Dr Libby says …
People regularly share that once they start eating something sweet, it feels impossible to stop. Or, that when they try to reduce their sugar intake, their tastebuds have other plans. Often, they feel ashamed of this and berate themselves for eating more than intended. However, it’s not a lack of willpower driving this.
There are biochemical reasons why sugary foods and drinks are so desirable and why it can feel so hard to stop after a small taste.
Humans have grown to love the sweet stuff. Historically, bitter foods were dangerous, sometimes poisonous, but sugar is rich in energy and provides the fuel that our brains need.
In recent decades, food has been more abundant. Yet, it wasn’t that long ago that food shortages were a key threat to our survival. In a world where food may be scarce, it makes sense for us to be drawn to, seek out and eat more of the sugary, quick and energy-filling foods.
In today’s world, with an abundance of processed foods high in concentrated sugars, this evolutionary quirk has negative consequences. Dopamine is released in our brain when we consume sugary foods and drinks, signalling our brain’s reward system. Consistently over consuming sugar means constant activation and our brain adapts. We build up a tolerance which might be why you find yourself desiring more and more sugar for that feel-good response.
The way sugar affects our brain contributes to why it can be so challenging to change our habits and reduce our sugar intake. Consider shifting your mindset to focus on increasing whole foods in your diet, rather than decreasing processed foods. Amp up your intake of leafy greens, more bitter foods can help to reduce a preference for very sweet tastes.
Getting to the heart of emotional drivers causing your excess sweet choices is a great place to start.
Sometimes, taking a break can help our brains to reset. Remember, your brain adapts when you start to over consume sugar, and there’s a period of adaptation when you reduce your intake, too. Be kind and patient to yourself, changing habits isn’t easy, but the rewards are so worth it.