A Review – “Why is it so hard to control our appetites? A doctor’s struggles with giving up sugar”.

Hello everyone! Welcome back to my blog. I hope you all have had a wonderful week. This week I came across this article that was published in the guardian by Raj Telhan.


Now, as you all know, I love this topic and was overjoyed that the guardian posted this and that a doctor wrote it! If you read my recent blog post about submitting my dissertation, you would know that I created a whole dissertation investigating this very topic: refined sugar addiction.

Raj talks about his struggles with sugar cravings and his journey to quitting sugar. I wanted to share with you some snippets of what he said and see if we can relate. I know I certainly can.

Let’s back up a little. I haven’t eaten refined sugar in three years because I have always felt that I couldn’t control my appetite for sugar. I would binge on it like no other and ultimately, couldn’t stop eating it, no matter how hard I tried.

Now, Raj didn’t mention “sugar addiction” in his essay, probably due to its controversial nature, but he certainly did strengthen the qualitative argument. Real people suffer with intense sugar cravings and struggle to mediate sugar consumption. Many of us feel it, I bet you can sympathise with this. I would like to share with you a few quotes from the article that show just that.

“My friends offered condolences on what they called my soon-to-be joyless lifestyle”

“I felt like I was powerless in the face of my cravings. If there was a knock at the door of appetite, a tap on the window or impulse, I had to answer it. And this felt shameful. Why couldn’t I say no? And why was realising this so painful?”

“The inability to resist sugar cravings – to break the habit – seemed like a victory of the past over the present”

It sounds very much like an addiction to me, and the research supports it! Believe me, I did a yearlong systematic review on the topic.

One of the hardest parts of this suggestive addiction is that you can’t moderate it. Raj puts this beautifully. We really cannot stop eating it when we start. Why is this substance so alluring, so all powerful, that we cannot resist it?

“It would have been different – I wouldn’t have felt the need to go all-or-nothing with sugar – if I could have simply walked away after a few bites. I wouldn’t stop even after I was full. What started off as pleasure would morph into painful excess.”

You might be thinking “Well Mairi, what can we do about it?”. It may be as simple as to just stop eating refined sugar. The research suggests when you stop eating sugar you just stop craving it. Raj found this too.

“So, I just stopped eating sugar. And it’s still working. Was this all it took?”

The funny thing is, is that the food companies and manufacturers know the addictive and all-consuming properties of sugar and that is why it is in everything and anything processed and packaged. They want you to keep coming back for more, and they know that adding sugar to their products is the one way to do so.”

“But I was set, compelled by the literature about the deleterious, and even toxic effects, of added sugar. And big food companies were winning the bet that Lay’s potato chips first made back in the 1960s with its “Betcha can’t just eat one” ad campaign.”

The fact that sugar is so widely consumed today is incredibly scary. We know the negative impacts of sugar on our health, we have done for decades. We know the negative impacts of sugar on the health of our children and everyone in-between. Yet, we still consume sugar, on mass. Why? We can’t stop eating it, and the food manufactures love that we can’t.

I hope to one day I can show the world just how addictive sugar is, but today, the awareness starts with you. We still cannot prove sugar addiction in humans. I cannot tell you definitively that sugar addiction is real. I feel that the science suggests so, but there just isn’t enough of it yet. I hope to change that. All I ask is that you look within and investigate your relationship with sugar. Can you control it? Or does it control you?

This was the question I asked myself many times in the past five years. It controlled me. I couldn’t sit in a room with a plate of biscuits and not think about eating another, and another and another. I wouldn’t be fully engaged in conversation when sugar was around. How can that be merely and unruly appetite? I believe that the experiences I have and the research that is available, that refined sugar is addictive. You don’t have to agree, but I hope you look within and challenge yourself to see how it impacts you.

DISCLAIMER: If you struggle with disordered eating or have an eating disorder, please do not consider restricting your diet in any way shape or form. This blog post is purely for educational and entertainment purposes only, and before making any changes to your diet, ask yourself why you want to make those changes, if it is right for you and consult your doctor.

I hope this blog post gave you some food for thought. Please read the full article, it is linked at the start.

If you want to know more, check out my podcast:

Thank you so much for reading.


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