What “They” Aren’t Telling You About Sugar Withdrawal
“Is Sugar is the new crack cocaine?”
Yeah, people are actually saying that these days.
They’re telling us that sugar is as addictive as cocaine, and the more we eat, the more likely we are to get fat, sick, and, ultimately, dead.
It sounds bad. Really bad.
How true is it, though?
Does every dessert we eat push us a little further down the slippery slope of disease and dysfunction, and make it ever harder to claw our way back to optimal health and vitality?
Can we develop a “sugar dependence” in the same way we can become physically dependent on alcohol, cocaine, or heroin?
Can it get so bad that we can experience legitimate withdrawal symptoms if we stop eating sugar?
Well, the short answer is this:
The “addictive properties” of sugar are being grossly exaggerated by many mainstream diet and health “gurus.”
Yes, it’s tasty and pleasurable, and yes, many people might think they’re addicted to it, but as you’ll soon see, that doesn’t make for a valid medical condition.
Likewise, most discussions of “sugar withdrawal” are equally bogus.
In fact, the absence of genuine withdrawal symptoms, like those seen with hard drugs, is one of the dead giveaways that sugar doesn’t warp our brains in the same ways.
So, if you’re ready to learn the truth about sugar withdrawal, and what constitutes a real addiction and what doesn’t, then you want to keep reading…
What Is Sugar Withdrawal?
Withdrawal symptoms are defined as “the unpleasant physical and mental effects that result when you stop doing or taking something, especially a drug, that has become a habit.”
To understand how this happens, let’s take a look at the highly addictive drug that sugar is being compared to: cocaine.
Cocaine interferes with your brain’s ability to regulate levels of a chemical called dopamine, resulting in the euphoric high that has made “booger sugar” so popular.
As the high wears off, your brain chemistry remains unbalanced, which can cause you to feel distressed and desiring another hit.
As you continue to use the drug, your body becomes more resistant to its effects, and the resultant chemical imbalances become larger and more prolonged.
This, then, means you have to take larger and larger doses to continue to achieve the same effects, which further builds your tolerance, and further aggravates the chemical disturbances.
Eventually, you need the drug just to feel normal, let alone “high,” and once you’ve gone that far, you’ll probably be willing to go to great lengths to feed your addiction.
This dependence cycle is the hallmark of addictive substances, and when people try to quit “cold turkey,” they often experience physical and psychological pain–withdrawal symptoms–including anxiety, agitation, muscle aches, insomnia, sweating, extreme fatigue, cramps, nausea, and vomiting.
Now, that’s how things work with a drug that we know is addictive, like cocaine.
What about sugar?
Can this simple little molecule ravage our brain in the same way, and eventually force us to endure the same types of withdrawal symptoms?
Is Sugar Withdrawal Real?
Many people think sugar withdrawal is perfectly legitimate, because they think sugar addiction is just as real as alcoholism or nicotine dependence.
They crave sugar, they struggle to stop eating it, and there’s even evidence that it stimulates your brain in a similar fashion to habit-forming drugs.
If that doesn’t qualify it as addictive, what does?
Well, there’s a problem.
Yes, sugar spikes dopamine levels, but so do many other pleasurable things that are most definitely not medically classified as addictive, like…
Driving a fast car.
Listening to good music.
Having good sex.
Drinking green tea.
And many more everyday enjoyable activities.
You see, anything that you find even slightly enjoyable temporarily changes your brain chemistry, including dopamine levels. Addictive drugs do this too, of course, but in much more powerful and consequential ways.
Now, in the case of sugar, studies show that they fail this litmus test of addictive substances.
People don’t build up a “sugar tolerance.”
They don’t have to keep eating more and more to achieve the same pleasurable effects.
They don’t physically and psychologically suffer if you stop eating it.
Scientifically speaking, depriving yourself of sugar is no different than depriving yourself of any of life’s little pleasures.
It can be disappointing and less immediately gratifying, but let’s not mistake that for the type of physical or mental distress that drug addicts experience.
Now, if sugar addiction isn’t real in the way that many people think, then sugar withdrawal is more fantasy than fact, too.
Really wanting to eat a donut is not a withdrawal symptom. It’s merely a desire.
Research shows that sugar addiction is more fantasy than fact, and so is sugar withdrawal.
This, then, brings us to the heart of the matter: personal responsibility.
Some people like to play the victim. They’d rather blame someone or something for their problems and shortcomings, rather than own up to the consequences of their choices and actions.
They’re not just weak-minded and weak-willed, they’re “addicted.” It’s not their fault.
This is a pathetic way to live.
No matter what you’re facing in life, once you surrender your sense of personal accountability, all is lost. It’s your only lifeline, the only leverage you really have to lift yourself out of the muck.
So, does a low-sugar diet result in less food-induced pleasure than a sugar-rich one?
And can that make it harder to follow?
If you haven’t been able to do it, don’t go looking for a scapegoat, chemical or otherwise.
Just look in the mirror, and ask yourself if you really want to be the type of person that can’t even control what they eat. That can be conquered by a clutch of carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen atoms.
And if you’re thinking that I just “don’t get it,” you’re wrong.
I like sugar as much as the next person, but I value my health, productivity, and happiness more, and so I limit my sugar intake.
What a concept.
You can do it, too.
It might require throwing away all those tasty treats in the pantry, learning to drink water and like foods that aren’t sickeningly sweet, and even falling off the wagon a few times, but so long as you refuse to go looking for excuses to fail, you’ll make it.
The Bottom Line on Sugar Withdrawal
Too many people eat far too much sugar, and find it far too hard to stop.
This has given rise to the idea that sugar is addictive, like drugs, and that the reason it’s so hard to quit is it can produce legitimate withdrawal symptoms.
Stories like these are music to millions of people’s ears, because it absolves them of their dietary sins. They can breathe a resigned sigh of relief, because it’s just faulty brain chemistry that’s to blame, not their flabby willpower.
It’s also a lie.
Research shows that while eating sugar is pleasurable, it doesn’t impact our physiology nearly as significantly as addictive drugs like cocaine and heroin.
The bottom line is comparing sugar to hard drugs is like comparing creatine to steroids. They’re in the same universe, but are galaxies apart.
So, if you’re currently struggling to reduce your sugar intake, don’t buy into the siren song of sugar addiction and victimhood.
You’re choosing to eat it because it makes you feel good, and you can just as easily choose not to eat it, and look elsewhere for a pick-me-up.