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How Do People Develop A Sugar Addiction?



Sugar consumption can create a short-term high and a spark of energy in the body. Some studies have suggested that sugar is as addictive as Cocaine. People often enjoy the dopamine release that sugar brings. However, due to the addictive nature of sugar, long-term health effects like obesity and diabetes are a risk of sugar overindulgence. Similar to other compulsions or behavioral addictions, sugar addiction is a special risk for people with low moods, anxiety, and stress.


Additionally, people who suffer from constant tiredness may reach for carb-rich sugary foods for a boost. Sugar releases endorphins in the body and combines with other chemicals in the body, resulting in a surge of energy. Once someone mentally connects sugar with help providing energy, they may become dependent on it (usually inadvertently). People may begin to crave sugar to balance irritability, emotional lows, and other conditions. At this point there is often little control over dietary habits, and a sugar addiction has developed.


Signs Of A Sugar Addiction

Unlike many other substance use disorders or behavioral compulsions, sugar addiction is often easy to spot. The clearest signs of sugar addiction involve the consumption of large amounts of food or drinks laden with sugar. The individual may eat constantly, eat to combat boredom and become hyper and crash. They may even talk about craving sugar after stressful or irritating life experiences.


Sugar Addiction And Emotional Eating

People may find sugar’s ability to provide instant energy, combined with the good taste of sugary foods, enticing. Sugar provides some with a “quick fix” during a long and stressful day. People who are enduring breakups or other emotionally stressful situations often turn to chocolate or pints of ice cream to comfort themselves during the difficult time. However, those who turn to sugar to deal with emotional issues are more likely to become addicted. Other indications of sugar addiction for emotional relief are weight gain and difficulty focusing on daily responsibilities. These side effects can damage self-esteem, cause feelings of helplessness, and lower self-worth; this in turn leads to more sugar consumption and a more severe addiction.


Sugar Addiction And Binge Eating

A particularly worrisome aspect of sugar addiction is binge eating. Binge eating is eating too much and too rapidly followed by feelings of guilt, shame, and disgust. This can include a focus on sweets for the same mood-regulating and self-medicating effects of binge eating non-sugary foods. It is critical to remember that food, especially sugar, is a short-term fix for emotional conditions. If you or someone you love is struggling with depression and using food as a crutch, consider therapy or rehab.


Sugar Addiction And Anxiety

Anxiety and sugar cravings have a direct relationship. Eating disorders like binge eating or anorexia occur for underlying reasons. Oftentimes, the person suffering from such disorders is struggling for psychological and emotional reasons. Stress eating is a common example of the relationship between eating disorders and anxiety, and sugar consumption is commonly associated with stress eating.


Anxiety causes the stress hormone cortisol to be released in the body, which can suppress appetite in some. On the other hand, the stress may encourage people who already like sugar into more cravings. When sugar addiction co-occurs with eating to soothe anxiety, the end result is typically weight gain. Despite sugar initially boosting serotonin levels in the brain, sugar can worsen anxiety as sugar lows create feelings of fatigue and depression.


Sugar Withdrawal

Many who eliminate sugar from their diet find themselves experiencing withdrawal symptoms of irritability, fogginess, moodiness, and low energy. Since many struggling with sugar addiction have binged on sugary foods, withdrawal, and cravings can be intense. Tragically, many choose to go back to eating sugary foods for the chemical release in the brain. A much better alternative is to do a dietary swap, whereby the sugar user exchanges unhealthy sweets for natural and healthy options to regain control.


There Is Hope For You

Change begins with realizing that there is a problem with one’s sugar addiction. Modifying one’s diet and practicing self-control can help, but going cold turkey isn’t ideal. Someone with a sugar addiction, especially if they have another substance abuse disorder or a co-occurring mental health condition, will likely have difficulty in ridding themselves of cravings. If you or someone you know has a sugar addiction, especially if complicating factors are present, please contact a treatment provider today to find out more about your options.


4 ways to break the habit

Breaking the sugar habit can be challenging, but it’s a positive step towards better health. Start by gradually reducing the amount of sugar you consume; going cold turkey might be tempting, but it can lead to intense cravings and relapse. Instead, focus on cutting back on obvious sources of sugar like sodas, candies, and baked goods. Replace them with healthier options such as fruits, which provide natural sugars along with beneficial fibers and nutrients. It’s also important to read food labels carefully, as many processed foods contain hidden sugars. Keep track of your sugar intake and aim to stay within the recommended daily limits.

Additionally, consider your eating patterns and overall diet. Ensure you’re eating regular, balanced meals to prevent blood sugar dips that can trigger sugar cravings. Incorporate more proteins and healthy fats into your meals to keep you satiated for longer periods. Exercise can also help manage stress and reduce cravings, so try to include physical activity in your daily routine. Remember, breaking the sugar habit is not just about willpower; it’s about creating a sustainable, healthy lifestyle that naturally reduces your dependence on sugar.


1. Sub whole fruit for sweets. Fruit contains fructose, which is metabolized differently than gummi bears — and it’s still a satisfying treat. But be careful to restrict your intake to a few servings a day. Eating too much has been linked to increased belly fat, which increases your chance of type 2 diabetes. Also, go easy on grapes or cherries, which have high sugar content, says Bartolotto. Some patients can’t stop popping them, she says.


2. Ditch artificial sweeteners. Although diet soda or sugar-free gum has been known to help many dieters get through a rough patch, Bartolotto advises cutting out aspartame, sucralose, saccharine — even stevia — since large amounts can make you desire sweet food. “It actually changes your palate, so you need more and more to feel satisfied,” she says. Perhaps that’s why this Purdue study found a link between increased consumption of the fake stuff and weight gain.


3. Clean house.

That means getting rid of any sugary temptations at home and work (including that old Halloween candy). “We can’t control all the environments we’re in, but we want to control the ones we can,” explains Adam Gilbert, a weight loss coach who founded the program My Body Tutor. “We don’t get bonus points for using hero-like willpower.”


4. Create a backup plan. If sugar cravings feel uncontrollable, think proactively about what kind of distraction will help you overcome them. “Eat a piece of fruit. Go for a walk. Listen to some music. Call or text a friend. Read a fun article,” offers Gilbert. “Knowing what we’re going to do ahead of time is what makes all the difference.”


5. Manage your magnesium levels. Craving chocolate in particular? Research shows this reaction may be particularly common among people deficient in the mineral magnesium (ask your doctor to check your levels). Head off cravings by eating plenty of magnesium-rich dark leafy greens, tofu, legumes and nuts. (Check out this journal.)


Do you know what ultimately helped me? Actually eating the chocolate I was craving. Yep, I resorted to one of the oldest dieting tricks out there: Indulging in a square of super dark chocolate. By the third day, the cravings had stopped, and I enjoyed the food on my program — including a decadent fresh peach — rather than wishing for a processed sugar bomb. I also had more energy and didn’t struggle as much through my yoga class. As for my next cheat day… I resolved that it would be sugar-free.


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I Can Help in Developing A Plan For Self Care


Do you want help developing a self-care plan that works for your own busy schedule? Do you want accountability in implementing a self-care plan? If you or someone you love is struggling to maintain optimal mental and emotional health, consider reaching out to Spiced Life Conversation Art Wellness Studio and Botanica. We are a Metro Atlanta, Conyers Georgia area. We are a coaching and counseling practice with empathetic, skilled counselors and recovery coaches who can help you set goals, develop a self-care routine, and move forward to build a more fulfilling life. Our team would be happy to work with you either just for a couple of sessions to develop and implement a Self-care plan or longer term to work toward overall better mental health within our membership site or other programs.



Dr. Nikki LeToya White trauma informed nutritionist
Dr. Nikki LeToya White

About The Author:


Dr. Nikki LeToya White MSEd-TL, Ph.D. RHN is the founder, director, and full-time board-certified trauma-informed nutritionist, folk herbalist, and wellness consultant at Spiced Life Conversation Art Wellness Studio and Botanica. She created Spiced Life Conversation, LLC Art Wellness Studio, and Botanica to provide the Metro Atlanta area with counseling and coaching services where clients are carefully matched with the right program for healing abandonment and childhood emotional neglect trauma that cause codependency, emotional eating, financial stress, and imposter syndrome as it relates to the fear of success and being abandon. We help you begin your emotional healing journey with ease. Recently, we have expanded to include an online membership site so we now provide support to people living all over the world. All of our recovery coaches provide at least one evidence-based treatment to assist in your recovery. Dr. White is a big proponent of self-care and helping people live a fulfilling life! She has been in full remission with both codependency and emotional binge eating disorder since 2016. In living a life in recovery from sugar addiction. I love my low-sugar balanced lifestyle.


Best Regard


Dr. Nikki LeToya White

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