I get it. I really do. The craze about cutting back on sugar comes with promises of weight loss
and looking great in your beachwear this summer—and those promises do deliver. The benefits to the body of eliminating or reducing processed sugar intake have become indisputable: reduction in weight, healing from heart disease and diabetes, less joint aches and muscle pains, and better complexion. All of this makes the journey through sugar detox worth it. However, there’s much more to this story than simply feeling better.
Science now understands that not only will our health improve, but our brains will actually function better without the influence of processed sugar. And let’s face it—our bodies looking and feeling great simply can’t happen without a fully functioning, healthy brain—a “sexy” brain as I like to call it!
Not all sugar is equal!
Our brains cannot function without key building blocks of natural sugars such as glucose, which is a fundamental source of energy for all bodily functions. Yet processed sugars, or added and “hidden” sugars, do quite the opposite. The brain recognizes and reacts to processed sugars in the exact same way as it does to hardcore drugs such as cocaine. On brain imaging scans one can actually watch the brain light up in the presence of processed sugars causing the brain to trigger reward states that lead to cravings and eventually addiction.
Processed sugar is now being considered at least as addictive as cocaine, and with a significant impact on brain and bodily function. The latest research is also indicating that those who consume excessive processed sugar in their youth have substantially increased risk for dementia and Alzheimer’s beginning as early as in their 40’s and 50’s! Sugar may just be the most widely distributed, overused, addictive drug of our times, and the state of our country’s health and waistline are proof positive that unless we act quickly to turn this train around we are in for a very serious world-wide health crisis.
So what can we do about it?
How do we hack processed sugar when it is in virtually every processed food product on the store shelves? How do we put down the candy and step away from the cheesecake? It’s not easy, but it can be done. Here are a few key mindsets that you must embrace to get off of sugar, heal your body, and reprogram your brain to a sugar-free state.
Up until this moment, it wasn’t your fault—but now you know better (Sorry! Don’t hate me!).
When a person doesn’t know or understand something—the impact of processed sugars on the body and brain in this instance—then we cannot fairly hold them accountable. However, once you know that something is detrimental to your health it is in your best interest to take action and protect yourself. Learn everything you can about where sugars hide, how the food giants strategically addict us into buying their products, and what you can do to stand strong and advocate for your own health through your food choices.
Don’t think in “forever” terms.
I don’t know about you, but frankly for me the idea of giving up processed sugars was depressing! What about my vanilla latte? What about my mom’s cheesecake?? I didn’t think I could live without them! But there is good news—actually great news—to share. Once you get yourself into sugar-free, stable ground you WILL be able to have your favorites from time to time but just in limited quantities and infrequent intervals. The key to this of course being not to trigger any addictive tendencies that your brain may have already acquired. Build a relationship with your body, pay attention to how it feels once it is “clean” from sugar and then you can periodically play around with having a sweet treat once a week or on special occasions.
Know why you are doing this and love yourself for it.
As I mentioned earlier, the added bonus of any weight loss or looking better is a great perk of kicking sugar to the curb. But for most that’s not a potent enough reason to tough out the sugar detox process. Why do you want to take this very important step in removing sugar? Because you have work to do in this world. Because you want to reach your greatest potential. Because it’s hard to be effective when you are sick, tired, and your brain is on the sugar drug. The first few days off of sugar will be a challenge, but even more challenging is sticking to clean eating in a world and culture that embraces sugar like a long-lost lover. You need to love yourself and your health enough to know that YOU are worth more than anything the sugar high can provide.
Originally broadcast on Life Extension Blog.