Sugar Addiction: Are You a Sugar Addict?

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Written by: Clinical Psychologist, Dr. Kim Feinstein, Red Mountain Weight Loss® Behavioral Weight Loss Specialist

Do you often wonder why you love sugary foods so much? Does sugar run your life more than you would like to admit? Does it concern or even scare you to feel so obsessive and compulsive about your desire for sugar? If you answered yes to any of these questions, you might be a sugar addict.

Some of you, up until now, may not have used the word “addict” to describe your attachment to sugar. Addiction is a powerful word. But, as most of you know, sugar is a powerful substance. Studies have shown sugar is more addictive than cocaine and heroin. Yes, you read that correctly… more addictive than cocaine and heroin.

If you consume high quantities of sugar for long periods of time, your brain is affected like that of a cocaine addict. This is because heroin, cocaine, and sugar cue the same circuitry in the brain. Sugar withdrawal is very similar to heroin withdrawal, with similar changes in brain chemicals and behavior. Withdrawal from sugar includes irritability, anxiety, and depression followed by cravings and is only relieved by consuming additional sugar.

So, after reading this, you may be thinking, is there any hope? The answer is YES!

5 Tips To Help You Break Free From a Sugar Addiction

Give Yourself Non-Sugary Rewards

Consuming a significant amount of sugar enhances the reward center in the brain, making it grueling to break your sugar addiction. This is extremely important because once you remove sugar from your diet, you will need to find non-sugary rewards that enhance the brain’s reward center. Here are some healthier rewards that have helped many:

  • Guilt-free you time! Begin by giving yourself at least 30 minutes to engage in any activity you want (e.g., watch mindless television, play a computer game, sleep, read a magazine, etc.)
  • Call a friend
  • Listen to your favorite music
  • Play or cuddle with your pet(s)
  • Exercise
  • Soak in a hot bubble bath
  • Go out to meet a friend (maybe seeing a funny movie)
  • A massage at a spa
  • Do something new

Boost Your Dopamine With Healthy Foods

Below is a list of foods, drinks, and spices known to increase dopamine:

  • Apples
  • Coffee
  • Green leafy vegetables
  • Green tea
  • Turmeric

Also, if you must satisfy your sugar craving with a sweet treat, reach for berries instead. Berries have a low glycemic index, which means they produce very little sugar in your body. Most importantly, they will not reinforce your sugar addiction and are allowed on RM3®!!!

Don’t Replace One Addictive Behavior for Another

It is all too easy to replace one addiction with another. Unfortunately, this happens way too often when people attempt to reduce or eliminate sugar. Please be careful about looking for unhealthy behaviors that give you the same temporary euphoric feeling that sugar does. Try to avoid alcohol or shopping, especially if spending can be problematic for you. Try using one of the behaviors listed above. Keep trying new healthier behaviors until you find one that works for you!

Be Aware of the “I’ll Only Have One” (Denial) Game

If you eliminate sugar from your diet, after about 3-5 days, you will find your sugar cravings nearly disappear, and you will feel surprisingly satisfied without sugar. Until… one day, you arrive at an event that has an irresistible selection of decadent desserts, so you tell yourself you will only have one. At this point, you may have been able to stop at one. However, the next day, your body is craving sugar again, so you indulge again “just this once.” But… the next day it happens again, and then again, and so on… back to square one, until your pants don’t fit again and you feel depressed and defeated. Does this pattern sound familiar? If you are a true sugar addict, you may not be able to just have one. Try to be honest with yourself, so you don’t sign up for the “I’ll only have one” (denial) game.

Do NOT Have It in Your Home!

This is a very simple rule, and it really works! If you don’t have it available, you can’t eat it! Try to resist running to the store to purchase whatever you are craving. Research suggests a craving only lasts 30 minutes. Before you run to the grocery store or bakery, try distracting yourself for 30 minutes. Chances are you will forget about the sweet treat, and you will have tolerated your craving. That reward feels better than any sugary treat!!

Most importantly, please remember that breaking your addiction to sugar takes time and patience. If you fall off the wagon again, try to avoid beating yourself up. Just talk yourself to success and start the process over again.

Dr. Kim Feinstein is a Licensed Clinical Psychologist and our Behavioral Weight Loss Specialist. She earned her Masters of Counseling degree from the University of Phoenix and earned her Masters and Doctoral degrees in Clinical Psychology from the Arizona School of Professional Psychology/Argosy University-Phoenix campus.

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Dr. Kim Feinstein is a Licensed Clinical Psychologist and our Behavioral Weight Loss Specialist. She earned her Masters of Counseling degree from the University of Phoenix and earned her Masters and Doctoral degrees in Clinical Psychology from the Arizona School of Professional Psychology/Argosy University-Phoenix campus.

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