Much like alcohol and other drugs, sugar has been known to have an effect on the reward system in the brain – but it’s a little harder to avoid. Here’s what you need to know about the addictiveness of sugar, plus, we’ll be diving into the importance of transforming your mindset when giving sugar the flick.
Even Hollywood actress Kate Hudson once remarked the concerning addict-like behaviours she’d developed around sugar.
“I would say cutting sugar, or at least being aware of how much you are ingesting in a day and limiting it,” Kate said while shooting a fashion campaign. “That was an eye opener for me, I realised I was craving it like an addict around 4pm every day. I would crave something sweet and it hit me how much sugar we really eat.”
There’s a reason anyone from celebrities to your neighbour could be at risk of getting hooked on the sweet stuff – and it will differ from person to person, but the research shows an interesting connection between sugar and other known addictive substances. Let’s take a look at what we know.
How does sugar affect the brain?
Like other addictive substances the effects of sugar are insidious and are driving some of the biggest disease epidemics around the world. It’s still up for debate whether sugar is actually an addictive substance – but the research minces no words about the effects it can have on the brain. Researchers have found that there are indeed neurochemical changes taking place in the brain when we overdo it on the sweet stuff – and it draws a number of parallels to the brain activity seen in those addicted to alcohol and other drugs.
Research has shown sugar triggers the reward system in the brain, even proving to evoke a stronger reward response than cocaine in some studies. It works by prompting the release of dopamine, the “feel-good” hormone, into the brain and so begins the reward-seeking cycle. That’s why many experience withdrawal symptoms when ditching sugar, including headaches, mood swings, cravings and even anxiety; symptoms like a racing heart, fight-or-flight feelings and a dry mouth can be confusing and unsettling, but it’s certainly not an uncommon response to going cold turkey on sugar. While many struggle to continue on their health journey as a result of these symptoms, it’s worth noting they will subside eventually, but continued consumption of excess sugar will only exacerbate the pains of withdrawal. One study found people who drank 2 soft drinks a day had cortisol levels – also known as the “stress” hormone – 22% higher than those who did not, showing a direct link between stress and sugar consumption.
Changing your mindset and freeing yourself
It’s no secret that a sugar habit is a tough one to beat – wherever you go, sugar is there. Unlike ditching alcohol or addictive drugs, there are few places where sugar is unwelcome. From birthday parties and functions to the office pantry, Sunday markets and the supermarket. When’s the last time you could pick up a one-dollar pack of cocaine at your local Woolies? Chocolates, lollies and ice cream, on the other hand, are cheaper and more abundant than ever – and they’re conveniently placed right there at the counter to grab your eye on the way out. Is it any wonder that so many of us find it hard to quit the stuff? But it’s not just the addictive and abundant element – there are also social expectations to “just have a piece” and it can be hard to say no to a friend’s baked goods or to a slice of birthday cake.
Quitting sugar isn’t just about the dietary aspect, it also takes some well-placed social boundaries. It can help to make a big decision like this with a quitting-sugar partner who can help you stay accountable and share your difficulties and wins together. It can also help to join a program like ours – our 8-Week Program is based on accountability, support and providing the essential resources to set you up for success. We’ll help you change the way you look at food – and that doesn’t mean you have to follow restrictive diets or miss out on your favourite foods; we believe you can still enjoy delicious food without jeopardising your health. With celebrity chef Sarah Glover on our panel of experts, you’ll have an array of fun recipes at your fingertips, along with our own exclusive armoury of simple, tasty and healthy recipes for everything from daily meals to impressive entertaining. We’ve also got nutritionists, personal trainers and naturopaths in our team of experts, and they understand what our bodies need and how to best arm ourselves against those cravings.
So, if you’ve been having a little trouble keeping that sugar addiction at bay, we’re here to help. We know it can be hard to stick to your health goals – especially when you’re trying to manage it alone. When you sign up with us, you’ll have access to clear-cut meal plans, community support and exclusive access to our sugar-free content. Here’s what’s on offer:
- 8 weeks of meal plans and shopping lists.
- 90+ member-only recipes.
- Community forums to share your journey.
- Support and guidance from the I Quit Sugar team.
- Exclusive content from our panel of experts.
So, if you’re ready to ditch sugar and the host of maladies that come with it, it’s not too late to join. We’d love to help you get started on your health journey. Sign up HERE today!