The masses that attempt summer diets that involve giving up sugar have suffered (genuinely).
While most people prefer sweets to, say, carrots, this isn’t all because sweets become in pretty packaging and carrots in a transparent bag.
Evolution has caused our brains to think that sweet things = healthy carbohydrates.
When our ancestors tasted sour berries they knew they weren’t ripe but when the berries were sweet they were ready to eat (oh if only it understood the back of the Haribo packet).
The fancy way of saying how our brains decipher food is the mesolimbic pathway. You can thank this for connecting the brain to our movement and deciding if we want to take another bite or not. It also helps us remember how delicious chocolate cake is, how great is that?
With sugar consumption on the rise thanks to all the processed food now in our diets, we have become all the more hooked. Just like nicotine, cocaine and heroin, sugar hijacks the brain and makes us dependent on it.
There are four stages to addiction – bingeing, withdrawal, craving and cross-sensitisation (in other words, how an addiction to one thing makes you addicted to another thing).
Like drugs, sugar fuels the release of dopamine which in the long-term can alter dopamine levels, making you believe for a long time after cutting down that your body is in dire need of a sugar rush. Plus, the brain builds up a tolerance to sugar (like alcohol) meaning you need more sugar to reach the same sugar high. You can see how a sugar addiction easily spirals.
Cutting out sugar is a hard-hitting detox and the first few days are ridiculously tough. Everyone’s affected differently but many people experience grumpiness, cravings and a crash in energy levels.
Still thinking that cutting out sugar all of a sudden is a great idea?
Perhaps the best way to avoid the trauma (and ultimately falling back into the vicious cycle) is to take it slowly, cutting out a bit of sugar at a time and minimising the withdrawal.