How and Why I Quit Sugar – Dopamine, Sugar, and The Meaning of Life

How and Why I Quit Sugar – Dopamine, Sugar, and The Meaning of Life

Problem: Boredom.
Solution: Eat candy.

Problem: Existential crisis approaching.
Solution: Eat candy.

Problem: My job isn’t fulfilling, I feel horrible every single day. I’m also alone and mildly depressed.
Solution: Stop whining and eat some damn candy.

It’s common knowledge that sugar is bad for your health. Weight gain, high blood pressure, bad teeth, to name a few of the negative effects of sugar. Furthermore, studies show that high sugar intake is correlated with a greater risk of dying from heart disease. Other studies show that sugar can be as bad for your liver as alcohol.

sugar cubes with faces drowning in ketchup
credit: Food Art – The Dark Side

It’s simple then! We just need to educate people about the negative impact of sugar on health and that’s it, case closed? Um, not really.

I knew all of this, so It was interesting to see that all of these facts didn’t seem to stop me from eating an enormous amount of chocolate every other day, drinking over-sweetened coffee, and simply being a sugar-slave.

Mere knowledge can be insufficient for a person to stop eating sugar, for many reasons.

For me, among other things, it was the notion that I’m still too young and my immune system could easily handle 200 grams of daily sugar intake with few to no problems. There’s still time, I’d stop later.

Besides harming your physical health, there are two more side effects of sugar, which only combined with the first one, made me quit entirely.

1. You don’t deserve that sugar-induced dopamine rush in your brain


It may sound a bit harsh, but it’s true.
Let me explain: You don’t eat sugar-rich food just because it tastes good. There is an underlying reason we usually have a problem with limiting the intake of sweet stuff, and that’s the reward system in our brains.

The reward system was around long before our modern human species emerged, and that is why it is so common in all species: Give a rat some sugar, and it will come begging for more. That’s also why it is so difficult to control. The reward system is activated when you engage in activities that are good for you (or your brain is tricked that they are good for you – exactly what sugar does).

Feel good factories:

  • Sexual activities (A chance to pass your genes. Very obvious in its rewards, because passing your genes is very important to every living being)
  • Focusing on and accomplishing meaningful tasks (Since we are a tribal species, helping others and accomplishing things greater than individual urges are also rewarded by the brain)
  • Eating (Reward system is activated because you keep yourself alive and healthy)

So, the reward system is there to tell you that “what you just did – do it again! It’s good, keep up the good work!”.

That system works the other way too – when the release of the neurotransmitter dopamine is decreased, you feel bad, and you want to fix that. 

The best way to get rid of the bad feeling would be to exercise, socialize with others, and do meaningful things. But for many, meaningful things are the road less traveled, because chocolate does the trick as well, without as much effort.

Why you “don’t deserve that dopamine rush in your brain”? Because it’s not earned the right way: You’re consuming a refined, distilled version of a substance that would otherwise come with other nutrients.

You are also tricking your brain into thinking that something good is happening, but it’s just a bug in the system. It’s actually very similar to other hard drugs.

man on heroin funny riding unicorn dog
Unknown artist, I will attribute it once I figure out who made this masterpiece.

Furthermore, sugar craving often isn’t a sign of a deficiency of carbohydrates, it’s a sign of a meaning deficiency (I’m bored, therefore I should eat candies instead of doing something that will make me feel fulfilled).

That way, dopamine is attained through a shortcut that harms your health and isn’t really rewarding in the long run.

I need dopamine, and I found that the best way to obtain it is through meaningful work, and I figured this out just recently. Being a highly conscientious person, I have a strong sense of guilt and restlessness whenever I’m not working. I need to keep myself busy with the right things in order not to feel horrible.

But the fastest way to obtain it is to eat chocolate, and I figured this out when I was a child.

unworthy of your dopamine odin thor

Unfortunately, bad habits form even when you are a child. So there I was, stuck with sugary affliction.

I was a sugar junky basically my entire life. I tried to stop several times, but those attempts would always end with me failing miserably. 

And when I got back on the sugar horse, I felt even worse because I knew that I wasn’t in control – it was.

What it took for me to stop stuffing my face with sugar? I had to realize both the physical harm sugar was doing to my body, to learn about how it inhibits my ability to be productive and do meaningful things, and one other thing:

2. Every step you take

Your time, your money, and your attention – those are all limited resources which you have to allocate somewhere. 

In this case, let’s talk about your money: When you buy a bottle of Coke, you do so much more – you actually make an entire world a bit fatter and dumber. Just a tiny bit, but you do it. How?

Well, when you buy 1$ worth of Coke, you also invest in Coca Cola company. 18 cents of that dollar goes to marketing. Another part goes to the further development and growth of the company. More people will hear about this drink, and more people will drink it.

I’m not saying that Coca-Cola is the worst company in the world, but it certainly isn’t doing humanity a favor.

Yes, there is a philanthropic side to many big companies, but simply put – they harm humanity for billions of dollars, and pay back in millions. If you, in turn, bought a healthy cup of green tea with that money, you would make one more person drink it, contributing to a better tomorrow, if only a tiny bit.

go away i'm batin'
keep buyin’ them colas (Idiocracy, ‘bator drinkin’ Brawndo – The Thirst Mutilator. With Electrolytes!)

I know that the personal effect can sometimes be hard to notice, but it is there. Just like with your signature, be careful where you put your money, your attention, and your time. Your investments and choices in this world are your life’s signature.



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