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Let’s go ahead and dive into our second episode today of our series with Lisa, chatting about three huge topics that I feel like are not only kind of out there with a lot of different information, then it can be very confusing to know what is right and what is maybe just diet culture or misinformation out there. But also just hearing from a dietician, also mixed with a therapist to get not only the biological side, but the psychological side as well. And if you didn’t catch our first episode on hunger and fullness, definitely listen to that. That was a banger. And now we are moving into sugar. We are diving into what actually goes on when you eat sugar, why sugar is really difficult for us to stop eating, even when we feel like we’ve had enough, and the truth behind, is sugar addiction a thing? So Lisa, thank you so much for coming on today. Oh, I know this is gonna be good.
I know, we’ve kind of talked about this in the last episode, but like this, for whatever reason, this topic is kind of controversial. Like it really brings up a lot, a lot of good questions, a lot of maybe food rules that people don’t realize they have. So I’m excited to talk through this topic and hopefully everyone learns something they didn’t know.
Yeah, definitely. And I just wanna throw out there for anybody who has different beliefs or has different experiences, just try to keep an open mind. I know for me personally, I truly, a thousand percent believe that I was addicted to sugar for years to the point that I went to Overeaters Anonymous. I tried all the ending of sugar diets, not eating sugar, trying to avoid sugar at all costs, believing that I just had this composition in me that I could not have any sugar without having all of it. And what’s so wild now is after I’ve healed my relationship with food, I am the person that can forget about cookies in my house. At the same time, I can have one cookie and be done, and it’s not a big deal. And so just keep an open mind as we’re talking through this because there might be a different way. And I think that you always know what works best for you.
And if you found that just avoiding sugar is the way that you want to live and that helps you the most, you keep doing that. However, if you want to get to a place where you can have the cookie and it’s not a big deal and this isn’t something that you have to avoid for the rest of your life, listen to this episode, it’s gonna be good. So Lisa, first and foremost, I would love for us to dive in with you for chatting about what goes on, how do I wanna ask this? What goes on when you eat just sugar in general and your body? What kind of macronutrient is sugar? Can you just give us like some foundational knowledge before moving forward in regards to what happens in our body when we consume sugar and what sugar is?
Yes, and I think this is a great place to start because when you have that education, when you know, like you said, what sugar is what macronutrient is it? You understand the need for sugar a little bit more. So like you said, macronutrient, there are three macronutrients. We are gonna be talking about carbohydrates. So you’ve probably heard the word carb, carbohydrate, sugar, maybe even the word glucose. Essentially, those all mean the same thing. They’re just in different forms. A carbohydrate would be something a little bit bigger, so maybe that’s a piece of bread, a cookie, whatever it might be, a fruit, a veggie, so many different options.
Then when we break that carb down, so when we eat it and our body starts utilizing it, that’s when we get these smaller molecules. So that’s when we’re talking about glucose or sugar. So we’re really just going from a big like whole food, carb or carbohydrate, breaking it down into glucose, which is also called sugar. So once that glucose or that sugar is in our bloodstream, then we’re able to utilize it. So we have to break it down, take it from that big picture to the smaller molecule. And then once it’s broken down, really sugar is our body’s primary fuel source. So it’s going to be what our body relies on. It’s going to be what our body utilizes, but that’s essentially a very complex scientific process broken down into the simplest form. Big picture carbohydrates taken down into those smaller molecules that are used for energy.
I love that. So can you tell us just going off of that, why we need carbohydrates and why something like the keto diet only can be sustainable for so long?
Yes, so like I said, we need carbs because they are the primary fuel source in our body, which means that all the different systems that we have going on, and it can be as simple as like filling our lungs with air, keeping our brain functioning, circulating our red blood cells around our body, all of those systems that your body does without you knowing, right? These are all subconscious. We’re not actively thinking about breathing. We’re not actively thinking about, you know, how are my red blood cells functioning? It’s just happening. All of those things need carbohydrates.
So the carbs that you consume, whatever source they are from, whether it’s from a sweet, whether it’s from whole grain pasta or the veggies you ate last night, they are all going to help fuel and then have those systems work in the way that they were intended to. So they’re really, carbs essentially are really, really important because without that energy, without those carbohydrates, those systems start to shut down. And your body is very smart and it has kind of like a ranking system, a priority system of what are the things that have to work. So obviously we need to keep that heart pumping, right? We need to keep lungs full of air. So those are kind of non-negotiable, right?
Those are always going to work. We’re going to utilize everything. But then there’s other things that the body’s like, eh, not super important. It could be muscle gain. It could be all like a total different numbers. Wound healing, that’s a big one. The body’s going to be like, nope, that is not a need to do at this moment. It’s a, if I get around to it.
So if we aren’t consuming those carbs, that ranking system, we’re kind of starting from the bottom and we’re saying, what is the base level? Like, what are the things that have to be done? And that’s what happens when we don’t have enough carbs. So I love that you brought up the keto diet because I am not a fan. And I’m not a fan for one reason. Really what I’ll say is the reason that the keto diet was invented or is even a thing is because it was developed for children who have epilepsy. And the reason that they go on a ketogenic diet or a keto diet is because it slows their brain function and they have less seizures. That is why this-
That is so interesting.
That is why that diet was created because when you have a little kiddo who is having these episodes, maybe they’re trying to figure out their medication. They are really just trying to have the least amount of seizures possible at that point. So they put them on a ketogenic diet. It slows their brain function. They therefore have less seizures.
Slows your brain functioning. Why is that not put out there? Oh my gosh.
Right? I know. And that just kind of, like you said, it got glanced over when the ketogenic diet started to get really, really popular. So short term, sure you might see the results that you’re looking for, but then long term, you’re slowing your brain function. You are depriving your body of its main fuel source. There’s no long-term studies on the ketogenic diet because they just put it on kiddos for a short term until they can get their medicine or their medication in check, and then they go on with their normal lives.
That’s so interesting. Oh my gosh. Okay, so going back to just breaking down carbohydrates to get this foundational knowledge, what is the difference that happens in our body if I eat, let’s say, a piece of whole grain toast versus a cupcake?
Yes, and I think this is a question that a lot of people have and they don’t really get an answer to. So the simple question or the simple answer is they’re gonna be broken down the same. Your body, once it consumes all of that food, whether it comes from a cupcake or a piece of whole grain bread, once it’s broken down, so it’s in those small molecules, remember we were talking about glucose and things like that. Your body has no idea where that came from when it’s in that small form. However, when we are breaking the food down, your body might respond differently. And that response is blood sugar. So when we eat something like whole grain, whole grain piece of bread, our blood sugars are not going to spike.
This is because that whole grain is a little bit harder to break down. There’s fiber, there’s all that like toughness that we have to slowly break through to get to that end glucose product where something like a cupcake can be broken down very easily or very simply and that would result in a spike in our blood sugars or more sugar going into our bloodstream faster. So when you go to the very end, it all looks the same. It’s just the process in which we get there, our body’s going to respond a little bit differently. And the whole grain bread example versus the cupcake example, one’s not good, one’s not bad, they’re just different. And knowing how your body’s going to respond gives you then the power to say, what do I need to pair with this?
How am I going, if I know my body’s going to react in X, Y, and Z way, what can I do to make sure that my energy levels stay consistent? What can I do to make sure that I feel good at that dreaded 3 p.m. hour? Like having that education and that knowledge, regardless of the food that you choose to eat, because again, one’s not good, one’s not bad, it just helps you prepare and be in, you know, have a really good overview of how is my body gonna respond to the food that I’m putting in it.
So what happens to our body when the blood sugar spikes really high? What do we feel?
So you might notice, like some people will call this like a sugar high. You might have like a little increased energy, your heart rate’s gonna go up. It’s just because now there is all this energy in your bloodstream that is readily available for your body to use, right? And it really depends on like when this happens in the day. If you’re doing this right before a workout, awesome. Now your body has all this energy flowing around, your body can pull from it, that workout’s gonna be awesome. If this is right before you go to bed, you might notice that you’re restless, you can’t go to sleep. So there’s differences based on when this happens, but it’s not a good or a bad response.
Just knowing how you might feel after that spike in blood sugar, and then also being aware if there’s a spike, there’s usually a valley or that fall. So ideally we want to be aware of how our body responds so we can say, oh, okay, yeah, I can tell my blood sugars are a little bit high, I’m having like that sugar high feeling, I need to prepare so I don’t have that crash. So my energy levels don’t plummet. So I have a very consistent stream of energy throughout the day. And that again, just comes with the knowledge aspect.
And connecting that back to our last episode on hunger and fullness, how does that then affect hunger and fullness cues?
Yes, so if your blood sugar, because like we said, if you have a cupcake, right? We’re gonna spike our blood sugars. If your blood sugar is going on this roller coaster throughout the day, so you have super high highs and then super low lows, your hunger cues and fullness cues are gonna be so out of whack because now your body’s just trying to play catch up and regulate your blood sugar and trying to get this under control. So it is a little bit more managed because our body doesn’t like being out of sync, right? It doesn’t like those super high highs and super low lows. It’s going to fight to have a really happy medium. And you might notice that your hunger cues are so different, or maybe you don’t notice them at all, which is totally normal.
When we start having more information on how our body responds to different carbohydrate containing foods, like what’s going to cause a high, what’s going to cause a low, that then just gives you more information about how am I going to be able to navigate these hunger fullness cues? What do I do if I experience a high or a low? So they all kind of like come full circle. And when one is in balance, the other will also be in balance.
I so appreciate you saying that. And I really wanted Lisa to be able to give us that foundational knowledge first, because when we have that foundational knowledge, it can be really helpful in removing the categories away from food, i.e. this food is good and this food is bad, which a lot of the compulsion that we feel around food usually comes down to the fact that when we categorize things in our mind as good and bad, we are attaching our emotions and our morality to that.
And what’s so interesting for us to start to think about is if what is going on in our body, what Lisa just said is, if I eat a piece of whole grain toast versus a cupcake, and yes, I have a different response to those, but at the end of the day, they’re broken down the same way in my body, isn’t it ironic that the categorization of bad around cupcake creates this feeling of, I gotta get this all in now, or this constant thought process around the cupcake, this hyper-focus on the cupcake that doesn’t happen with the bread. Looking at, okay, knowing how these different things break down in my body, why is it that I feel so different around another? And could it be just the way that I think about it, knowing now that those are really both broken down in my body in the same way?
And I think too, when you, you know, saying, okay, this cupcake is, heavy air quotes here, bad, and then you get a spike in your blood sugar and maybe you notice like these different signs and symptoms that your body’s feeling, then your stress reactions kick in. You’re like, oh my gosh, what is going on? What did I do? Which makes the high feel even worse and then the crash feel even worse because now when you get to that low, maybe you notice your energy levels are dipping, you’re kind of beating yourself up.
You’re like, oh, shouldn’t have done that. See, it’s just, it kind of kicks in that like, binge restrict cycle that we will talk about later on in the next episode, but it kind of like kickstarts that because now not only are your blood sugars elevated and then lowered, but your mood and everything kind of flows with it. So now everything is on a roller coaster, not just your blood sugars.
Right, so when we’re looking at how to break away from that categorization, which can be so hard when that has been drilled in our mind for years and years and years. What I’ve found to be super helpful is, instead of looking at, okay, is this food good or is this food bad? Or even saying something such as, this food is healthy or this is unhealthy or this is clean and this is junk. All of that is categorization. Taking all of those labels away and saying, food is just food, it’s just different. And it has different purposes. So when we can look at a cupcake and say, okay, the purpose of this cupcake is, yes, I will get energy from this and I’ll have enjoyment from it. Maybe I’m celebrating somebody’s birthday, so I’m getting a memory out of it. Maybe it’s just something I feel like, so I’m getting some pleasure out of it, looking at, okay, maybe this is not so much a nutritional need today, however, it’s an emotional need.
And that is part of our health wheel. If you look at like health on a spectrum, knowing that health just does not just come down to physical health, but we have mental health, we have spiritual health, we have all these other different elements of health as well, we need to incorporate that emotional piece as well. And knowing that, okay, food is food, different purposes. What purpose does this food serve? I can begin to eliminate that emotional attachment to what I am eating and just allow food to be. And going off of what Lisa said, eat it, enjoy it, and move on.
So I would love to know going off of that. I know for me and a lot of the clients that I’ve had, I got to a place where I was like, okay, I’m really working on removing the labels away from food. I’m working on that mindset element. However, I’m still struggling with the fact that when I eat a piece of whole grain bread and I feel full, I have an easier time pushing the food away and saying, okay, I’m done. However, when I have a cupcake, let’s just stay on that example, and I eat it and I notice I’m not hungry anymore, I still wanna keep eating. So what biologically is going on there? And then I’ll talk about the mental component to that.
Yeah, I think realistically what’s happening here is a lot more mental than it is biological because like we said, whether it’s that whole grain bread or that cupcake, when you break it down, it’s still energy to the body. So your hunger cues, fullness cues, are going to be the same. I would ask the question, how tuned in are you? Are you, when you’re eating that toast, are you present? Are you aware of what’s going on versus when you’re eating that cupcake? Is this a, oh, well, I know this is quote unquote bad or I know I don’t get this all the time, so I’ve got to eat all of it.
And then you’re completely ignoring those fullness cues because like we said, ultimately they’re gonna turn into the exact same thing in the body. They’re all gonna be glucose. One might have a couple other macronutrients with it. Maybe those ratios are a little bit different, but point blank, they’re both gonna be glucose in the body. So your biological response to that glucose is the same. So I think this one’s a lot more mental than it is biological.
Yeah, yeah, it is so mental and I think that what’s important for us to look at with this one is first of all how much we’re allowing ourselves as Lisa said to be present with that, where our thoughts going when we have that, but also looking at what is our overall motive in regards to what are we what are we doing right now in the sense that when we’re on, let’s say, a intentional weight loss journey, the reason why sugar mentally feels so addictive, and we’ll dive into that in a minute, but the reason why it feels like you’re so compulsive around it is because when we’re just focused on the numbers, it’s so easy for us to go into that all or nothing mentality of, well, I already blew it, I’m gonna be better tomorrow, might as well eat all of this now, get it out of the house so it’s not here tomorrow, won’t buy these again, but I’m not gonna throw them away, I’m just gonna eat them all because might as well, already blew it, and then tomorrow I’m gonna be better.
Keeping us in that restrict binge cycle or that all or nothing cycle versus, and this is what I always try and challenge clients or people that reach out to me that say, okay, how can I recover and lose weight at the same time? And I say, let’s take a step back. And first and foremost, let’s look at how has our desire to wanna lose weight gotten us caught in this craziness around food to begin with. But I always say, let’s go deeper than you wanting to lose weight, because wanting to lose weight is a very surface level goal. There’s no depth to that. So I wanna know why. Is it to have more energy? Is it to be stronger? Is it to feel more alive? Or is it on the other hand, something more internal, like you wanna be more confident, you wanna be more validated, you want to feel more secure, or you know, you want to get a relationship or whatever the case may be, I say, okay, let’s get down to our clear why, and then let’s focus on how we can start aligning our actions to that why.
And what I want to put a quick disclaimer on there is, if your desire to lose weight is because you want to feel more energized and you want to feel more alive, great. Let’s get rid of the weight loss thought in our mind and let’s focus on doing things that help us feel stronger and feel more alive because at the end of the day, if you’re just doing things to get the number on the scale to go down, of course, anytime you eat a cookie, you’re gonna say, oh my gosh, I blew it and eat the whole box. Versus if you say, you know, I wanna feel strong, I wanna feel good in my body. I want to feel, you know, like I don’t have a stomach ache. I want to feel alive.
Then I might have a cookie, but all of a sudden, even though it’s delicious and even though my mind might say, you know, another might be so good, at the time or at the same time, I might also say, okay, but I want to feel good. And I know I can have these whenever I want so maybe I’ll pause now and If I can’t stop thinking about it, maybe I’ll have another one later, or I’ll just have one tomorrow I think what’s so interesting and this is something that I do with a lot of my clients as I ask think of the most normal eater that you know and think about what they’re doing that you’re not doing and I like to say let’s take a pint of ice cream, for example.
The reason why, let’s say, a quote, unquote, normal eater can have some ice cream without eating the entire pint is because it’s not about weight, it’s about feeling well. And the reason why they don’t feel a desire to eat the entire pint is because they know that eating the entire pint wouldn’t fundamentally make them feel well. And it’s so important for us to recognize, huh, again going back to that question of, is it really that I may be addicted to sugar or is it just the thoughts that I’m having around what I’m doing with food?
Now I wanna quickly jump over to the second motive behind weight loss. If it is to feel more confident, if it is to get validated, get the relationship, whatever, all of that is internal work. And if you do not work on the inside stuff that makes you feel like you have to lose weight to get those things, no amount of weight loss is ever gonna be enough. And so just getting really clear on what is actually going on can really help kind of break away that mindset initially from that compulsion around sugar. So now I would love for us to go into going off of that, the most controversial topic is sugar addictive. I will talk about the psychological point, but I would love for you to give us some foundation first on is sugar something that we can biologically be addicted to?
Easiest answer, absolutely not. Like we said back in the beginning, this is the body’s main fuel source. So maybe you don’t like that word. It’s your form of energy. It’s how you are going to be able to do all the things that you do in a day. And I always like to kind of say like, even if you were to lay in bed all day long, your body still needs energy, right? All of those systems, all those functions that we don’t think of require energy, which means they require carbohydrates or sugar or whatever you want to call it. So you can’t be addicted to something that your body needs to function. And I think differentiating between pleasurable and addictive, because even if we go back to that whole grain bread and cupcake example, yeah, sure, the cupcake is super pleasurable.
Like they’re like, tastes good. Maybe you’re at a birthday party, like you said, there’s all this experience to it. But when you break that down, it’s still providing your body with something that you need to function. Whole grain bread is doing the exact same thing. So this is a biological need. It’s not something that you’re addicted to. It doesn’t light up all of those. Like if we’re thinking drug addiction, alcohol addiction, it doesn’t light up those same things in the brain, which I’m sure you will talk about. But it is a need, a daily need. It’s not something that you are addicted to.
Yeah, I so appreciate you saying that. And I think that first, just getting really clear on what the term addiction means, because I know that it’s thrown around so loosely. I’m addicted to my phone, I’m addicted to Netflix, I’m addicted to exercise. And I think that when we can understand that the fundamental definition of addiction is that there has to be some form of tolerance built. And then with that said, an element of withdrawal when that is taken away is a fundamental component of addiction. And so I think that because this word is so loosely thrown around, it can be something that we attach to our identity. I’m addicted to my phone, I’m addicted to sugar. However, if there’s not that tolerance bill and that withdrawal element, and, you know, I say withdraw in the sense that you may get a headache if you have a lot of sugar and you don’t have any, you may feel a little bit lethargic, but you don’t need to go to detox.
That’s why they don’t have sugar detox centers. And I think that is so important for us to just get curious about. If sugar addiction was really a thing, why don’t they have sugar detox centers? Why don’t they have sugar rehab centers? Yes, they have sugar addicts anonymous, but that is just something that isn’t run by professionals. And they have eating disorder inpatient treatment centers, but they don’t have sugar addiction treatment centers. Just something to get curious about there. And I think going off of that, something that is also really important for us to look at is the fundamental difference between, let’s say drugs and alcohol and sugar is that the more drugs and alcohol somebody who is fundamentally addicted to those things they consume, the more their desire for drugs and alcohol becomes. Sugar on the other hand, the more of it that you consume, the less desirable it becomes.
And if you don’t believe me and you feel like you are actually addicted to sugar, go ahead and buy yourself a pint of ice cream for every day of the month and have that pint of ice cream every single day for a month. And if you are legitimately addicted to sugar, you would continue to want that entire pint come day 31. But odds are, you’re probably gonna want something different. You’re probably gonna be over it. The only reason why we feel so compulsed to have the entire pint is because of the physical restriction, I can’t have that unless I’m being bad or I’m celebrating things, or the mental restriction of, oh my gosh, I already blew it, might as well have the whole pint because I’m gonna be better tomorrow.
It’s just one of those things that I think that addiction isn’t the right word, and I know a lot of people say, okay, but like, I do feel like something different around sugar. And I think a better word might be dependent, obsessive, compulsive. Those are all words that might explain what you’re feeling, but it’s not addiction. And if you Google addiction, you’ll see how that is very different.
And I love that you brought up, because I get this question all the time too, like, oh, well, if I, you know, take sugar out of my diet, I get headaches. Go back to the keto diet. What was the main goal of the keto diet? To slow brain function. Of course, you’re gonna get a headache when your brain function is slower. So just having that little bit of knowledge and knowing that this isn’t something that I’m gonna go through withdrawal if I take away. And it’s also not something that I am, like you were saying, on day 31, I’m not like, oh my gosh, chef, I need another pint of ice cream. I want that, I want that. You’re like, get that away from me. I don’t need that every day. And I think just know differentiating between the two and like you said, using words like dependent.
I always say like, you just have a really poor relationship with that food, a poor understanding of what it does for your body and you’re ignoring how you feel after. And there’s like this, there’s disconnects between the why of those two things. Like that why that we talked about is just not there, kind of out of sight, out of mind. And when you do something, like you said, like I always use the cookie example. Like if you were to eat cookies every single day for every single meal, probably come day three, you’d be like, get the cookies away. For me, because, and it’s not a tolerance. It’s not like day one, you have one cookie and then you’re like, oh, I need two. And then I need three and four. Like not building this tolerance up and up and up.
It’s gonna get to the point where like, absolutely not. I don’t wanna see or think about a cookie. And then the next time they’re there, you’re like, I’ll have one because I know if I eat four, I don’t feel great. And I know what that does to my body. I know how my body responds and I’m going to choose to have one and then feel good.
Right, and too, you know, if we’re looking at addiction as a whole thing and looking at if sugar addiction is really a thing, going back to our foundational topic that you were explaining earlier, that fruit has sugar, bread has sugar, vegetables have sugar, and you know, I, some of you may or may not know this, but for the last two years I’ve worked at a drug and alcohol addiction treatment center as a full-time therapist there, so I have a really close connection to working with addiction and also with eating disorders. And the thing is, is that if I’m addicted to sugar, if that’s a real thing, that means that I cannot have any form of sugar or I’m gonna spiral into wanting all of it.
Just like, let’s say an alcoholic can’t just be like, okay, I’ll just have white claws and be okay. If you talk to any alcoholic and say, just have white claws, you’ll be fine. They will tell you they are not fine. They cannot have any of it. And they also cannot mix, right? Like when we bring drug and alcohol addicts into treatment, we go abstinent approach in the sense that if there is that addictive personality within them with drugs and alcohol, they can’t just all of a sudden start smoking weed and be fine. They might say they’re fine, but at the end of the day, it just doesn’t work. We can’t just have some of it and be fine if that addiction element is truly there. So then I go back to the point of, it’s dependent. You’re likely dependent on sugar, but if you were truly addicted to sugar, if that was a fundamental thing, which also it’s not even in the DSM, which is another thing to get curious about.
If it was really a thing, why wouldn’t it be in the DSM? The diagnostic manual for mental disorders for all psychology majors and therapists. But it’s just, I don’t know, I just have one of those things where it’s like, let’s just get curious about it because there’s too many things that add up to the other side of it. And I think that when we start going into, I’m addicted to sugar, I’m addicted to sugar, I’m attaching my identity to that. And then I go into, okay, I believe that I am. So of course my behaviors are gonna follow.
I love that. And I think really what it comes down to is when people say like, oh, I’m addicted to sugar, they’re not thinking, and you mentioned this, that sugar is in grains, dairy products, fruits, veggies, beans, legumes, the juice that you think is quote unquote healthy. Like there is sugar, carbohydrates, whatever you want to call it, in almost everything that we consume. Unless you are just consuming like meat, there’s probably sugar or an added sugar or something in that product. So if you were addicted, you would have to remove all of those things. And that’s just from a biological perspective, we know that it’s the main source of fuel. That’s not possible.
So I think when people say like, oh, I’m addicted to sugar, all they’re really thinking about is the cake cookie ice cream, you know, bucket, and not that there is sugar in all these different types of foods that we consume. And when, like my favorite thing is when I dropped that little like knowledge bomb and I’m like, there’s sugar in all of these things. And you kind of see the wheels turning like, oh, it’s in so many different things that I consume on a daily basis. And like you said, just getting curious, just knowing a little bit more about how your body responds, what is in the food that you are consuming.
And I’m not saying from like an analyzing perspective, I’m just saying from a, I want to know how my body’s going to respond. And I wanna be just a little bit more aware of the effect that it’s gonna have on me. So I can then prepare to make myself feel good. I think that is so important and often just kind of like overlooked.
Yeah, so if someone is feeling crazy around sugar, biologically, what can they start to do to help eliminate this crazy feeling around sugar, this dependence on sugar, let’s say?
Yeah, and we can kind of, we’ll tie this kind of like sugar cravings because I feel like this is kind of one in the same. So when you’re having a sugar craving, and everyone knows what that feels like, you’re like, oh, I want chocolate or I need something right now. That is because your blood sugar is low. So we already talked about that roller coaster that can happen. If our blood sugars are low, our energy levels are going to be low, the body is really smart and it knows that something like a cupcake or chocolate or whatever it might be, ice cream, that’s gonna give you sugar energy really, really fast.
The body’s smart. So when you have this intense sugar craving, it’s usually a sign like, hey, your sugar, your blood sugar levels are low, I need a little bit more energy so I get back to that, that happy, happy medium that I was feeling. And your body’s smart enough to say, well, if she eats a cupcake or if he has an ice cream, like I’m gonna get that energy fast, I’m gonna get back up to that spot where I feel good. That’s all it’s doing. So when we start to bring the roller coaster a little closer, and I always say, you go from like a roller coaster, so super high highs and super low lows in your blood sugar. Ideally, we want just like tiny little hills and valleys, like this cute little squiggle that your blood sugar is gonna hang out on. Once we’re there, the sugar cravings might go away.
They might be just less intense because we’re not letting our energy levels, our blood sugar levels dip that low. There’s not a need to get up to that happy spot super fast because we’re hanging out there. It’s really similar to like the sweet spot on the hunger scale, if you’re familiar, but we’re kind of just like ebbing and flowing in that spot where we feel really good. And when we’re at a high, high or a low, low, your body’s just going to respond so we get back to that happy medium.
Yeah, and I think the best way to kind of detach this dependence on sugar is to make it so available that it’s not something that’s scarce anymore. So I would recommend, and this is something that I do with all of my clients when they feel ready, because it is something that can be very anxiety provoking, is let’s get you to planning in having something sweet after lunch, sweet after dinner, maybe even your snack you build in a sweet way, like you have a yogurt parfait instead of like pretzels, just something sweet where you’re having it regularly and that doesn’t mean for the rest of your life. This is just to get you to a place where when you tell yourself, I can have this whenever I want, I don’t need to have it all now, you actually believe it like we talked about last time.
And also knowing that, okay, I’m gonna have this and I’m actually gonna allow myself to enjoy it. So not only are you planning it in, so it’s not like resist, resist, resist, oh my gosh, eat the whole box, but it’s like, I already know that I’m having it after lunch, I already know that I’m gonna have some Oreos after lunch, so I don’t even need to think about it because it’s already happening. When I have those Oreos, I’m gonna allow myself to enjoy it because I think about them all the time, so I might as well put them on a plate, sit down, maybe I get a glass of cold milk, maybe I make a latte and I really allow it to like, I hold it in my mouth and I let it melt and I crunch it and I taste it and I really allow myself to enjoy it to get all of that pleasure out of it. And then when my mind says, I want more, I say, you know what, I’m having more after dinner, so I’m gonna enjoy more then.
And doing that until you don’t feel so compulsed around the Oreos can be really helpful in breaking this idea that I am addicted to sugar, I can’t have cookies in the house without eating all of them. And then also something else that I wanna add to that is, if sugar is the only pleasurable thing that you have in your life. I think it would be silly to say that sugar doesn’t obviously give us pleasure. It does. It spikes that dopamine in our brain, tastes really good, feels really good, it’s delicious. Now, if I don’t have anything else in my life that gives me pleasure, if I don’t have anything going on in my life that I can also get pleasure from, of course, when I have that cookie, the only thing in my day that is giving me that spike of dopamine, it is gonna feel all-consuming. So if you’re feeling crazy around sugar, I would say the very first step to kind of briefing this is going off of what Lisa said to get us to a place where sugar is no longer a big deal.
Let’s start eating it on a regular basis, planning it in until you no longer feel crazy around sugar and can make the decision, do I want this or do I not? It’s no longer a can or can’t. And then also looking at, do I have other sources of pleasure in my life? If I don’t have the cookie, do I still have something else in my day that makes me feel good? If not, where can I maybe add in some other things that make me feel good, that give me pleasure, like maybe that’s a skincare routine, maybe that’s a walk, maybe that’s a coffee drink that you love, maybe that’s lotion, I don’t know. Anything that gives you pleasure to kind of help with regulating what it is that we’re really looking for is that boost of dopamine.
And I love that you brought up like the Oreo example, like having the Oreo at the end of a meal, having that with lunch and dinner, because if you take it, like if you look from a biological perspective, the response that your body has, right? How you break that food down, how your body responds to that breakdown process is going to be different. It’ll mimic that whole grain bread because there’s other factors at play, right? You probably ate a well-rounded meal or snack. There was probably one, or if not all, of the macronutrients on your plate.
So a little bit of fat, a little bit of carb, a little bit of protein, which is going to mimic the response of that whole grain bread, because your body’s trying to utilize and pull from all these different things that the Oreo at the end, it’s not gonna send your blood sugar on that roller coaster ride. It’s just a little bit more carbs to an already well-rounded meal or snack. So then you’re automatically kind of throwing out the roller coaster response. You’re hanging out in that nice little sweet spot where you’re just ebbing and flowing and you won’t have as many cravings. So it’s kind of like a really good approach, not only from a biological, but from a mental to just add it in at the end, because your body’s gonna be able to do what it needs to do and then move on.
Yeah, and I know for me, at least, I have something sweet after dinner and usually after lunch every single day. And I know there was a period of time where I was like, this is so bad, quote, I shouldn’t be doing this, I need to take this away. This is unhealthy. And then I had this epiphany where I was like, you know what? In the grand scheme of things, I live a pretty well-balanced, healthy lifestyle. So if one of the worst things that I do is have chocolate after lunch or a cookie after dinner, I think that that’s okay because I get things out of that. I get pleasure, it helps me on the meal, I love it, I enjoy it and I move on with my day. So I had this kind of like battle in my mind where I was like, you know what? If this is the worst thing, I think I’m gonna be okay.
I’m not even gonna take another thought on it. It just is what it is. And there are some days as I’ve gotten to the point where I’m like, it just is what it is. This is what I love. This is what I do. This makes me feel good. It does make me feel good because I can end my meal and move on. I’m like, okay, this is just how I eat. It makes me feel good. And there are no rules. And finding what works best for you is going to be huge and calming the crazy around sugar, but also finding a way of eating that makes you feel your best. At the end of the day, that’s what this is all about. This is getting you to a place where you’re not feeling crazy around food and you’re able to make food decisions that make you feel your best. Yes, sometimes eating a cookie after dinner makes me feel my best.
And I know because I’m working on feeling my best, five cookies maybe isn’t the best option for me because that wouldn’t make me feel really great. And that mindset switch there, I invite you to get curious about if that is something that you can begin practicing to help stop the crazy around sugar.
I’m the same way I have, you’re going to get mad because it’s a Trader Joe’s product, but I have the Trader Joe’s mini dark chocolate peanut butter cup.
Oh girl. I have like six box of those. My mom sends me that.
That is my go-to after lunch and dinner. And that I can have that. I keep them in my fridge. Cause I like when they’re cold and crunchy. One or two of those. And I’m like, okay, I’m satisfied. My meal is done. I can walk away and I don’t, I’m not constantly thinking about those. Like I know they’re in my fridge, but they last me, I don’t know, however long it takes to get to the bottom of the thing. Like that was such a game changer for me because I was the same way. If I, I felt quote unquote bad if I had something after a meal. And now it’s just like that nice little end cap, it wraps everything up. I feel so good about it and I’m done. Like now onto business.
Yeah. Oh my gosh. So well said everybody. I hope that helped kind of just open up your mind to maybe a different perspective. If you are someone like me that legitimately believe that you are addicted to sugar, and if you’re still kind of skeptical about it, I just invite you to get curious. I invite you to get curious and say, you know, I wonder what might happen if I chose to have something sweet after lunch and dinner for a month. I wonder what might happen if I built my meals in a sweeter way. Maybe for breakfast, I have toast with jam. Maybe for lunch, I have a salad with like butternut squash or pomegranates with a sweeter dressing.
I wonder if for snacks, I have something like a yogurt parfait or for dinner, I have something like a teriyaki bowl and I wonder what might happen if maybe I just added sweeter things to my food if I would still feel the same way. I wonder what might happen and just getting curious about that and seeing if in a month if you really practice this if you still feel the same way and what addiction to dependent or obsessive or just crazy around, helps you detach your morality and your emotions to what is going on with sugar.
So well said, love it.
Well, thank you so much. That was amazing. And friends, we have one more of our three-part series of just diving into all things food. Next episode, we are going to be chatting about restriction, overeating, binge eating, diving into physical restriction, mental restriction, all of that jam. So definitely tune in next week, and we’ll talk to you then.
Licensed Therapist, Certified Nutritionist, and Virtual Wellness Coach
Ryann is a licensed therapist and virtual wellness coach who has assisted individuals worldwide in establishing a healthier relationship with food and their bodies.
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