BalanceMayIssue2017 - 37



uring lunch with my sister in the
suburbs of New York City, her
phone must have pinged about 50
times. By the 51st time, it had gotten to be a
bit much. And so I asked what was up. 'I've
just sold another copy of The 21 Day Sugar
Detox,' she replied. Diane Sanfilippo's book
(£29.99, Victory Belt) came out in October
2013, and at this point in December 2014, it
was well on its way to becoming a sensation.
Over in the UK, sugar paranoia kicked in
shortly afterwards, and continues to be a
huge obsession today. It seems every celebrity

caffeine. But sugar, it
quickly transpired, fitted
into a very different
category to either of these
things. A vice, a lifeline, an
antidepressant, an anxiety drug.
In fact, 'drug', with the highs and
subsequent lows, is a far more accurate
categorisation for sugar. It was, I realised,
more than just what made my chocolate
brownies taste sweet. It was what made my
life sweet. I used it to medicate my mood.
Sugar gave me a high, and then without

cause insulin resistance
that leads to diabetes. As
insulin levels regulate cell
growth, some studies link
to how sugar breaks our
hormonal regulators, increases
the risk of cancer and sets in motion the
key factors associated with heart disease.
So if it is so pernicious and damaging,
why do we stay in an unhealthy
relationship with our sweetie? I often
think of the Scottish Proverb: 'They always
speak of my drinking, and never my thirst.'

has recipes for you to try and hypnotists
can cure you of your addiction. That cleaneating crew will guilt and shame it all off
your plate, replacing it with quinoa and
kale. But almost four years on, and sugar
is still the health issue on everyone's lips
(or rather not on everyone's lips).

realising, it dropped me down low.
After surviving (just) the first few weeks,
I noticed that I had more energy throughout
the day. The swelling in my feet went down,
and I realised that my belly wasn't bloated
for the first time in years. I had started
paying attention to what I put in my
mouth, planning my food, rather than
grabbing it on the go. It took time, but once
I got the hang of it and was into a routine,

In other words, we can talk about brownies,
but we also have to talk about my impulse
to eat them. So maybe it's time to look
at why we are slaves to the sugar cube, and
not simply physically, but also emotionally
and spiritually.

I tried giving up the white
stuff myself some years before
it became fashionable.
Inflammation in my feet, even
after an operation to correct
some wayward bones, led my
chiropractor to demand I give
up sugar for a month. I was
desperate enough to believe
it might help, though who had
heard of a sugar detox in 2008?
I went cold-turkey, alone. I


New guidelines by
Public Health England
have been set, with the
aim to reduce 20% of
sugar found in
products such as
cereals by 2020.


hunted it down in everything
I ate and drank, and emptied
the cupboard of previously
innocuous food. Ready meals
were out and reading every
label was in.
I oscillated between being grumpy and
wanting-to-kill-people for a week. I
yoga-ed myself to palatable states of
humanity, pounded a treadmill at the gym
to exorcise the aggression caused by not
getting my hit, and meditated.

I have few vices. I drink alcohol occasionally
but it's not really my thing. I am on-off with

I saw how little time I'd previously spent on
really nourishing myself and how nearly
everything I ate contained some form of
sugar. I was lucky: I felt a strong drive to
give it up, as a way to reduce my pain after
surgery, so I kept with it.
But the physical, health-related reasons
for why we should cut out sugar are often
not enough. If we're paying attention to the
news, we will see the results of studies that
show how sugar can damage the liver and

May 2017 BALANCE

A quick trip to YouTube and a Ted Talk
later (thanks, Nicole Avena) illustrates how
receptors on the tongue trip off the brain
to ping its reward system. A hit of the brain
chemical dopamine signals, 'Oh, that's
good.' A warm fuzzy feeling ensues. And
we want to do the thing that stimulated
that feeling again. Addictive drugs such as
cocaine, nicotine, alcohol and heroin also
stimulate this 'feels-good-do-it-again'
pathway. Our brains light up when we
think about a treat or a 'hit'. The wanting
or craving sets it in motion, too. We may
not realise it but we are in a relationship
with the thing that makes us feel good,
even if it damages us.
Research by a team of neuroscientists at
Queensland University of Technology in
Australia found that, over time, too much
sugar actually causes a drop in dopamine
levels, meaning that we need more to get
the same hit, and even just to simply avoid
feeling depressed.
When our brain chemistry is out of
whack, some self medicate with alcohol,
painkillers, street drugs, or the most
socially-acceptable and readily available
of all: sugar. Author of Anti-anxiety Food
Solution ($17.95, New Harbinger), Trudy Scott



Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of BalanceMayIssue2017

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