Sugar consumption is at an all-time high, thanks to increased access to sodas and various sweets. What may be a little treat here or there can actually be indicative of a full-blown sugar addiction. Because it’s so easy to get and not considered dangerous, sugar addictions don’t get the same attention as hard drugs; yet, sugar is actually more addictive than cocaine.
But what are the signs, and how can you stop the cycle of excess sugar intake? Here are six signs that you’re eating too much sugar, as well as what you can do to stop.
1. You crave sugar all the time
This is a pretty obvious sign that your need for sugar is more of a mental trigger. If you see a slice of cake during your lunch break and can’t get it out of your mind and end up buying it, then you likely have a sugar addiction. You might even choose to have sweets when you don’t really want to eat them. To combat these cravings, have a better, more natural alternative, like a piece of fresh fruit.
2. You binge on sugar until you’re sick
Overeating is a typical trait of sugar addiction. Part of this is using excuses to reason with yourself on why you should have ‘one more bite.’ Some of the immediate effects of eating too much sugar are feeling bloated, dizzy, or gassy. You may also have a headache. Much like alcohol, sugar is best in moderation.
3. You experience sugar withdrawal
Much like a typical drug withdrawal, cutting down on your sugar intake will have major effects on your body. Some of the symptoms are: cravings (even when you’re feeling full), depression, anxiety, mood swings, and muscle aches. Cutting back will also rid you of a continued sugar high, so you’ll feel tired. These new, uncomfortable feelings are caused by a lack of dopamine (the chemical released in the brain when you eat sugar). To avoid these side effects, try to get a minimum of 7 hours of sleep, start an exercise regimen, and make sure to replace the excess sugar with healthier food choices.
4. Strangely, you crave salty foods (or meat)
Our bodies operate on a sense of balance. So if you tip the scale towards sweets (by eating too much bread, pasta, or pastries) you’ll find that you suddenly need salty foods or meat to feel balanced again. However, the proper solution is not to eat a high level of salty foods, like chips or other snacks. To help achieve a more stable diet, add slightly sweet vegetables like carrots, sweet potatoes, or yams to your meals.
5. You reward yourself with something sweet
Emotional eating is one of the leading contributors to obesity; it is also a factor in sugar addiction. Whether it’s for celebrating, or to help you cope with sadness or anger, sweet rewards used to boost your mood are signs of addiction. Before you eat or buy that next piece of cake, really consider why you’re buying it. Do you need it because you’re hungry (in which case you can choose something healthier and more filling), or because you want emotional validation? If you’re looking to candies to boost your mood, you might want to try going for a walk, listening to music, or writing in a journal.
6. You make a special effort to get or keep sugar around
If you have a stash of snacks hidden around (in your office, your car, or in your home) that you keep from those around you, you likely have a sugar addiction. Much like any addiction, there are feelings of shame and guilt, because part of you knows that constant and excessive use is not healthy. The first thing you’ll want to do to help break this habit is to throw away all of it. It might seem impossible, but with a restructured diet and commitment, it actually takes less than a week to lessen a sugar habit. You can also use artificial sweeteners to help come off a high sugar diet, but it’s important to be mindful of becoming dependent on those, too.