Are 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  . 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 .
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  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
- liver damage
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.
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!