Have you ever asked yourself "Am I addicted to sugar?"
You might recognise that feeling, the unstoppable urge, that overwhelming craving, that intense desire for something sweet - anything sweet!?
You try to fight it, knowing that what you are about to eat probably isn’t too good for you? But then you go ahead as usual, and start munching on whatever sweet treat is handy, until that craving has gone?
And now perhaps that feeling is replaced by guilt. Maybe a little sickness in the stomach and an energy slump a few hours later?
And then you do it all over again.
Does any of that sound familiar? Well if it does, that is sugar addiction. And it's also the reason I developed my 21 Day Sugar Detox Program.
How to tell if you are addicted to sugar
Here are some of the symptoms of sugar addiction:
You eat food when you are not really hungry because of cravings or habit.
You feel tired after you eat.
You can eat large quantities of sweet foods even if you are not hungry.
You feel self conscious about what you eat.
You often regret eating some types of food after you have eaten them.
You are secretly ashamed of some of the types of things you eat.
You regularly eat certain foods even though you know how bad they are for you.
You eat foods for emotional reasons such as feeling upset or depressed.
These are just some of the indicators that suggest you might have a sugar addiction - keep reading for the full list below.
Even though being hooked on sugar is one of the worlds biggest addiction problems, have you ever stopped to think about how why you might be addicted to sugar, how it came about, or why you might feel it’s so difficult to stop?
And more importantly, what you can actually do about it!
You might imagine someone addicted to sugar would be constantly chugging down and of fizzy drinks and chomping on doughnuts and chocolate, but with sugar now in a reported 75% of processed and packaged foods, you may be hooked without even knowing it.
So read on and I'll let you know just how and why you might be a sugar addict, how to spot the telltale signs, and what you can do about it if you feel you might have a problem with eating too much sugar.
So how addictive is sugar?
If you do have any of the symptoms I've listed above, lets look at why you might be addicted to sugar.
Whenever we eat something sweet, the sugar activates the pleasure and reward part of our brain which makes us feel good by releasing a hormone called dopamine - dopamine is what makes us feel happy.
Studies have shown that it’s this craving for the dopamine hit that makes the cycle of eating sugar into an addiction.
And it’s not just rats, the results of a study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition showed that a high sugar milkshake created cravings and hunger without fail, compared to another milkshake with exactly the same nutritional content, fat, carbohydrate, protein and calorie content.
During these tests, brain scans showed that without fail the pleasure part of the brain (nucleus accumbens) lit up like a Christmas tree in every participant after every high sugar milkshake - every single time.
So we certainly shouldn’t feel guilty if we are addicted - it’s the chemical process that’s going on in our body!
And it might be down to your personality!
Unfortunately some of us may have an additional burden to deal with, because some people have more of an addictive personality than others - and that’s just the way it is!
Our genetics decide to a certain extent how likely we are to get hooked on something, and that something could be alcohol, gambling, tobacco, drugs, shopping or sugar!
So if you happen to have an addictive personality and have been exposed to a lot of sugary foods growing up, then that could also explain why you are a sugar addict.
And don’t forget, it is very addictive, so millions of people are addicted to sugar anyway, and that’s before we even take into account habits, marketing and the fact that sugar hides in so many places!
We all have bad habits...
Habits can be very powerful things and if we keep on repeating the same actions, then they can become automatic, or habitual, and we end up doing them without even thinking about what we are doing.
And because eating so much sugar has become the ‘new normal’ in our culture and society, it’s easy for us to become blind to our bad habits.
It seems ‘normal’ for people to go into a coffee shop at 11am and have a coffee with very high sugar content along with a muffin, and bam! You are already way over your recommended daily allowance. And that’s before you’ve taken any other meals and drinks into consideration and once this becomes a habit, day in, day out, you can see just how easy it is to become addicted to sugar!
The World Health Organisation has recommended that men eat a maximum of 35g or 9 teaspoons of sugar a day, and that women should eat even less, with a maximum daily amount of 25g or 7 teaspoons.
And of course, this kind of habit is easy to fall into, everyone else is doing it, and so it seems normal when it really is anything but. We were never designed to eat those quantities of sugar, day in, day out.
We become victims of marketing.
Sugar is a big, big, money industry. It’s in the interests of the chocolate, biscuit, cakes, cereal and soft drinks companies to get you hooked - and keep you hooked.
Take children’s cereals for example - they are packaged in bright colours, with recognisable cartoon characters and of course, loaded with sugar. Once kids start their days with one of these for breakfast it doesn’t take long for an addiction to take hold.
And that addiction to sugar can then end up continuing throughout their lives.
Hidden sugar everywhere.
With a food industry worth over 1 Trillion Dollars, it no surprise to learn that food companies use sugar as their main source of making bad or cheap ingredients taste good. So unless you are prepared to make your meals from scratch using raw ingredients, it can take a keen eye to work out what’s good and what’s not on the supermarket shelf.
If there is any version of sugar in the top 5 ingredients, stick it back on the shelf!
There are so many different names for sugar too, below is a list of over 60 names that you might find hidden in supermarket foods.
And it’s not just sugar - white grain and wheat flour products are converted into sugar once we eat them, so it’s a double whammy, we’re all eating sugar hidden in food as well as other foods that turn into sugar once we eat them!
And It's now a global epidemic.
Of course the problem lies in the fact that our bodies simply weren’t designed to cope with all this sugar. We’ve been on earth for 6 million years without eating anything more than a few berries or the occasional piece of fruit, and yet in less than 50 years we have started eating insane amounts of the stuff.
Of course the occasional treat here and there is absolutely fine, but doctors are more and more concerned by the high daily consumption for the overwhelming majority of the western world.
And because we aren’t designed to deal with such a high sugar intake, the bottom line is that it’s making us all very sick.
With almost 70 percent of American’s now classed as overweight and 50 percent of American’s being either pre-diabetic or already with Type 2 Diabetes, you can start to see just how serious this epidemic has become.
And as I said at the start of this article, this isn’t down to laziness or greed or lack of will power - it’s down to a straightforward biological addiction and marketing from powerful food companies.
So what are the day to day and long term effects of too much sugar?
There are all sorts of ways that sugar can have a negative effect on your day.
Bad teeth and gums.
Diabetes, hyperglycemia and hypoglycemia.
A trigger for overeating.
Increased PMS symptoms.
Increased anxiety and irritability.
Increased chronic fatigue.
Damage to the adrenal glands, liver and pancreas.
A significant or contributory cause of heart disease, arteriosclerosis, depression, senility, mental illness,hypertension and even cancer.
Once you cut sugar out of your diet, you'd be amazed just how many positive benefits you see. I’ve listed many of them in my blog post here - 17 Amazing Things That Happen When You Stop Eating Sugar.
Even just down to the basics like having more energy, losing weight and having clearer skin, it’s certainly something worth looking into if you think you may have a problem.
Of course, there is nothing wrong with the occasional sweet treat, but if you have an all controlling addiction that forces you make poor food choices, well then that’s when your health is going to start to suffer.
More symptoms you are hooked on the white stuff?
You may already have an idea that you are eating too much sugar simply because you are reading this blog, but have a read of the following statements and see how many more of them might apply to you:
You still feel hungry after a full meal.
You plan on eating one or two biscuits or a single slice of cake but end up eating the whole lot.
You find it difficult to stop eating sweet foods once you start.
You feel you have to have something sweet after your lunch or dinner.
You find yourself tired or sluggish mid morning or mid afternoon.
You eat sweet foods secretly.
You have made journeys just to buy sweet foods.
You eat your children's sweets and chocolate.
How did you get on?
If you reply yes to even a couple of these questions, then you could already have a problem with sugar. It's So easy to let it become part of our day that
it can quickly start to get out of control, often without us even noticing.
And although these are many of the common symptoms of a dependence on sugar that affect so many of us today, we need to remember, even though they may seem 'normal', they really aren't. It is not normal for us to eat such large amounts of sugar. Our bodies weren't designed to cope, and it will eventually make us ill!
Put it to the test...
And of course, there is another, very simple way to discover the power sugar may have over you: try not eating sugar, or anything with sugar in it for just for a day or two and see how it affects you.
Do you get cravings? Can you cope? Could you cut sugar out of your diet and not be bothered by it?
I know I certainly couldn’t, and it was then that I realised I had to do something about it, so maybe it’s time for you to do the same too?
So what can I do if I'm hooked on sugar!?
There are plenty of ways you can start to cut sugar out of your life even if you don't plan on doing on a full sugar detox.
Here are some ideas to help you reduce your sugar intake:
Start by cutting out sodas and fizzy drinks. By switching to water, you can slash your sugar intake. Soft drinks are a massive cause of child obesity around the world and this simple switch can make a massive difference.
Always read the labels. By learning how much sugar your food contains, you'll be able to control how much of it you eat. Where it says 'Carbohydrates of which sugars' look at how many grams there are per 100g. That shows you the percentage of the product that is sugar. For example, if it's 25g per 100g then that product is 25% sugar.
Learn sugar names. As there are so many different names for sugar, it's good to know what their sneaky aliases are, especially as sugar may be listed under several different names in the same ingredient list!
Buy unsweetened products. Make sure anything you buy that is processed is 'unsweetened' or has 'no added sugar'.
Eat plenty of fibre, protein and fat. By filling up on these good foods, you will stabilise your blood sugar levels and help to prevent and crashes.
Don't replace sugar with substitutes. You are far better off cutting down on your overall intake of 'sweetness' which will allow your tastebuds to reset. Switching to aspartame or other artificial sweeteners won't help you kick your sweet tooth!
Try to get a grip on your cravings. You might be succumbing to your cravings without really thinking about it. When you next think 'I fancy a biscuit' take a moment to understand that this might be a sugar craving driving your food choice.
Get cooking! This really is the best way to start cutting down on your sugar intake. By cooking your own meals, you can control exactly what you are eating - plus it's really good fun!
If you are still struggling, you can also try my 21 Day Sugar Detox Program which will give you all the help and tools you need to break an addiction and reset your tastebuds!
Remember, there are hundreds of millions of people in the world today who are addicted to sugar, many of them don't even know it, so don't be ashamed or too worried if you think you might be hooked.
By acknowledging you might have a problem is the first step to actually doing something about it and to the start of a new life looking fitter and younger with a lot more energy!
Maybe it's time to get back in control of your eating and stop making those bad food choices!
This website is full of advice and recipes that can help you start to live a low or no sugar lifestyle, along with all of the benefits that can bring.
If you would like to quit sugar for good and regain control of your food choices, you can transform your life with my 21 Day Sugar Detox Program.