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Am I Addicted To Sugar?

pile of sugar with needle and bladeAre you concerned that you might be addicted to sugar? Can people actually even be addicted to sugar in the same way that they become addicted to substances like alcohol and drugs? Both answers may surprise you.

Is Sugar Addiction Real?

If you’re one of millions of Americans who can’t seem to stop eating sweets, then you probably already suspect that sugar addiction is real. Studies have shown that regular ingestion of sugar releases the same chemicals in the brain that are released with drug addiction, and create a similar dependency [1] [2]. Processed foods that are common in the Western diet are full of added sugar, which could explain how we are becoming so dependent on it.

The American Heart Association claims that the average American is adding 22 teaspoons (or 88 grams) of sugar to their daily diets (not including natural sugars from whole foods), when in reality we shouldn’t be adding more than 6-9 teaspoons (25-37 grams) to avoid disease and obesity [3].

With all that added sugar in the form of high fructose corn syrup and other sneaky sweeteners found in surprising foods like salad dressing, pasta sauces, and breads, it’s no wonder that so many Americans find themselves addicted.

Risks Associated With Sugar Addiction

The 2009 study by the American Heart Association [4] linked high sugar intake with the rise in obesity, as well as an increased risk of:

  • high blood pressure
  • high levels of triglycerides (fat in the bloodstream)
  • heart disease
  • stroke
  • inflammation
  • diabetes
  • liver damage
  • depression

Sugar addiction can be just as tough to break as an addiction to drugs. Because it’s a more socially acceptable form of addiction, it is that much harder to get away from. Sugar is everywhere!

Sugar also can play tricks on your mind by making you believe you’re still hungry after eating it, making it hard to feel satisfied or full. This will cause you to overeat more often than not, and for some people, can lead to binge eating.

Here are 6 important tips for overcoming your food addiction.

How Do I Know If I’m Addicted to Sugar?

Ask yourself the following:

  • Do you become grouchy, shaky or irritable if you go without sugar?
  • Do you have trouble stopping after just one sweet, and end up eating way more than you intended?
  • Do you frequently feel tired or fatigued and crave sweets, breads, or sodas when you do?
  • Does eating sugar give you a rush that you find yourself craving when you are stressed, tired, or bored?
  • Do you feel like you need something sweet after meals or it isn’t complete?
  • Do you drink multiple sodas or sweetened beverages per day?
  • Do you feel like you eat all the time but are still always hungry?
  • Do you crave sugar when you are hormonal or during PMS?

If you answered yes to more than a couple of these, you are likely addicted to sugar.

How Do I Break My Sugar Addiction?

The easy answer of course is to stop eating so many sugary foods, but that would be like telling an alcoholic to “Just stop drinking alcohol”. It’s not so easy and there’s no one answer for everyone since everyone’s personalities are different.

Some may do better going cold turkey and just getting through the withdrawals, and some may do better cutting their intake of sugar a little at a time. Either way you’ll need to have a strong motivation for wanting to rid yourself of sugar, and remind yourself often of why you’re doing it.

Do you want to lose weight? Are you worried about diabetes? Do some research and reading about the dangers of sugar and obesity.

Eliminating sugary drinks like soda and replacing them with water will drastically reduce most people’s sugar intake, and this is a good first step. You can also begin reading the nutrition labels of your food and watch out for added sugars – making sure your boxed and packaged items have 5g or less. Try eating foods with natural sugars in place of refined sugars, like fruit.

Understand that the first week or two of lowering sugar intake will be difficult, but just try to make it through. Once you have broken your addiction, the cravings become less and less severe and healthy food begins to taste better when your taste buds aren’t constantly being bombarded with sweets.

Make sure you are replacing all refined carbohydrates with whole ones, such as whole grains. This will help improve your insulin sensitivity and eliminate blood sugar crashes, which lead to cravings for sugar.

Don’t attempt to replace sugar with artificial sweeteners. They are just as addictive and cause the same problems as sugar, and they carry along their own set of risks like cancer.

Finally, seek other forms of comfort and happiness than sweets. Try a new activity that gets you moving, pick up a book you’ve been wanting to read, or even try meditating. From a former sugar addict who now enjoys apples just as much as cookies, I promise you can do it!

  • Angie

    Last February I took a good hard look at my diet and realized that although I was not eating bad, I was NOT eating good. My first step was to eat 7-10 servings of fruits and veggies. After that I wanted to tackle sugar. I found it was no longer an issue. Eating all the fresh fruit – getting the natural sugar, stopped my sugar cravings. I no longer thought about it, craved it, or ate it. My taste buds have changed and now eating milk chocolate tastes GROSS! I will indulge in a small amount of dark chocolate once in awhile. I have made a few other changes like removing all whites from my diet – eating all whole grains, and REALLY cutting back on the processed food. That, along with changing up my workout routing, I have lost 47 lbs!! It just keeps coming off – I figure it will stop when my body is where it should be! Thanks for the great tips!

    • Deanna Schober

      That’s great Angie, congrats!!

  • jared

    the way you stop eating eating things with sugar switch to more healthy foods like whole wheat bread and whole wheat pasta also not having them inside the house is key when you go to a grocery store just bypass that aisle with the sweets. also another way of cutting down on sweets is to write everything you eat down i am a diabetic and i know that this helps now im not a diabetic by choice of course but if theres anything i figured out while being a diabetic its that everything you eat is in moderation and to eat six times a day this will also stop craving for chips and sugary snacks. when i say six times a day i usually mean small meals 60-75 carbs not that much this will make you lose weight without even noticing

    • Deanna Schober

      Great tips Jared, thanks!

  • Alejandra Cheverria

    I find if you feed your body all those vegetable variations out there, lean protein and healthy assortment of fats and 3L water, it won’t crave as much at all — this being that it’s getting all those nutrients, vitamins, belly filling fibre, minerals and fluid. Even our cravings for chocolate or salt can be simple because we are lacking in actual nutrients, not necessarily craving sugar directly. So stay clean and don’t wait too long to eat! We all slip up, it’s normal and we’re all learning:)

    • Deanna Schober

      So true!!

  • Dimon

    I am a pretty healthy eater…lots of fruits, veggies, whole grains,etc. I have also eliminated most processed sugar out of my diet. My problem is whenever I go to a party or visiting with friends and the junk food comes out, I have ZERO self-control! Why is this? I would think if I don’t normally eat this food I wouldn’t want it but it’s not the case…I can’t resist! It’s like I’m an addict! Obviously, I can’t have any junk food in my house and I don’t…but how do I handle it when socializing?

  • Deanna Schober

    Good question. The only answer I have is that if social eating is a problem only 10-15% of the time, I wouldn’t even worry about it. Otherwise, you could try eating a big healthy meal ahead of time, bringing your own snacks that you enjoy, and limit alcohol intake as that can trigger cravings.

  • Mary

    Is it possible to eat too much fruit so as still to be addicted to sugar?

  • ione

    My whole life my mother forbade me to eat sweets. i used to buy them and hide them. As a young adult I changed country and with my new freedom I stuffed myself with pastries and processed foods. Slowly I started to eat healthy foods went thru the headaches, cranky moods but pastries are my weakness. I could go an entire month without eating them but when I do I just can’t stop. Needless to say the weight gain is the least of my problems. Depression and fatigue became the normal to me. What I didn’t know is with the sugar I was feeding a brain tumor in my head. It grew as big as an orange, normally I shouldn’t be malignant but mine was and had invaded the brain. After a successful surgery I still need to do MRIs every four months, because it could regrow.
    Since then I only eat healthy, organic, and raw foods. However it’s very difficult for me to completely stay away from pastries. I’ve decided not to eat any added sugar in the ingredients list. There are many organic foods that have added sugar.
    Beating my addiction to sugar is one of my biggest fights. It’s something I always need to be aware.

    • Deanna Schober

      Wow! I wish you the very best! Sugar addiction is so powerful but you’re proof it can be beat.

    • Graceful32

      Thank You for sharing. I pray your strength in your continued battle and trust God to see you through. Keep with it and just continue to fight the battle daily.

  • Deanna Schober

    As long as you’re not diabetic or pre-diabetic, I wouldn’t worry about fruit at all. It has fiber and nutrients attached to the sugar, and acts differently in your body than refined sugar.

  • Graceful32

    I crave salt; chips. Tortillas. Dips. Etc I go from sugar to salt. I eat ice cream then I want chips. This is my biggest vice. I am unclear how to break this habit.