Parents always want the best for their kids. Imagine if your child constantly had trouble sleeping, was irritable, and had terrible tantrums when you said no to sweets. Any parent would do everything imaginable to find out what was causing your child so much distress.
Last year, the story of how one mom solved this problem went viral. Anna Larsson from Sweden isn’t a doctor or nutritionist, she’s a mom that noticed the connection between her daughter’s health problems and cravings for sugar.
Anna cut out sweets to see what would happen. It was difficult, but after just a few days she noticed a dramatic change. Her daughter calmed down much quicker, fell asleep faster, and she lost interest in the television. She wanted to do more physical activities.
Food that Anna’s daughter refused to eat a week ago was now described as the “best ever!”
Anna was so amazed by the changes in her daughter after she cut out sugar, she shared her experience it with her friends on Facebook and it quickly went viral. She has since written articles for a number of Swedish national newspapers and appeared on television.
Not everyone was impressed. Some people labeled her a “mean mom” because they thought it was too radical to cut out sugar. Anna responded “some people think it is extreme… if your kid has this total craving for sugar then they need help. The kid cannot do it themselves – it is up to us parents.”
Is sugar as addicting as cocaine?
Sugar in any form was extremely difficult for our ancestors to find. For thousands of years, we only ate it in very small quantities. That has completely changed over the last 100 years with the abundance of ultra-processed foods. Today, sugar is everywhere and our bodies struggle to process it all!
Our brains are pre-programmed at birth to love sugar! According to Dr. Christine Gerbstadt, “sweet is the first taste humans prefer at birth.” In fact, the two primary ingredients in breast milk are healthy fats and lactose (milk sugar)!
Sugar (and other carbs!) stimulate the release of the feel-good brain hormone serotonin. The taste of sugar also releases endorphins that calm and relax us, and offer a “natural” high. This preference gets reinforced by rewarding ourselves with sweet treats, which make you crave it even more.
Like cocaine, sugar sparks your nucleus accumbens, the area of the brain often referred to as the “reward center.” When your nucleus accumbens is stimulated, it releases dopamine, and you feel good very quickly.
The more sugar you eat, the more dopamine is released and the bigger “high” we experience. But just like cocaine, over time our brains require more sugar to get the same high. Our dopamine receptors become less sensitive and our addiction to sugar grows.
Some people even experience physiological changes in the brain when they eat sugar or other ultra-processed foods. It re-programs their brain to crave sugar and the addiction gets stronger.
It’s important to recognize that sugar addiction is NOT just an emotional reliance on sweets. If you can’t resist sugar, don’t be too hard on yourself. It has nothing to do with our willpower, or our desire to change. Just like cocaine, addicts experience strong withdrawal symptoms. Eliminating sugar can feel impossible, but there is hope!
The good news is our brains can be rewired to resist sugar addiction. The great news is some studies have shown it only takes 1 or 2 weeks!
Kick Sugar Addiction with these 5 simple steps
These 5 simple steps will help you kick even the strongest sugar addiction:
Step #1: Set yourself up for success
Give yourself the best chance of succeeding and set yourself up right by creating accountability. Accountability increases your odds of reaching a goal by 80%!
There are a number of fancy tools and apps you can use to create accountability, but it doesn’t need to be that complicated. In fact, the simpler the better.
The simplest way to create accountability is by writing down your goal and the steps to reach it. Then make it public by giving the note to a friend.
Bonus points: Post your pledge on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, or Reddit
Step #2: Clean house
Remove all sugar from your house.
Make the sugar free options the easy choice. You can drastically increase your ability to resist temptation by removing foods from your house that contain sugar.
Look through your kitchen, cupboards, and pantry for all the sugary drinks, snack bars, baked goods, and anything else with sugar.
Throw it out or give it away. Commit to NOT bringing these foods back into your home until you have completed the 1-week detox challenge.
The pledge you signed and gave to a friend will help keep you on track.
Step 3: Stop cravings with healthy fats
Carbs (not just sugar) cause glucose to spike and crash that leaves you with cravings. Healthy fats, on the other hand, will give you steady energy and keep you full for hours, which makes it much easier to avoid sugar. Your body will adapt to healthy fats over the course of the week and your cravings will disappear.
Eat especially savory, flavorful foods when you first start your sugar detox. If you have cravings, make a grass-fed steak drizzled in butter on the grill.
Need a quick fix. Tokelau keto coffee is packed with healthy fats from C8 and C10 MCTs.
Step 4: Get good sleep
Research shows that sugar cravings are closely linked to your circadian rhythm and your sleep patterns. If you’re not sleeping on a regular schedule or getting 7-8 hours of GOOD sleep a night, your sugar addiction will intensify.
Lack of sleep alters your appetite hormones, making you feel hungrier and less full. It also causes you to produce more of the stress hormone, cortisol that can wreak havoc on your glucose levels for days afterward!
Make a consistent bedtime a priority during you 1-week sugar detox.
Step 5: Reward yourself
Small rewards can be a big motivator for short-term goals. How will you reward yourself after your sugar detox?
A few great ideas are to treat yourself by getting a massage, taking a day off work, or schedule time to read a great book.
Step 6: Find better alternatives
Once you’ve made it a week on your sugar detox. Consider finding healthier alternatives to your favorite treats. For example, our friends at Eat Nui
make a delicious keto cookie that only has 1g of sugar, which is 80% less sugar than a regular cookie.