If you’re reading this, you or someone you care about is likely battling a sugar addiction and want to learn how to break it.
Why be concerned?
Because more and more science is revealing that sugar addiction is pervasive throughout society and can be extremely dangerous.
Not until recently have we begun to fully understand that sugar addiction shares many characteristics of classic drug addiction. It’s even been said that the brain chemistry of those addicted to sugar and those addicted to drugs are virtually identical.
Come learn the fundamentals of sugar addiction, why you should break it and how you can successfully defeat it for good!
What is sugar addiction?
Sugar addiction is a real problem – it is not something that you imagine. If you are addicted to sugar, you probably understand that the sugary foods you eat are damaging to your health.
You may wake up in the morning feeling tired, restless, listless, and down, but that doesn’t stop you from binging on all of the foods that you know you shouldn’t. Having a loss of control over your intake of sugary foods can affect your life tremendously.
In a similar way as when you get a new job or fall in love, consuming sugar triggers reactors in your brain that releases floods of dopamine and endorphins.
Have you ever met someone who will hide or sneak boiled fish or vegetables? Probably not! However, when it comes to sugar, we are inclined to do so. Sugar contains properties that have the power to change your brain chemistry.
The word “addiction” comes from the Latin word addicere, meaning “enslaved”. This is when you lose control and something else is ruling you. Just like with other psychoactive drugs, a sugar addiction causes you to lock in to your target.
Once you’re hooked on it, you will do almost anything to get it. People steal to get sugar, people lie about eating it, and they experience tremendous consequences as a result of over-eating it.
Of course, being overweight is unhealthy and uncomfortable. If you try to lose weight while being addicted to sugar, the outcome might not be as successful as you want it to be.
One of the signs of addiction is being unable to stop yourself from partaking in it (for example, if you want to lose weight yet you continue eating sugary foods and gaining weight).
Also read: Not losing weight? Here’s why!
If this describes you, it does not make you a bad person or psychologically sick. You simply have a very potent brain chemistry due to the chemicals found in processed foods. There is no need to feel ashamed or hide at home; instead, learn what you need to do to fight this addiction.
This article will explain why you experience sugar addiction, and what you can do about it.
Let’s dig a little deeper!
A day in the life of a sugar addict
You wake up in the morning, and you are full of resolutions. You promise yourself that you will not eat any kind of junk food all day, and you will even skip breakfast.
Around ten o’clock in the morning, the thought of cinnamon rolls and danishes will not leave your mind, but you think, “No, I’m not going to do it.”
Then, around lunchtime, your blood sugar is so low that you’re ready to hit somebody. You start rationalizing with yourself, and by the time you go out for lunch you end up ordering pizza, McDonald’s, or some other junk food. You know it’s not good, but it’s better than ice cream or chocolate.
Then, around two o’clock, you’re ready to go to the convenience store looking for some kind of snack. You feel like you NEED this snack, but you can’t explain why you feel this way.
Now you have a latte and two cinnamon buns, because you know one is not going to be enough. You think to yourself, “I will eat a healthy dinner and nothing more tonight.”
Of course, after that you feel the initial rush of energy and endorphins for around thirty minutes or an hour before you start crashing again. Now you’re feeling very bad – restless, irritated, and sorry for yourself. You might wonder why you can’t eat the things you want to eat without feeling bad.
Now you start thinking about dinner. “I’ve already ruined this day with pizza and cinnamon buns, so I might as well eat something I really like just for tonight. Tomorrow, I’ll be good again.” So you go to the store and start picking up the foods you really like.
Then, another thought comes. “I should eat dessert today, because tomorrow I’m going to start all over and not eat any junk foods.” You go home, and you eat these things.
Now this day is really ruined, because you didn’t do what you initially set out to do in the morning. You have eaten junk food all day long.
Now another thought comes, “Why don’t I splurge tonight, and eat whatever I want and however much I want? I’m really going to start all over tomorrow.”
You rush back to the store and stock up on pastries, candies, ice cream, and whatever else your heart desires.
You start eating and eating and eating, and after a couple of hours you are feeling sick to your stomach. You’re in pain, you’re miserable, and you feel guilty.
But the thought in your head is, “Well, I already decided I was going to do this today, because tomorrow I will start all over.”
Now you need to take a break.
You may decide to throw away all of the junk food you have left in your kitchen. You tell yourself that after you throw this food away, you will never touch anything like it again.
Then another hour or two passes and you start thinking, “It was stupid of me to throw that food in the garbage! I should’ve eaten it now, while I still can.”
So you sneak out, hoping nobody is around to see you, and you retrieve your junk food from the garbage can. You start eating again, until you feel even more ashamed, guilty, sick and miserable.
Finally, you fall asleep. Day over.
Do you think this is a strange day for a sugar addict?
Well, it’s not.
In fact, most addicts repeat this same cycle on an almost daily basis.
If you can relate to this, you will benefit from reading this article and learning about why this is happening to you, and what you can do about it.
It’s not about willpower
When you think about people who are addicted to alcohol, cigarettes, or gambling, you know their addictions are not easy to break.
These people may have a lot of willpower and determination regarding other things, but these addictions are about the brain’s reward system.
Once a drug hits the brain’s reward system, it can be hijacked. The drug itself is rebuilding, or rewiring, parts of the reward system, so that you lose your willpower and you do things that you don’t want to do.
You keep getting fooled by yourself, thinking, “Tomorrow I’m going to stop,” yet you keep doing and eating the things you know you shouldn’t.
A problem with addictions is that the outcome of what you’re doing is not what you want. For example, you want to lose weight, but you continue eating the things that cause you to gain weight. You have lost control.
Most of us wouldn’t like to admit when we’ve lost control over something, but that’s what is happening when you have an addiction. Once the reward system is rebuilt and the transmitters that make you feel good are rewired, you have lost control.
You need many specialized tools in order to stop this behavior.
Are you addicted to sugar?
Many people view sugar addiction as a bad character trait, a psychological disorder, a social disorder, an emotional problem, a way to cope with trauma or relationship problems, or even a sign of poverty.
As if something is inherently flawed in them.
If you are an addict, there is no other reason for this other than that your brain has become addicted to your drug of choice.
A normal eater can be overweight or have some physical problems from eating, but they are not obsessed with food, they are in control of their diet, and they don’t hide, sneak, or lie.
An emotional eater will eat more when they are stressed or under some sort of emotional strain. But still, they are not obsessed with food and they do not have the loss of control that is seen in addictions.
One of the most important things is to know what kind of eater you are before you start trying to turn your diet around. It’s important to know what kind of problem you have if you want to get the correct treatment for it. A useful tool to help you figure out if you have a sugar addiction is the UNCOPE screening test.
It will not give you a diagnosis, but by answering the questions truthfully, you can gain a clearer understanding of your situation. If you answer “Yes” to four or more of the questions in the UNCOPE screening test, that is a good indication that you may have an addiction. The next step is to learn more about what that means to you.
Many sugar addicts have already tried the common ways to cure their addiction, such as WeightWatchers, intermittent fasting, or any one of the hundreds of modern diets. Despite trying all of these methods, failure is a common outcome due to using the wrong methods.
Before you understood that you had an addiction, you may have thought it was any number of other problems. Perhaps you sought treatment for those problems, and felt discouraged when they were unsuccessful. One of the hardest things is to be honest with yourself, but it is vital to do so if you wish to receive the proper treatment.
When you recognize your addiction for what it is, you will be in the position to seek help from the right professionals and use the right tools that will put you on the fast-track to a healthier lifestyle.
The 3 stages of sugar addiction
A sugar addiction is progressive – it gets worse over time, and it doesn’t quit by itself. You cannot get cured in a day, or through some simple diet. In the early stages of sugar addiction, you might eat more sugary foods than you planned to.
Perhaps you bought a bag of candy thinking it would take you a week to eat it all, but once you start eating you can’t stop. You lose control and end up eating the whole bag, so you need to go buy another bag.
Also, at first you may be satisfied after eating just one piece of chocolate, but the next time you choose to eat two pieces. You start to need more sugar in order to feel satisfied. Increased tolerance is a problem you will encounter in the early stages of sugar addiction.
This problem isn’t necessarily one that other people can see – it’s a problem that’s inside of you. You are the one fighting this battle, and people on the outside can oftentimes not see it.
In the middle stage of this illness, things will start showing on the outside. You might start to have mood swings, and you come up with excuses as to why you are in a bad mood, why you are tired, and why you didn’t go to the gym.
Things may start to crack in your relationships as you are not able to maintain the emotional balance that you are used to having.
You start having problems concentrating, and you feel that work is much tougher than it used to be. You are now experiencing biological, psychological, and social problems.
As you fall deeper into the middle stage of sugar addiction, you start to isolate yourself. You would rather stay home and eat than go out with your friends.
In the late stage, your whole life revolves around eating, not eating, dieting, not dieting, and trying other methods. You lose control over the times when you eat, and you start taking desperate measures.
At this point you may be on sick leave, but your diagnosis won’t be sugar addiction. It will be diabetes, migraines, or some other consequence of sugar addiction.
Here is where you start experiencing many aches and pains. You may want a miracle to happen, that you’ll wake up the next morning and lose forty pounds, or you may even choose to have a gastric bypass operation.
Unfortunately, it’s not quite that simple.
How to quit sugar
One of the biggest hurdles people face when quitting sugar and processed foods is the withdrawal symptoms.
Some of those symptoms of sugar addiction include tiredness, restlessness, headaches, muscle cramps, mood swings, stomach problems, hot flashes, chills, runny nose, tooth and gum aches, sleep disturbances, and itching.
Many times, people are so afraid of these things that they simply continue eating sugary foods in order to avoid experiencing any withdrawal symptoms.
Many more people wonder, “Should I quit cold turkey?” If you continue eating some of the things that have a drug-like affect on your brain, it will trigger you to eat more and the cravings will be unbearable. It is very difficult to taper them down at that point.
Just like with alcohol or other drug addictions, you must fully remove the drug in order to break away from the addiction. You must identify which types of foods are creating the problems in your life. For some people, that might be bread and pasta. For others, it might be chocolate and ice cream.
Even if bread and pasta is your weakness, you cannot keep eating chocolate and ice cream because that will lead you to eat bread and pasta. You need to be prepared with the knowledge to know what you should eat.
You should also have group support from other people who understand the struggles of quitting sugar addiction. This group will provide you with the extra motivation and encouragement you may need to get through a particularly tough day.
Additionally, you need to learn some techniques to help you deal with the stressors that come from quitting sugar. You need to know certain things that you can eat in place of your cravings, and you need to rest in order to take away extra stressors.
As you can see, there are many things you can do in advance to prepare yourself for the day when you really quit sugar for good.
How to stay quit
Quitting is actually quite easy – the problem is to stay quit.
When you eat processed foods, it wreaks havoc on your brain, your focus, and your ability to sleep. When you first quit, you will face many symptoms.
You may have a few days where you feel great, and you think you will be able to keep this up long term. However, the next morning you could wake up feeling like the whole world has tilted.
A helpful tool to remember is the acronym ‘HALT’. Never let yourself be too hungry, never be too angry, never be too lonely, and never be too tired.
Being overly tired is a warning sign of failure. You may feel tempted to hide your fatigue, or try to push through it with the resolution that you can beat it, but this is a dangerous path to take. If you feel tired, it’s important to allow yourself to take a break and rest.
When you feel like you’re losing it and you can’t continue, drink a big glass of water. Many times when we feel hungry and a craving is setting in, a simple glass of water is enough to curb those cravings.
You should be determined that no matter what happens today, you will not give in to your cravings. Having a meal plan and a kitchen stocked with healthy alternatives is a great way to keep cravings at bay. It can be very easy to break your diet if you do not have a meal plan.
You can rationalize it by promising yourself that you will start over tomorrow, or on Monday, or on New Year’s Day, but you will just be cheating yourself with that reasoning.
Instead, you could say to yourself, “I will have a cheat meal tomorrow.” When you get through that day, say the same thing all over again.
Eventually, you will see that rather than helping you stick with your sugar-free resolutions, cheating on your meal plan simply makes it easier to cave to your cravings the next time they appear. But what if you do have a relapse?
Next we will discuss some tips on relapse prevention.
How to avoid relapse
Having knowledge about the recovery process, what relapse is, and what to do if you experience it will help you to avoid a relapse.
What are two of the main things you need to be on the lookout for to avoid relapse? Risk situations and warning signs. We all have cravings at times, and they can be painful. Processed foods are a drug that hypnotizes us and cause us to eat and eat and eat.
Every day, you should think about what is going to happen next. “What am I going to do today? What am I going to eat? Should I bring food with me? Is the meeting at work a risk situation for me? Is my vacation a risk situation?”
A risk situation is a situation where you are in danger of avoiding your meal plan and reverting back to eating your drug foods. Be aware of what situations create that risk for you, and analyze what exactly is the source of the problem in each situation.
Is it that you can’t say no, or someone in that situation will push food on you? Or is it an unfamiliar situation that makes you feel uncomfortable and more inclined to use food to alleviate stress? If you are in a very unfamiliar situation and you feel that you cannot handle it, you have the right to say “no”.
Also read: List of Fat Burning Foods
One of the best tools in times like these will be your support group. Call them and let them know what your plans are for the next day. Explain what type of risk situation you will be facing, and what temptations will be present. Ask them, “If this was your problem, what would you do?” Listen to their answers.
There will always be people who have gone down the road to recovery ahead of you, and you can use their experiences to help you avoid the mistakes they may have made.
Take their advice, and think through the situation. Pick out the tools they told you about that has worked for them, and start adapting that into your new lifestyle. Changing your actions and behavior is essential to beating a sugar addiction.
Now, how do you deal with warning signs? Perhaps you are going to dinner with some family or friends, and you don’t want to tell them that you have this problem with sugar. You know they will serve lots of food that is not good for you, and if you start seeing it or smelling it then you will get a tremendous craving and you might relapse.
Again, call your support group. They might tell you to let your family or friends know that for the time being, you are trying to limit your diet in order to see if it affects your health. You can bring your own food with you, and focus on having fun with your loved ones.
Nobody will look at you and think that you are weird for bringing your own food. You may feel that way, but nobody else will! They will also be focused on having fun with their loved ones.
Another thing you can do is call the host ahead of time and ask what kinds of foods are going to be served. You might be surprised that you can actually eat many of the foods on the menu!
Don’t make it complicated. Keep it simple.
Don’t act on false emotions
Abstinence means being relaxed, joyful, and in harmony with yourself without having to fixate on food. You should pay attention to your thoughts, feelings, urges, and actions.
Of course, they will not be in the best shape after being focused on what you should or shouldn’t eat.
In the beginning of your recovery they may be false feelings, in which case you must focus on your actions.
If you are feeling irritated, angry, or sorry for yourself, push those thoughts aside. Many times these thoughts stem from your addiction trying to trick you into going back to your drug foods.
Don’t fall into that trap! It’s normal to have negative emotions, but don’t act on them. They will pass.
Stick to your plan one day at a time, and you will start feeling better and better as time passes.
Slow, steady, daily progress is what we’re interested in here and it’s a sure, sensible way to break your sugar addiction for life!
If you fail to plan, you plan to fail
Sugar addiction is a chronic progressive illness. It is almost impossible to deal with it if you do not understand what it is all about.
Speak with people who have insight and experience with addiction. Take their advice, do as they did, and you can succeed.
Ask them how they coped with the first few weeks of treatment. How did they deal with the withdrawal symptoms, the cravings, and the foggy brain?
A difficult thing for addicts to do is ask for help, but support from others is essential in every part of recovery.
A meal plan is a commitment to yourself that you will stick to the foods you can eat, and stay away from the foods you cannot eat. Make a list of your drug foods, and don’t even keep them in the house. Don’t look at them, don’t get close enough to smell them – totally avoid them.
Recovering alcoholics don’t keep alcohol at home, and recovering drug addicts don’t keep heroin at home, so why should you keep your drug at home? You have to take care of your own health.
Also read: How Many Grams of Sugar Per Day?
The internet is a great resource of information that can help you along the way. It can provide assistance to help you through the side effects of recovery, and it can even provide you with an online support group if you don’t have one in your city.
There are also several 12-step meetings regarding food addictions, such as Over-eaters Anonymous, Food Addicts Anonymous, and many more. Be sure to check if these groups meet regularly in your area. These are the groups of people who will understand your problem 100%.
You need to take your illness seriously – you cannot put it on the shelf and believe it will solve itself. You can’t think yourself into recovery, you can’t talk yourself into recovery, and you can’t read yourself into recovery. If you keep the same bad habits every day, the same outcome will occur and you will never improve.
Physical activity is vital to get your blood circulating and increase the activity of your brain’s transmitters. Take a walk, go for a bike ride, or go swimming. Especially when you have a foggy brain, exercise will help you focus on positive things and erase the negative thoughts from your mind.
If exercise is not your cup of tea, set small goals for yourself. One day, you may decide to take a short walk around the block. The next day, perhaps you increase the distance of your walk by just a little bit. The most important thing is to get your blood pumping.
You must sit down and plan your weekly meals. Make sure you have the right foods at home, make sure you know where you will be tomorrow, and make sure you know what you are going to eat in advance.
How to reach long-term recovery
Stress is your reaction to things that are happening to you. What are your stressors? You may be stressed because you have too many things to do, or too few things to do. Perhaps a relative is sick, or you are having financial problems.
For you to start dealing with your stress, you need to sit down and think about what stress is for you.
How do you feel when you’re stressed? What do you think about when you’re stressed? Some people throw things, scream, and yell when they’re stressed. Other people hide in isolation and don’t want to show it when they are stressed.
You need to understand your reaction and your pattern. Then you need to start learning more about it.
What can you do about your stressors? Can you change your behavior? If you don’t make changes, nothing is going to happen.
In the beginning, you may have to go against every feeling you have in order to make changes. That is how you start closing in on your stressors and your stress management, and learning new coping strategies. Ask yourself, “What could I do differently?”
Assertiveness means setting boundaries for yourself. When you start making changes, some people may feel threatened by you. They might be hiding an addiction themselves, and it scares them to see someone else change their behavior.
You must be assertive. When someone tries to criticize what you eat, remind them that you are not interested in what they eat. Everyone has the right to eat the things they want to eat.
Don’t make a big fuss about it, just go on your way.
How to get started on freeing yourself from sugar addiction
If you have related to the things in this article and you want to change your ways, what are you going to do about it?
First, get online and join support groups. There is a whole world of knowledge on the internet that will help you avoid learning things the hard way.
Next, clean your pantry. Throw out junk food, and put boundaries on yourself to avoid being around junk food. We can’t totally avoid these foods, but you don’t have to expose yourself to it.
Additionally, make a shopping list. Be aware of all of the healthy foods that will help you fight cravings and wean yourself off processed foods. Again, ask your support group for advice.
Take a walk and enjoy nature instead of keeping your head stuck in a cloud of sugar. Drink plenty of water and take plenty of breaks to rest.
Go one day at a time, one step at a time, and join the large group of people who are out there fighting your same battle with sugar addiction.
2 thoughts on “Sugar Addiction […and How to Break It!]”
Incredible research and insight, Kelsey! I had actually just heard a report on the radio that a British scientist (can’t remember his name) discovered that sugar works on the same exact receptors in the brain as illicit pleasure drugs. This is even more motivation to get busy battling my own life-long sugar addiction and helping others do the same. I’m not sure I know anyone who *isn’t* addicted to sugar – and they probably don’t even realize it!
Once again, thanks again! I have this bookmarked and think it’s the best article I’ve read in quite some time. Will share on social media.
Hello, My name is Karen and I loved this information. I want to loose the extra weight i’m carrying but I have had multiple low back surgeries and i have hardware. I live with a lot of pain on a daily basis. I do walk some but even that is limited. What can I do to loose the extra weight? went from 125 to 185 in 3 years and i’m totally sick of looking at me.