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How to Break a Sugar Addiction: 7 Powerful Tips

By now you’ve probably heard about the negative effects that refined sugar can have on your health, from tooth decay to diabetes. Sugar is a highly addictive substance, but learning how to break a sugar addiction can help you live a healthier life. If you want to know how to stop a sugar addiction, we have some tips for you. 

Why do people get addicted to sugar?

In a nutshell, people become addicted to sugar because their brain tells them it feels good. When it’s consumed, sugar turns into glucose, which is the fuel that powers the cells in your body. Glucose also helps your brain produce serotonin, the “happy hormone” that lifts your mood. Overcoming sugar addiction may mean you’ll have to find other ways to help elevate your emotions.

Addiction to sugar can form more easily in children than in adults. This is because the neural pathways in children’s developing brains respond more strongly to excess glucose. This means eating a lot of sugar early in life can result in a lifelong sugar addiction. Learning how to break a sugar addiction as an adult can be challenging, but overall, decreasing your sugar intake gives you a healthier body and mind. 

Sugar works on the dopamine receptors in the brain, similarly to drugs and alcohol. The sugar you eat starts working on the reward centers of your brain, giving you artificial mood boosts. Excess sugar can dampen the body’s ability to produce dopamine and regulate your moods on its own, which can lead to a physical addiction. The physical component makes beating a sugar addiction challenging for many people. 

Some people use sugar to soothe their emotions, seeking the physical high and dopamine rush that eating sugar causes. This addiction may be partly physical and partly a compulsive behavior, enjoying the actual process of eating to reduce stress or calm angry feelings. If you notice that you often turn to sugar for consolation, a therapist may be able to help you manage your emotions and get over a sugar addiction. 

Sugar addiction symptoms

It may be difficult to determine if you need help beating a sugar addiction. You may also be wondering if there is a difference between simply enjoying sweets and being addicted. There are a few symptoms of being addicted to sugar, a substance that many healthcare professionals say is as addictive as cocaine. If you notice that you’re exhibiting some of these behaviors — and be honest with yourself — then you may have a sugar addiction. 

  • You’re hiding sugary foods. If you have a stash in a desk drawer or hidden at the back of your pantry, you may be addicted to sugar. If you’re making deals with yourself to justify having a treat or have to sneak to eat the foods you’re craving, this indicates a problem.
  • You need to eat more and more to satisfy your sugar craving. Some people who eat sugar in moderation can be satisfied with just one or two bites, but if you notice that your serving sizes are becoming larger and larger, this may mean you have an addiction. Your body will need more and more sugar to create that high you’re craving.
  • You’re eating sugar when you aren’t physically hungry. For example, if you follow up a large meal with dessert, even if you feel full, then you’re craving sugar instead of listening to your body. Learning how to read your body’s hunger cues is one way you can learn how to kick a sugar addiction. 
  • You crave salty foods. While this may be counterintuitive, craving salty foods may be an indication that you’re malnourished. Malnourishment doesn’t necessarily correlate with your weight. Overweight people can be malnourished if they’re eating sugary treats or foods without a lot of nutrients instead of foods that have the vitamins and minerals their body needs.
  • You try to quit and have negative side effects, including ones that mimic drug or alcohol withdrawal. The first stages of sugar addiction treatment can give you withdrawal symptoms like tiredness and lethargy, headaches, and irritability. Other side effects of quitting can include nausea, muscle cramps, and bloating. You may also have habitual behaviors associated with eating sugar, like snacking in front of the TV, having a candy bar mid-afternoon, or starting your day with a sweetened coffee drink. 

The effect of a sugar addiction on your health

People with a sugar addiction typically eat too much sugar, and there are several negative effects of excess sugar on your health. Eating or drinking too much sugar may cause you to gain weight. Sugar is calorie dense, and excess calories lead to weight gain. This can start a vicious cycle, as eating too much sugar leads to craving more, and greater feelings of hunger prompt you to eat more than you need.

Sugar can also cause skin problems or exacerbate existing skin conditions like eczema, rosacea, and dry skin.

Sugar can also cause skin problems or exacerbate existing skin conditions like eczema, rosacea, and dry skin. It can prevent your body from rejuvenating new skin and make your complexion look dull and lifeless. High-sugar diets can also cause acne or cause your acne to worsen. Vascular diseases, such as hypertension and atherosclerosis, are another effect of too much sugar. There’s a correlation between high-sugar diets and a greater incidence of heart problems. Obesity, inflammation, and high blood pressure can sometimes partially come from eating too much sugar, and these conditions, in turn, increase the chances of heart and vascular diseases.

Type-2 diabetes is another disease that can result from too much sugar. Diabetes causes your cells to become insulin resistant, leading to high blood sugar. Left untreated, diabetes can lead to blindness and degradation of your extremities, which may need to be amputated. Diabetes can also affect your metabolism, making it harder to shed unwanted pounds. 

How to beat a sugar addiction

Breaking a sugar addiction begins with reducing the amount of added sugar that you have in your food. Sweetened beverages are one of the main culprits, including sodas, energy drinks, and sweet iced tea. Opt for the sugar-free versions of your favorite drinks, or add sweetener yourself, gradually reducing the amount you’re putting in your drink. Also consider reducing the amount of alcohol you drink. Beer and wine have a lot of sugar in them, too. 

You may also like water with a few flavor drops added in. When you become dehydrated, it’s easier to cave and say yes to sugar. However, switching to foods and drinks with artificial sweeteners may delay the amount of time it takes to kick a sugar addiction. 

Opt for the sugar-free versions of your favorite drinks, or add sweetener yourself, gradually reducing the amount you’re putting in your drink. Also consider reducing the amount of alcohol you drink.

You can also stop buying desserts and sweet treats. If you think you’ll have a hard time moderating how many cookies or pieces of candy you’ll eat, simply stop bringing it into the house. If others in your family are asking for treats, ask them for their cooperation in helping you beat your sugar addiction. Or, you can buy small packages of your favorites instead of a large family-sized container.

When you feel a sugar craving coming on, try to do something to distract yourself. Exercise is a natural mood booster and can help take your mind off the craving for a sweet treat. Take a brisk walk or do some jumping jacks to help stave off the need for sugar. If you know in advance that you’re planning to break your sugar addiction, prepare a few things to turn to instead of sugar. Call a friend, or take up a hobby you can practice when you want sugar, such as knitting, painting, or gardening.

Make sure you’re eating balanced meals, including plenty of protein and healthy dietary fats. Protein and fats can help you feel full longer, and reducing the carbohydrates you eat helps regulate your blood sugar levels, preventing spikes and crashes that can lead to sugar cravings. Begin your morning with a healthy breakfast and keep small, naturally sugar-free snacks available throughout the day to keep your blood sugar on an even keel. Whey protein may also help you crave sugar less. This is found in whole milk and other dairy products and also naturally increases serotonin production.

When you feel a sugar craving coming on, try to do something to distract yourself. Exercise is a natural mood booster and can help take your mind off the craving for a sweet treat.

Improving your sleep hygiene may also help you kick the sugar habit. Make an effort to go to bed and wake up at the same time every day — even on weekends — to help your body’s circadian rhythms regulate naturally. When you’re well-rested and refreshed, it’s easier to say no to the quick energy boost that sugar provides. Sleep deprivation makes it harder to say no to a sugary treat, and tiredness can make breaking a sugar addiction more difficult.

The takeaway

If you suspect you have some of these symptoms, you may benefit from therapy or treatment for sugar addiction. However you choose to beat your sugar addiction, hang in there. You’re making a great choice for your health.

https://psychcentral.com/blog/why-do-we-become-so-addicted-to-sugar/

https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/how-to-break-the-sugar-habit-and-help-your-health-in-the-process

https://www.healthline.com/health/food-nutrition/experts-is-sugar-addictive-drug#6

https://www.webmd.com/diabetes/features/how-sugar-affects-your-body

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