Michelle-MacLean,-the-sugar-shift

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Pure, white and deadly

Sugar is getting a lot of press these days. And not because of it’s sweetness. Researchers, experts and health professionals are finally acknowledging that sugar is in fact a very bitter chemical and it’s poisonous to our health and longevity.

The headline on the cover of the May 12 issue of MacLean’s magazine is “Death by Sugar” and contends that sugar is becoming the biggest public health crisis of our time. The Big Story health feature by Kate Lanau looks at some alarming statistics, hidden sugars, how we got hooked and the health impacts it’s having.

The MacLean’s piece also highlights a new documentary released on May 9th called Fed Up about the obesity epidemic. Fed Up claims that food manufacturers have created a public dependency on sugar and are causing a health crisis that’s spreading around the world. Director Stephanie Soecthig and narrator Katie Couric teamed up to take this deep dive look into the sugar issue to understand what’s really going on.

The CBC’s Fifth Estate dug into the surprising science and serious concerns about sugar last October in it’s season premiere The Secrets of Sugar. Reporter Gillian Findlay shared emerging research that suggests sugar may be making us fat and sick and questioned if the sugar industry has been hiding the unsavoury truth from consumers.

I’ve been doing my own research on this subject after more and more clients were asking for help with their cravings, pre-diabetes, moodiness and other more serious health affects from sugar.

In addition to sharing this information with clients one on one, I co-facilitated a sugar blues workshop a couple weeks ago in Halifax with Osteopath Mike Eddy. Our goal was to raise awareness about sugar and offer some suggestions to break the sugar cycle. To kick the workshop off we asked what drew people to the workshop, why were they here? Almost everyone in the room said they were addicted to sugar. It felt like a sugar support group.

And it’s true. Sugar is an addiction. Like heroin, cocaine and caffeine, sugar is an addictive, destructive drug, yet we consume it daily in everything from bread to ketchup. Sugar changes our brain biochemistry and the food industry knows this and tries its hardest to keep us hooked.

I believe sugar is the most common addiction in our society today.

Sugar qualifies as an addictive substance for three reasons:

1. Eating even a small amount creates a desire for more.

2. Suddenly quitting causes withdrawal symptoms such as headaches, mood swings, cravings and fatigue.

3. The biochemical make up of white sugar is almost identical to alcohol, except for one molecule.

Because it’s an addiction, and addictions are chronic brain diseases, quitting sugar is not just about willpower. Contrary to old stereotypes, people who become addicted to sugar are not weak, immoral or tragically flawed.

However, it does help to have willpower and to take responsibility for your health in order to make a change. We can’t blame it all on industry and the government and sit back and play the victim.

It might not be your fault that you are addicted, but it is your responsibility to take steps to improve your life.

In my opinion, the very first step, the very first thing we need to do in trying to break this sugar cycle, is to stop thinking about sugar as a food.

Sugar is an addictive drug, not a food. If we can shift our mindset to think about it this way we won’t serve it to our children, we won’t reach for it three times a day. That would be like poisoning our kids and ourselves and who in their right mind would intentionally do that?

Stop seeing the sweet, tasty, white powder as a treat, a reward, a comfort. See it for the harsh, toxic, addictive, detrimental, disease causing substance that it is. Then you can start to break the addictive cycle.

*This post was originally published in the Herald Community on May 27, 2014

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