Fighting An Addiction to Sugar

Posted at 10:40 PM, May 17, 2014
and last updated 2014-05-17 22:40:48-04

HARRISBURG, Pa. – You’re tired, irritable and hungry for more. The foods you eat could be potent like Heroin or Opium. Doctors at Lancaster General say we consume twice as much sugar as we did 100 years ago.

The average American eats 3 pounds of sugar a week. That consumption level makes you want even more. But could something as sweet as sugar be as harmful as heroin?

Jennifer Stotler, of Elizabethtown, lived on sugar.

She says, “I love sweets, I also love chocolate.”

The imbalanced diet made her obese. She said her metabolism wasn’t working.

Then a year ago, she hit rock bottom.

Stotler told Fox 43’s Rebecca Solomon, “I couldn’t enjoy the things I wanted to anymore. If I wanted to do something, I had to think if I could do that.”

At 370 pounds, the 41-year-old was desperate for help.

She says, “I never thought I would ever weigh that.”

Doctor Lawrence Wieger runs the Medical Weight Management Program at Lancaster General. He says one out of 10 Americans have diabetes. He says, “When we eat foods high is sugars, it has an effect on the liver and it makes it harder for our body to use it for energy.”

Dr. Wieger says the sugar increases insulin. He says we use insulin “To get the sugar in our muscles to use for energy and it will store excess fat in the middle.”

But sometimes, a lifestyle change is easier said than done.

Dr. Wieger says, “Those foods that have sugar are also comfort foods. When we’re under stress, when we have a bad day, those are the foods we go to because temporarily they make us feel better.”

The feeling’s similar to a drug addiction.

Dr. Wieger says, “It effects the same brain pathways that some drugs, cocaine, opium. There’s a rewards center in our brain and when people eat a high sugar diet, it light up the area of the brain.”

And it creates a craving for more. Dr. Wieger says, “So as we get sweeter foods, our taste buds get used to it and need something sweeter to get the same response.”

Doctors say the feeling of needing sugar is a real problem because of the amounts available in the United States.

Dr. Wieger says, “In the 1970′s fat became a 4-letter word and we went on a low-fat craze. And in order to make food taste well, we took fat out and added more sugar.”

But there’s still hope for a healthier future- only 3 or 4 days with less sugar cuts cravings.

Stotler now eats snacks filled with plenty of protein. Last July, she started a weight loss program at Lancaster General. Her choice of high protein meals plus exercise move her in the right direction.

She says, “I really try to monitor the amount of sugar. I usually allow myself two treats a month, where I might want a cookie or donut and that satisfied me.”

In one year, Stotler’s dropped 60 pounds. Through sweat and determination, she’s naturally kicked her sugar addiction. She says, “I’m really happy and I know the exercise plays into that and watching what I’m eating.”

Additional Information:

Doctors say try cutting back on liquid sugars like sodas and fruit juice. Increasing your protein will fill you up and help combat your sugar cravings.