Sugar Addiction & Gluten-Free

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Gluten-free sugar addict – I’m sure you know some. Or maybe you’re one. Regardless of what your current diet looks like, a sweet tooth can sneak into everyone’s diet at some point since most people rarely make a transition away from unhealthy American eating habits simply because they are gluten-free. I must admit that the rash of new products on the market have made eating generally the same way relatively easy (albeit expensive, at times).

Just about everyone I know is a sugar addict.  Whether you crave sugar or not, you’ll notice a difference when it’s removed from your daily diet because there’s just so darn much of it in there.  And sadly, I’ve found that the incidence of sugar addiction in the gluten free community is sky high based on my own coaching practice and emails that I frequently receive.  It’s the little secret that no one wants to talk about until now.

Perhaps I’m showing bad form here by calling out my own gluten-free community on something that we’d all rather skip over.  Yet ignoring it wouldn’t be my style nor helping anyone.  We’ve all got a problem, plain and simple that underscores the greater need for us ‘digestively challenged’ individuals to be even MORE on our game than most.  Why?  Because sugar is toxic, period.

I personally go through cycles eating no sugar to eating moderately sweet stuff to eating lots of sweets. I’m certainly not a candy-binger, but the Larabars I eat certainly count on the daily sugar intake meter as does fruit, chocolate and cookies. Though you might say that my sugar issues are nearly as bad as some, they still need to be addressed so that I can maintain feeling well for years to come.

Dessert is ingrained in our culture.

Gluten-free cookiesYou might wonder how we all became sugar addict. Well, our culture’s diet has slowly become built around starches and dessert.  The most common and frequent answer I’ve received from people when asked why they keep eating so much sugar is that they just NEED to have something sweet after a meal. Sugary desserts have become a conditioned response to meals that roots back to childhood.  The mere idea of removing it doesn’t even seem at first like an option.

Does your ability to feel good about a meal hinge upon those tasty, sweet, final morsels?

Here’s the problem – as a ‘digestively challenged’ person, my ability to properly process food is still not where it should be from the years of unintended abuse my digestive tract received from just about everything I ate. Though switching to a gluten-free diet was a huge step in the right direction, it’s not the end all, be all to rectify the damage. There’s still more work to be done now that I’ve mastered the gluten-free lifestyle.

Gluten-free doesn’t mean sugar-free, though and that’s the graver problem. Sugar feeds bad bacteria and yeast. If you want to learn more, check out an incredible article in the NY Times Magazine by Gary Taubes called “Is Sugar Toxic?”. It’s a long read, but definitely well worth the time you’ll spend learning some key reasons why sugar isn’t all that it’s cracked up to be. We, as a nation, should take heed of the warning that Taubes is clearly sharing. And we, in the gluten-free community, need also get our collective heads out of the sand because too many of us are stuck downing massive amounts of sugar and unhealthy starches simply because it’s got “Gluten free” displayed on the label.

What’s more difficult is trying to keep track of dietary sugar intake.  It’s hidden in so many different places that it’s quite hard to actually tabulate how much you eat.  Food companies go to great lengths to confuse you with their complicated nutritional labels.  The matter is further complicated by sugar content being notated in grams.  Who seriously knows what the heck a gram even looks like?  I don’t.  (FYI – 4 grams of sugar is approximately equal to 1 teaspoon.)

Plus, fruit’s not all it’s cracked up to be. That’s sugar too.  “But it’s natural sugar,” you’ll say.  Yeah, but it’s still sugar any way you slice and dice it.  This is one place where I take issue with diets like Weight Watchers because fruit carries zero points (just like veggies). The problem is, very few people on Weight Watchers are eating lots of veggies. They’re really eating fruit thinking “Well, it’s 0 points. No worries- I can eat as much as I want!” Wrong.

Though I may have sounded a bit harsh about sugar, I’ve really got to be.  Sugar isn’t in your corner helping you get healthy.  It’s a legal form of crack that you indulge in too often.  But you’re not alone – many of us (even me) have issues with sugar.  Together we can start making better choices, understand how some sweeteners are better than others and slowly get to a place where 1 or 2 gluten-free cookies are enough to satisfy you for dessert (rather than the entire box).

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  1. says

    The bigger question here is “why would a person eat sugar knowing that it was not health-promoting?” The negative health implications for the body consuming sugar has been widely discussed for some time now. So why are we still doing it? Is it because, yes, we are actually playing ignorant to sugar’s effect on the body, or has our country created a culture of food morality that makes the sugar wrong (therefore extremely desirable and guilt-laden) before we can even experience it’s actual effects on our individual bodies?

    I appreciate your reminder that we must pay attention to the amount of sugar in our daily diets.

    • says

      I think that people are generally confused about sugar and especially where it actually lies. Frequently I speak to diabetics who tell me that they’re eating fruit all the time and are really surprised to learn that that’s sugar too. They honestly think they’re making a better choice…and they are over their cupcakes and cookies, however it doesn’t help that doctors will tell them that it’s ok to drink diet sodas. I think if people understood more clearly that sugar is literally a drug, they might have more motivation to address it. Instead, they just try to dance around it and put a bandaid over the problem with all sorts of toxic artificial sweeteners that also do damage.

  2. Lacey Sanders says

    I was recently diagnosed with gluten and lactose intolerance. Because buying gluten free products is so expensive, I just cut them out of my diet. But I crave sugar now like no bodies business and I was never that way before. I only had a sweet tooth around my cycle. I am trying to find answers as to why? Any help would be appreciated. I don’t eat chocolate but jelly beans don’t last long at all.

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