4 Reasons Why You're Really Craving Sugar
Sugar addiction is a myth.
Ok……. there..…. I said it out loud!
I know many of us have come to demonize sugar and see it as the cause of all our malaise, be it exhaustion, weight gain, headaches and lack of motivation. I agree that the altered versions of sugar, in their most refined forms, (ie. corn syrup, processed cane sugar, etc.), may cause what feels like physical dependance, as with drugs or alcohol. Enjoyment of sugar’s many forms does not need to be branded with the scarlet letter of shame, just as broccoli doesn’t need to be canonized. These foods provide energy and components that affect our bodies.
What most people fail to realize is that we need sugar to survive. Sugar, is an essential building-block of life. Glucose, which is sugar in its most basic form is something our bodies and cells need for energy to do the things we want to accomplish in our lives.
More likely, this sugar addiction you experience as physical dependance is wrapped up in emotional, psychological and habitual dependance as well.
And at its core, what the sugar craving really means is the need for some kind of “reward”, or the dopamine response that sugar naturally gives us when we eat it. When we are deprived of that hit of dopamine, which can be triggered by chocolate or sweet treats, we can experience symptoms of withdrawal.
However, what if we were flip the script a bit with sugar? What if we were to give it less power by seeing it for what it is….quick energy. That we fear it, love it, crave it, forbid it, judge it and demonize it actually gives it much more power than it deserves. What if we could be morally neutral when it comes to sugar? What if we could examine it and consume it only as a way to determine how it makes our bodies feel? What if we could turn down the fear dial and amp up the curiosity meter to trust ourselves to know how much we need and in what form in order to feel good in our bodies, stop letting our own mistrust and confusion scare us into attempting to avoid it, and then feel shame for eventually eating it anyway.
Whether or not you accept the idea that sugar itself is not addictive, and that it’s your reward centers lighting up from satisfaction of that craving, hopefully we can agree that the goal would be to recreate the dopamine response, but in non-food related ways.
Below are 4 reasons why you are really craving sugar. Be sure to download my Dopamine Hit Checklist to get a ton of ideas about how to activate natural dopamine and serotonin levels without using food at all.
You want love and intimacy…..
The first food you ever ate was sweet. Even before birth, the amniotic fluid we swim around in and derive nutrients from is sweet. Your mother’s milk or formula is sugar-based. AND, as babies we are often comforted in our mother’s or father’s arms while eating, thereby deepening the connection between sweetness and closeness or sweetness and love. This powerful connection between eating and the regions of our brain connected to safety and comfort gets stored deep in our memories early and often. So, when we feel bored, scared or angry, stressed or sad, without even thinking about it, we start to crave sugar or sweets. What we’re actually craving is the comfort and love that we experienced as babies and children. When we can stop and actually recognize this, we can decide consciously to take a different path.
You actually need sleep……
We determined earlier that sugar gives you quick energy in the form of glucose. When we are sleep-deprived, both from a time perspective and even more importantly from a quality perspective, we attempt to mask the feeling of tiredness by consuming sugary substances, falsely thinking we’ll get the pick-me-up we need due to lack of sleep. So, while you may be craving sugar, you may actually desperately need to catch up on quality sleep.
You’re in a stress response…….
Think about it from an evolutionary and survival perspective. When we are in a crisis of any kind, our blood rushes to our extremities and brain to think and move quickly to avert the threat. In order to act and think fast, our bodies need a quick energy resource. Carbohydrates, specifically sugar can provide that for our use immediately. Remember, a stress response can result from any “real or perceived threat”. What a lot of Americans experience today is 24/7 chronic stress, as well as “perceived” or imagined threats, through negative self-talk, fear and judgement around food. Part of our negative thinking in this regard actually keeps us stuck in a low-level stress response, which ironically will keep us craving sugar.
Our food culture………
Next time you sit down to watch a game on TV, notice what kinds of commercials you’re being lured into watching. Inevitably there will be at least one pizza commercial and one beer commercial. You’ll also likely see other ads for sugary foods like creamy ice cream or oozing melted chocolate. (Those always get me). Where sugar used to be only a condiment, it is now a staple of many common processed foods, including lots of sauces, cereals and salad dressings. When we see processed and sugary foods all over the place, they become imprinted on our minds and we can start to expect them as part of our “food script.”
Now that I’ve given you 4 reasons why you’re craving sugar other than just having simple sugar addiction, we can move to a very powerful solution: accessing more dopamine naturally.
One of the best ways to do this is by focusing on non-food related pleasures and mindfulness in general.
To that end, I have 2 free resources for you to explore further about how to tap into that powerful natural dopamine response.
Sign up below for your free downloadable Dopamine Hit Checklist.