Keto and Low Carb Success

All About Sugar

December 01, 2022 Miriam Hatoum Season 1 Episode 26
Keto and Low Carb Success
All About Sugar
Show Notes Transcript

Episode 27:  All About Sugar

This week’s episode is all about sugar. Yes, it tastes good, but there is a science behind why we crave it and cannot stop ourselves from eating it and overeating it. Are you addicted to sugar? Why do you crave it? How can you detox from wanting it so much? What role does sugar play in inflammation? Is sugar so bad? Where is it hiding? Do we have to be a super sleuth to make sure it never passes our lips? Oh, and just because we are exploring all things sugar, I will talk a little bit about blood sugar, insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes. I remember in the olden days, no one had diabetes – it was always “I have a touch of sugar in my blood.” we now know how serious it is and it is important to know that you are in the driver's seat - not the sugar.

1:11.           Personal Story
3:29.           Why do we crave sugar?
6:46.           Is there such a thing as sugar addiction?
9:05.          Let’s look at some components of overeating sugar
12:11.        What role does sugar play in inflammation?
13:44.        Where is sugar hiding?
15:04.        Is sugar so bad?
17:16.        Blood sugar and diabetes
22:41.        What mistakes are we making, why and what to do?
24:19.        This week's ACTIONABLE COACHING ADVICE
25:58.        This week's VFO (Valuable Free Offer)
27:07         Episode 28, next week

Breaking Free From Diet Prison Book
Breaking Free From Diet Prison Course
THIS WEEK'S VFO:  The Brilliance of Chocolate Cake
THIS WEEK'S VFO: Five Steps out of Diet Prison and the Four Lists You Need
Breaking Free From Diet Prison Facebook page
Roadmap To Diet Success Instagram

Is Sugar Addiction Real?
Healthline: Sugar and Inflammation
Where is Sugar Hiding?
Increased consumption of sugar

ACCESS Transcript Here

Get all my free guides
Take a look at this great course
Join me on Facebook
Follow me on Instagram
Check out Pinterest
And don't forget my book!

Episode #: 27.    All About Sugar

 You’re Listening to the Roadmap to Diet Success, Episode #27, All About Sugar.


 Did you know that you don't have to spend money on a diet program or weigh, measure and track your food? What if you could learn to have success by following an easy roadmap that takes you on adventures from learning how to change your mindset so that you can believe in yourself, to learning about what foods work best in your body and why? Join me, Miriam Hatoum, health coach, course creator and author of Breaking Free From Diet Prison, as I give you actionable coaching advice that is sure to empower you so that you will finally find peace with food and learn to trust your body’s signals. You’ve got this, girl! 

 Oh, and before we start, I want to let you know that the primary purpose of this podcast is to educate and does not constitute medical advice or services, and I’m keeping up with the science as fast as I can so I can share with you the latest breaking research in this area to help you achieve your dreams!

1:11.       Personal Story

I tried many programs dealing with the psychological roots of my overeating and specific lack of control around anything with sugar. The programs were not totally off the mark but missed the point of the mechanics of eating sugar and what it does to our brain and body.

I tried several sugar-detox type programs. 

None of these were ultimately helpful because I did not understand the mechanics - and these programs didn’t explain them – of why and how sugar cravings beget sugar cravings. Not one said to not eat bread and baked goods, or heaven forbid, none said to cut down on fruit!

I also couldn’t stick to any of the various programs because many of these programs advocated for no artificial sweetener use. It was hard to give up sugar while also giving up my artificial sweeteners. I understood what these programs were going after: get ALL the cravings for sweetness out of your system. But I knew there had to be another way. I understood the concept of bridging vs. using something as a crutch, but all the programs that did not allow sugar saw sweeteners as crutches, not bridges to eventually giving up sugar and artificial sweeteners as well. Also, for every study that says artificial sweeteners are damaging, there is a study that says they aren’t. 

I wasn’t saying that I knew better than the people who wrote these programs, but I also knew there had to be another way. I had raised two children, held a full-time job, had two graduate degrees and had written a book (on another topic). I was not broken, stupid or lazy. I just couldn’t control myself around sugar and I didn’t know why.

Once I had the information that I am going to give you here, the behavior change became so much easier. This information is what I want to share with you in today’s episode, and hopefully it will open up, for you, some roads to change.

3:29.        Why do we crave sugar? 

Sugar activates the opiate receptors in our brain, specifically endorphins and dopamine. It affects the reward center, which leads to compulsive behavior, despite the negative consequences. In addition to the simple release of “feel good” chemicals, neural pathways – your habits and reactions – are forged when a person turns to a certain food over and over again. Therefore, this is one of the reasons why people feel they are addicted to sugar and baked goods.

 Also, less acknowledged, is that sometimes we are feeding a deficiency when we crave sugar. Remember my chopped liver example in Episode 19 on cravings and urges? A couple of times a year I absolutely crave chopped liver. I know – weird. I am aware of the emotional connection behind it, but it also made sense to me that maybe I was depleted in iron if I was so strongly craving liver, and my body could also have been looking for chromium, phosphorus, zinc or tryptophan. 

With sweets, and particularly chocolate, you could be deficient in magnesium, which is a component of dark chocolate. Magnesium deficiency is very common. Without enough of it, your body will have trouble bringing energy into the cells. You will be tired and on the hunt for something to eat that will give you a quick energy hit.

A craving for fruit could signal that your body needs additional vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. Fructose has its own set of issues, so don’t go overboard. I suggest no more than two fruits a day, and don’t make them always tropical fruits such as mangoes and pineapple, as these are very high in sugar. Don’t make it always a handful of dried fruit either, as those too are high in sugar. 

A sudden craving for sweets could mean that you are experiencing a fluctuation in blood sugar. Unless you are eating Keto, your body runs on glucose, which is sugar. When the body needs energy, it will cry out for sugar. Even if you are a fat burner rather than a sugar burner, it is important to know that carbohydrates – and thus glucose – are also in all vegetables, not just the starchy ones, legumes, and whole grains. You can also get energy you need from protein. So if you suspect your craving for sweets comes because you are always looking for an energy fix, a hard-boiled egg and some carrot and celery sticks or a couple of whole grain crackers will satisfy you as much as a Snickers bar. Furthermore, a snack like that will keep your blood sugar level and you won’t have a spike then drop, that will happen if you eat sweets.

As you can see, there are many reasons for craving sugar. Not just the behavioral and habit reasons.

 6:46.         Is there such a thing as sugar addiction? 

 There are many schools of thought on this. One school is yes, there is an addiction because of the physical component of sugar that it is as powerful as cocaine in lighting up the brain’s reward center. The argument is that you don’t need drugs to live, but you do need food, so you are in a constant state of being faced with your drug of choice. In addition, humans are hard-wired to seek pleasure. What is more pleasurable than the thousands of possible ways sugar can be presented and be available? You can laugh as you look at an empty cake plate or empty box of cookies and say, “The sugar made me do it.” 

 I was listening to an interesting podcast just this morning with Peter Atilla and James Clear, where they were talking about the fact that the anticipated hit of feel-good chemicals is what prompts the behavior. You know, in advance, that the cookies will soothe you, or distract you, or in any other way make you feel better. The behavior of reaching for a cookie is what keeps repeating itself. You keep repeating the the behavior of reaching for sweets for relief instead of finding a different way out of whatever emotional state you might be in. True, once you start you might not be able to stop, but that is because you have evidence to believe that the sweet is in charge of your behavior, instead of you being in charge of your behavior. It does look like addictive behavior, but the sugar itself is not addictive. It is more likely to be what you turn to rather than other foods, because its properties do light up the pleasure center of the brain, but there is still a lot of controversy about whether or not it is addictive in itself. 

 Even with all that, we do say sugar is addictive because it is so palatable and so pleasing, and that of course we want more of it, especially when we are trying to obliterate things that are not so pleasing.

 9:05.       Let’s look at some components of overeating sugar.

1.      There is the habit component. For instance, do you pair evening TV with a snack – and really, what are the chances that snack will be leftover broccoli from dinner? Or do you pair getting a muffin with a morning coffee? 

2.     There is the immediate emotional component. Does food, in general, or sweets in particular, soothe your anxiety? Does food provide a distraction? If you are sad, does eating the cookies, cake and candy, recreate happy times for you and more likely, take your mind off things? Again, keep in mind that almost any food – from cheeseburgers to pickles could soothe anxiety and provide distractions, but here we are talking when you turn to sweets. 

3.     There is a deeper emotional component. Sweets may be your road to staying overweight even though you are not aware of why you are eating them. Are you hiding and trying to make yourself invisible (as counterintuitive as that may be)? Are you trying to make yourself unapproachable? Do you sometimes feel that this sweet food is the only non judgmental friend you have? It’s always there for you? 

 In these cases, the behavior itself is addictive. Sugary foods are just the vehicle. You are addicted to the behavior of using food to distract and comfort yourself. Emily Maroutian has made an important point: “You are not stuck. You’re just committed to certain patterns of behavior because they helped you in the past. Now these behaviors have become more harmful than helpful. The reason why you can’t move forward is because you keep applying an old formula to a new level in your life.” 

 Dr. Michelle May, who is the author of the “Am I Hungry?” series, also presents this interesting viewpoint. In a discussion with someone who is presenting sugar as a physical addiction, she makes the very strong and valuable point that a lot of our behavior is brought on by a eat-restrict-binge cycle. Her approach is that if you do not restrict a food, you will have no need to binge on it. It loses its power over you, and you can enjoy it in calm way. You won’t feel the need to binge because you haven’t restricted the food. This is very much what is behind the intuitive eating style, which I will talk about in Episode 30.  

 The link to this thought-provoking discussion on sugar addiction is in the show notes and transcript. 

 12:11.         What role does sugar play in inflammation? 

In Episode 26, Inflammation and Grains, I talked about chronic inflammation and the role of grains and legumes. Sugar is also linked to chronic inflammation. In the show notes and transcript, I am giving you a link to a Healthline article that discusses this in depth. I would like you to take a look at it because the effects of sugar on inflammation are discussed in detail, along with the links to the studies that are cited in the article. I have read most of them to prepare for this episode, but I want to give you a synopsis of what this article by Dr. Mary Jane Brown has presented.

·       Even a small amount of sugar added to one’s diet can increase inflammatory markers, insulin resistance, and LDL cholesterol.

·        This higher inflammation can cause several changes to the body such as

o   Excess production of AGEs, which stands for Advanced glycation end products, which are harmful compounds in the bloodstream.

o   It can also cause increased gut permeability which we call “leaky gut” where undigested food particles can get into the bloodstream.

·       Other problems linked to sugar and inflammation are

o   Heart Disease

o   Cancer

o   Diabetes

o   Obesity

o   Liver disease

o   Arthritis

 13:44.        Where is sugar hiding? 

 Everywhere, my friends. As a study from Harvard Health said, “It is so ubiquitous that you might find some packaged and processed foods unappetizing without it.”

I didn’t realize it until I read this article, but they go on to say “The sugar is added not just to impart sweetness. It's also used to extend shelf life and adjust attributes like the texture, body, color, and browning capability of food.” Very interesting…

 Even what we would consider natural sugars, such as honey and maple syrup are not eaten alone. They are squirted into drinks and added to baked products, candy and condiments. So even though they are not manufactured in a lab, they are still added sweeteners and carry the same properties of any other added sugar. Food manufacturers are hard at work trying to find new ways to sweeten packaged foods – and apparently also to extend shelf life and adjust the texture, body, color, and browning capability of food. 

 15:04.        Is sugar so bad? 

I think sugar has been demonized because of it’s overuse in processed foods and its unnatural use, such as putting sugar in everything to make the foods more palatable causing consumers to want to purchase and devour it.

 ·       Another direct quote from Dr. Brown’s article is: “… evidence connecting sugar to health problems is mostly based on observational studies. Therefore, they cannot prove that sugar alone was the cause of these health problems.”

·       In addition, she goes on to say that “…natural sugar has not been linked to inflammation. In fact, many foods containing natural sugars, such fruit and vegetables, may be anti-inflammatory. Natural sugars include those naturally occurring in foods. Examples include fructose in fruit and lactose in milk and dairy products.”

·       I suggest you take a look at that article if you have a strong interest in sugar and inflammation.

·       I would take exception to one thing she said about fructose in fruit not being harmful. Many doctors now say that excess fructose is a root cause of Non-Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease. The key word is excess. One or two fruits a day seems fine, it is the excess consumption that is the problem.

·       Also, in terms of sugar being bad for you – it seems that when sugar is removed from its original source and manufactured, such as high-fructose corn syrup in packaged goods, or when it is added in excess to other foods, we do have a problem. 

·       My feeling about it is that sugar need not be demonized to the extent that it is, but excess and manufactured sugar will cause a myriad of problems, the least of which is gaining weight or being unable to stop yourself before the box of cookies is empty.

17:16.        Blood sugar and type 2 diabetes

 I want to briefly touch on blood sugar and type 2 diabetes because the name of the episode is “All Things Sugar” and well, blood sugar is sugar. It is not my goal here to give you all the ins and outs but just to familiarize you with the terms in case you are not already personally dealing with the issue.

 First of all, a very quick lesson on insulin. Insulin is a hormone made by the pancreas that helps glucose in your blood enter cells in your muscle, fat, and liver, where it’s used for energy. As I said, glucose comes from the food you eat. The liver also makes glucose in times of need, such as when you’re fasting. When blood glucose levels, also called blood sugar levels, rise after you eat, your pancreas releases insulin into the blood. Insulin then lowers blood glucose to keep it in the normal range. It does this because insulin acts like a key that opens the door of your cells to let in the sugar.

 It is normal to have glucose circulating in your system. After eating, normal levels can be up to 140 milligrams per deciliter abbreviated as mg/dL. You might also hear the term millimoles per liter, abbreviated as mmol/L.  A mole is a scientific unit often used to measure chemicals.

How does excess and constant blood sugar build up in your blood, which is the condition known as type 2 diabetes?It is a result of insulin resistance that comes about when cells in your muscles, fat, and liver don’t respond well to insulin and cannot easily take up glucose from your blood. As a result, your pancreas makes more insulin to help glucose enter your cells. Over time it causes a weak response to insulin, and the insulin can no longer get the glucose into your cells for use as energy. The glucose stays in the blood, thus causing high blood sugar.

Someone with insulin resistance, pre-diabetes, or diabetes will have an exaggerated insulin response. This means that eating a small amount of carbohydrate will cause the pancreas to release a large amount of insulin. Those who are insulin resistant will have elevated insulin levels throughout the day. In addition to the glucose not being able to get into cells for energy it also means the fat cells won’t be able to release fat for fuel. Even if you have just eaten you could be hungry, fatigued and sluggish. This is because your insulin is not getting glucose – or fat – into your cells to be used as energy.

An article in Science Daily, which will be in the show notes and transcript for you, states that people across nearly all demographic groups, regardless of income, have increased their consumption of ultra-processed foods, with the exception of Hispanic adults, who ate significantly less ultra-processed foods and more whole foods compared with non-Hispanic, white and Black adults. 

For the first time in history, we are seeing a large population of children with diabetes and insulin resistance. It is not the one piece of birthday cake, or the one bowl of ice cream as a special dessert that is doing this to children and adults. That is why I do not want to demonize sugar. I don’t think the answer is to never have sugar or anything with sugar. We can’t escape that sugar is in almost everything we buy that is prepared or packaged. If we can’t escape it, the answer is to eat less of it by eating more whole and natural foods. Yes, eat and enjoy it, but be aware of its qualities – both the physical quality of lighting up the reward center of the brain, and the quality of often being linked to behaviors that are, themselves, hard to unlink from pleasurable – and easy to obtain – foods. 

22:41.      What mistakes are we making, why and what to do?

Honestly, this section could run for its own hour-long episode, so I will just be brief with the big – and mostly obvious – mistakes we make.

·       We tend – almost with everything – to look at things in a binary way. This means, Yes/No; This/Not That; Do/Don’t do; True/False, etc. I have been working hard with this podcast to help you see that we don’t live in a binary world. Things exist on a spectrum or continuum. 

·       Because we often set ourselves up to follow a yes/no diet, there is too much room for failure, and all the self-flagellating behaviors that come with it. How about we just adopt a stance of, “Mostly I don’t eat sugar.” 

·       We tend to see faults within ourselves, such as “I’m weak. I can’t stop eating sugar.” We don’t always look at “Why can’t I stop eating sugar?” or “Can I REALLY not stop eating sugar?” You can see from this episode there are many reasons – from chemical, to habit, to rebound from restrictions – that can cause you to feel that you can’t stop eating sugar.  You are not stupid or broken or weak. Turn some rocks over and don’t be so quick to think the problem is you.


This week’s assignment is pretty easy. No tables and charts for you to make.

The two VFOs I am giving you this week you may have already downloaded, but if you have not, please do so for this week’s coaching.

Using the “Five Steps to Get Out of Diet Prison and the Four Lists You Need” I would like you to do two things:

First of all, using the sugar list in the booklet, read labels. Even if you are a pioneer woman, for sure you use the likes of tomato sauce or salt. Yes, there is sugar in a lot of those. A hint is that anything ending in “-ose” is a sugar! 

Second, because grains and legumes are high in carbohydrates which turn into glucose in your blood, be aware how many times in a day or week you eat these foods. I am not asking you to cut them out, but you should know that you can do the strictest detox in the world – including no artificial sweeteners – and if you are eating bread, beans, rice or pasta, you are putting glucose into your blood and that will heighten your desire for, or response to, other sugars.

The second VFO is “The Brilliance of Chocolate Cake.”  I would like you to do the workbook pages in it. The exercise might prove to be very eye-opening for you.

25:58.        This week’s VFO (Valuable Free Offer) 

Five Steps Out of Diet Prison and the Four Lists You Need” is available at It will be quite informative as to all the names of sugar, including artificial sweeteners and sugar alternatives. 

The second VFO is the “Brilliance of Chocolate Cake.”  I have made this available in several of the preceding episodes because it is so important that you understand the science of wanting sugar. If you are following my weekly coaching advice, please do the worksheet on page three.  It can be found at 

Direct links for both booklets are in the show notes and transcript.

My course, Breaking Free From Diet Prison, covers everything I talked about in this episode, plus so much more. It is at

27:07.       Next week’s episode

Next week I am going to go over the myths about Keto and answer some questions I have been getting. I teach Keto on a continuum, so that if you are interested, you can either jump in all at once, or take it very slowly starting with, perhaps, cutting out sugar and grains. Even if Keto doesn’t float your boat, I suggest you listen to it because it is a valuable piece to the Roadmap puzzle, and will help you make informed decisions. 

 So go share the show with your friends, let them know that’s coming up in the next episode, and invite them to tune in with you and learn how to become free from diet prison with my Roadmap to Diet Success.

 And, if you like what you hear, please like and subscribe, and remember to leave a review wherever you listen to your podcast. It helps other people find the show. Also, don’t be a stranger. Come on over to my Facebook page, Breaking Free From Diet Prison, and let me know if there is anything you would like to hear on the show. Better yet, join my Facebook group page, Roadmap to Diet Success, especially for podcast listeners.  You can also email me directly … I would especially like to hear about episode ideas you are interested in.

 Until then, go live free from diet worry — I’ll see you back here next time.

Breaking Free From Diet Prison Book
Breaking Free From Diet Prison Course
THIS WEEK'S VFO:  The Brilliance of Chocolate Cake
THIS WEEK'S VFO: Five Steps out of Diet Prison and the Four Lists You Need
Breaking Free From Diet Prison Facebook page
Roadmap To Diet Success Instagram

Is Sugar Addiction Real?
Healthline: Sugar and Inflammation
Where is Sugar Hiding?
Increased consumption of sugar