5 Signs You Might Be Addicted to Sugar

And How to Give it up for Good!

The relationship between sugar and our bodies is a complicated one. Essentially sugar is the simplest form of a carbohydrate called glucose and our bodies/brains use it for quick and effective energy. The problem however lies in the source of this glucose we’re consuming. There is a huge difference in how your body breaks down the glucose in a candy bar vs a piece of fruit or a vegetable. The main reason for this is that fruits and vegetables contain fibre, which slows down the digestive process and controls the speed at which the glucose is released into the bloodstream. It prevents a massive spike in your blood sugar, which is inevitably followed by a massive drop while offering a host of vitamins and minerals. While glucose isn’t necessarily the enemy, refined sugar most certainly can be. Unfortunately it’s hidden in so many of the processed foods we consume, not just sweets. It can be found in soups, breads, breakfast cereals, yogurts, pasta sauces and even condiments like salad dressings and ketchups for example. Refined starches like white pasta, rice or bread also behave very similarly to refined sugar in our bodies and should be avoided as well. But what exactly is sugar doing to our bodies in the long term?

Excess sugar causes a host of problems in our bodies, many of which stem from the systemic inflammation that it causes. It can lead to heart disease, high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, fatty liver disease and even cause certain types of cancer. It will also inevitably cause weight gain, or make it substantially more difficult to lose weight and contribute to acne or other inflammatory skin conditions like eczema or psoriasis. Sugar also may cause depression and cognitive decline thanks to intense blood sugar swings as well as inflammation and neurotransmitter dysregulation. So how do you know if you are suffering from a sugar addiction, and what can you do to combat it?

Signs

  1. Strong cravings

    • Strong cravings for sweets is a definite red flag when it comes to sugar addiction and pretty easy to recognize. The reason we crave sweets however, is more complicated and is in part due to how sugar interacts with the reward/pleasure centre in our brains. The more we eat, the more we need to fulfil these urges. The same part of the brain is also responsible for forming new habits, so when the reward centres light up, so too does a new habit. Try to retrain your brain when these cravings hit. Instead of giving in, form a healthy habit around them. For example, when you feel like having a chocolate bar, have a glass of water and go for a walk instead. Your brain will start to associate this new habit with the craving until you eventually replace it. You also want to make sure you’re getting enough protein in your diet, as this can be a major contributor to sugar cravings as well.

  1. Loss of control/Eating more than planned

    • Do you find yourself going for a single cookie and before you realize it the box is gone? Or maybe you intended just to have a little nibble of ice cream but couldn’t resist devouring half the tub. This loss of control when it comes to sugar addiction is very common. This is why the moderation approach isn’t always the best one when it comes to sugar dependency. If you find yourself not being able to stop at just a small serving of dessert, it may be easier in the long term to avoid it altogether and opt for a sweet piece of fruit as your after dinner treat instead. 

  1. Secrecy

    • A secret stash of candy bars in the back of the pantry or a carefully hidden bag of gummy bears by your nightstand might be a sign you have a sugar addiction. We often try to hide things we know instinctively aren’t serving us. It also helps us live in a state of denial, like if no one sees it, it never happened. The biggest favour you can do for yourself in these circumstances is simply to remove the temptation altogether. If you consciously don’t bring these foods into your house, you can avoid this issue altogether. Also sharing your struggles with people who care about you can be an additional way to help. They can hold you accountable and offer you support when you need it. 

  1. Using sugar to cope with your emotions

    • If the first thing you do to deal with bad news at work or problems in your personal life is reach for a big bag of candy, know there is a better way to deal with these things!  Anytime you use any type of food as a coping mechanism it can be problematic and point to a potential issue. This is particularly concerning when the food is so detrimental to your health. Instead of using sugar as a way to deal with your emotions, try replacing it with a healthier and much more effective means of coping. For example meditation has been shown as an incredibly powerful way to improve your ability to process emotions. Start with 5 minutes a day and work your way up from there!

  1. You try to stop and experience withdrawal symptoms 

    • One of the biggest red flags that you may be addicted to sugar is that when you try to quit sugar altogether you experience one or more of the unpleasant withdrawal symptoms. These include headaches, fatigue, muscle pain, nausea, bloating and stomach cramps. Many people also tend to feel irritable, impatient, depressed or anxious. These symptoms will absolutely resolve themselves in a couple weeks but in the meantime, don’t allow them to be your excuse to give in. Make sure you are getting enough protein, water and exercising regularly to regulate blood sugar levels and your symptoms will disappear before you know it. These symptoms are simply confirmation you’re doing the right thing by giving it up! (If you are concerned about any symptoms you are experiencing or they aren’t subsiding then please make sure to reach out to your healthcare provider.)

Detoxing from refined sugar may be the drastic step you need to take in order to find relief from sugar addiction. Your palate will actually change in a relatively short amount of time and you will develop less of a taste for super sweet processed foods. Fruits will taste sweeter and those pesky cravings along with the many other symptoms will subside quite rapidly. If an all out detox feels too overwhelming then you could absolutely try a different approach and gradually consume less sugar over a period of time. This works for some although tends to be less effective in general, as the second you have a bite of sugar the cycle can start all over again. The main things to consider when avoiding refined sugar is to read labels carefully and avoid processed foods as much as possible. Eat lots of protein, fibre and healthy fats to keep you satisfied and enjoy a variety of fruits to keep your sweet tooth at bay! Your mind and body will thank you in the long run. 

For further support with your sugar addiction, consider joining the Rituwell Community in the 10 Day Foundational Reset. This program will help you shift your habits around food and reframe your mindset with the support of Dr. Jodi and the rest of the community.

By Kristin Nixon

 

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