Health and Lifestyle

A Complete Health Guide to Sugar Addiction

This article was first published at Sweet Defeat.

The latest health and fitness trends all seem to relate to some kind of a cleanse in order to change something about your diet. Typically, a cleanse is used to assist in purging sugar or other so-called toxins from the body, but how effective are these cleanses? When it comes to sugar addiction, the body is under constant pressure to consume something sweet or sweet-tasting, which can cause a myriad of symptoms and cravings.

While many tend to ignore the symptoms of a sugar addiction, a sugar addiction can have similar effects on the brain that illicit drugs do, thus suggesting that adults ought to take this addiction seriously. Listed below is a complete list of what you need to know about sugar addiction, its causes, and how to fight the addiction.

What is Sugar Addiction?

The big question in the debate of sugar addiction is to first define what sugar addiction is. When thinking about what effects sugar has on your body, it should be noted that your brain depends on glucose (sugar) for immediate energy. Without glucose, the brain would struggle to work properly. In particular, it appears that the hypothalamus plays a role in sugar cravings and addiction. For some people, the cravings may cause them to eat or crave certain foods more than they should, and it could encourage them to make poor dietary choices.

Sugar Addiction Symptoms

You crave comfort foods at dinner

One of the first signs that you have a sugar addiction is when you crave comfort foods at dinner time. For some people, the idea of heading home or out to dinner with friends and enjoying a big bowl of pasta, bread, or other simple-carbohydrate-rich foods can be enticing, especially if you have a sugar addiction.

For starters here, carbohydrates are not necessarily to blame for your sugar addiction, but your brain may be craving the glucose that is processed from the carbs you eat. Similarly, addiction may be apparent when you crave salty and fatty foods as well. Keeping a close eye on these subtle signs may help you to recognize what form your sugar addiction takes.

You crave soda and other sweet beverages

Soda has long been under fire for causing ill health, and usually sodas and sugar-laden beverages contain high amounts of sugar (in the form of high-fructose corn syrup). Are you drinking diet soda instead? Well, the sweetened sodas you consume throughout the day contain high amounts of artificial sweeteners that are estimated to be about 600 times sweeter than regular table sugar (sometimes even sweeter).

At this point, consuming a beverage that is much stronger than sugar can trick your mind into thinking you’re eating sugar, but actually it is causing you to crave more of the sweet stuff. Sodas are not the only kinds of beverages to look out for: most coffee shops add sweeteners and sugar to drinks as a way to enhance the flavor. Also, many flavored teas and calorie-free products contain sweeteners, so you need to pay attention to all of these possible sources.

Making excuses for your sugar habit

You may notice that you come up with reasons why it’s ok to eat or a drink a specific food to justify consuming it. For some people, this may be as simple as saying “it’s calorie-free” or “it’s organic.” The excuses you make for consuming sugar could be your way of trying to ignore how much your brain wants the white stuff, not to mention, it helps to cover up that perhaps there might be an addictive part of your personality. Regardless of what kind of excuses you make about sugar, chances are you may have a sugar addiction if you notice that you are making excuses at all for eating or drinking sugary foods.

Rewarding with sugary foods

Your brain is a smart organ. One sign that you may have a sugar addiction is if you make a bargain with yourself to reward yourself with sugar for completing something. The best example of this is going to the gym. Deciding that if you complete a challenging workout, you can have a sugary treat, is perhaps the single most common pattern. While it is good to reward yourself with something as a way to motivate you throughout a workout or something you have been meaning to do, using sugar as the reward is only reinforcing a good habit with a bad habit.

You have tried to kick sugar and failed

This is a common sign that you could have a sugar addiction. Similar to how drug users and alcoholics struggle with kicking the habit, cutting out sugar from your diet only to fail and increase your intake again is a symptom that you have an addiction to the sweet stuff. Considering the amount of sugar that is around in daily life, fighting the urge to eat sugar is certainly a difficult challenge.

You eat or binge on sugar when alone

The last symptom in this list is comparable to other addictions. A sugar addiction can present itself for many when others are not around. If you live alone, have a night alone away from a spouse, or simply have some time to yourself, you may find yourself craving sweet foods and drinks. Ice cream, cakes, and cookies are commonly the sugary food of choice when adults are alone for a given time and have a sugar addiction.

How Sugar Addiction Negatively Affects Your Body

  • Potential heart problems
  • Increased fat storage
  • Sugar addiction can contribute to addiction
  • Inflammation
  • Reduced immune system function
  • Insulin resistance
  • Diabetes and amputation
  • Hypertension
  • Decreased fitness levels

How to Break Sugar Addiction

Choose healthy alternatives

One of the best things you can do to fight your sugar addiction is to start by swapping sweet foods for healthy alternatives like vegetables. Yes, vegetables can be sweet, but the natural sugars you find in carrots, beets, sweet potatoes, and peas are so much lower than what you’ll find in treats such as gummies, cookies, or donuts. At the same time, they’ll satisfy your craving for sweetness and you can train yourself to eat these healthier choices over addictive sugary desserts.

Clean your pantry

In order to succeed in your fight against sugar addiction, it is important to eliminate any and all temptations in your home. Your home is where you are likely to cave in to a craving before bed or after a long day at work, so keeping tempting foods out of reach can make it much harder to succumb.

Cut back on alcohol

There are a few reasons to reduce alcohol consumption, and generally it relates to the fact that it’s harder to make healthy decisions when you drink. Many alcoholic drinks, especially mixed drinks, contain sugar as a way to enhance the flavor. And having something sweet makes you crave more sweets. That means when if you drink a few too many, your inhibitions are lowered and you’ll likely be tempted to eat sweets and other foods you shouldn’t.  Consider drinking in moderation, and if you are having a drink to be social, have a beer, a glass of red wine, or a spritzer as preferable options.

Be aware of sugar substitutes and alternative names

Cutting sugar addiction is a challenge, and the first thing people cling to is “sugar-free” products. However, be aware of marketing ploys such as “no sugar added,” or “sugar free” because they artificial sweeteners in them. The best example of this is a sugar-free dessert. If you see this in a grocery store, chances are that cupcake is not sugar-free, but rather made with a sugar substitute. The rule of thumb is to read all food labels and take extra care when you see foods labeled as sugar-free.

Have a food plan

The last small tip for fighting your sugar addiction is to generate a plan for how you will eat. You can write this plan out, post it somewhere, or simply keep a mental note of it, but a plan can help you to succeed in various situations.

Read more about health and wellness at Sweet Defeat blog!

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Remalyn Estuesta

Just your average quirky millennial with a passion for writing and a pop punk girl at heart. A lover of memes and dogs, she’s usually at home reading YA novels, having a marathon of her favorite TV series, playing RPG games, and daydreaming about travelling and food.

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