For many years my own addiction to sugar and fat made weight loss almost impossible for me. I want to share a few things I’ve learned about sugar addiction, and addictions in general, because there are some common misconceptions.
One thing many people don’t know is that the vast majority of people who are addicted to drugs and alcohol (and sugar) are able to kick their habits all by themselves.
Yes, there are withdrawal symptoms.
And it often isn’t easy.
But that doesn’t mean you can’t give up your habit. In fact, compared to many addictions, giving up sugar and other refined carbs is easy. It’s staying “clean” afterwards that’s hard.
Like many people, I got to experience withdrawal symptoms when I decided to stop drinking coffee. I knew there would be a headache (and there was), so I scheduled my headache for the weekend.
I didn’t get much done around the house that weekend, but by Monday morning my headache was gone. Caffeine is addictive, but that doesn’t mean I can’t stop drinking coffee – it just means I’ll pay a small price if I do.
Other drugs, such as tobacco, have far longer and more disturbing withdrawal symptoms. Sugar addiction’s withdrawal symptoms, by comparison, are quite mild. The symptoms of sugar withdrawal can include headaches, fatigue, depression, drowsiness, skin eruptions, and mucus or throat discomfort.
Some of these symptoms, especially the mood swings, fatigue and drowsiness, can occur on a daily basis as the blood sugar rises and falls on a high-sugar diet. Whether or not you’re successful in kicking an addictive habit depends on how you handle three different stages in the process.
To make it easy to see what I’ll be talking about, I’ve drawn out the three stages here.
The black line on the left represents the status quo – before you’ve given up your habit. The red square represents the withdrawal symptoms that are a natural consequence of removing an addictive substance, like sugar, from your body. With sugar addiction, the withdrawal symptoms may be weakness, slight nausea, headache, and other fairly mild but possibly uncomfortable symptoms.
My caffeine withdrawal headache lasted 2 days, sugar withdrawal symptoms may last for a week or two. Some people may experience little or no discomfort at all.The blue line on the right represents life after withdrawal. That’s our goal, because it leads towards health.
The first step towards giving up a habit that involves an addictive substance is acknowledgment. It is very important to acknowledge that there are perfectly good reasons why you would like to make no changes – you enjoy the bagel in the morning, you like the taste of sugar, it helps you feel better in the afternoon, you enjoy sharing your baked goods with your friends and family, etc.
We all have reasons for eating the way we do now. Acknowledge those reasons – it’s an important part of the process.There are also very good reasons for giving up the sugar and white flour habit – it makes you fat, it leads to heart disease and diabetes, etc.
Look at both sides of the issue, educate yourself as much as possible about nutrition, and then make an informed choice. I hope you’ll see that life without sugar is worth it, in spite of the few days when you’ll experience uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms.