Quantcast

Dr. Mark Hyman: 8 Ways to Kick Your Sugar Addiction

“I love junk food and I can’t stop craving it,” a reader posted on my Facebook page. “What do I do?”

If you can identify with my reader, you’re not alone. Of the more than 600,000 food products—note I said food products, not food—80 percent have added sugar.

We went from eating about 10 pounds of sugar per person, per year in 1800 to 152 pounds of sugar (and 146 pounds of flour) per person, per year today. Think about it: On average we eat about one pound of sugar every day!

Those sugar-loaded foods literally become drugs: Doses of sugar and flour that hijack our metabolism and make us fat and sick.

Many patients tell me once they dive into a box of chips or cookies, they literally can’t stop eating. Have you ever wondered why you would devour a box of cookies but you wouldn’t binge on wild salmon?

The reason isn’t because you lack self-discipline or are weak-willed. You are not emotionally weak or lazy. You are biologically addicted to sugar and willpower doesn’t work here.

The good news is that I have something that does work. But let’s take a quick look at what created that addiction.

The Science of Sugar Addiction 

A powerful study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition proves that higher-sugar, higher-glycemic foods are addictive in the same way as cocaine and heroin.

Dr. David Ludwig and his colleagues at Harvard proved that foods with more sugar—those that raise blood sugar quickly or have what is called a high-glycemic index—trigger a special region in the brain called the nucleus accumbens. This is your brain’s pleasure center that, when activated, makes you feel good and drives you to seek out more of that feeling. This area becomes ground zero for conventional addictions such as gambling and drug abuse.

The study ultimately proved two things:

  1. Your body responds quite differently to different calories, even if the protein, fat, carbs and taste are exactly the same.
  2. Foods that spike blood sugar are biologically addictive.

That addiction triggers a vicious cycle of hunger and cravings that sets the stage for diabesity and other chronic diseases.

Constantly eating sugary foods causes a spike in your blood sugar which in turn, activates your brain’s pleasure center. This triggers more cravings and drives you to seek out more and more of the substance that gives you a “high.”

You become powerless against your brain’s hardwired response to seek out pleasure. No wonder you feel trapped.

Evolutionarily, we are programmed genetically to crave sugar and refined carbs. When we evolved as hunter-gatherers, we would binge on berries and honey when we could find it, so we would store fat for the upcoming winter.

That served us well when we hibernated and slept all winter, but that doesn’t happen today. Today we eat all winter: Not just naturally sugar-rich foods, but also the trillion Frankenfoods our ancestors wouldn’t have recognized.

Why Your Junk Food Addiction Isn’t Your Fault 

How long can you hold your breath underwater?

That might seem like a strange question concerning sugar addiction, but if I tell you to use your willpower to hold your breath for 15 minutes and that I will give you a million dollars if you do, there is still no way you can do this.

Sure, you might try, but you would fail. That’s because we are programmed for certain needs like air, water, food, sleep and sex.

These things are essential to our survival. If you are addicted to sugar and I tell you to resist giving in to your cravings by using willpower, I might as well tell you to hold your breath for 15 minutes. It simply won’t work.

Nobody wants to be overweight or suffer the emotional or physical consequences of diabetes or obesity. But willpower simply isn’t enough to overcome the cravings for chips, cookies, soda and more.

We’re up against powerful biochemical mechanisms created by food addiction. Willpower becomes useless when industrial junk food and sugar are in charge of your brain chemistry.

Read page 1

Fake foods we’ve been introduced to in the 20th century—many of which contain high-fructose corn syrup and other added sugars—have hijacked our brains, our hormones and our metabolism. These Frankenfoods have literally created a vicious cycle of hunger and cravings.

There is no such thing as junk food. There’s just junk and there’s food.

I have a simple yet radical proposal: Let’s send the trillion-dollar junk food industry a message and eat real food. That means foods nature created, which don’t come with barcodes, fake ingredients or an ingredient list at all. 

To do that, we need to rewire our brains. A researcher at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) told me the real regulator of our weight and metabolism isn’t our stomach, but our brain chemistry. The right foods send a message to your brain to shut down hunger and cravings so you burn fat and feel great. Sugary, processed foods send the opposite message.

The Right Mind Shift to Fight Cravings 

Making the right choices to opt for real, whole, unprocessed foods becomes crucial to ditch the junk food habit, but so do your emotional triggers and emotional health.

Whenever you get a strong desire for a chocolate chip cookie or other junk food, ask yourself two questions:

  1. What am I feeling?
  2. What do I need? What we need does not involve stuffing your face, I can assure you of that. 

We have a chance today to stop and detox, not only from junk food, but also from junk thoughts. We must de-clutter our bodies and our minds.

Breaking these addictions and rewiring your brain is easier than you might think. It doesn’t take weeks or months. These eight strategies can help: 

  1. Eat real food. You need to eat fat and protein for each of your meals. Whole foods carbohydrates like veggies, legumes, nuts and seeds are perfectly healthy. Broccoli is broccoli. Processed, sugary junk foods are not real foods. They set the stage for sugar addiction and all its ugly consequences.
  2. Steady blood sugar levels. Eat a nutritious breakfast with some protein like eggs, protein shakes or nut butters. Studies repeatedly show that eating a healthy high-protein breakfast helps people maintain weight loss. Also, have smaller meals throughout the day. Eat every three to four hours and have some protein with each snack or meal (lean animal protein, nuts, seeds, beans). Avoid eating three hours before bedtime.
  3. Ditch sugar. Go cold turkey. If you are addicted to narcotics or alcohol you can’t simply just cut down. You have to stop for your brain to reset. You must eliminate refined sugars, sodas, fruit juices and artificial sweeteners from your diet. These are all drugs that fuel sugar addiction.
  4. Reduce stressStress eating and junk food go together. When you’re feeling stressed, you’re more likely to reach for that bag of chocolate chip cookies or whatever your vice might be. Learn to address the root cause of your stress and address it with something like yoga, meditation or deep breathing. My UltraCalm CD becomes a great way to melt away stress and anxiety and beat your junk food addiction.
  5. Exercise smartly. The next time you get a hankering for something sweet, walk it off, literally. Besides creating a healthy distraction to avoid nose diving into a pint of butter pecan ice cream, exercise tapers cravings and raises feel-good endorphin levels. Whether you’re a newbie or a seasoned athlete, you can find an easy-to-implement exercise plan here.
  6. Determine whether food sensitivities could be causing your cravings. We often crave the very foods that we have a hidden allergy to, including gluten, dairy and sugar.
  7. Sleep well. Ever notice you’re hungrier for something sugary after a terrible night’s sleep? Studies show lack of sleep increases cravings. To get eight hours of solid sleep every night, check out these 19 tips here.
  8. Implement crave-cutting supplements. These include vitamin D and omega-3s. Also consider taking natural supplements for cravings control. Glutamine, tyrosine and 5-HTP are amino acids that help reduce cravings. Stress-reducing herbs such as Rhodiola rosea can also help. Chromium balances blood sugar and can help take the edge off cravings. Glucomannan fiber is very helpful to reduce the spikes in sugar and insulin that drive cravings and hunger. You can find all of these and other crave-busting supplements in my store.

To permanently bust sugar cravings, I highly recommend you read and implement The Blood Sugar Solution 10-Day Detox Diet. I’ve specifically designed this book to help you conquer your addiction in, yes, just 10 days.

Simply following the exact instructions in The Blood Sugar Solution 10-Day Detox Diet will help you quickly reset your brain chemistry and gain back control over your eating behavior. You don’t have to struggle to let go of your cravings; your cravings will naturally let go of you.

YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE

Is Drinking Red Wine Healthy for Me?

6 Reasons Why You Should Eat Hemp Seeds

Coconut Water vs. Lemon Water: Which Is Healthier For You?

5 Foods You Should Eat Regularly for Optimum Health

Sponsored
Prince William and British naturalist David Attenborough attend converse during the World Economic Forum annual meeting, on January 22 in Davos, Switzerland. Fabrice Cofferini /AFP / Getty Images

Britain's Prince William interviewed famed broadcaster David Attenborough on Tuesday at the World Economic Forum's annual meeting in Switzerland.

During the sit-down, the 92-year-old naturalist advised the world leaders and business elite gathered in Davos this week that we must respect and protect the natural world, adding that the future of its survival—as well as humanity's survival—is in our hands.

Read More Show Less
EV charging lot in Anaheim, California. dj venus / Flickr / CC BY-ND 2.0

Electric vehicle sales took off in 2018, with a record two million units sold around the world, according to a new Deloitte analysis.

What's more, the accounting firm predicts that another 21 million electric cars will be on the road globally over the next decade due to growing market demand for clean transportation, government subsidies, as well as bans on fossil fuel cars.

Read More Show Less
Sponsored
Teenager Alex Weber and friends collected nearly 40,000 golf balls hit into the ocean from a handful of California golf courses. Alex Weber / CC BY-ND

By Matthew Savoca

Plastic pollution in the world's oceans has become a global environmental crisis. Many people have seen images that seem to capture it, such as beaches carpeted with plastic trash or a seahorse gripping a cotton swab with its tail.

As a scientist researching marine plastic pollution, I thought I had seen a lot. Then, early in 2017, I heard from Alex Weber, a junior at Carmel High School in California.

Read More Show Less
Southwest Greenland had the most consistent ice loss from 2003 to 2012. Eqalugaarsuit, Ostgronland, Greenland on Aug. 1, 2018. Rob Oo / CC BY 2.0

Greenland is melting about four times faster than it was in 2003, a new study published Monday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences found, a discovery with frightening implications for the pace and extent of future sea level rise.

"We're going to see faster and faster sea level rise for the foreseeable future," study lead author and Ohio State University geodynamics professor Dr. Michael Bevis said in a press release. "Once you hit that tipping point, the only question is: How severe does it get?"

Read More Show Less
Seismic tests are a precursor to offshore drilling for oil and gas. BSEE

Finally, some good news about the otherwise terrible partial government shutdown. A federal judge ruled that the Trump administration cannot issue permits to conduct seismic testing during the government impasse.

The Justice Department sought to delay—or stay—a motion filed by a range of coastal cities, businesses and conservation organizations that are suing the Trump administration over offshore oil drilling, Reuters reported. The department argued that it did not have the resources it needed to work on the case due to the shutdown.

Read More Show Less
Brazil, Pantanal, water lilies. Nat Photos / DigitalVision / Getty Images Plus

Most people have heard of the Amazon, South America's famed rainforest and hub of biological diversity. Less well known, though no less critical, is the Pantanal, the world's largest tropical wetland.

Like the Amazon, the Pantanal is ecologically important and imperiled. Located primarily in Brazil, it also stretches into neighboring Bolivia and Paraguay. Covering an area larger than England at more than 70,000 square miles, the massive wetland provides irreplaceable ecosystem services that include the regulation of floodwaters, nutrient renewal, river flow for navigability, groundwater recharge and carbon sequestration. The wetland also supports the economies of the four South American states it covers.

Read More Show Less
Demonstrators participate in a protest march over agricultural policy on Jan. 19 in Berlin, Germany. Carsten Koall / Getty Images Europe

By Andrea Germanos

Organizers said 35,000 people marched through the streets of the German capital on Saturday to say they're "fed up" with industrial agriculture and call for a transformation to a system that instead supports the welfare of the environment, animals and rural farmers.

Read More Show Less
MarioGuti / iStock / Getty Images

By Patrick Rogers

If you have ever considered making the switch to an environmentally friendly electric vehicle, don't drag your feet. Though EV prices are falling, and states are unveiling more and more public charging stations and plug-in-ready parking spots, the federal government is doing everything it can to slam the brakes on our progress away from gas-burning internal combustion engines. President Trump, likely pressured by his allies in the fossil fuel industry, has threatened to end the federal tax credits that have already helped put hundreds of thousands of EVs on the road—a move bound to harm not only our environment but our economy, too. After all, the manufacturing and sale of EVs, hybrids, and plug-in hybrids supported 197,000 jobs in 2017, according to the most recent U.S. Energy and Employment Report.

Read More Show Less