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The Sour Side of Sugar

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Cakes. Candy. Ice Cream. Or my favorite—cookies. Isn’t it amazing how sometimes we just get a hankering for something sweet? Something chocolatey or creamy but definitely something sugary?


In addition to midday cravings, my special time of day was always at night after dinner. Growing up, this was the time that my mom and I would talk, drink tea and enjoy some cookies. My favorites were Chips Ahoy or Oreos. They still are!


I kept with that routine of after-dinner tea and cookies long after I moved out of my mom’s house. It was a nice, comforting ritual. But I was eating half a box of cookies each night. No kidding! It was as if I couldn’t get enough. I didn’t see this as a problem. After all, cookies were a treat to myself for a hard day.


In my work as a health counselor, I hear stories like this all the time. For me, it was cookies. For one of my clients, it is frozen yogurt or chocolate-covered pretzels. Almost everyone admits that in the absence of their favorite treat, they’ll “make do” with straight chocolate chips or a sugary drink or crackers with jelly. Everyone needs their fix!


So, do you have a sweet tooth? Probably. Americans have teeth—no, scratch that—we have entire bodies made of sweets. You are what you eat, right?


Not long ago I had a body made of Double Stuf Oreos and mocha lattes. I didn’t make the connection then, but I can tell you now that my Oreo-latte body felt tired, anxious and weak. I was often napping on the couch or dealing with my IBS. I had a lot of trouble calming down and having satisfying relationships.


Now that I know better, I can see that I needed a sugar smack down!


Sugar is a highly refined substance. (I’m talking about white sugar here, not the stuff naturally found in apples or oranges.) Sugar as a processed product is big business, along with all of its cousins—brown sugar, sucrose, high fructose corn syrup, and evaporated cane juice to name a few.


Every sugar I just named is a highly powerful substance, marketed to us in millions of ways. Sugar has the ability to lift us up, make us feel good and silly, give us energy and bring a smile to our face.


Inevitably, the lift is followed by a fall. Our mood and energy plummet. As a refined substance, our body cannot digest sugar without pulling minerals from our bodies’ reserves. Therefore, each cookie or candy weakens the body in a very direct way.


Sugar is a contributing factor or cause for many, many health conditions. Insulin resistance and adult onset diabetes is epidemic in this country—a direct result of a poor diet high in sugar. Sugar is also a major contributor to obesity, cancer and thousands of other conditions like anxiety, IBS and ADD.


So why do we keep eating sugar? Why do we fall for its tricks over and over again—the lift and then the fall? Why do we let it ravage our bodies for the sake of a sweet treat?


The way sugar reacts in our bodies is similar to nicotine. It tastes good and feels good, initially. Then we crave more and more … and more.


When we kick the habit, we go through withdrawal—headaches, fatigue. Sounds more like a drug than a food. Have you ever craved broccoli or suffered withdrawal from carrots?


Yet every day, children are rewarded for good behavior with candy. Adults continue this mindset by treating themselves to midday snacks or nighttime desserts. We even celebrate people’s birthdays by loading up with sugary cakes. Happy birthday! Your gift is the energy crash you’re going to feel in thirty minutes!


Aside from our constant snacking and treats, sugar is everywhere in our food supply. Ketchup, yogurt, canned soup, marinara sauce—they are all full of sugar. Just read the labels of anything in your pantry, and there’s a great chance you’ll find sugar or one of its cousins on the label … sometimes more than once!


No wonder we are constantly craving and feeding into our sugar addictions. Americans are pumped full of super-sized sodas and candy bars. Do you ever stop and wonder why things are the way they are? Why we have violence and sickness and so much uncertainty in our world?


I propose the radical notion that eliminating sugar from American diets would benefit society more than any drug, any law, or any healthcare system.


Wouldn’t you love to get a handle on your sugar cravings, find out what’s fueling your addiction and how to get clean from sugar? Ready for a Sugar Smackdown?

By Michelle Pfennighaus of WomenCo.

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