Oh Sugar, one of those relationships that promises to be there for you when you’re in need. You put your faith in it to give you a little energy, tell you you’re a good person, give you some sweet sensations, and then a hour later you’re back in the doldrums.
Even before we put sugar in our mouths our minds are prepping us to think that sugar is the answer to our needs. And in fact, our thoughts are already part of the reward system that gets triggered by sugar.
Dopamine, a neurotransmitter, is a messenger for communication in the brain. As we begin to think of sugar dopamine gets released into the areas of the brain that create feelings of reward, motivation and novelty. Then when we eat sugar more dopamine gets released to the same area (1). So it’s win win for feelings of reward and/or novelty, that sensation of newness, which we love.
Like a bad romance, you can increase your tolerance for it and end up feeling like you need more and more of it. The more we have the greater the tolerance we create, and then the more we need for the original high. At the same time we create a “decreased ability to get pleasure from other substances and experiences (2).”
Tolerance is not only created in the brain, but on the tongue as well. “A recent study out of the United Kingdom focused on sugar preferences amongst obese, overweight and lean populations…When testing their lean population, including people who did not already have a preference for sweets, they found that having them drink two sugary drinks for just four weeks dulled their sensitivity to the taste (reducing their enjoyment of the drink) and also enhanced their preference for sweeter foods/drinks.” (3)
However, if we know all this we can rewire our mind’s chemistry through changing our thoughts, and create a greater sensitivity to sugar, which means we feel we need less to be satisfied. Through becoming mindful of our thoughts, we can transform them into what we need to have a healthy lifestyle. If we don’t think of sugar as a reward but instead think of the unhealthy consequences of consuming it we will be stopping the habit before it even reaches our mouths.
But if it does make it to our mouths, just enjoy without guilt, because putting ourselves down while eating is equally unhealthy. Your tastebuds are adaptable, and can be re-programed just like your mind. If you just eat something a little less sweet every time you feel the urge then you will taper down in no time, and soon that tea with stevia will be super sweet indeed. The opposite is equally true the more sugar we eat the more our tastebuds need in order to register sweetness. Our mind-body-spirit’s are amazing, adaptable, fantastic vehicles that were not only custom made for us, but that we can also tailor to meet our needs.