Are you considering it?
Dumping the stuff that’s been haunting your dreams over the past couple of weeks?
If you’re tempted, or are planning to rid your house of the goods while your kiddos are sleeping, I want to encourage you to take a deeeeeep breath and consider an alternative.
Sugar doesn’t have to be that scary
You might be thinking, “NO, Sarah, you don’t understand! I’m ADDICTED to sugar! I’ll house everything from the trick or treating bags if I don’t get it out of here!”
I want you to know I hear you. I totally appreciate why you feel like you’re addicted to the chocolatey goodness. In your lived experience, it’s probably brought about certain can’t stop won’t stop thoughts and behaviors.
AND we live in a culture that’s constantly telling us that sugar is the actual devil.
And the cherry on top is that those of us with stuff around food and body, we have a certain predisposition to lump things into 2 different camps… good vs. bad.
I want to share a couple of things with you that I hope gives you some pause around the belief that sugar is the root of all evil and should be banned from your life (that bad category).
In the wellness field many professionals cite studies concluding that because sugar lights up pleasure centers and leads to the release of dopamine (the feel-good-stuff in our brains), just like cocaine, it too, results in addiction.
This philosophy is flawed on a number of levels.
First, there are many things in our lives that result in dopamine responses. Simply because we’re human. And we’re after those feel-good-chemicals.
A hug from your partner. Your favorite movie. Reminiscing about the good ol’ days. Watching videos of puppies and kittens. Celebrations. Listening to your favorite Backstreet Boys song on repeat… all of these things can cause someone to get a good hit of dopamine.
But, we don’t go around saying that we’re addicted to the Backstreet Boys and videos of puppies and kittens, do we?
No, and that’s because our society LOVES to pathologize people’s food behaviors.
Because it’s obsessed with thinness and making us believe that fat is bad. And in the eyes of our society, binging leads to fatness. Binging = bad. Fat = bad. Sugar = bad.
What’s lacking in arguments for sugar addiction are the actual the root causes of binging behaviors.
#2 The underlying issues that people struggling with binge eating are typically trying to cope with… anxiety, depression, shame and trauma.
#3 You need food to live. You can’t be addicted to something that is depended on for survival. Abstinence just.wont.work. FULL STOP.
Seeking ways to feel better is an adaptive response to meet your needs. If food (sugar) is helping you cope with something and bringing on those feel-good-feeling when nothing else is, is it really an addition? Could it actually be a way of surviving?
So, maybe we’re not addicted to sugar… maybe we’re just trying to meet our needs. And get through the day when we’re up against some really hard stuff.
So, let’s talk about the restrictive side of things real quick…
A 2016 study in the European Journal of Nutrition found that processed food with a high sugar content were related to binge eating behaviors ONLY when subjects had previously been restricted from sugar. They also cite three other studies where people receiving treatment for binge eating were asked to eat their forbidden foods as part of their treatment. In all of these studies, binging on those foods decreased significantly.
This same study concludes, “…addiction-like-behaviors, such as binging, occur only in the context of intermittent access to sugar. These behaviors likely arise from intermittent access to sweet tasting or highly palatable foods, not the neurochemical effects of sugar.”
If you’ve felt addicted to sugar, like many of us who’ve struggled with binge eating have, take some time to think this through.
Will tossing the “bad” stuff, the candy, increase your feelings of restriction? How could that restriction ultimately lead to an epic binge on the exact stuff you tossed?
Can you get quiet with yourself and get curious about what else could be leading you to eat emotionally? To cope with anxiety, depression, shame around your body or traumatic events in your life? Could you use some support to heal those parts of yourself?
Food for thought ya’ll!
Now, instead of tossing the candy, here are 10 tips on what to do instead.
On a scale from 1-5, how hungry are you?
If you’re hangry, or hungry, consider eating a meal or snack to move you closer to fullness before enjoying the candy.
Look at the candy. What are you craving? What looks good? What could you live without?
Identify any feelings that are bubbling up that you’d like to take a little vaca from.
Sit at a table. Unwrap the candy (ies) you’re actually craving. Take a deep breath. And another to ground yourself in the moment, with yourself, your feelings and the candy.
Eat it (them) with intention to taste it (them) fully, in attempt to reach satisfaction. Call out the textures and flavors you can identify.
Check in with yourself. Are you satisfied? Are you approaching fullness? If not, go again. If so, consider a coping tool that you can use to address any feelings you were hoping to take that vaca from.
Remind yourself that you can have this candy whenever you want. There’s a store around the corner that has more kit kats if your kids, partner or roomie eats them all. Abundance. Abundance. Abundance.
If you zone out and find yourself elbow deep in the bowl, take a breath and reset. Diffuse any shame you might be feeling with words of kindness and compassion to yourself.
Repeat! As. Often. As. You. Can.
Sugar doesn’t have to be scary. It can be a part of holidays. It can be a part of your everyday life. It doesn’t have to haunt your dreams.
So, tell me! What are you willing to do to shift your beliefs about sugar?
Have a happy and safe Halloween!!