably get in better shape, because most sweets aren’t filling and you can eat a lot of calories in just small portions. But sometimes it’s better that you know the truth, so you can put your focus on what’s really important.
When you stop chasing the wrong things, you give the right things a chance to catch you.
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