In light of the season’s marathon of sugary holiday goodies and my post yesterday about Waking Up to Wellness, it seems like we should have a little sit-down discussion about sugar cravings. Specifically, how to shake them before they get the better of us, leaving us tired, stressed, achy, overweight, and at risk for a slew of serious health problems down the road.
Some people seem to glide through life heedless of sugar’s temptation, while others—lots of others—really have to work at keeping their cravings in check. Sugar has a way of making a body feel powerless to its siren call. But it’s not a matter of mere weakness, and it’s not as simple as the proverbial “sweet tooth.”
Research is mounting that proves a critical connection between sugar and brain chemistry. As explained in the book, The End of Overeating, sugar can trigger the same effects in the brain as highly addictive drugs like amphetamines and cocaine—and, sadly, countless people in this country are hooked on daily, if not hourly, sugar intake. According to a recent study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, the average American’s yearly sugar intake has skyrocketed from 26 pounds to more than 135 pounds in the past 20 years. Not surprisingly, most of that sugar is coming from processed product additives like bleached white cane or beet sugar and corn syrup, which are far more addictive and health-harming than any sort of sweetness found in nature. The bottom line: sugar can lure you into seemingly unbeatable cycles of craving, overeating, and suffering. You feel helpless to stop once you get hooked on sugar’s instant pick-me-up, even though it ultimately leaves you down in the dumps again.
While perusing the health news segment in a popular magazine recently, I found myself cringing at the headlines. Insurance, radiation, prescription drugs, and myriad gloom-and-doom medical findings—the topics sent shivers down my spine! How, I wondered, is any of this “health” news? Even as our collective consciousness is blooming with enthusiasm for more nutritious food, safer homes, and healthier habits, it seems that an alarming number of people are still outsourcing the care of their bodies to the medical industry.
In large part, it’s a matter of convenience. Instead of investing time and effort into restoring one’s natural health, it’s easier to ask a doctor to prescribe one (or more) of the many pills touted as quick cures. I think there is also a significant fear factor involved here. Over the past century or so, modern medicine has managed to convince us that physicians hold the key to creating wellness, and if the average Jane wants access to her own health, she must come crawling into the doctor’s office with her pocketbook open for business.
This isn’t to say that medicine has not served a vitally important role in engendering health in our society. Indeed, it has its place and has helped countless people live healthier, happier lives. But the shame of the matter is that, like so many other commercial ventures, medicine has become big business to the extent that people have virtually—and literally—become addicted to the system and its often toxic byproducts. We’re hearing about more lawsuits filed for drugs gone awry. We understand that overuse of antibiotics causes dangerous bacterial resistance. And, heaven knows, we’ve read the volumes of side effects and warnings that accompany medications. Yet, it’s almost as if our expanding education engenders more fear, and less confidence, about our course of action.