Sherri Shepherd Uses Sugar Avoidance For Success – Should We Avoid It?

Let’s be honest.. the enemy for the past few years has been sugar.

In the 80’s it was Fat. Those green boxes known as Snackwells lined the shelves of grocery stores and my mom’s pantry.

In the 90’s it was Carbs. And I suppose Carbs will always be on the naughty list until someone can conduct a study where they gorge themselves on Carbs and come out looking like a supermodel.

But, enemy #1, as dictated by the health and wellness industry, has got to be Sugar.

Diets tote the benefits of cutting out sugar daily…

And celebs come out screaming the benefits of cutting out sugar regularly as well. (Check out actress and TV personality Sherri Shepherd’s recent success cutting out sugar)

So, as I always do, I hit the university library in search for the answer: Is Avoidance of Sugar Really THE Strategy?

The Diabetes Association did a meta-analysis of various studies on sugar and found that obese individuals are having a different reaction to sugar than lean ones. Therefore, they concluded that sugar has the potential to become habitual. There’s just one problem with this… the brain may be telling you one thing, but they are completely ignoring the other variables that could cause a different brain reaction in obese and lean individuals.

For example, if you are obese, and you have been told that if you cared at all about yourself, about your health, about your loved ones, then you would cut out sugar to be healthy and thin you better believe your brain will have a different reaction when compared to someone who believes sugar is “no big deal”.

The most recent study done on sugar addiction used overweight individuals and sweet drinks to assess whether or not sugar is addictive. While I appreciate a study using humans as opposed to rats like all the others there is still a major flaw. What is the psychology of a person who is told they shouldn’t be having sugar?

To consider this study I would need another group of people added. This group would need to be convinced that sugar was healthy and beneficial to them in some way. Then test the effects of sugar. This has been done with stress and shown incredible results.

When a group of people were told that stress was good for them, they had a lower amount of negative health consequences than the group that was told that stress was harmful. Until this is done with sugar, it’s hard to take these studies too seriously.

I never thought I’d actually find a study that says sugar is not addictive because when it comes to the health and wellness industry, there’s a definite bias. But alas, 1500 students of various shapes and sizes were assessed to reveal that 5% experienced problems with sugary foods. They even went on to say that the overweight group responded more to high-fat than to sugar.

In the book, Chasing the Scream, Johann Hari points out that the most addictive substance known to man, tobacco, is actually less than 17% chemically addictive. Which means, the vast majority of people are addicted to substances for reasons other than the brain demanding the substance.

Johann spends the rest of his time researching what addiction is really from and finds that it often stems from childhood trauma, disconnection, and isolation.

In other words, addiction is the RESPONSE or COPING MECHANISM. Not the problem.

My hats off to you Sherri Shepherd, I think it’s incredible that people are finding peace in their bodies and with food. To me, there is nothing more important than that.

But I hope it’s truly peace they have found and not another enemy to blame.

It would be very convenient if sugar was the cause of all our problems with weight. The solution would be so simple, get rid of it.

However, in my twelve years in this field, long-term weight loss is never as simple as a food enemy.

And telling people, they are addicted to sugar only accomplishes one thing – disempowerment.

After all, if you are addicted, what can you do about it?

Avoid it forever? Good luck this holiday season.

The real solution is learning WHY you may over-consume sugar.

Instead of cutting it out, get curious about it.

Imagine addiction didn’t exist… how would you then explain a persons irrationality around sugar?

You would have to go back to the drawing board and look at other variables such as…

The effects of telling someone they can’t or shouldn’t have something
The effects of believing that something is bad or off limits
The effects of being given sugar as a child as a reward
The effects of being given sugar as a child to cope
The effects of dealing with feelings of disconnection and isolation
The effects of dealing with childhood trauma

And that’s just to name a few off the top of my head.

Demand more answers. Demand deeper thinking. Stay curious my friends, you never know what you will find out…

References (In the order they were mentioned):

Bray, G. (2016). Is sugar addictive? Diabetes 65(7), 1797-1799.

Falbe, J., Thompson, H., Patel, A., & Madsen, K. (2019). Potentially addictive properties of sugar-sweetened beverages among adolescents. Appetite 133(1), 130-137.

Jamieson, J., & Nock, M. (2012). Mind over matter: Reappraising arousal improves cardiovascular and cognitive response to stress. Journal of Experimental Psychology 141(2), 417-422. DOI: 10.1037/a0025719

Markus, C., Rogers, P., Brouns, F., Schepers, R. (2017). Eating deadened and weight gain; no human evidence for a ‘sugar-addiction’ model of overweight. Appetite 114(1), 64-72.

Hari, J. (2015). Chasing The Scream. United Kingdom: Bloomsbury Publishing

About The Author

Michelle Hastie

Michelle Hastie Thompson is a recovered binge eater who turned her binge eating around and even got featured in Shape Magazine helping a woman lose weight in “My Weight Loss Diaries". She helps women end the battle of binge and overeating, fall in love with movement, and finally lose the weight permanently. A veteran weight loss coach for almost ten years, she is a Ph.D. student in Health Psychology and has three published books, the most recent titled, "Have Your Cake and Be Happy Too: A Joyful Approach to Weight Loss”.