Sugar: The Heroin of Food

It’s an eyeopening moment when you are struck by the realization that you’re addicted to something and had no idea you were until you’ve been challenged to give it up.

For me this moment came when I realized that I have a sugar addiction.

I never had a reason to really monitor my sugar intake. I am single so I tend to buy and eat whatever I want because I can. I’m not overweight, I have a few lbs I would like to drop, but that’s a personal preference not a health risk. I’ve dieted before, attempted to eat healthier and failed. I wrote the failure off as just not having the time it takes to eat healthy or that the cost of a healthy diet is more expensive, and of course there’s that little nagging part of the mind that would much rather eat pizza and pasta over salads and boneless skinless chicken breasts. It never occurred to me that my failure could be an addiction to sugar. Nor did I realize how many foods contain sugar.

Sugar (food heroin) is hidden in processed foods, like all of them! It’s no wonder it is so damn hard to kick sugar addiction when it is in most everything we eat, with the exception of organic/whole foods (there are foods that contain natural sugars (i.e. fruits), which are much better than added sugars, but they shouldn’t be overindulged in either).

It would be one thing if sugar was easily identifiable so that we could avoid it if we want, but it’s disguised by many different names:

  • dextrose
  • fructose
  • fruit juice concentrate
  • glucose
  • lactose
  • sucrose
  • maltose
  • invert sugar (it’s a given since sugar is in the name, but what is “invert” sugar?)
  • All syrups
    • corn syrup and corn syrup solids
    • malt syrup
    • sugar syrup (seriously!?!)
    • high-fructose corn syrup (wth is the difference between reg. fructose and high-fructose?)
  • Stay away from the canes too:
    • cane crystals
    • cane sugar
    • evaporated cane juice

These are just some of the names companies use to disguise sugars on ingredient labels.

According to a Huffington Post article I read, companies are dividing the sugars in the ingredients under various “sugar” names so that they will be listed lower on the list of ingredients.

some food companies seem to be taking some extreme liberties. Not only are they using some of those tricky sugar synonyms in the ingredient list, but they’re also using several of them, in a single product. Added sugars are added sugars. No matter what you call them, they do pretty much the same thing to food (make it taste sweeter). So by dividing the total amount of added sugars into three or four different sugar names instead of using just one type of sugar, companies are able drop their added sugars further down the list (the less the weight, the lower the rank on the ingredient list).

So for example, if a manufacturer wants to sweeten up a certain brand of crackers, it can either do this using 15 grams of “sugar” or, 5 grams of “malt syrup,” 5 grams of “invert sugar” and 5 grams of “glucose”. Some manufacturers seem to be choosing this divide and masquerade method, placing these ingredients lower down on their products’ lists, making us believe that the amount of sugar in the product is smaller than it is.

*Information retrieved from Food Labels: How to Spot Hidden Sugars, by Pooja R. Mottl

I tend to crave the more obvious sugar loaded foods such as frosted sugar cookies, ice cream, chocolate chip or blueberry muffins, any type of dessert really. While the sugar loaded foods I crave are easily avoidable when shopping (easier for some, but not for me. This is a big struggle for me), many other foods are not as easily identifiable.

I will admit that grocery shopping isn’t my favorite thing to do in the first place and if I have to read all of the damn labels of food items before putting them in the cart I’m going to like it even less. It seems this is what needs to be done though, along with eating more organic and whole foods (have an awareness that not all organic foods are healthy).

A couple of weeks ago I attended a workshop about mastering habits and unlocking change. The workshop was lead by Personal Habit Coach, The Habit Gal, Sara Brand. Part of what we did in this workshop was to rate various areas of our life on what is called “The Wheel of Life”. There are 8 areas of life listed on this wheel. We were to rate each area from 1-10 and draw a line in each specific area to indicate our level of satisfaction for said area of life. Then we were to pick 1 or 2 areas of life that were low in satisfaction, fill in some questions/answers as to how we could increase our personal satisfaction in the areas of life we chose. The area of life I chose for myself was health.

Two of the questions/answers we were to fill-in, to help guide us, were:

“When your brain tries to stop you, what is an ‘I used to…’ statement you can say to rewrite your neuropathway?” (Remember this workshop was about changing and creating new habits).

As I said earlier, grocery shopping…not my favorite. Having to read ingredient labels before placing items in my cart is going to suck even more.

This would be a great opportunity for me to come up with some “I used to…” statements to change my shopping habits and feelings around grocery shopping.

  • Statement 1: I used to buy whatever I wanted regardless of how it affected my health, but now I am mindful of what I put in my cart and in my body and how my food choices directly affect my health.
  • Statement 2: I used to dislike grocery shopping, but now I look forward to how much better I feel by eating the healthy foods I purchase.
  • Statement 3: I used to go to quick easy processed foods when I was tired but now I know that if I skip processed foods that are loaded with sugar I will feel more energized and not so tired all of the time.

The other question/answer we were to fill-in was to write an “I am” statement to remind us of our commitment: (We only had to select one of these two questions/answers but why not do both?)

  • I am committed to my health, mind, body, and spirit. Therefore, I will take the time to read ingredient labels before placing food items in my cart.

These are statements that I can use to help guide me and keep me focused on my goal to drastically reduce my sugar intake and increase the level of satisfaction I have with my health.

Another eyeopening moment I had was during a session with the therapist I see for my eating habits and nutrition. We were talking about processed foods and she said, “so much of it isn’t even food”. I thought for a moment about the words that she had just spoken. The first thing that came to my mind was instant mashed potatoes. I mean those things have been so incredibly processed that they go from flakes of who knows what to mashed potatoes when liquid is added. That can’t be real food.

Boxed macaroni and cheese…the cheese (much like the potatoes) has been so processed that it is powder, and once again just adding liquid brings it some liquid form of cheese. Think about pasta, what is pasta made of? Usually it’s a shit ton of processed ingredients.

All packaged foods have been so processed, loaded with sugars and preservatives that we can hardly call it food, and certainly not anything that can be good for the human body.

Today begins a new start to my eating habits.

My target goals:

  • Eliminate as much sugar as possible (fruits are the exception and can’t go overboard on those either)
  • Eat little to no processed foods
  • Avoid inside isles in grocery stores when possible
  • Take time to read ingredient labels
  • Eat more organic and whole foods
  • Stay committed to my health, mind, body, and spirit.

I’m gonna kick sugar’s ass and improve my health while doin it!

  • Dani


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