I look at sugar addiction through a brain chemistry filter – which brain chemicals are triggered by sugar and how those chemicals affect behavior, appetite, emotions, and mental state.
I’ve been doing it for a long time – over 20 years.
Yet I frequently come in contact with “big” theories:
• that we crave sugar because we want to fill ourselves with sweetness, since we have none in our lives
• that attachment to sugar goes back to childhood traumas
• that we reach for sugar when we’re really reaching for love
• that we need to dig deep to find the root of the sugar problem and clear it before we can quit successfully.
It exhausts me, and makes me doubt those explanations.
I confess that it also makes me doubt myself and my methods. Why? Because most of the explanations I find for sugar addiction run in these emotional directions.
What’s Occam’s Razor – and What’s It Got to Do with Sugar?
As a principle for problem-solving, Occam’s Razor advises us to select the simplest solution, the one with the fewest assumptions, the fewest “mini-theories” to complicate things.
In my experience, the brain chemical explanation for sugar tends to be neat. “This is your brain on drugs” kind of neat.
No analysis of personalities, past lives, traumas, why your cousin was mean to you at the last family gathering and why that made you binge on brownies. No self-improvement programs. No emotional baggage.
Just “here’s what sugar is doing to you” and “here’s what you can do about it.”
Without the brain chemistry piece, even the methods for getting rid of sugar cravings tend to be convoluted. Or at least ineffective.
• Take deep breaths.
• Ask yourself what you really want.
• Eat some sugar slowly and savor it.
• Eat some sugar, then have something that’s good for you. (Really? Chocolate, then broccoli?)
• Find healthy substitutes.
That last one bothers me most because it keeps people in the sugar trap. Making foods taste sweet by using “better” sugars isn’t really the solution to a sugar addiction.
I’ve ranted against trending sugars – agave syrup, coconut sugar, dates, maple syrup, monukka honey and others – but most nutritionists give in to the popular view. They offer recipes for brownies, cookies, cakes made with these various “healthful” sugars.
I recently reacted strongly to an article that stated, “Those sugar cravings never really go away, do they?”
Yikes. Of course, they do! Completely.
But they won’t (and can’t) go away when you’re always eating – and constantly looking for – the latest so-called healthful alternative to sugar instead of just… getting over it.
Occam’s Razor for Sugar Addiction: Simpler Than Psychoanalysis and New Sugar Obsessions?
It IS simple. Fix the brain chem thing. Get past your sugar addiction, don’t turn it into a different addiction. Eat to stay healthy. Your cravings go away. You feel fantastic.
From there, you can analyze your emotions and behavior patterns to your heart’s content. It will amaze you, however, how many of those things clear up when you simply loosen the grip of sugar on your brain. Seriously.
Occam’s Razor slices through the complicated nonsense and leaves an effective answer.
It works for sugar addiction, too.
In this case, the simplest solution lies in brain chem. The complex emotional layers become secondary. Not unimportant, mind you, but not necessary to analyze and re-hash before fixing the sugar problem.
And that’s why I love working with foods and brain chemistry. It’s Occam’s Razor at work.