Answer – I’ve never felt an addiction to sugar or carbs as many people do (although I was obese and went low carb to lose over 80 pounds), but I have clients and family who do, so I have done a lot of research on this.
One of the best things I’ve seen on carbohydrate/sugar addiction came from a man who is a bariatric surgeon, Dr Robert Cywes (Online LCHF Convention). He’s not famous. Hasn’t written anything. But he has done over 5500 bariatric surgeries, including children, and he gave a talk at the LCHF Convention in South Africa in February 2016. His talk is behind a paywall – which I highly recommend paying for (I have no connection or financial interest in this). The following is from his talk.
Is Sugar Addiction Real?
- Addiction occurs when a harm is ignored.
- No addiction is treated through simple reduction.
- Protein, fat, water, micronutrients, all the things our bodies need from a nutritional perspective have no endorphin realizing capacity, but carbohydrates and all sugars and starches, no matter what form they take when they go in our mouth get us high.
- It’s impossible to get fat from eating fat and protein unless you put a tube down your nose and pour it in all the time because homeostatically, no matter how much fat and protein you try to eat your body will shut you down when you have had enough. But carbohydrates are not controlled because they activate the endorphin center not the hunger center, and therefore you can eat endless amounts of carbohydrates.
- Obesity is not a weight problem. Obesity is not a calorie problem. Obesity is not a lack of physical activity problem. Diet and exercise programs only work very transiently. Obesity is a substance abuse problem.
- Seventy to ninety percent of the total calories consumed by an obese person are in some form of carbohydrate; seventy to ninety percent, remember we need zero. So, when you are eating that degree of carbohydrate not only are you getting too much carbohydrate but you are also missing out all the other stuff so guess what that’s called? Malnutrition. No fat person is healthy. At minimum they are malnourished.
- 40% of the population is vulnerable to addiction. 100 years ago they were addicted to alcohol. Prohibition and ostracism and education reduced that. 60 years ago they were addicted to cigarettes. Ostracism and removal of convenience and cost have reduced that. Now they are addicted to carbohydrates. Smokers started at 12, but carb addicts now start at 4 years old.
- You eat once or twice a day for hunger – but when you are dealing with endorphins, that endorphin system needs to be activated twenty to thirty times a day, so the average fat person puts stuff in their face twenty to thirty times a day – a piece of candy, a sip of soda, it all adds up to a high frequency.
- We have to treat obese people from an addiction perspective where you don’t have access, so when you are having a vulnerable moment you do not have ready access to your drug of choice,
- There is vested financial interest in keeping carbs easy and cheap, so this is why they talk about reduction, control, portion, and calories rather than complete removal.
How to Beat Sugar Addiction
So that’s a summary of what Dr Cywes says. Sugar addiction is a real addiction. As with any addiction, beating it takes a broad approach.
- You’re not going to solve your addiction by reading just this or any blog post, but you first need to believe sugar is an addiction, is harmful, and you need support to overcome it. This is not just about needing more willpower! The forces of culture, convenience, and corporate America are against you. I hope this blog post has helped you see that.
- You need to create a better relationship with food. You need to accept that your eating is about how you choose emotional comfort over hunger and nutrition. You don’t simply need to “eat more protein.” You DO need more, of course, but that’s a mere step and doesn’t address your emotional choices.
- You need social support. Enlist friends, a formal support group, or online community that you can reach out to and get tips from. You need people who know the fight and who will help you stay accountable.
- You need to plan. You need to prepare foods so that you can at least beat the hunger. You’ll eat sugar regardless of hunger, but you need healthy foods always available. Have high-protein, high-fat meals with you and in the refrigerator at all times.
- You need to create new habits. You have to WANT to. They won’t just happen because you feel they SHOULD. If you are ready to plan and change, check out Tiny Habits (The Fogg Method) in this TED Talk. This approach to habit change is the best.