Most people have a sweet tooth or a savory tooth. I have a savory tooth. If you ask what my favorite donut flavor is I’ll be truly hard-pressed to answer. But I can quickly tell you I love an everything bagel with cream cheese. I try to keep sweets out of our home, but that doesn’t mean the that that sugar is addicting isn’t real.
Don’t get me wrong. I enjoy a good dessert. Caramel Sea Salt ice cream is my jam. In the past I have personally experienced what I would describe as acute sugar addiction. And the holidays do not help any of us in this area. From Christmas cookies to Valentine’s Day chocolates, to Easter Candy, to Halloween candy and pumpkin pie for Thanksgiving – we associate nearly every major holiday with sweet treats.
Sugar is Addicting
A Story About Sugar Addiction
I remember one instance a few years ago where I helped organize a conference at work. Following the event we had leftover gourmet cookies. We were invited to take as many as we wanted. I wasn’t going to pass up these gourmet cookies as they were truly a treat!
But one cookie turned into two, two turned into three, and before you know it I fell into the sugar is addicting pattern. If you are ever in Fort Wayne, Indiana the offending cookies are from Cookie Cottage. Don’t blame me if you eat too many!
Halting My Sugar Intake
The cookie incident was a great example because while I’m normally not one to dig into the community candy bowl – I will splurge when I know it’s a really special treat. Some friends and family have heard me describe my approach as is the dessert “worth it.”
I prefer to really enjoy a dessert rather than eat junk calories. I know it’s usually better for me to just avoid the sweets in the first place. In the case of the cookie incident, I quickly realized what path I was going down and halted my sugar intake immediately.
Is Sugar Addicting?
Facts About Sugar Addicts
Thinking more about this experience, I decided to research more into the sugar is addicting theory. Here’s what I learned. The information might surprise you:
- Sugar is added to approximately 75 percent of all packaged food in the United States. On average Americans consume a quarter-pound to a half-pound of sugar per day. This includes beverages.
- People who consume high amounts of sugar can develop a sugar tolerance, which supports the theory that sugar is addicting.
- Scientific studies have revealed sugar stimulates the pleasure centers of the brain, similar to the way illegal drugs stimulate the brain.
- People who stop consuming sugar “cold turkey” often describe withdrawal symptoms similar to those associated with stopping caffeine intake or stopping use of nicotine. These symptoms typically last four to five days and include: fatigue, headache, irritability, insomnia, cravings and malaise.
- At least one study revealed sugar, possibly more than salt, contributes to the onset of cardiovascular disease. Growing evidence also indicates too much sugar can lead to obesity, kidney disease, Type 2 diabetes, hypertension and fatty liver disease.
How to Stop Sugar Addiction
When I read all of this information the outlook seemed pretty bleak. But, there is hope! There are ways to curb or stop sugar addiction. One method is to consume whole, natural foods – as opposed to processed or packaged foods. Substitute whole fruit for sweets and dessert.
In addition, remove all sources of sugar from the home. Chocolate cravings, in particular, could be an indication of magnesium deficiency. Purchasing and taking a magnesium supplement can help. In addition, Eating dark leafy greens such as kale, as well as eating tofu, beans and nuts can help curb chocolate cravings.
Some people find success cutting sugar intake slowly over time – a moderation tactic. Others find cutting sugar intake cold turkey works best. Use non-food rewards in place of sugary treats and develop better ways to manage stress.
Another tactic is to change up your reward system to not include food or drink. Instead of eating a cooking as a reward for working out or meeting a deadline, practice self-care by enjoying a yoga class, giving yourself an at-home manicure or taking a bubble bath. I love adding bath bombs to my bath to make it feel even more special.
The reality is any substance can become addicting if overused. While I typically have more cravings for savory foods, I am not immune to the lure of sugar. I have personally found the more sugar I eat the more I crave it.
This includes looking at sugar content in everyday foods – realizing that sugar comes in many forms besides cookies and ice cream. I hope these tips and research provide a means to cut back on your sugar intake or get it to a level you feel comfortable with.
Do you agree sugar is addicting?
*This post was originally published in 2011 and has been updated and republished for accuracy and comprehensiveness.