By Jim Uren
Worried You May Have a Sugar Addiction?
You like sugar. I get it. You may even like it a lot and consume more than you should. In fact, you may even jokingly refer to yourself as a “sugar addict.” Most of us can easily relate.
However, for some of us, sugar addiction is no joke. It is actually causing us great harm and resulting in a variety of negative consequences in our lives. And if this describes you, there is great freedom to be had if you can overcome this addiction.
But how do you know if you might have a sugar addiction?
Well, I’ve put together 15 warning signs that you may indeed struggle with a sugar addiction. This is not a diagnostic tool, but simply some warning signs that may indicate your need to explore this issue further. So check out the list below and see how many of these warning signs describe you.
#1: You Often Have Sugar Shame
One of the warning signs of sugar addiction is that you frequently suffer from sugar shame. Do you often feel a significant amount of shame, worry or distress about the amount of sugar you consume? And do you have this experience several times a week or more?
This is not when you occasionally feel guilty about eating a larger serving of dessert that you should have. Everyone experiences that.
Rather, this is feeling ashamed and truly worried about your sugar consumption and obsession. For example, you might think things like, “Why can’t I stop eating all this sugar? There must be something really wrong with me.” Or, “How can she be content after just having one? I’ve had two and I can’t stop think about having more.”
#2: You Often Eat Enough to Feel Sick
Another classic indication of sugar addiction is that you consume so much that you start to feel physical distress. It might include things like a stomach ache, feeling like you might get sick or a headache. And in some cases it may actually involve getting sick to your stomach.
And while most of us have certainly had this experience at one time or another, someone with a sugar addiction might experience this once a week or more.
#3: You Have an Increased Sugar Tolerance
A common symptom of most substance addictions is that your body builds up an increased tolerance to the substance. Has this happened to you when it comes to sugar? Do you find that having a moderate serving of a high sugar food or drink doesn’t give you the same pleasure it once did? Does it take a much larger serving now in order for you to enjoy it? Or maybe you don’t even enjoy it as much as you once did regardless of how much you consume.
This has certainly been my experience with sugar addiction. If I couldn’t have a very generous portion of a sugary treat, then I would often skip that food altogether. To which you might be thinking, “Well, that doesn’t sound like a sugar addiction to me.” But here’s why.
You see, when most people get a small serving of dessert, they just experience a smaller amount of pleasure. But when I finished eating a small serving of dessert, my primary experience wasn’t one of mild pleasure. It was usually frustration and irritation because I desperately wanted more. To me quantity was a necessary ingredient for pleasure.
So I’d often skip the opportunity for a small treat and look for something more substantial instead.
#4: Your Sugar Consumption is Causing Health Problems
Another sign of sugar addiction is long-term health consequences as a result of your sugar consumption. Are you still over doing the sugar even though your health is suffering? Are you obese? Have you been diagnosed with diabetes or pre-diabetes?
My sugar addiction certainly was the greatest contributor to my being morbidly obese. I had developed high blood pressure, acid reflux, plantar fasciitis, and fatty liver. And even light exercise or walking up a flight of stairs would put me out of breath. But even with all of these challenges, I kept on eating the sugar.
#5: Sugar Can Totally Dominate Your Thoughts
Do you sometimes have a hard time thinking about anything other than sugar or sweet foods? Does this happen at least once a week or more? If that is a “yes” to both questions, then that could be a sign of sugar addiction.
This certainly described me. On many occasions when dining with friends, we would be chatting after dinner with dessert sitting on the table. I often had a hard time focusing on the conversation. I was mentally focused on the dessert.
How much could I eat without looking like a pig? Could I try one of each kind? Has enough time passed in the conversation that I could casually take a little more without much notice? I wonder if they’ll leave the dessert so I can have some more later? It dominated my thoughts.
#6: Loved Ones are Worried About Your Sugar Consumption
Another sign of sugar addiction is that you have friends and family who express concern about you overeating sweets. I’m not talking about an occasional health nut friend who tells everybody to cut back on sugar (and only eat organic food you harvest yourself in the wild). I’m talking about your typical friends and family who express sincere concern about your eating habits or related health symptoms.
But don’t let yourself off the hook just because no one is telling you they’re worried. In my case, my loved ones were quite concerned, but I never responded well when that concern was expressed. So most people learned never to bring up the subject. In fact, my wife finally declared to me that she made sure my life insurance policy was paid up because it was the only thing she could do about it.
You probably have a good sense if others are worried about your over consumption of sweets. And if not, you could always ask a few safe people to see what they say.
#7: Your Attempts to Cut Back Never Last
Another warning sign that you may have a sugar addiction is that you have a history of failed attempts at abstinence or moderation. You either committed to stop eating sweets for awhile or to just having a “small, occasional treat.” But every time you give this a shot, your attempt never lasts as long as you had originally intended.
By contrast, people who have no issues with sugar addiction have minimal trouble cutting back for extended periods of time. A friend of mine who never seemed a pound overweight once told me he wasn’t planning to have any desserts until his birthday which was months away. And by gosh he actually did it!
I rarely lasted a week if I even made it to bedtime.
#8: You Make Great Sacrifices to Enjoy Sugar
Do you ever skip dinner so you can justify dessert? Do you frequently endure long lines or travel far distances so you can consume a specific high sugar food or beverage? Are you often making sacrifices for sugar cravings that most people would never consider worth the effort?
I know I did. If I had a particular taste for something sweet, I’d happily drive across town, stand in line and spend the money to get it.
And the sad part? Rarely did I do this and then think, “Wow! That was delicious. So glad I did that.” Instead, I usually felt guilty spending the time and money. And even in the midst of my guilt I’d be thinking, “it sure would be nice to have another one.”
#9: You Isolate to Avoid Sweets
Another common behavior for some with a sugar addiction is that they will sometimes avoid social situations to reduce temptation. In other words, they are so afraid that they won’t be able to control themselves around the desserts that they simple stop participating in some social activities.
Now in and of itself, this can sometimes be a wise strategy. For example, when I first started doing Bright Line Eating, I did skip some social activities because I knew the food environment would be too challenging. I have encouraged many people to do the same thing at the beginning.
The problem is when social isolation becomes a long-term method of controlling a sugar addiction. That is when things cross the line and start to become an unhealthy way of coping.
#10: You Isolate to Consume Sweets
Do you ever isolate yourself for the sole purpose of indulging your sweet tooth? Maybe you don’t want anyone to be able to judge what you eat or how much you eat. Or perhaps you don’t want to feel obligated to share your sweet treat with others.
This was completely me. I always preferred to get my sugar fix alone. If I was by myself, I could eat without embarrassment. That is why my car was such a common place for me to eat.
#11: Your Sweet Tooth is Tied to Your Emotions
Before I gave it up, sugar was very much tied to my emotions. If I felt down and discouraged, I turned to sugar. If I felt happy and alive, I turned to sugar. Basically, most moderately intense emotions triggered my brain to want sugar. But it took giving it up before I fully realized how much I had relied on it.
How about you? Is there a direct connection between your emotions and your sweet tooth? Do you ever turn to sugar to help you feel better? If this is something you do on a weekly basis or more, it may be an indication that you struggle with a sugar addiction.
#12: Sugar Frequently Zaps Your Energy
Do you ever eat enough sweet foods that you soon become lethargic, lazy and sluggish? When things are bad does this happen on an almost daily basis? Frequently suffering this post sugar sluggishness may be a warning sign that you have a sugar addiction.
And if you’re like me, what is the go to solution when you feel tired and lack energy? That’s right, sugar! After all, nothing treats that post sugar crash better than more sugar. I was trapped in this sugar cycle more often that I’d like to admit.
#13: Sugar is Getting in the Way of Your Home Life
When sugar addiction rears its ugly head it can result in negative consequences at home. Does your use of or obsession with sugar cause problems in your daily routine? Do tasks often go undone or are responsibilities suffering because of your sugar consumption? Is your sugar usage or the money you spend on it causing conflict in your marriage?
I know that I certainly was not as present as I should have been when things got bad for me with sugar. I was often too tired or irritable to engage well with my family. And my wife was not happy with the amount of money I spent on food (frequently of the sweet variety).
#14: You Experience Sugar Withdrawal
Another classic sign of substance addiction is the experience of withdrawal symptoms when you stop consuming the substance in question. This was never a major experience of mine, but some people do report having some negative withdrawal symptoms when they try and give up sugar. How about you? Does going without sugar tend to make you irritable, cause headaches, experience major cravings or feel really down?
With my sugar addiction, I didn’t have these symptoms too often, but that was usually because I rarely stopped using it enough to experience withdrawal. When I did finally give it up I noticed two things. First, I did have times where my cravings kicked in so strongly that it felt like I was not going to survive without it. Second, I have often struggled with depression and this initially got much worse for awhile when I eliminated the sweet stuff.
#15: You Can’t Imagine a Happy Life Without Sugar
When I first started coming to grips with the fact that I had a sugar addiction, I couldn’t wrap my mind around a life without sugar. And when I came to the point of realizing that I needed to give it up, I went through a grieving process for several weeks. I had a hard time picturing social activities or major life events without partaking in sweet treats. The very thought sounded to me like the recipe for a very unhappy life.
But the truth was, I had tried moderation and it never worked for me. Oh how I wish it did. And if it works for you, that is a wonderful gift. It is something to be cherished and used responsibly.
Or are you more like me? A part of your brain knows that moderation will never work for you, but the thought of giving up sugar seems unbearable. If you can’t imagine a happy life without sugar, that could be a sign that you too have a sugar addiction.
So Do You Think You May Have a Sugar Addiction?
So what do you think? Do any of these symptoms describe you?
This is by no means a scientifically valid assessment instrument. However, your responses to these warning signs may mean it’s worth exploring this issue further. Did about half of these warning signs describe you? Or do maybe only five or six describe you, but you experience them with great intensity? If so, I would encourage you to dig deeper.
In my case it was Bright Line Eating that was the secret to my success and my ability to overcome my sugar addiction. (You can read more about my experience with Bright Line Eating here: Jim’s Story and Review of Bright Line Eating.)
The Next Steps for Overcoming Sugar Addiction
If you think sugar addiction (or food addiction) is preventing you from living the life you know you were meant to live, I would encourage you to read the book, Bright Line Eating: The Science of Living Happy, Thin & Free by Dr. Susan Peirce Thompson and to consider joining the Bright Line Eating Boot Camp.
The book and boot camp experience have taught me how to overcome my sugar addiction which has given me a new lease on life. I have now lost 160 pounds and have achieved a healthy weight for the first time in years. I no longer suffer from the negative effects as described in the warning signs above. And the good news is that I have learned that a life without sugar is not only possible, but as the book says, is helping me living happy, thin and free.
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You’ll discover the strategies I used to prepare for the boot camp and lose over 40 pounds.
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