If you feel as though you might have a sugar addiction, this article is a must-read. We’ll discuss what sugar addiction is, its signs and symptoms, and how it affects your health.
The purpose of this article is to spread awareness and deliver information about sugar addiction. It is not intended to diagnose, treat, or cure any physical or mental health condition.
It’s best to discuss subjects like addiction and mental health with a qualified, licensed professional. We’re just here to help you figure out if you might have a sugar addiction.
What is Sugar Addiction?
Sweet, sugary foods are delicious. Hence, it’s very common for people to complain about their insatiable sweet tooth. Some of us, however, feel like we find high-sugar foods a little bit too delicious.
No matter what we try, many of us can’t seem to stop eating sweets, and it’s taking a toll on our health.
We feel like we’re addicted to sugar.
The idea of sugar being addictive, however, is actually somewhat controversial. Some think sugar addiction is a valid concern, due to similarities seen with other abused substances, including neurochemical changes.
Others, on the other hand, don’t think there’s sufficient evidence for the term “sugar addiction” to be used in scientific literature and public policy.
Many recognize broader food addiction but point out that processed foods with added sweeteners and fats appear to be the most potentially problematic.
For example, most of us aren’t spooning sugar straight out of the Domino bag.
The foods we struggle with most are those like chocolate, ice cream, cookies, and cake, which are highly processed, hyper-palatable, and high in both sugar and fat.
That said, you might not find the debate over “sugar addiction” very helpful.
You see your sugar cravings playing a negative role in your life. Yet, you can’t seem to stop eating it. You may or may not feel like that’s an addiction.
Fortunately, there are resources available to help you figure that out.
Signs and Symptoms of Sugar Addiction
First and foremost, if you feel you’re addicted to food or battling disordered eating, consider working with a therapist or other qualified professional.
One tool you might use to determine the role of sugar in your life is the modified Yale Food Addiction Scale.
While not specific to sugar, it can be a useful tool for any food with which you might be struggling.
The scale includes a list of 11 symptoms indicating the presence and severity of food addiction.
Symptoms of Addiction
- Eating to the point where you feel physically ill.
- Trying and failing to cut down or stop eating certain foods.
- Spending more time feeling sluggish or tired from eating certain foods.
- Avoiding work, school, or social activities because you are afraid you would overeat there.
- Continuing to eat the same way, even though your eating causes emotional problems.
- Eating the same amount of food not giving you as much enjoyment as it used to.
- Having emotional problems because you haven’t eaten certain foods, and then eating those foods to feel better.
- Friends and family worrying about how much you overeat.
- Overeating getting in the way of taking care of your family or doing household chores.
- Being so distracted by eating that you could be hurt (e.g., driving a car, crossing the street, operating machinery).
- Having such strong urges to eat certain foods that you can’t think of anything else.
In addition to these 11 symptoms, two impairment or distress related signs are also considered.
Signs of Impairment or Distress
- Having significant problems in your life (daily routine, work, school, friends, family, or health) because of food and eating.
- Your eating behavior causes you much distress.
By using these signs and symptoms, the existence and/or severity of addiction might be determined:
- Mild: 2–3 symptoms plus impairment or distress
- Moderate: 4–5 symptoms plus impairment or distress
- Severe: 6 or more symptoms plus impairment or distress
To keep things simple, for the rest of this article we’ll use the term “sugar addiction” to refer to your cravings and efforts to manage them.
That is, its use is not intended to refer to any official diagnosis.
How Sugar Addiction Affects Your Health
First and foremost, let’s talk about the physical effects associated with eating sugar.
High consumption of sugar and/or sugary drinks is linked to a wide range of negative health outcomes.
These include poor blood lipids, insulin resistance, fatty liver, type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and metabolic syndrome.
There’s evidence, however, that sugar itself isn’t inherently harmful, except for when it leads to excessive calories.
Of course, you may already know this. You may see that you’re overeating and recognize sugary foods as a primary culprit. Furthermore, the effects of sugar addiction aren’t only physical.
How we eat shares a complex relationship with our thoughts and feelings.
Food addiction often comes with a wide range of negative emotions, including depression and distress.
Our struggles with sugar are often a source of guilt, shame, and embarrassment. We feel weak, powerless, and unworthy. However, if you feel this way, you’re not alone and you’re not broken. In fact, your genetics may play a part in your sugar addiction. Use our CircleDNA kit to find out if you’re more prone to sugar addiction. Your struggles with food are not a reflection of your value as a human being. You’re not powerless, either. There are steps you can take to regain control of your eating habits. Read this article on how to break sugar addiction for more information.