How Sugar Harms Sobriety and What You Can Do About It
Posted on 01/18/18: Addiction Aftercare
If you’re enjoying a sober lifestyle, that is fantastic! As a member of the “sober society” you are experiencing all the benefits that others, just like you, and people who never had issues with alcohol or drug consumption revel in. But there is another form of addiction that has weaved its way into this country and breeds in many of the foods we eat every day. Even health-minded individuals may find the information disheartening but worth knowing. Sugar harms sobriety because it plays off some of the same bodily responses as other harmful substances do.
The Body Thinks Sugar Tastes like Alcohol
Sucrose, glucose and fructose are all forms of sugar. When ingested into the body, digestion begins and the brain sends a message to the brain, similar to what happens when alcohol is consumed. Dopamine is released, inducing the sensation of pleasure. The more dopamine released, the happier we feel. Sugar intake also sets off the release of serotonin that boosts our mood.
Once sugar intake takes hold and begins to control your moods, it can open the door to reengaging the cycle of pleasure and depression, putting you at risk for relapsing into drugs or alcohol and foregoing all the hard work you’ve done in sobriety. The temporary rush from sugar isn’t worth it.
Transference of Addiction
Sugar is tempting. It tastes good and when you add in the body’s natural response to it, relying on sugar to create a feel-good moment is easy, and harmful.
Sugar, a handful of years ago, was coined as “the new heroin” because of its addictive qualities and the health dangers it presents to those who overconsume. Increased risk for stroke, heart disease and cancer have been linked to heavy sugar intake. For those in sobriety, sugar can be the quick fix when a life event or negative feelings arise because it mimics the instant gratification that drugs or alcohol used to provide. Over time, cravings for more sugar occur as the body needs increased levels of dopamine and serotonin. Here’s how easy a sugar addiction begins.
- You have a bad day at work –grab a pint of ice cream
- You fight with your partner – inhale a box of chocolate
- You have to stay up late for an event – down two sodas and a fast food favorite
- You are working out and need a boost – eat a granola bar
Some of these situations show obvious sugar intake but the granola bar might have fooled you. Just because something sounds healthy doesn’t mean it is.
Manufacturers Hide Sugar to Boost Their Profits and Your Addiction for It
Sugar is also found in non-sweet foods. Pasta, crackers, rice and potatoes are carbohydrates that the body converts to sugar during the digestive process, triggering heightened dopamine levels as well. Natural fruit provides essential vitamins and minerals but again, the body converts it into fructose, a sugar. Honey is also full of fructose. Does it mean you should stop eating fruit or honey? No, just watch the quantity.
Coca-Cola Bottling Group began using high-fructose corn syrup in their drinks in 1980 to cut their production costs and increase profits. By the mid-1980s, other soda corporations followed, to the detriment of overall worldwide population health.
According to the American Heart Association, daily sugar intake should not exceed:
- Women – 9 teaspoons a day
- Men – 6 teaspoons a day
Seems like that’s a lot of sugar but it isn’t. Remember, we’re not just talking about white, granulated sugar, this means all forms of sugar. Oh, and did I mention there are 56 forms of sugar that are hidden in the processed foods we eat? Did that just take the wind out of your sail? You can still enjoy sugar, by being more of an advocate of your own health.
Behavior Modification and Knowledge Help Curb Sugar Cravings
Abstinence is part of sobriety but splurging on sugar every now and then is okay, unless you have a health condition such as diabetes. Adopting to a well-rounded healthy lifestyle includes making positive choices that support emotional and physical wellbeing. Robust sustenance is part of the program.
There’s some easy rule-of-thumbs that’ll help keep you on track to feeling good, and less likely to trigger sugar cravings and continue to support a life free of alcohol and drug use.
- Eat protein: turkey, chicken, lean cuts of meat, fish, tofu, and low-fat dairy
- Stay away from these processed foods: white pasta, white rice, white flour and white sugar
- Choose healthy fats: avocado, coconut or olive oils, nuts (if not allergic)
- Avoid processed meats: salami, bologna, hot dogs, sausage, bacon
- Read: the labels on everything you buy in the grocery store
- Shop the perimeter: in the market, the fresher foods are often placed in the outer aisles
- Indulge in: green veggies, colorful peppers and carrots, and legumes
- Drink: water, coffee, tea
- Fruit: eat small quantities
- Avoid fast food: drive-thru, convenience store, bars
Lean protein fuels the brain and helps minimize hunger and cravings for sugary foods. Healthy fats support digestion and promote skin that glows. Vegetables and fruit are loaded with nutrients that help maintain optimal bodily systems function – and they do wonders for the waistline.
Because today’s lifestyle wires us to seek answers on the fly, when we’re hungry we want to eat, now, wherever we happen to be. Here are five quick tips to help keep healthy eating your first choice.
5 Quick Tips to Avoid Sugar in the Moment
- Plan ahead – take fresh fruit or veggies with you on the road and in the refrigerator
- Stay Hydrated – drink water throughout the day, add some citrus, berries or cucumber slices
- Eat Before – if your destination is going to have sugary foods, eat first to help avoid temptation
- Stop Boredom – don’t eat sugar to stop boredom, exercise or divert your attention elsewhere
- Get Sleep – don’t eat to help you stay awake, hit the pillow and dream about the cake instead
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Successful Sobriety Happens When You’re Ready to Keep It Real
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