Sugar addiction usually begins with casual use or in social situations - sweet treats over the holidays, cake served at a birthday party, or soda at the movie theater. Your introduction to sweets may have happened before you had a choice in the matter. Even many popular baby formulas contain corn syrup and sugar.
With time, eating sugar becomes a habit.
You find that you need more of the sweet stuff to satisfy your cravings. A sugary snack makes you feel “normal” and can lift your spirits. But as you eat more sugar, it becomes difficult to go on without it. When you stop eating sugar, you feel cranky, tired and sick.
This is sugar addiction.
5 Signs of Sugar Addiction
Sugar addiction is very real.
It has to do with a neurotransmitter called dopamine. Dopamine promotes a sense of wellness. When there’s plenty of dopamine floating around, you feel good. And guess what? Whether you abuse drugs like cocaine and heroin or binge on sweets, the brain is flooded with dopamine.
You may be a sugar addict if:
- You make excuses for your sugar. ("It’s organic!")
- To satisfy your sweet tooth, you make special trips to the store or coffee shop.
- For motivation, you reward yourself with something sweet.
- You have a secret sugar stash, or you binge on sugar when you’re alone.
- You have tried to stop eating sugar and you can’t.
Binging is what happens when you find yourself consuming more and more of a substance just to feel satisfied. It’s common in drug abuse and it’s common in sugar addiction.
Sugar Is More Addictive Than Cocaine
Animal studies tell us that sugar is more rewarding and addictive than cocaine.
Yes, more. It appears that this is because we are hardwired to seek out sugar. After all, our cells have evolved to rely on sugar as their number one fuel source.
But eat too much sugar for too long, and you’ll find that your brain rewires itself to look something like the brain of a heroin or cocaine addict.
This is because drug and food cues use the same circuitry within the brain. Brain chemicals that are similar to the chemicals in heroin and marijuana (known as opioids and cannabinoids) make you “like” the taste of sweet.
A surge of dopamine makes you “want” the taste of sweet. According to researchers at Princeton University, sugar withdrawal isn’t a far cry from heroin withdrawal—with similar changes in behavior and brain chemicals. Withdrawal from sugar includes anxiety and depression, followed by cravings. There is also a greater tendency to drink alcohol when you remove sugar from your diet.
How to Kick Your Sugar Habit
As innocent as it seems, scientists are savvy to the persuasive powers of sugar, calling it a “modern hazard to public health.”
Because, unlike street drugs, sweetened foods are widely available. They are inexpensive. They seem harmless enough. Candy, soda pop, baked goods, blended coffee drinks, fruit drinks and sports drinks all contain added sugar.
Read your labels and you will find added sugar in:
- Salad dressings
- Deli meats
- Canned or boxed soups
- Baby formula
The first step to getting off sugar is awareness.
Reading food labels and making a conscious choice to stay away from added sugars can empower you to kick your sugar habit. While sugar doesn’t have the same reputation as street drugs, know that you’re up against a substance as formidable as cocaine or heroin.
Your brain and your hormones will tell you that you need the added sugar. To help balance brain chemicals and reset your sensitivity to added sugars, we recommend making cultured foods a top priority.
If you need a little extra support, look into JJ Virgin’s Sugar Impact Diet. Her new book talks all about sugar and will walk you through a two-week, low-sugar diet that:
- Retrains taste buds
- Restores sugar sensitivity
- Heals the digestive tract
- Revs up metabolism
- Promotes rapid weight loss
Give it a try and see what a difference giving up sugar makes in your life!