And how to turn your health around in just three days
There will always be those naysayers who insist that sugar—or any type of food, for that matter—isn’t really addictive. Therefore, according to their logic, being overweight isn’t a byproduct of addictive behavior.
It’s time for those naysayers to change their tune, because an ever-growing mountain of evidence suggests otherwise.
It shows that sugar does in fact rewire regions within the brain that control your behavior—and not in a good way…
The addictive “drug” no one is talking about
Studies have shown that eating too much sugar destroys vital brain connections involved in the exercise of willpower. And it actually uses the very same pathways as tobacco, alcohol, and other addictive drugs to keep you hooked.
But it’s not all that surprising if you really think about it. Our brains use up to half of the sugar we eat (whether it’s table sugar or from carbs and fruit). That’s why cravings for sweets often hit around 3 or 4 pm during the post-lunch slump.
When your brain gets hungry, it activates the mesolimbic dopamine pathway—a reward system responsible for the “feel-good” sensation you get from certain activities. This floods your brain with dopamine, which pulls you to the nearest candy bar or cookie. And once you give in, you’re rewarded with a shot of pleasure-inducing chemicals—ensuring that whatever poison you picked tastes a lot more amazing than it actually is.
The trouble is, just like any activity that uses these reward pathways, you’ll eventually need more to chase after the same “high.” So feeding this irresistible temptation only sets you on a path to metabolic disaster.
Sugar steals your willpower and attacks your memory
When I say sugar is irresistible, I’m not exaggerating. Sure, we all like to think we can control our cravings with willpower. And you can—but it’s a bigger and more complicated challenge than most people think.
Here’s why: High-sugar diets reduce the inhibitions of neurons in your brain’s pre-frontal cortex. That’s the part of your brain that makes decisions—so it’s not hard to imagine the effect this might have on behavior and impulse control. In theory, at least, it renders you virtually powerless against temptation—and in turn, ignites a vicious and self-perpetuating cycle.
If these aren’t the hallmarks of addiction, I don’t know what are. So it should come as no surprise to hear that Australian researchers have identified the exact circuits to which alcohol and nicotine bind. And they found that sugar influences these circuits and changes the brain in the exact same way.
In fact, their experiments showed that mice who received medication for nicotine addiction stopped eating as much sugar, too.1
If that’s not bad enough, studies also suggest that excess sugar can exacerbate age-related cognitive decline. Research shows that the inflammation it triggers affects the hippocampus—your brain’s memory hub. And it impedes the release of neurochemicals that are key to memory formation.
Sugar kills—if you let it
Granted, these studies—a lot of them—used rodents as subjects. And you know my reservations about that. But if even half of these findings are applicable to humans, it’s clear that excessive sugar consumption is changing us at a very fundamental—and dangerous—level.
Given the evidence, we can’t really afford not to follow up on these leads. Unfortunately, though, we’ll probably have to convince some generous billionaire to join the cause and foot the bill for some more extensive human research.
Because so far, the only thing either industry or government have been good for is making us sick and fat by enabling our national sugar addiction.
I’ll say it again, since no one else wants to: Sugar kills. It kills your willpower. It kills your waistline. It kills your mood. And that’s just a few of its casualties.
And while it may not be your fault that you’re hooked, you are the only one who can break the cycle once and for all.
I’m living proof that it can be done. In fact, it only takes three days to break your dependence on sugar. (See the sidebar below for details on my 3-day sugar cure.)
But it will take much longer to retrain your brain to live without it. The good news is, with some persistence and a clear understanding of how your emotions tie in to your relationship with food, you can win this battle. There are also some specific tools that can help you along the way — and make the process much easier.
I’ll tell you about those in just a bit. First, though, let’s discuss the role psychology plays in breaking the sugar habit once and for all.
Shift the focus from food to feelings
As a recovering overweight person, I have always been fascinated by the psychological components of eating.
The fact is, we eat with our minds. This is something I always tell patients. Because unfortunately, it isn’t something we always recognize in ourselves. We eat because we’re angry, sad, bored, stressed, etc.
And breaking this psychological cycle is just as important as breaking your addiction to sugar.
That’s why my second book, Thin For Good, highlighted what I called the “eleven emotional levels of eating.” Because I firmly believe that unless you conquer your mind, you’ll never conquer your weight or health issues. It’s just not going to happen. (You can find Thin For Good in your local bookstore or on Amazon.com).
Recognizing this emotional journey will be one of the most important things you do in your quest to get healthy. Just remember that it’s not something you need to do alone. In fact, I find that my patients with a strong support system in place also achieve the greatest success.
So don’t hesitate to seek out an experienced counselor, or even a local support group. (Overeaters Anonymous is a fantastic resource that can help connect you with other people who are also working to overcome addictive eating behaviors. Visit www.oa.org to find a meeting near you.)
But other people aren’t your only source of support against sugar addiction…
Targeted supplementation to break the binging cycle
There are quite a few supplements that can help you break the sugar habit.
For instance, the products in my A-List line of supplements—my Amino Booster, my A.M. Jump Start and P.M. Reboot shots, and BurnLogic—are all specifically designed to help curb cravings and supply your body with the nutrients it needs for a supercharged metabolism. (And it’s no coincidence that sugar depletes many of these essential nutrients from your system.)
I would highly recommend my GlucoLogic formula as well. It helps maintain healthy blood sugar levels, which also keeps cravings at bay.
The dose recommendations for all of these formulas are on the bottles, and you can start from there. If you find you need more support, you can always safely double the dose of any of them.
And here are just a few more supplements I recommend to my patients when they embark on their weight loss journeys:
- SAM-e: 400 mg in the morning. This helps calm down some of the psychological cravings for food.
- 5 HTTP: 100 mg at bedtime will help you sleep. This aids weight loss and helps with daytime cravings.
- L-Glutamine: 500 to 1,000 mg every time you have an urgent craving. This works like a charm. Simply take some L-glutamine, wait 10 minutes, and your craving will go away.
My Foolproof, 3-day sugar cure
You can’t succeed in this struggle with supplements alone. But they can absolutely help you through some of your weaker moments. And recovery, in this case as with all others, truly is one day at a time.
As you’ve seen, sugar wreaks havoc on your brain (and your body). But kicking it to the curb can be quicker than you might think. In fact, as I mentioned on this page, it only takes three days to break your dependence to it. Here’s a day-by-day breakdown of how to do it…
Day 1: Cut the Crud. This first day is simple: Just avoid everything that you know has sugar without even having to think about it. Cookies, cakes, ice cream, soda—toss them all.
Day 2: Unrefine Your Diet. Get rid of all the processed, refined, and simple carbohydrates in your diet. This means white rice, white flour, sugar, corn syrup, and fruit juice. (Did you know apple juice has more grams of sugar than a regular soda?)
Day 3: Spot Sugar’s Deadly Aliases. It’s surprising how many seemingly healthy foods hide sugar, corn syrup, and refined carbohydrates. Take a close look at the ingredients list and avoid them (along with sugar):
- Anything that ends in –ose or –ol.
- Barley malt
- Cane sugar
- Concentrated fruit juice
- Maple syrup
- Rice syrup
Now, I’m not saying it’ll be easy to cut all the sugar out of your diet. Even if you don’t have a “sweet tooth,” chances are you’re still more hooked on sugar than you realize. And, I’ll be honest: The first few days without it can be pretty tough. (To ease the transition, drink lots of water throughout the day and get in at least 20 minutes of exercise every day.)
But if you can make it through three days, I promise you that it gets much, much easier. Plus, once all the sugar is out of your system, you’ll feel so much better—more energetic, more alert, more alive—you won’t ever want to look back.
Building your anti-sugar arsenal
The products I discussed on this page can go a long way in helping you overcome even the strongest sugar addiction.
If you’d like to learn more about them, you can visit www.drpescatore.com and click the “Shop” tab at the top of the page. To order any of these tools, click on the name of the specific product below.