Can you really be addicted to sugar? To know for sure, we need to know what we mean by the word “addiction. ”
The Addiction Resource Guide defines addiction like this:
The physical and psychological craving for a substance that develops into a dependency and continues even though it is causing the addicted person physical, psychological and social harm. The disease of addiction is chronic and progressive, and the craving may apply to behaviors as well as substances.
From the same source we get the definition of withdrawals:
The symptoms experienced by substance abusers when they stop using the drug upon which they have become dependent. These symptoms are usually unpleasant and uncomfortable; they may include, nausea, insomnia, anxiety, weakness, trembling, sweating, dizziness, convulsions, and dementia.
Many people who regularly eat sugar in their diet will recognize themselves in these definitions of addiction.
You may have tried to give up sugar, either because you need to lose weight, or because you’re concerned about the health problems associated with too much sugar in your diet. If you’ve made an attempt to give up sugar, you probably already know that it isn’t all that easy.
About half-way through your morning you start feeling “weird” and light-headed. You need something to eat to calm your nerves or to wake you up. You miss the routine of grabbing a muffin with your morning cup of coffee. You find yourself in the cookie aisle in the grocery store, sneaking them into your basket before you can make yourself stop.
You have all the right intentions, but week after week, month after month, you’re still “trying” to cut down. You may be addicted to sugar.
Instincts and sugar addiction:
We can’t fully understand any addiction without taking instincts into account. After all, we wouldn’t do something over and over again until we were hooked, if that thing didn’t feel good in the first place.
Our bodies are “programmed” to enjoy the taste of sugar because many of the foods that humans need to eat for good health are sweet – fruits, roots, leaves and other vegetables provide the vitamins, minerals and phytochemicals that we need for optimal health. They also provide the complex carbohydrates we need for sustained energy, and the fiber we need to keep our systems running properly.
Our instincts cause us to enjoy naturally sweet fruits and vegetables by making us believe they taste good, while making poisonous or indigestible plants taste bad. It’s simply part of our survival system.
Before the age of industrialized agriculture, and the creation of highly-refined, inexpensive carbohydrates, this survival instinct was a great advantage to humans. It caused us to eat a balanced, varied diet, and we gained the greatest benefit from the foods available to us.
However, when men first invented a mill that could take all the nutrients out of wheat, resulting in white flour, and then a few years later invented the process for turning sugar cane and beets into pure granulated sugar, our instinctive craving for sweet food laid the groundwork for addiction and disease.