Articles / Why Does Anxiety Increase After Stopping Sugar?
When you eat sugar, your brain’s pleasure centers light up. That’s why folks end up using sugar as a pacifier, and how sugar becomes a way to escape from the doldrums. A lousy day can be remediated with a bowl of ice cream in the evening. Bad news can be offset by a slice of cake.
When you eat junk food, your brain gets a dose of happy chemicals and you feel like you’re treating yourself to something special. You basically trick yourself into thinking you’re all smiles, and that you’re not alone. Some people go their whole lives using sugar as a drug like that.
If you are one of the few who attempt to cut out sugar by going cold turkey, then you go from snack, to snack, to snack, to nothing. That pleasurable just-escaped-into-a-bowl-of-ice-cream feeling is suddenly gone. Removing sugary sweets from you diet leaves a big hole in your life that you fall into every time you normally would have eaten sweets.
Lousy day at work? No sweets to turn to at home. Your worst work enemy got a promotion? Can’t cookie that away if you’re off sweets.
When there’s no escape from everyday problems, you have to face them, and deal with them. That’s what happens when you stop being sweet.
If you relate to this, it’s possible that you’ve gotten into the habit of using sugar as a drug. When you remove the drug, you start to go through withdrawal. Physically, you have many potential reactions: headaches, shakes, stomach aches, sweats, etc. Withdrawal symptoms are no fun.
However, there’s a mental aspect as well. Many people go sugar-free when they don’t really want to do so. Some folks are forced to change their diet due to critical health conditions (diabetes, etc.) or they do it to lose weight in time for an event or swimsuit season.
The result of going sugar-free when you don’t really want to prodices a form of cognitive dissonance, or what I call feeling deprived. You’ll think there’s something wrong with you, because you want to indulge, but you’re holding back while everyone else enjoys dessert.
If that’s you, you’ll feel like something is missing from your life, and you’ll only enduring avoiding sweets in order to achieve your lofty goal. But until your self-image changes, you’ll always fall back to your old habits.
Imagine a vegetarian saying, “I love meat and I miss it terribly,” while they attempt to eat nothing but vegetables. It’s not gonna last. Vegetarians have to identify as being a vegetarian in order to change their behavior.
When the path before you is the one you choose, it’s much easier to walk down it. You have to feel good about it. Sure, it’s possible to have a reluctant start and still succeed, but you will still need to change your self-image somewhere along the line. You have to see what’s happening.
You must identify as sugar-free. If you eat something sweet, you don’t feel like you’re throwing care to the wind and really living for a moment. Instead, you feel as if you’re making a huge mistake that goes against who you are. You feel more like you messed up rather than indulged.
When you go off sugar, you have to have (or develop) a new method for coping with stress. That’s why weaning yourself off sweets is so important. Going slowly allows you to examine the influential powers that are at play whenever you make a decision about junk food. Don’t hate yourself up for eating something sweet here and there—it happens. Go easy on yourself. Beating yourself up will not make you more healthy.
The repeated practice of choosing to eat something sugar-free over something sweet will start to shine the light on why you behave the way you do. Developing new coping mechanisms takes time. Along the way you will learn things about yourself.
Being sugar-free is the same as any other discipline—it takes practice and dedication.