Tips to Overcome a Sugar Addiction
Sugar is a powerfully addictive substance. Indulging in candy, cookies, cake, or ice cream introduces us to its captivating quality, which food manufacturers use to their advantage by adding ridiculous amounts of sugar to many of the foods we like, including soft drinks, cereal, soups, sauces, and salad dressings.
As a result, we can develop a strong craving for sweets and may not realize just how much sugar we consume on a daily basis, which turns out to be about 20-30 teaspoons—way more than the recommended 5-9 teaspoons.
Sugar has been linked to a variety of health problems, including obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, anxiety, and depression. Despite these and other risks, many of us continue to eat sugar because it is so addictive.
Sugar meets all of the criteria for an addictive substance:
- • It stimulates the release of neurotransmitters in the brain
- • People consume it compulsively despite negative consequences and the intention to stop
- • People can develop a tolerance to its effects
- • Heavy consumption can lead to trouble functioning without it
- • Withdrawal symptoms can occur upon stopping consumption
Overcoming an addiction to sugar can be difficult because its roots are both physical and emotional. It’s easy to say, “The less sugar you eat, the less you will crave it,” but actually reducing your consumption is another story. If you experience withdrawal symptoms, know that they will only last a few days and once they pass you’ll be healthier and feel better than ever.
Here are some tips to help you overcome a sugar addiction:
Limit the amount of sugar in your household. If possible, remove and refrain from purchasing products that contain refined sugar so that you don’t have to worry about temptation staring you in the face every time you open the cupboard or fridge.
Eat naturally sweet foods to satisfy your sugar cravings. Healthful snacks like fruits and vegetables can satisfy your sweet tooth if you eat enough of them. Try adding 100% fruit juice to iced tea, carbonated water, and other sugarless drinks. Frozen fruit is a delicious alternative to ice cream. Once refined sugar is cleared from your system, your taste buds will become more sensitive, and these natural foods will taste sweeter and be more satisfying. If you slow down and eat mindfully, you’ll enjoy these foods even more.
Eat at regular intervals throughout the day to maintain a steady blood sugar level and reduce sugar cravings. Meals that combine complex carbohydrates (whole grains, vegetables, fruits), lean protein (meat, poultry, fish, tofu) and healthy fats (cheese, omega-3s, olive oil) can keep your blood sugar level and sugar cravings in check. A diet high in fiber may also help to reduce sugar cravings.
Identify and manage cravings that are not a result of physical hunger, but instead may be rooted in anxiety or depression. Develop alternative ways to manage your stress, such as taking a walk, reading a book, watching a movie, or calling a friend. Breathing exercises, meditation, and hot baths can activate your body’s relaxation response, helping to balance your blood sugar level and reduce sugar cravings.
If sugar helps you deal with uncomfortable feelings, identify those feelings and respond to them appropriately. Overcoming your sugar addiction involves tuning in to your feelings and giving yourself what you really need rather than using sugar as a substitute.