Learning to Manage Sugar Intake

Near constant consumption of sugar has not diminished in light of its toxic and addictive qualities. We have come to accept sugar as a staple of the western diet, with copious amounts of it found in more obvious places like desserts, but also hidden in sauces, drinks, energy bars, cereals, etc.

Sugar has been normalized as a celebrated part of our culture, but within its toxic sweetness lies more malicious effects, in particular mental health issues, contributing to depression, anxiety, fatigue, brain fog, and more. Even addiction to sugar is possible. Most of us have not been dissuaded from sugar consumption, however, and that includes myself.

To withstand sugar cravings is a difficult task, sometimes so difficult and pervasive in our lives that it becomes an addiction. Oftentimes the urge to have a sweet treat nags at me in the midst of a study session or a TV show, and I can feel the irritation spread throughout my entire body. I eventually surrender to these urges, then run downstairs to the vending machine for a candy bar. For a moment I am satisfied, but that moment passes and the cycle continues.

According to an article on Psychology Today, the basic process of sugar cravings is as follows. We consume products high in sugar, which cause our blood sugar levels to shoot up. Then, we soon experience a ‘sugar crash.’ Subsequently, our bodies crave even more sugar in order to raise blood sugar levels. And so we relent to our cravings, thus continuing the cycle over and over again.

While I would stretch out over a couch near the TV or with a good book, I found myself in the midst of mindless indulgence in sugary desserts and treats, so much so that it became a need. I had to bake a pan of brownies or sip on a grande caramel frappuccino in order to feel more comfortable with myself. Sugar became an easy exit from anxiety and depression, albeit the fleeting illusion of escape. My eating habits were a symptom of larger underlying issues that I had avoided and attempted to suppress with spurts of gratification.

Overcoming my sugar cravings and perhaps addiction was made possible with several lifestyle changes that are beneficial in numerous areas, not only with respect to sugar consumption. Ensure that you have easy access to nutritious snacks, such as fresh fruit or plain oatmeal, as a replacement for the refined sugars found in more processed foods. Aim for an adequate amount of sleep--easier said than done, I will concede, but it’s made all the difference in my dietary habits. Eat and drink in small amounts throughout the day in order to stabilize blood sugar levels.

Additional tips that have helped others include to use more spices (e.g. cinnamon), increase fluid intake, consume more fibrous rich foods, and put sugar-rich foods out of reach or avoid their purchase at grocery stores.

We don’t need to eliminate sugar completely, but rather manage our diets so that we maintain our mental and physical health, and to enjoy our lives in both the long and short term.