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Sugar addiction – you may have it!

Learn about sugar: Preston James, who says eating addictions are linked to what we were taught when we were very young

So your New Year’s resolution to stop drinking alcohol and soda has come to nought.

And those Quality Streets and potato chips you swore off completely on December 31? You’re still eating them.

Don’t beat yourself up. According to a new study, you’re normal.

It seems that people get addicted to all the “extras” they buy over the holidays — and most of it is junk.

“Sugar addiction is a big thing,” said Preston James, a local nutrition and lifestyle coach who works out of the Northshore Medical & Aesthetics Centre.

“It’s part of society, especially when it comes to holidays and special events. There are scientific studies that show sugar is more addictive than cocaine.”

The study found that household spending on grocery items increases by 33 percent over the holidays. The spending dropped slightly after New Year’s Day, but then rose even higher than at Christmas.

People bought about 16 percent more calories during the holidays. Ninety-one percent of the increase came from high-calorie, low-nutrition foods, reported online magazine PLOS One.

According to Mr James, most of us don’t need a New Year’s resolution, we need a life change. “If they’re not changing their lifestyle it can be a real challenge for them,” he said. “They’re still involved in behaviours that are self-destructive but think, if I exercise or diet I’ll be okay.”

The health expert said a man approached him last year, wanting to get in the best shape of his life for his 50th birthday.

“He gave me his goals, we created a road map, but I knew he’d have to get off sugar,” Mr James said.

He coached the man to improve his diet through weekly visits, substituting healthy foods such as greens, for items high in sugar.

“Basically, over time, it’s a flushing out rather than a cutting out,” he said. “Sometimes when you’re cutting out you don’t know what to substitute so you have to relearn a whole new way of living and eating.

“We made step by step nutritional and lifestyle changes.”

He taught the man how to read information on the back of a food package so he better understood how ingredients dictate the calorie count.

Within three months the man had removed the sugar from his diet. When he turned 50 last October, he weighed about 50lbs less.

Said Mr James: “When he first started he couldn’t do a sit up or a plank. He’s now running four miles every other day.”

Our eating addictions are linked to what we’re taught when we’re very young, he added.

“It starts with baby formula and all the way through childhood — a reward system with parents. So it can be challenging.”

He said that understanding sugar in its many forms is key to making a lifestyle change.

“Sugar is in 70 percent to 80 percent of foods in the grocery store. It’s hidden under various names. What I’m finding in my coaching practice is it’s difficult [to reduce consumption] in moderation. It’s not just coffee, cake or a cookie, it’s in tomato sauce, in bread, in meat and in pasta.

“So it’s a big topic when it comes to people thinking of cardio exercise and burning off calories [which], in my view, is close to impossible. Sugar hits the liver and goes into the pancreas where insulin is created, and turns into fat. A cookie may take 20 minutes to burn off. If you have fries, milk with cornflakes and coffee, salad with dressing, you’d have to quit your job just to burn it all off.

“It’s not about cutting things out. It’s about consistently adding new foods; a change in lifestyle. People think that they can change their diet but they need to change their way of thinking.”

Contact Mr James on 293-5476 or 703-3663. Alternatively, e-mail preston@nmac.bm.