The Pleasure and Pain…of Sugar

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A few days ago, 60 Minutes aired an episode where Dr. Sanjay Gupta reported that sugar, in the way it’s being consumed today, is a toxin.

The word toxin sounds very serious, especially when talking about sweets and treats we love, crave, and feed our families. But the reality is that many Americans eat a SAD diet. No, that’s not a Standard American Diet, but a Sad American Diet. For many of us, our diets are filled with sugar, dangerous types of fats, chemicals and ingredients that would be found sooner in a lab experiment than a cookbook. These “nutrient void, calorically-dense sub-foods” are wreaking havoc on our bodies and our health. We eat more than we used to, not only because the serving sizes are so much bigger, but because we’re searching for a sense of satiety that these foods simply can’t provide. What’s worse, we slowly build up a tolerance for the “feel good” feeling that we’re hoping for when eating them and need to consume more and more to achieve the same effect.

So, what can we do?

While I often encourage:

  • Adding foods that are healthy, as opposed to taking foods away, in order to make changes that last
  • Taking small steps to increase confidence and a feeling of success
  • Gradual lifestyle changes to encourage lifelong change…and here’s where I make an exception for sugar.

When it comes to sugar, my clients and I have found that the best approach to reducing sugar intake may be to take a more aggressive approach. Why? Sugar is highly addictive and the same receptors that respond to certain drugs respond to sugar as well. That means by cutting back on sugar, while a step in the right direction, we still remain mildly addicted and it still has a powerful hold on us. So if sugar is as dangerous as drugs (in my opinion, it’s even more dangerous because it’s so widely available and accessible), it lingers as an option that’s difficult to ignore.

Besides weight gain, inflammation (which is behind so many illnesses and diseases), heart disease, diabetes, some cancers and more, sugar is impacting our quality of life and the way we think, feel and live.

So, if cutting sugar cold turkey doesn’t appeal to you, for start, how about a non-negotiable rule to cut out sugar in just one area? For example, maybe from this day on, you choose to eliminate soda or sweetened drinks. The choice is yours, and your health and wellness is a choice you’re largely making too.

What will you choose? No change, slight change, the cold turkey approach? I’d love to know, comment and share!

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    Paula Gallagher
    Paula is a highly qualified and experienced nutrition counselor on the staff at Village Green.
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April 2012
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