How to reduce (or stop) your sugar addiction

The American Heart Association recently released new guidelines for sugar consumption:

*women should consume no more than 100 kcal a day (approx. 6

*men should consume no more than 150 kcal (approx. 9 teaspoons) (American diabetes)

by Elia Strange

fruit salad

It can make you wonder how much sugar do you eat throughout the day!
I have noticed that most people say, 'well, I don't really eat sugar. I only put a couple of teaspoons in my cup of tea or coffee'.

But when you tell them that these days you can find sugar in most foods: bread, sauces, ready meals, and so on, then they say, 'well, yeah, may be I do eat quite a bit of sugar'.

Now, when you know that we supposed to consume no more than 6-9 teaspoons of sugar a day, can you imagine, that the average American consumes 22 teaspoons of sugar daily (355 kcal)!

Just to give you an idea how much sugar we might consume throughout the day, have a look at this:

- A can of coke has nearly 10 teaspoons of sugar and a Mars chocolate bar has 11 teaspoons of sugar, which takes you over the limit instantly.

- A slice of bread contains around 3 teaspoons of sugar and your other foods like breakfast cereal, packaged or canned meals, also have various amounts of added refined sugar in them.
So as you can see, it may not be an easy task if you want to start watching your sugar consumption during the day.

So, what to do?

American Diabetes offers a few good tips on how to Reduce Added Sugars in Your Diet, which is one of the good starting points to controlling your sugar addiction:

* Cut out soft drinks and fruit juices. If you must have a soft drink, make it a diet one, and instead of fruit juices, opt for whole fruit instead.

* Beware of low-fat or reduced-fat foods. The decreased fat is usually replaced with sugar!

* Limit desserts and sweets. Exercise portion control or go for treats sweetened with sugar substitutes.

* Use sugar substitutes for baking at home or for sweetening cereal, tea, etc.

* Watch out for sauces and dressings. Read the labels and look for those with the least amount of sugar.

* Go light on the condiments. Did you know that one tablespoon of ketchup can contain one teaspoon of added sugar? Look for reduced-sugar brands or limit portion sizes.

Reducing your sugar dependency (or stopping it altogether) should be gradual.

I've read that some people just go 'cold turkey', which is very hard for them. I believe that most people cannot do that because there is a very high chance they will binge on sweet foods several days later.

Some might replace it with other 'junk' foods or drinks, for example of the savory, bitter or sour variety, which are often high in sugar anyway. So 'easy and gently' is preferable.

Here are my own recommendations based on the available academic research:

1. Start with reducing refined sugar every day. Write down how many foods/drinks you have throughout the day that contain refined sugar (or high-fructose corn syrup, glucose syrup, and so on), and aim for less.

2. Read, read, read. About the effects of sugar on the body. About its aging and illness-inducing effects. Read articles such as this, 13 Facts about sugar addiction and 22 Findings about sugar (and why it's bad for you).

3. There are several books on the Internet on sugar addiction. You can read them all, one by one, if you like. Follow their recommendations. What works for one, might not work for someone else. Just remember - sugar addiction is real, and it is very similar to alcohol- and smoking- addictions.

See how your friends try to give up smoking for years? Sugar is pretty much like that. Only you don't have to show your ID to the sales person at the superstore to buy your 'addictive substance' when you are shopping for sweets.

So it never feels that it's illegal or 'wrong' to buy sweet foods. Quite the opposite really. In our society adults love to give sweet treats to other people, particularly children, re-enforcing the 'pleasure and love' effect from an early age.

4. Do not stop trying to give up sugar. Try hypnotic sessions or CD meditations. Speak to (or hang out with) people who are not interested in sugary foods or who are into healthy eating and living.

Try to stop sugar for a week, 2 weeks, or a month. Test your willpower as much as you can.

5. When you see sweet treats somewhere at a party (or a cafe / restaurant), try to eat lots of healthy foods first and as much as you can. This way you should not have that much space left in your belly for those sweet treats. After that, have a small portion of them if you like.

The main principle
here is to remember that you are a sugar addict, it is a serious matter (think like an alcoholic), and treat yourself as such - with love, care, and a firm approach.

6. Try herbs that reduce the response of your sweet taste-buds. There are several products on the market for that: appetite suppressants (e.g. Hoodia herb), tongue sprays (that supposed to change your taste-buds), and so on.

7. Do you know that if you tell to a group of people 'There will be tea and cakes afterwards', you will see that most of these people will be smiling. Most of these people will be 'sugar addicts'.

You know why they are smiling?

Because their brains already started responding to the effects of sugar just from thinking about it. Their pleasure centers become slightly activated and now nothing can stop the sensations increasing due to the desire for the 'tea and cakes'.

I have to say I always find it interesting to watch this phenomenon (probably because I can relate to it myself).

8. Get yourself into a 'Sugarholic Anonymous' group if you can. Most of them are 'virtual', i.e. they are online. If you live in the US, you might be lucky to find a real one too.

9. Motivation is the key. If you have a goal + knowledge (e.g. how sugar ruins your health and looks), then it will be easier to make the right choices every time you eat.

10. And the last advice (for now) - do not keep any 'junk' foods at home! You cannot successfully deal with your sugar cravings and addiction if you have something to feed them with in your own house. (Again, imagine if you had an alcohol dependency.

Could you give up drinking if you had a bottle of wine at home?).

Other articles you might be interested in:

How to be more assertive

How to be happy in this 'unhappy' world

Why do I need to eat healthy

Is it time to take stress seriously? (Quiz)

How optimitstic are you? (Fun test)

Life is too f***ing short


American Diabetes. (2011). New guidelines for sugar intake. Retrieved from the American Diabetes Web site:

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