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Sugar and addiction

poshnialloposhniallo Registered User regular
edited March 2012 in Help / Advice Forum
Hi

Backstory:

So, I have Crohns (which has been in remission for a long time) and have given up a lot of 'bad' things because of it: coffee, alcohol, dairy, pizza...

But the one thing I haven't been able to give up is sugar, especially chocolate. When I say sugar I mean cookies, jam, honey, cakes, juice, soda. The usual. Especially chocolate. God I love chocolate. And because eating and pooping both can hurt like hell when you have Crohns, one of my bad habits has been to have a snack instead of a real food.

I have always been overweight, except for when my Crohns was bad. But now, at 42 years old, I am the heaviest I have ever been, and I want to lose weight.

Now:

I want to give up sugar and chocolate, or at least reduce my intake drastically. But I just can't. When I gave up coffee, I got 3 weeks of headaches and feeling like crap, but then the physical addiction to caffeine was gone and I felt much better. Alcohol was harder because of the lifestyle effects, but nowadays I maybe have a drink once or twice a year, and that is fine too.

How can I give up sugar? When I stop eating chocolate I just crave it insanely and feel physically awful. I get headaches and feel grumpy. And I'm pretty grumpy to start off with, so I become more like a bear that's just woken up. I guess my blood sugar is being affected?

What I really want to know is can I give it up or reduce it and expect a point when I don't crave sugar any more? Is there any evidence that sugar is physically addictive? Have any of you been in my situation and found that after X months they don't miss sugar?

I already know that lots of hippies and food-faddists think sugar is addictive, but I'd like to know if there's scientific consensus on that.

Please remember this is not a debate thread, and that I'm looking for mainstream science rather than fringe. Thanks.

I figure I could take a bear.

Posts

  • Hahnsoo1Hahnsoo1 Registered User regular
    Sugar is not addictive, at least not physiologically speaking (there is no scientific evidence for it). I can't tell you much about chocolate (separate subject). Grumpiness and headaches aren't indication of blood sugar levels, and blood sugar levels have nothing to do with sugar intake (it has to do with overall nutritional intake and metabolism). You don't need sugar to maintain a "blood sugar" level... your body does this naturally from metabolizing food in general.

    I'd look into getting diabetic sweets. They are perfectly okay for non-diabetics to eat, and they are quite sweet and tasty without the sugar. There are quite a few diabetic cakes and cookies that I enjoy eating, myself. This will, at least, help you wean yourself off of it. Better eating habits all around, though, will go a long way toward helping you with your weight. It's more about caloric intake than it is about sugar in particular.

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  • tinwhiskerstinwhiskers Registered User regular
    Chocolate does have caffeine(the darker the more caffeine), but I really don't think there's enough there that unless we're talking bars of it every day, you'd have physical effects. There's about 25mg of caffeine per ounce of dark chocolate, where an oz of coffee has about 15. So 1 dark chocolate bar is half a cup of coffee or so caffeine wise.

    As for sugar, no not addictive.

    It may be worth trying the various diet alternatives, as they still taste sweet so you'll get your fix without the calories and the sugar level/insulin spiking. And also fruit. There's lots of sugar there too, so its not great for weight lose, but the fiber and such should help some, and its a lot harder to eat 600 calories of apples, then it is 600 calories of jelly donuts. Same with yogurt(get the light or Greek stuff)
    Some of the Healthy/Choice Lean Cuisine things I have had for lunch have little deserts in them, that aren't too terrible.

    But in general, stop drinking the soda and juice. 2 cans a day of Mountain dew is 1/2 a pound a week, worth of calories. And most Juice/Power Aid shit isn't much better.

  • CelestialBadgerCelestialBadger Registered User regular
    I think you can get addicted to anything if your personality goes that way. For instance, video games are not addictive, but people have played WOW in an addictive fashion. So if something is a problem for you, you don't need to feel that because it isn't physically addictive, it doesn't count.

    Have you been checked out for diabetes? When my dad got diabetes, he started craving sweet foods, and got kind of grouchy.

  • JohnDoeJohnDoe Registered User
    When I was trying to cut down sugar, I first switched to healthier sweet things. eg. if I felt like a donut, I'd have an orange instead. Usually it was enough to cut down on my craving.

  • AlyceInWonderlandAlyceInWonderland Registered User regular
    If you know how to bake, bake your own stuff with splenda. If you like dark chocolate, start buying 85% dark. I can only eat a couple of pieces of that since it's so rich. I LOVE sugar, and chocolate is the best thing ever, but I cut sugar out drastically when I first started losing weight, and it's been awesome. The cravings have reduced, and I feel much better for it.

    I know a lot of people are like "oh noooo, don't use splenda, don't drink diet cooookeee, it's so baaaad for you and will give you the CANCER!" but honestly? Unless you eat POUNDS of splenda a day, you're not going to get cancer. If you want icecream, the store has a lot of sugar free icecreams that taste really good. Also, one of my favorite snacks ever is greek yogurt. take 6-8 oz of greek yogurt, mash up about 6 strawberries, and add 1-2 teaspoons of splenda/truvia/any other sugar substitute, and you have strawberries and cream. It's delicious. OR, instead of strawberries, add 1 tablespoon of unsweetened cocoa, 1 scoop of vanilla protein powder and 2 tablespoons of splenda to the greek yogurt, and you have the closest thing to chocolate pudding I've tasted with out it actually being chocolate pudding (and it's very good for you too!)

  • The EnderThe Ender Registered User regular
    edited March 2012
    How can I give up sugar? When I stop eating chocolate I just crave it insanely and feel physically awful. I get headaches and feel grumpy. And I'm pretty grumpy to start off with, so I become more like a bear that's just woken up. I guess my blood sugar is being affected?

    As Alyce has said, there are alternative sweeteners to sucrose that you can switch to if you do your own cooking.

    I would note, though, that this solution might not be the best if you're trying to lose weight: one of the fundamental problems with any sweetener is that it encourages you to eat a lot of food.

    So, I guess I should ask for some clarification here: is your primary goal weight loss, or is your primary goal removing sucrose (or HFCS, if you're in the U.S.) from your diet?

    If your goal is the former, you should certainly cut back on sweet foods, but more importantly you need to eat fewer calories overall. If there is a nearby Weight Watchers store in your area, I would recommend picking-up their little points-based calorie guides: they're very inexpensive (you might also be able to find electronic versions for free), they don't try to sell you Weight Watchers specific food, and they provide a terrific guideline / set of rules to follow. My mother, one of my mother's friends and a few other acquaintances used those little books to tremendous effect.

    My only word of caution would be to make you you don't follow the book to the letter for a few months, shed a bit of weight, and then fall off of the proverbial wagon (which is what tends to happen with dieting programs). Try to understand why a given food has a particular point value, and get used to 'feeling' that value after you've eaten it (that is, recognize that it's fine to eat it in small amounts in one sitting, but you shouldn't eat a large quantity of it in one sitting).

    You don't need to 'give up' chocolate or sugar: establishing a taboo against particular foods shouldn't be the goal if what you want to do is lose weight & maintain a healthy weight. You can still eat chocolate & candy and be perfectly healthy - you just have to adjust the amount of it that you eat at once.
    I already know that lots of hippies and food-faddists think sugar is addictive, but I'd like to know if there's scientific consensus on that.

    The consensus is that sucrose is not a narcotic that you can become physiologically dependant on. Consensus is not the same as universal agreement, however, and there are serious academics who think that both sucrose & HFCS qualify as not only narcotics, but toxins.

    Whether or not sugar is addictive isn't really something that can have a broad scientific consensus because addiction is something that happens on an individual level. Addictions are often associated with narcotics, but can also be associated with more mundane things. Is consuming sugar, for you, something that you can no longer control? Is it's consumption having adverse consequences on your life but you consume it anyway because you've lost control over your ability to refuse it? If that's the case, generally speaking, that's an addiction.

    The Ender on
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  • UsagiUsagi WOMP WOMPRegistered User regular
    Another thing that's important is to realize why you're eating. Are you hungry? If not, why are you eating?

    If the chocolate/sugar cravings are at the end of a hard day, or after feelings of anxiety/hurt/sadness/etc, dealing with the underlying cause can alleviate the perceived "need" for a treat.

    You heard it here first, folks.
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  • CroakerBCCroakerBC YorkRegistered User regular
    I'm not sure if this helps, but you mentioned soda up there in your OP. I've (recently) found that switching to the sugar/caffeine free variety of soda is initially a bit of a chore, but that once you get used to it, it can actually taste *better*. Certainly I've noticed the lack of sticky residue on teeth afterwards. It might help, if you're still wanting to drink soda, but want to get off the sugar.

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  • poshnialloposhniallo Registered User regular
    There are lots of good points here, and I want to talk about some of them some more, but I am on my way out to work so I just have time to mention that my Crohns means I don't cope with sweeteners well. Stevia is alright, but not great. Sorbitol is awful, Acesulfame K and Saccharin not good. I haven't tried Sucralose enough to know whether it's bad or not, but I just get scared of the pain (and other symptoms that I will not mention to spare the squeamish) if I'm wrong.

    Or perhaps this is my addictive behaviour rationalising. The point about my emotional state is making me think.

    I figure I could take a bear.
  • UsagiUsagi WOMP WOMPRegistered User regular
    I found Geneen Roth's books (especially Breaking Free From Emotional Eating) to be very helpful in that regard, poshniallo, but ymmv

    You heard it here first, folks.
    Putting your finger in someone's butthole.
    Basically the same as flowers.
  • khainkhain Registered User regular
    Why do you think that giving up sugar will be any different than giving up coffee or alcohol? In the quote below you say that giving up coffee gave you headaches and made you feel like crap which seems to be the exact same thing you describe when you stop eating chocolate. You did it twice already so giving up this last thing seems to me like it shouldn't be a problem. Yes, it will probably suck for a few week but you'll get it over it like you did for coffee and you'll be able to move closer to your goals.
    poshniallo wrote:
    I want to give up sugar and chocolate, or at least reduce my intake drastically. But I just can't. When I gave up coffee, I got 3 weeks of headaches and feeling like crap, but then the physical addiction to caffeine was gone and I felt much better. Alcohol was harder because of the lifestyle effects, but nowadays I maybe have a drink once or twice a year, and that is fine too.

    How can I give up sugar? When I stop eating chocolate I just crave it insanely and feel physically awful. I get headaches and feel grumpy. And I'm pretty grumpy to start off with, so I become more like a bear that's just woken up. I guess my blood sugar is being affected?

  • KarrmerKarrmer Registered User regular
    edited March 2012
    I had to deal with this because I was massively addicted to sugar and was overweight my entire life. Sugar, IMO, is absolutely an addiction to certain people in the same way that alcohol can be. I don't think it has that absolute addictiveness of something like nicotine, but it's definitely something that can be extremely hard to break. As noted trying to get off of the stuff can cause a lot of withdrawal issues which some people like to pretend is somehow evidence that sugar (read: any refined carbohydrate really) is somehow a good thing for you.

    The only way I could get off sugar is to treat it like alcohol or ciggarettes or anything else like that. You don't get to have it "in moderation" - at least not for a very long time. Months, at the minimum. Stop eating it, completely, period. You'll finally get it cleared from your system and a *lot* of other things will happen to your body hormonally over those few months. You'll stop wanting to eat unless you're ACTUALLY hungry. It's mind blowing, but it got me to lose over 100 pounds in six months without doing any real exercise and without counting any calories. I just ate whenever I felt like eating, but I stuck to meat, eggs, vegetables, and some sparing fruits.

    Stop eating sugar, stop eating "healthy whole grains!" (they aren't), stop eating flour, stop eating any food that isn't a real good basically and you'll be good to go. Fruit is basically just sugar too so I'd completely avoid it for a while also. You do not need any of these things, though I'm sure some people without a clue will chime in here to claim that grains are somehow necessary or even remotely useful to anyone that isn't starving to death.

    The best advice really is to not listen to any advice a person gives you for this situation if they have never dealt with it themselves. If you've never grown up overweight, addicted to food (sugar), trying every diet in the world to break free because you generally hate yourself and feel embarassed for being fat since everyone thinks that must mean you're lazy and worthless, you don't really know what it's like to break this. It is NOT as simple as "just stop eating so much." You have to treat it just as seriously as you did alcohol. Stop eating the sugar, completely, and start taking control of your life. Trust me, it'll be worth it.

    Karrmer on
  • DjeetDjeet Registered User regular
    edited March 2012
    Hahnsoo1 wrote: »
    blood sugar levels have nothing to do with sugar intake (it has to do with overall nutritional intake and metabolism).

    If you're saying that non-sugar consumables also inform blood sugar levels then sure, but I'd really like an explanation as to how consuming sugar does not directly result in a subsequent spike in blood sugar levels, because that goes against common understanding of how diabetics have been self-treating for decades.

    Personally I'm of the opinion that people can become addicted to sugar; I'm not aware of any studies that would back that up, but it's not an area of research I really follow. This article has had a lot of notoriety recently, it's paywalled but this news article and this video covers some of the material. I think the research is more geared to how sugar abuse (overconsumption) leads to health risks on the order of alcohol, tobacco or drug abuse, and is less about sugar addition.


    Edit: Interesting article about the subject.

    Djeet on
  • DaenrisDaenris Registered User regular
    People can become psychologically addicted to anything. I am not aware of research that shows that sugar is physiologcially addictive but it can frequently be just as hard to break psychological addictions as physiological.

  • ThroThro Registered User regular
    If you know how to bake, bake your own stuff with splenda.
    Note: 'Splenda for Baking' is half sugar. It's sold that way since several recipes involve a chemical reaction with sugar that splenda doesn't quite do on it's own. You can still try your luck with pure Splenda instead.
    I know a lot of people are like "oh noooo, don't use splenda, don't drink diet cooookeee, it's so baaaad for you and will give you the CANCER!"
    Personally I'm anti-Splenda cause it tastes gross to me. Have friends that swear by it though, so your sweetness and dietary findings may vary.

  • Shazkar ShadowstormShazkar Shadowstorm Registered User regular
    i'll be honest, i went on a no dessert thing for a few months to see if i could do it

    it was hard at first

    but then it became easy, especially since in general i wasn't eating many carbs like bread and stuff to feed the sugar cravings

    it just takes some time to get over it, but after some time it ain't so bad

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  • L Ron HowardL Ron Howard Registered User regular
    The headaches you're getting is caffeine withdrawal. You have to live with that.
    As for me, when I start working out regularly, I pretty much cease to eat any sugar or anything extremely sugary. I have a hard time with even things like ketchup because I can taste the nasty HFCS and all that.
    Maybe look into working out? I didn't see anything that you've said, posh, about working out.

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  • LanchesterLanchester Registered User regular
    Karrmer wrote: »
    I had to deal with this because I was massively addicted to sugar and was overweight my entire life. Sugar, IMO, is absolutely an addiction to certain people in the same way that alcohol can be. I don't think it has that absolute addictiveness of something like nicotine, but it's definitely something that can be extremely hard to break. As noted trying to get off of the stuff can cause a lot of withdrawal issues which some people like to pretend is somehow evidence that sugar (read: any refined carbohydrate really) is somehow a good thing for you.

    The only way I could get off sugar is to treat it like alcohol or ciggarettes or anything else like that. You don't get to have it "in moderation" - at least not for a very long time. Months, at the minimum. Stop eating it, completely, period. You'll finally get it cleared from your system and a *lot* of other things will happen to your body hormonally over those few months. You'll stop wanting to eat unless you're ACTUALLY hungry. It's mind blowing, but it got me to lose over 100 pounds in six months without doing any real exercise and without counting any calories. I just ate whenever I felt like eating, but I stuck to meat, eggs, vegetables, and some sparing fruits.

    Stop eating sugar, stop eating "healthy whole grains!" (they aren't), stop eating flour, stop eating any food that isn't a real good basically and you'll be good to go. Fruit is basically just sugar too so I'd completely avoid it for a while also. You do not need any of these things, though I'm sure some people without a clue will chime in here to claim that grains are somehow necessary or even remotely useful to anyone that isn't starving to death.

    The best advice really is to not listen to any advice a person gives you for this situation if they have never dealt with it themselves. If you've never grown up overweight, addicted to food (sugar), trying every diet in the world to break free because you generally hate yourself and feel embarassed for being fat since everyone thinks that must mean you're lazy and worthless, you don't really know what it's like to break this. It is NOT as simple as "just stop eating so much." You have to treat it just as seriously as you did alcohol. Stop eating the sugar, completely, and start taking control of your life. Trust me, it'll be worth it.

    What Karrmer is referring to is the Atkins diet. Take a look and do some research if you're interested. It is a really good way to lose weight. However, keep in mind that in the first 2-3 days of having no sugar and carbs, you'll feel like shit because your brain figures out what is happening and starts to adjust. Then your brain starts to tell your body that you're not getting any carbs and sugar (carbs gets broken into sugar so they are basically the same thing), so it starts to burn stored fat...which is why the Atkins diet is a good one to lose weight.

    My other question is why are you trying to cut out coffee? It is actually pretty healthy...unless you put sugar and cream in it.

    Lastly, if you try to stop with something (coffee, chocolate, etc) and you are getting headaches, take some excedrin. It is tylenol/asprin with caffeine. So if you're trying to cut out the caffeine, then don't take it...but if you're trying to stop coffee or chocolate and you're getting headaches from lack of caffeine, then you can take that and it helps. For trying to stop with caffeine, I would recommend taking the excedrin and gradually reducing the amount you take each day until you aren't taking any and aren't getting any headaches.

  • Eggplant WizardEggplant Wizard Registered User regular
    I'm not aware of sugar being physically addictive, but addiction is a complex phenomenon with psychological factors playing a big role. Personal anecdote: I alternate between working at my company's local office and working at my client's office. When I'm at the local office, sugar cravings every afternoon. At the client's office, no problem. Why? Because there's a little shop in the lobby of the local office that sells sweets, and I've gotten in the habit of going down there and buying something every afternoon. At the client's office, there is no temptation because there is nowhere to obtain sweets. The good news is, unlike caffeine or heroin, you should be able to go cold-turkey on sugar with no actual ill effects. It's just your mind messing with you.

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  • KarrmerKarrmer Registered User regular
    It's not the Atkins diet, it's just eating healthy. Your typical Atkins eater is going to consume 99% meat or cheese. I don't suggest eating cheese or dairy, and I DO suggest eating a LOT more vegetables and some nuts.

    I just suggest getting rid of the processed foods, mainly. If you still want some "healthy whole grains" or oatmeal you can go for it, just dump *all* of that sugar and refined carbohydrate

  • Chop LogicChop Logic Registered User regular
    After working somewhere where I had access to a heinous amount of candy, I can tell you you HAVE TO have something avaliable for when you get the craving. A bag of nuts, dried fruit, anything. Eating something will help you stop the craving. If I were you, I would go to some store and get a HUGE bag of almonds and dried cherries (or whatever you're into) and just keep it around for when you feel like you really need chocolate.

    That being said, using healthier things to divert my cravings, I haven't had candy in years. Had some m&ms today from a friend and they tasted like garbage.

    Fruit for life.

    Willpower broseph.

  • poshnialloposhniallo Registered User regular
    Thanks for all the replies. I gave up coffee already due to Crohns. Alcohol too.

    I can't pursue Atkins. Crohns makes me weak and fatigued already, and anyway my Japanese/Crohns diet has plenty of carbs in the form of rice, bread and noodles. I can't change my core diet (which is fine anyway) because it is the best I can come up with that suits my Crohns.

    I have tried to give up chocolate and sweets before, countless times, and each time have eventually given up. My cravings for them never seem to stop. I have been quite unhappy the last few years, have had a hard time with some things - perhaps that's exacerbating the sugar abuse.

    I deeply hate working out, but I used to get some exercise in the sea until a couple of years ago, when my daughter was born. This year we plan to get back into the sea once the weather heats up a little. That should help.

    I figure I could take a bear.
  • KarrmerKarrmer Registered User regular
    The diet I'm describing isn't Atkins, nor is it a diet - it's just a change to the healthiest lifestyle a person can really have.

    Look at www.marksdailyapple.com or just google information on a primal style life. It absolutely is perfectly fine with Crohn's, and will likely actually completely fix every issue you're having.

    http://www.marksdailyapple.com/forum/thread8144.html

    See that thread, or example, for a ton of posters with Crohn's and their experiences after fixing their diet.

  • DruhimDruhim Registered User, ClubPA regular
    edited March 2012
    There is no single diet (even if you say it's not a diet, it is) for everyone, and posh has already identified that due to crohns he has dietary restrictions. So no, there's not one solution that fits all. Not even all crohns sufferers are the same, and he should definitely talk to a medical professional instead of turning to some forum on primal eating.

    Druhim on
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  • Jam WarriorJam Warrior Registered User regular
    You need something to displace those cravings when they come along. Buy apples, lots of apples. Always have them around. Don't have the stuff you want to avoid in the house at all.

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  • Pure DinPure Din Rhode Island Registered User regular
    In my experience if you can avoid or severely limit processed foods for about six months, then you can "reset" your personal levels of what tastes sweet, salty, etc. I was able to stop eating sugary things at my desk by keeping lots of water there instead and going for that when I needed something in my mouth. I also stopped drinking fruit juice around the same time. However in my case, I got a ton of cavities filled last fall so the thought of going back to the dentist and spending another two thousand dollars in fillings was pretty good at keeping the sugar cravings away.

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