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When does sugar addiction begin?

Why is our relationship with sugar so multi-layered?

We are addicted to sugar in the form of ice-cream, chocolate, cake and desserts etc. – we eat this food fervently, but don't want the results of it in our body. It is often a relationship of indulgence followed by guilt and a vow to 'cut down' or 'give it up' ... until the next time.

  • So why are we so attracted to sugary foods and drinks?
  • When and how does this relationship begin that results in us feeling that "I am addicted to sugar"?

It's a common sight to see little children holding hands with their mums and dads or in the baby buggy with food in their hand – a bun, a biscuit or some other type of sweet. These sorts of simple carbohydrates are very quickly transformed into sugar in our bodies.

How do these little people (who sometimes can hardly walk!) handle this mass of carbohydrates or sugar? And why is it so that children and their parents favour this sort of food?

Let's look at the start of a child’s life: mostly, when a child is born we (as parents) are learning about baby development and care – especially if it is our first one.

Well, a baby does not have many options to clearly express to us what it is they need. So if a baby is in any way uncomfortable, it usually cries. And if the baby is crying we have to find out what is going on! We’ll do anything to have a happy and healthy kid!

So we take them in our arms and rock them ... maybe they are hungry? Let's try and give them some food. If their crying stops, we feel relieved and successful. But how is that for the child? They may not have been hungry. Maybe they felt uncertain, insecure, cold, too warm, frightened, spooked, alone or bored, but what they got was something in their mouth. And not just anything – often it is something sweet, some form of sugar. And as they get older, it continues with:

  • a lolly for consolation after the dentist’s or doctor's visit
  • sweets as a reward if they were a 'nice or good child'
  • a big birthday cake to celebrate themselves on their birthday
  • a chocolate bar or gummy bears to distract them from being stressful (for the adults)

Could it be that we learn that food/sugar is something we can get, when we don't get what we really want?

What is striking is that we use food, and especially sweets, to change or support our moods ... for example:

  • 'relaxing' with a glass of wine or beer after a hard day

  • eating chocolate in front of the TV to relax and to treat ourselves

  • turning to ice cream if we are sad / have lover's grief

  • we have 'special' food to mark occasions – to reward ourselves – such sweets as chocolates as a "thank you", or treats for working hard

Could it be that we have learned to use sugar in all its forms as a compensatory satisfaction or relief, and that as adults we not only continue with it, we support our sugar addictions and indulge in them?

How often do we eat something because we are 'hungry'? – not hungry for food but:

  • hungry for real contact?
  • hungry for a meaningful life?
  • hungry to be seen for who we are?

How often do we eat something sweet so as to not feel something?:

  • sadness, boredom or insecurity?
  • anxiousness?
  • to 'take the edge off' some other emotional pain?

It may be worth keeping an eye on our relationship with sugar:

  • when do we have it?
  • why do we have it?
  • how do we feel after we've had it?

It's one thing to say "I am addicted to sugar", but isn't it time to look at "Why am I addicted to sugar? When did this begin and how do I support this addiction?"

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SugarChildrenAddictionBehaviourFeelings

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