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When a person with an addiction to drugs or alcohol enters treatment, the last thing on their mind is their diet. The focus, as it should be, is on recovering from the mental and physical damage that substance abuse causes. As anyone with substantial time in sobriety can attest to, this is not an overnight transformation.
So it’s quite common, especially for individuals in the early days of recovery, to swap their addiction to drugs and alcohol for a sweet tooth.
The substitution of sugar for alcohol or drugs is not new. The Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) Big Book, originally published in 1939 and referred to as the 12-step bible, recommends recovering alcoholics keep candy on hand. More modern research has shown that sugar affects the brain’s pleasure and reward centers as much as stimulants, like cocaine and morphine.
“Once off the drugs, the brain craves the uber rewards of hyperpalatables – Mint Milanos, Oreos, any sugar,” Dr. Pamela Peeke, author of “The Hunger Fix,” told The New York Times. “An apple reward doesn’t cut it,” she added.
Cutting sugar from the diet is, of course, easier said than done. However, the benefits of living a sugar-free lifestyle are well worth the effort.
5 Reasons to Dump the Sugar From Your Diet
1. Weight Loss – in the absence of sugar, the body uses a far more sustainable fuel source for energy, fat. Sugar as a fuel source is used up very quickly in the body, causing a dip in energy and triggering cravings for more sugar making it difficult to shed unwanted pounds.
2. Increased Energy – without sweets in the body, blood sugar levels don’t fluctuate as much, creating longer lasting energy and feeling full for longer periods.
3. Better Mental Focus – a sugar heavy diet causes inflammation, which requires energy from other bodily systems to address. This can lead to feeling tired or forgetful. After the initial difficulty of getting over the loss of sugar, a greater mental focus is a hefty reward.
4. Reduced Inflammation and Improved Mobility – as mentioned above, sugar causes inflammation in the body, which can restrict a person’s ability to get enough exercise throughout the week. Without all that sugar, regular physical activity is far more enjoyable and sustainable.
5. Improved Mood – it makes sense that if you’re losing weight, have more energy, greater mental focus and improved mobility that you will be in a better mood. The overall effect that sugar has on the body can zap those good feelings, and in the long run, the cupcakes aren’t worth the bad feelings.
More and more treatment facilities are moving away from sugar rich meal plans, and taking into consideration the long-term health benefits of a balanced diet. Certainly, the most important part of recovery is remaining sober. As a strong foothold in recovery is established, cutting sugar from the diet will lead to a greater sense of wellbeing and better overall health in general.