16 Days without sugar!
Here is my Daily Success Log Entry for August 2nd. Note: Food portions are approximations. Veggies are local. Meat is local, 100% grass-fed and pasture-raised. Poultry & Eggs are local & pasture-raised:
- Sleep Time & Quality: 6.5 hours.
- Exercise: 10,002 Steps (4.0 Miles) and 14 Hours of Good Posture. Morning Walk w/ Tim & Boys, Iron Hour Yoga.
- Mood & Energy: Excellent!
- Breakfast: Frittata w/ Eggs, Ground Beef & Sautéed Greens, 1/4-C Almond Flour, 1/2-tsp Baking Soda, 1-tsp Cream of Tartar.
- Lunch: Tuna Salad w/ Celery, Roasted Pumpkin Seeds, Homemade Avocado Oil Mayo. Carrot Sticks.
- Dinner: Beef Stew w/ Kale served over Sautéed Cabbage Wedges.
- Snacks: 1/4-C Roasted Pistachios
- Notes: Woke up with a headache and feeling a bit dehydrated. I didn't drink as much water as I usually do the day before.
Why do we crave sugar? I've already discussed a few reasons:
- Sugar is EVERYWHERE - it's just so hard to avoid. Especially if eating lots of processed foods. These typically have added and even hidden sugars.
- Positive programming since we were young from being rewarded with sweet treats for doing something good.
- Emotional connections because of many happy and fond memories celebrated with sugary delights.
Sugar is a powerful and emotional presence in our lives. And for most of us, life without sugar is unimaginable. Like breaking up with your most intimate friend. But it's not just the lack of will-power or self-control that makes breaking up with sugar hard to do. There are physiological reasons for the incredible power of sugar.
Sugar - Terms of Endearment
First let's understand some terms.
- Naturally occurring sugars found in whole foods like milk, fruit, and some veggies (like carrots and beets).
- Added sugars used in home baking or added during the processing of mass produced foods. These are:
- Refined sugar from sugar cane that undergoes extreme refinement to eliminate all the fiber and plant nutrient in order to extract the sugar. Most common forms are white cane sugar (table sugar) and brown sugar.
- Chemically produced sugars like high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) that food manufacturers add to food products and beverages.
All sugar, regardless of the type, is a simple carbohydrate that the body converts into glucose and uses for energy. The more highly refined a sugar or sweetener is, the worse it is for you. The chemically produced sugars (HFCS and other artificial sweeteners) are the most refined. Honey, on the other hand, is considered a whole food because there is virtually no processing involved. Particularly raw, organic honey.
Our bodies metabolize naturally occurring sugars differently than refined or chemically produced sugars. I'll post more about this topic (metabolizing sugars) later this week. For now, I want to stick with the matter of sugar cravings. And I'm going to get to the meat of the matter -- Neurotransmitters.
A Neurotransmitter is a chemical that delivers messages to your brain. And with sugar, there are 2 main characters that have starring roles in our sugar cravings.
Dopamine is a neurotransmitter associated with the pleasure centers of the brain. Any time we have feelings like falling in love, great enjoyment, intense pleasure or reward or motivation that's because of an increase of dopamine in the brain. Conversely, a lack of dopamine in the brain causes feelings of low energy, depression and lack of motivation.
Dopamine is released for many healthy reasons, including physical touch and exercise. And also released in response to ingesting certain substances, like caffeine, narcotics, and our sweet friend --- Sugar.
Serotonin is another neurotransmitter. It helps regulate mood, irritability, pain levels, impulse, obsession and memory. Serotonin helps us sleep, recharge, relax and generally cope with everyday life. A lack of serotonin may cause sleeplessness, a general feeling of emotional emptiness and paranoia or fear.
Why We Crave Sugar
Eating sugar increases the levels of dopamine and serotonin.
The increased dopamine triggers signals of pleasure and reward throughout our bodies. These signals also encourages us to continue to seeking these feelings. But naturally occurring sugars metabolize to produce a different response than refined or chemically produced sugars.
Remember that food is comprised of macronutrients (fat, protein & carbs) and micronutrients. And as I discussed earlier, sugar is a carb. Whole foods like fruit & honey contain naturally occurring sugars. These also have the micronutrients that help metabolize the macronutrients (i.e., the sugar carbs) in a healthy way.
When we eat whole foods, we still feel pleasure from the naturally occurring sugars. But we also receive enough nutrition from the naturally occurring micronutrients in the whole food to calm the the desire for more. In contrast, refined and chemically produced sugars -- without the naturally occurring micronutrients -- leaves us with the constant desire for more sugar.
Also recall that serotonin regulates our mood. Most typically responsible for calming and elevating our moods. So when serotonin is increased, we feel better about ourselves both physically and mentally. This may be why we think of cookies, ice cream and other sweets that increase serotonin as comfort food . And another reason we have a hard time staying away from these sweets.
Real Food Toolbox Tip
So there you have it. We are not just emotionally, behaviorally, and environmentally (widespread use of added and hidden sugars) programmed to crave sugar. There are physiological reasons too. And knowing all of this -- again, knowledge is empowering - is an essential utensil for our Real Food Toolbox.
From yesterday, we know that Food = Nutrition = Energy = Life. So the only purpose to eat food is to provide energy for your body. This is food with naturally occurring nutrition. NOT food with refined or chemically produced sugar. When making decisions about food -- Choose with mindfulness and awareness. Eat for Energy. NOT for pleasure.
But this doesn't mean you can never eat refined sugar products. Just be mindful that there is a difference between special occasions and daily (or every few days even) occasions. Limiting your sugary treats for those special, rare, times is the better road towards lifelong health.
What do you think? Are these articles helping you to better understand our sugar cravings? I hope so. Please let me know how you have been coping with your sugar cravings. I'd love to help you figure this out!! And keep checking in this week because I'll continue posting about the effects of sugar on our bodies 😉
Kick Sugar To The Curb!
If you decide to take this challenge, please let me know. I have received so much support and positive energy from you all. That I would like to return the favor :-)
- Sugar Free Alex. "The Psychology Behind Sugar Addictions." Spoonful of Sugar Free. n.p., May 28, 2013. Web. July 27, 2016.
- Sanfilippio, Diane BS, NC, The 21 Day Sugar Detox, Las Vegas, Victory Belt Publishing Inc., 2013.