Monday, 4 February 2019

Am I Addicted to Sugar?


My name's Clare, and I'm a sugaraholic.

When I was drinking (a lot), I wasn't that interested in sugar. I felt quite smug about my lack of sweet tooth. I could inhale a packet of crisps (that's chips for my American friends) from twenty paces, but chocolate? I could take or leave it.

Then, I quit drinking, and hot chocolate and cake became my lifeline.

I have to confess, that over the last few years, that craving for sugar hasn't really diminished. In fact, it's got worse.

In our house, we have cupcake Friday. I don't actually bake the suckers. I'm really not that kind of mother, sadly. But I pick the kids up from school and we go to the local cupcake shop where they sell such beauties as Unicorn cupcakes! With horns and sprinkles.

I swear, eating a large cupcake with lots of frosting makes me totally HIGH.

But then, there's the inevitable crash, an hour or so later. And I've started craving that sugar high more and more.

When I was madly editing my new novel for a Christmas deadline, I spent hours in my pyjamas and Uggs, hunched over my laptop, mainlining mince pies. I kid you not. I ate dozens of those evil temptresses.

I know I am not alone. Many, many people tell me that after going sober they developed unbearable sugar cravings.

Why is this?

Well, it turns out that sugar acts on our dopamine levels in exactly the same way as alcohol, or cocaine, or any other drug.

Dopamine is a neuro-transmitter in the brain associated with pleasure and reward. If you have a tendency towards addiction, it is likely that you are particularly sensitive to dopamine.

When we drink alcohol, or eat sugar, our brains produce a spike of dopamine. Way-hey! The issue is that following that spike, there's a crash, which makes us crave more.

And over time, our brains reduce the amount of dopamine produced naturally to compensate for all the stuff we keep shovelling in, so without booze, or sugar, we feel a bit...meh.

After my Christmas sugar binge-fest, I decided that something had to be done. I needed to moderate.

I have, therefore, given myself some parameters. I will NOT eat sugar during the week. I will NOT eat sugar alone. I will NOT eat more than one cupcake in one sitting.

Is this all sounding horribly familiar?

And, just the same as when I tried those rules with booze, I find myself becoming obsessed by the idea of sneaking down to the newsagent and hiding a cheeky bag of Maltesers (they are mainly air, after all) in my shopping basket, amongst lots of random items that I don't actually need.

I did some research, and there is some good news. There are, it turns out, several ways to produce dopamine in a totally healthy way.

First off, you can eat foods rich in something called tyrosine, like almonds, bananas, avocados, eggs, beans, fish and chicken. Not as pretty as cupcakes, but they do the same thing in a more gentle, less addictive fashion.

You can exercise. Yoga is especially good at producing dopamine, but any exercise, particularly outdoors (dopamine loves sunlight) will do the job.

Make sure you get lots of sleep. If you're sleep deprived, your dopamine levels will go through the floor. That's why you crave sugar when you're tired.

Listen to music! Your favourite tunes lead to an increase in dopamine. Yes, really.

Get a massage. Apparently, massage therapy increases dopamine levels by nearly 30%, while also decreasing cortisol (the stress hormone).

I've been trying these strategies, and they really do work.

So, whether you're craving booze, sugar or cocaine, grab a banana, do some asanas in the sunshine, book a massage and turn the music up, and before you know it, the cravings will go.

Read the story of my first year sober, The Sober Diaries, described as 'Bridget Jones Dries Out.' You can get the first few chapters for free using Amazon's 'look inside' feature. Click here for UK, here for USA.

For daily inspiration and information, check out the SoberMummy Facebook Page. 'Like' page to stay updated.

Love to you all,

Clare

22 comments:

  1. Hmm, I was reading this while eating a mini ice cream ( the ones from Aldi ). Like you SM, I made a vow after Christmas to cut back on sugar after going a bit OTT during the festive season. So I snuck this ice cream while Mrs w3stie wasn't watching. Now I feel bad, and I was already feeling guilty about the choccie bar ( Aldi again ) I had behind her back this morning with coffee.

    Hmmm.

    Guiltily

    Rob

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    Replies
    1. As always, Rob, you and I are twins separated at birth...

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    2. Like you said SM, it's just like the wine. I started the New Year with best intentions to quit sugar treats. That lasted two weeks, and I lost 2 kgs, then it came to the weekend and, well it's ok to have it on the weekend. Then Monday came and I'm reduced to hiding treats around the house.

      Sad really :D

      Rob

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  2. Clare as I said on soberistas, this is not a funny problem. Who wants to look in the mirror and see a big fat blob looking back because they can't stay sober without it. I raised it as an issue and shall we say it wasn't well received......to summerise "Its better than drinking" was the general response. Don't we want to be the best version of our selves possible??? Thanks Clare, I now know I am not going round the twist. Dopamine is the biggest neurohormone we have that affects mood. Pass me an almond any day.....I cant do one cupcake, sorry Im defo an addict xx

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    Replies
    1. I found the soberistas environment very judgemental and these comments just reinforced my view. There is a balance too - yes, we want to be alcohol free but we also want a healthy life. Sugar is bad, not less so because it doesn't contain alcohol - just in a different way. A very limiting perspective

      holohl, just

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  3. This explains my current half an avocado and walnuts for breakfast every day, plus a banana and tangerine. There's the added hit from the self righteous healthiness of it all. I had no problem avoiding sugary things (except the spoonful in my tea or coffee) when I drank alcohol, but during my first AF year I got a taste for sweet treats. Fortunately the sugar cravings passed, but I'm still dangerous around a packet of crisps. Thanks SM, love NT xx

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  4. Good to know. Now trying to realign my body after 3 wagon wheels, an Oreo easter egg, (just don't, they are horrible) and 2 After Dinner mints. Got a bag of almonds in the cupboard x

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  5. I have turned into a cookie monster, a sober cookie monster!

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  6. It’s an important phase. The body needs time to wean itself off the booze. Zero replacement just doesn’t work.
    So the sugar is good, and then, once life is a bit more manageable, it can be replaced too.

    Sugar is a source of easy energy as well. Some day, especially in early sobriety, we need that.

    Hug
    Anne

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    Replies
    1. Are you past the sugar craving phase Anne? how long did it take you? x

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  7. YES! I quit drinking in January and was fine for the first two weeks. Then I suddenly found myself engaging in the same negative behaviour as when I was drinking: Sneaking off to the store, buying a mini cake (mini meaning it probably served four people instead of 10), rushing home and devouring the whole thing before hubby came home. Oh, and hiding the packaging. Fascinating, but also scary.

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  8. I am five months without alcohol and 6 weeks without sugar. I too had horrible sugar cravings when I stopped drinking. Moderation did not work for me, so I decided to quit sugar as I did the booze, as I had all the same negative emotions and outcomes with both substances. Quitting sugar was actually harder than quitting wine/beer, but I can now say that cravings for both are safely in my rear view mirror. My energy levels are higher, my sense of contentment is far deeper, my self esteem is stronger, my stress triggers are less sensitive and I am more engaged and focused on the things I want to accomplish in my life. While I have not lost weight, I am sure my physical health has benefitted as well.
    Thank you for addressing this topic, Clare. It is an important one.

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  9. Great post, thank you for sharing! Living down under on a horse farm, I find riding in the morning is the best way to get that dopamine high. Sugar totally buggers up my body as once I start, I just can't stop and then I can't fit into my clothes. Best not to start.

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  10. Since quitting the booze 14 months ago my chocolate craving has gone through the roof. Today alone I have eaten 2 yum yum, 2 marshmallow flumps & a large bar of hazelnut milka chocolate. It was easy to stop drinking but quitting chocolates OMG I struggle ������

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  11. Perfect timing! I'm 31 days sober and now working on my junk food habit. I crave jelly beans! But mostly its mindless eating everytime I get stressed. You're right about Yoga, its incredibly helpful and my Jack Russell Terrier Chloe gets me outside daily. Every little bit counts. I'm looking forward to your book!

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  12. I'm now 36 days sober, the fact that that is A) in reality, not that long a time and B) feels like a big deal and a long time to me, show's how addicted to the alcohol lifestyle I was/am.

    Is it possible to be addicted to Becks Blue? Or Heineken Zero? I only ask because that I'm drinking one or two of those a night and it does feel like cheating.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. 36 days is brilliant and you should be proud you have gone through the hardest bit, keep going!

      I think the Becks Blue and Heineken thing is normal behaviour ...and sugar! For me it's Eisberg and chocolate but it feels more habitual than addictive and I'm now reaching a point where I've had enough so looking forward to eating and drinking normal healthy foods. I'm on day 99 so it does take a while....and the alcohol cravings have virtually gone but that is only recently.....



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  13. What an interesting post about detox. I have found it extremely useful, informative and effective. I have recently come across an amazing detox drink namely "Red Tea Detox." I have used it personally and found it extremely useful and effective. I have got almost magical result after using it. Therefore I would definitely recommend it to others.

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  14. Thank you for your life changing blog.
    I tried to do this 10 years ago but failed. I was on my own.
    http://ayearoflivingabstentiously.blogspot.com/?m=1
    I decided to stop drinking on Tuesday and your blog/book is keeping me going. I feel you are walking by my side.
    I have a birthday and holiday next week. I will be leaning on your wise words.

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    1. There are a lot of people in your position ....people who have tried and tried again but eventually it sticks and your journey begins. That's me! I tried to give up many times over the last 20 years then 107 days ago it happened. I have been through everything Clare has described but if I can do it, anyone can.

      There are hundreds of us walking by your side, all going in the same direction so good luck, be strong and determined and I promise you, it does get easier as time passes.

      Delete
  15. Hello i had the Blog adress by your Book. My name is Diane and i will u
    have 2 years of abstinences the 16 of April.. U am a member off AA Her un Qu├ębec Canada it is the better way for me to stop drinking.
    I live by my self for 3 years now and it is the better way to have friends because when a stop i lost all my friends . Living by my self is not easy but it is better for me. I am affective dependance to. I am a retired woman of 64 years Thank you for your blog that make me stroger and abstinence Looking to chat with you
    ps sorry i am french and ny righting in english is not so good lolll

    ReplyDelete
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