Sugar addiction: whether you are actually “addicted” or not, it’s the feeling of wanting something sweet that you try to ignore until it nags you enough to “cave in” and eat what you were trying to avoid.
This doesn’t necessarily mean you “binge” on the food you were trying to avoid, but it’s when you finally break down and have it and then feel guilty afterward. Or you beat yourself up for not being able to resist.
If that sounds like something you wrestle with sometimes, here are 5 “key questions” to consider to help you be able to relax around your favorite foods instead of trying to rigidly control yourself.
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Do you notice that the tendency to yearn for the food you’re craving happens on a regular
basis? For example, do you often feel cravings at night? Or in the late afternoons at work? Or
after you’ve eaten a snack of fruit or a breakfast of cereal? Or is it more like only once in
awhile, like if you’re out with friends at a restaurant and everyone’s ordering dessert?
If you notice a “rhythm” to your cravings happening on a regular basis (i.e. same time of day or
after eating a certain kind of food), this is a good sign that there’s something your body,
emotions, mind or spirit is needing. The need, or lack of something, is resulting in a craving
for something sweet, a comfort food or a treat.
For example, maybe you need more sleep or down-time. You’re tired, and your brain looks for
quick fuel when it’s tired.
Maybe you need more creativity in your life, or a new challenge at work. You may be bored,
and the sweet food creates something to look forward to.
Maybe you haven’t had time to yourself for awhile. You want to treat yourself, and the food
works as a way to do that.
Maybe you need more healthy fat in your diet. Eating fruit or common breakfast cereals
(generally all carbs) is a quick way to give your body sugar because it’s a food that your body
processes quickly. It can spike insulin and have you looking for something else to eat soon
after. Replacing these carbohydrate-filled snacks or meals with some healthy fats (i.e. eggs +
slices of avocado, or a handful of nuts + seeds or a bowl of veggies with olive oil and pesto) can
be much more satisfying and kill the craving for more sweets.
If you “cave in” and eat a food that
you feel bad about afterward, this
is a good sign that you’re eating
due to something else besides
physical hunger. You’re eating is
more driven by emotions. That’s
fine, nothing to feel shame or
frustration about…just something
to recognize. Once you know
what’s driving your impulse, then
you can figure out how to handle it
differently so that you feel good as a
result, not guilty.
If you’re eating as a result of
something besides hunger,
consider if there’s something else
you need more: sleep, excitement,
creative expression, solo time,
friend time, etc. (See point #1.)
3. Am I embarrassed to
eat this in front of
Wanting to “hide” or eat alone is a big
indicator that you’re eating purely from
emotions (see point #2), with shame
driving the ship . Again, this isn’t
something to beat yourself up about. It’s
something to become aware of.
Being able to notice your behaviors and
habits is a GIGANTIC leap of progress
towards finding freedom with food.
If you feel like you want to “sneak” and eat
another handful of chips, a chocolate bar,
a bowl of ice cream, etc., take note. You’re
hungering for something, but it’s not
food. The food is an easy substitute, a
“quick fix” in the moment.
It can be really difficult to overcome the
desire to default to the “quick fix” because
it can become a habit.
Sometimes the craving for sugar (or refined carbs,
which are essentially sugar) is the body’s way of
indicating it needs something. It’s showing up as
a craving for sugar or carbs, which is the body’s
way of getting a quick hit of energy.
Do you have enough fat in your diet? (See point
#1.) If you tend to eat a low fat diet (e.g. fat free
yogurt, fat free milk, salads with non-fat dressing,
chicken breasts, etc.), your brain and body may
be hankering for fat. Fat isn’t the evil
adversary we’ve been taught to believe it was for
decades. Our brains actually need fat to function
Or perhaps it’s something else. For instance, dairy
products can be addictive as well, due to the
casein protein in them. Or you may be missing a
certain mineral in your diet. Everyone’s body is
completely unique due to our genes, age,
environment, fitness levels, stress levels and
many other factors. Plus, our bodies change over
time. So what you may not have needed a couple
years ago you may be lacking now.
5. Do I find it really
hard to resist
(like almost impossible)?
If you have cravings and can’t seem to let them
go, even when you know it will lead to feeling
guilty or bad after “caving in”, it’s something to
note. It’s natural if it happens once in awhile (like
at a dinner with friends, when everyone is eating
dessert and it’s hard to resist). But if you notice it
regularly, it’s a good sign that your brain has
probably formed a habit.
If this is the case, looking at how habits form and
how you can create new habits can resolve the
tension around your cravings. Charles Duhigg
has studied this extensively and has a great book
about it, The Power Of Habit.
Answering these 5 questions can give you insight
into your sugar cravings, whether or not you
think you’re a “sugar addict” or not. Feeling
disempowered around food, whether sugar or
whatever, eats away at your esteem (pun
intended). Gaining awareness is the first big leap
into being able to find a solution.