Sugar seems like such an innocent substance. It’s often one of the main ingredients in many of our comfort foods, from cake and cookies to ice cream and pudding. But it actually has serious addictive qualities.
Studies have shown that sugar has the same effects on the brain as cocaine and heroin. People eat it compulsively, even when they know it’s bad for them and will prevent them from getting to long-term goals, like losing weight. Those who cut sugar out of their diets may even experience withdrawal symptoms.
Cutting down on sugar isn’t impossible, but it does require a strategy. Like overcoming many addictions, it’s more than a question of will power. You need to get to the emotional root that causes your unhealthy eating habits.
Here are five tips from Ph.D. Jeffery Rossman to help you fight a sugar addiction on a phycological level.
1. Be honest with yourself. Think about the times you eat that are not driven by hunger. Are you using sugar to cover up uncomfortable feelings? Are you cheering yourself up when you feel lonely? Are you eating when you feel bored? All of these things have non-food solutions, but they can be a little scary to face. Reach out to a friend, family member or even consider if you need professional help.
2. Be kind to yourself. Once to have come to face these underlying issues, don’t lay guilt on yourself. Instead, focus on the future: what can you do to change? If you have a day when you slip and binge, don’t beat yourself up, but think about how you can find a solution and avoid this situation going forward.
3. Don’t eat because of stress. Stress is an emotional trigger that is often more situational and is less deeply rooted. Finding something that helps you to chill out should help to cut your sugar craving. Try deep breathing, a quick walk, or listening to relaxing music.
4. Nourish yourself in a healthy manner. Sugar craving can happen in response to real hunger, but that doesn’t mean you should use sugar to satisfy it. Make sure you are getting plenty of fruits, veggies, and lean protein in your diet. These foods will trigger your body to know that you are giving it the nutrients it needs.
5. Put yourself out of the way of temptation. Clear your pantry of sugary foods, including honey, maple syrup, and anything containing high-fructose corn syrup. If you know you’re going out to somewhere that will be serving tempting foods, eat before leaving the house. Consider bringing your own healthy snacks.