Overcoming Sugar Addiction

By: Dave Smith

Overcoming sugar addiction could mean the difference between finally being able to lose weight, eating a health diet, feeling full of natural energy or…

Continuing to struggle with perpetual weight-gain, yo-yo dieting, daily energy crashes, and the frustration that comes with a dependence on eating sweet foods.

So, if you’ve been trapped by the powerful sugar cravings for many months or even years, the following 7 scientifically proven steps are going to restore your health and revitalize your body.

It's Time to Overcome Your Addiction to Sugar

Most people are well aware that consuming a lot of sugar isn’t exactly healthy, but many people may not understand just how dangerous sugar can be. Over and over again, research shows that sugar is directly linked to obesity [1], cardiovascular disease [2], and many other health issues [3] that none of us want to deal with.

Since you’re here looking for an action plan to break your sugar addiction, I’m sure you already know that eating sugar is pretty bad for you. Maybe you’ve even read some of the research that I’ll cite in this article.

However, people who talk to me about their sugar addiction often know that sugar is bad. Just like you, they understand that sugar can be deadly, but something is preventing them from breaking their own addiction:

  1. They don’t realize how much sugar they actually consume
  2. They don’t believe that their sugar consumption is tied to an addiction
  3. They’ve tried to quit eating sugar but found it too hard

Why Sugar Addiction is So Strong

Some people point out that sugar is natural, and therefore can’t be that bad. And while that statement might be true for some foods, like fruit, where the sugar is naturally-occurring and comes along with many helpful vitamins and nutrients, most of the sugar we consume is highly-refined and is LOADED into pretty much every processed and pre-packaged food you’ll find in the grocery store.

The fact is there is no dietary requirement for sugar. You need to eat protein. You need to eat carbohydrates. You need to eat fat. You do NOT need to eat any sugar at all.

Our food supply is broken and there is far too much sugar hidden in most of the foods we eat every day. This excess sugar consumption is directly or indirectly to be blamed for our obesity epidemic, developmental issues in children [4], and even many psychological and behavioural issues [5], many of which we tend to treat with prescription drugs!

Even scarier is the dependence sugar quickly creates for even more sugar! You will not become obese overnight, or develop heart disease, or lose bone density, but sugar addiction will produce these sorts of harmful effects little by little. One cookie here, one sweetened drink there…

Before you know it, sugar addiction has taken hold and those sweet cravings are present in your life every single day.

If you’re here and are looking for a process to help you break your sugar addiction, chances are you’re already too familiar with the sugar craving cycle that looks like this:

Sugar Addiction

Does any of this look familiar to you?

This represents what you see and feel on the outside, but it’s caused by events that are occurring inside your body.

When you eat sugar, especially the refined variety or even some refined grains and other processed foods that your body quickly converts into sugar, your body goes through a process like this:

Sugar addiction process

Yikes!

One look at that cycle and it’s no wonder sugar addiction is so real, so powerful, and has gripped the lives of many people so tightly!

Even worse...

The multibillion dollar food industry has a compelling reason to want our sugar addictions to remain strong – their sales depend on it. That’s why they sneak sugar into our foods, labelling those foods as “low fat” or “free from artificial flavours.” Those statements may be true, but they are simply masking sugar-laden products with a false claim of somehow being healthy.

For example, many yogurts (often marketed as a healthy snack) contain up to 30 grams of sugar per serving. That’s right, the yogurt you’re eating, and feeding to your family, may contain more sugar than a chocolate bar!

The same can be said for breakfast cereals, granola bars, fruit juices, and many other relatively “healthy” foods that we eat regularly.

Are You Really Eating That Much Sugar?

Do you try to eat a pretty healthy diet? Do you watch your calorie intake? Do you eat some fresh fruits and veggies most days?

That’s fantastic – you’re doing some good for your body! But, despite our best efforts, most people are still eating WAY too much sugar. In fact, the average adult eats about 152 pounds of sugar every single year [6].

And guess what?

The situation isn’t getting any better…

US Sugar Consumption

American sugar intake – courtesy of Business Insider.

Even if you’re not reaching for ice cream, cookies, and baked desserts every day, you’re still likely eating a lot of sugar simply because it’s so hard to avoid these days. Plus, as I mentioned earlier, many other refined grains and processed foods act just like sugar once you eat them – they spike your blood sugar and the nasty sugar craving cycle begins.

So just how much sugar is hiding in your food?

Think about this: A food label can claim that it’s “low in sugar” if it contains less than 5 grams per 100 grams of that food [7]. A sugar cube, like those you might put if your coffee, contain 4 grams of sugar. Now, with those reference points, take a look at these examples:

Nutrigrain
Clifbar
Yogurt
Coke

As you can see, sugar is lurking everywhere, and with each bite you are strengthening your sugar addiction!

Is a Sugar Addiction as Powerful as Cocaine Addiction?

I think we’d all agree that cocaine is a very addictive substance. How does sugar compare?

Consuming sugar sparks your nucleus accumbens [8], the area of the brain often referred to as the “reward centre.” When your nucleus accumbens is stimulated, it releases dopamine, and you begin to feel very good very quickly.

The more sugar your food contains, the more dopamine is released, and the bigger “high” you experience. But...

Just like cocaine and other addictive drugs, over time your brain requires more sugar in order to generate the same high. Your dopamine receptors become less sensitive to the presence of sugar, and your addiction to sugar grows stronger.
Sugar and Cocaine

Some people even experience physiological changes within the brain when they eat sugary or highly refined foods [9]. Their brains change and the sugar addiction gets stronger.

It is important to realize that sugar addiction is NOT just an emotional reliance on sweets and refined foods. If you can’t resist sugar, don’t be too hard on yourself. It has nothing to do with your willpower, or your desire to change – your body has adapted to depend on sugar and, just like a cocaine addict experiences tremendous withdrawal symptoms if she were to cut out cocaine, removing sugar from your diet can feel impossible.

This can sound very depressing, but don’t worry because there IS hope. You can break your addiction to sugar.

Your addiction to sugar and refined foods is powerful, but research has shown that your body and brain can be freed from this addiction VERY quickly if you take the right steps. In fact, some studies show that sugar addiction can be broken within 1-2 weeks!


Overcoming Sugar Addiction Using 7 Proven Steps

These 7 steps have been proven to help break even the strongest sugar addictions:

Step #1: Remove all sugar and processed foods from your house.

You can bet you'll face temptations to eat sugar while you work on breaking your addiction. It is going to happen.

You can drastically increase your ability to resist temptation by removing ALL foods from your house that contain sugar as well as those that are processed (remember, highly-processed foods are quickly converted into sugar once you eat them!)

Look through your kitchen, cupboards, and pantry for all sugary drinks, cereals, snack bars, yogurts, baked goods, breads, and anything else that contains sugar.

Throw ALL of it out and commit to NOT bringing these foods back into your home until you are confident that your addiction has been permanently broken.​

Step #2: Eat breakfast that is balanced in macronutrients.

Many sugar cravings are stimulated because your body hasn't received the nutrients it really craves [10]. The easiest way to eliminate, or at least minimize, these deficiencies is by eating a well-rounded breakfast.

Eat a breakfast meal that includes healthy sources of the 3 macronutrients: Carbohydrates, protein, and fat. 

green smoothie

[Related: 11 Green Smoothie Recipes You Have to Try]

Step #3: Drink water (a lot more water).

Chronic dehydration can not only amplify your sugar cravings [11], but it also slows your metabolism and causes your body to store fat.

The general rule of thumb for water consumption tells us to drink 8 glasses per day, but that should be your bare minimum. If you exercise, add another glass for every 20 minutes that you're physically active.​

[Related: Fact or Fiction - Drink Water to Lose Weight] ​

Step #4: Prepare healthy snacks in bulk and carry some with you everywhere you go.

Another reason sugar addiction can be difficult to break is because the vast majority of our "on-the-go" snack options are loaded with sugar and refined grains. Cookies, snack bars, crackers, yogurt, granola bars, and many other common snack items will perpetuate your sugar addiction.

Find at least one healthy snack option that is free from sugar and other highly-processed ingredients (like these carrot fries). Prepare a large batch every few days, and store it in portion-sized containers that you can take with you anywhere you go.

Remember: If you let yourself get too hungry, your sugar cravings are going to come out in full force. Prevent this from happening by snacking as needed throughout your day.

Step #5: Consciously move your body every single day.

Breaking your sugar addiction is heavily dependent on balancing your blood sugar. When you eat sugary foods, or those that are quickly converted into blood sugar, your body has two options:

  1. Use that sugar as fuel
  2. Store the excess sugar as fat

Daily exercise gives your body an outlet for excess blood sugar. This doesn't mean that you have to sign up for a gym membership and sweat till you drop. Going for a walk, stretching at your desk, and playing outside with your kids can all add up.

[Related: How to Exercise At Home For Free]

Step #6: Lower your stress levels.

If you are living under chronic stress, your sugar cravings are going to be tough to beat. The "high" you get from eating sugar is so much more appealing when it can be used to temporarily reduce anxiety and feelings of stress.

The good news?

Reduce stress

You can significantly reduce your stress levels in less than 5 minutes per day using one of these 42 de-stressing techniques.​

Choose one that you would actually look forward to doing each day, then commit to trying it for the next two weeks while you work on breaking your sugar addiction.

Step #7: Get better quality sleep each night.

When do your most intense sugar cravings appear? If you're like many people, cravings become more intense towards the end of your day. 

This is affirmed by research showing that sugar cravings are deeply tied to your circadian rhythm an​d your sleep patterns [12]. If you're not sleeping on a regular schedule, or if you're not getting enough quality sleep in general, your sugar addiction will intensify.

The most important step you can take towards getting better quality sleep is to set a bedtime and stick to it. I recommend choosing a realistic bedtime for your weeknights at least (allow yourself some leeway on the weekends if needed). 

These 7 steps have been tested and proven to help break even the nastiest sugar addictions. The first few days will likely be the hardest, but you will begin feeling amazing in no time. 

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