Cravings for sugar can throw off your plan to eat healthier or lose weight. This article includes ten ways to beat the dependency on added sugars and how to get rid of the cravings for good.

sign that says cravings

Sugar plays a huge role in our lives. Added sugars are present in most processed foods and restaurant meals, even ones that don’t seem sweet.

If you’re you’re eating a lot of packaged foods and not reading labels, you’re probably over-consuming sugar. Even if you’re eating a healthy diet, you can still may have an issue with sugar dependency and cravings.

The problem is that it can very extremely hard to avoid the cravings for sugar, especially if you’ve been eating a lot of it. This article shares some of the long-term strategies from breaking the sugar dependency cycle and getting rid of the cravings.

butterflies being released from a jar into the sky

Sugar Addiction or Dependency

There is no doubt that for the majority of people, sugar can cause addiction-like symptoms. Obsessing over sugar, being unable to moderate your intake, and experiencing withdrawal symptoms without it are all good markers that you have an addictive pattern with sugar consumption.

Sugar consumption, like that of all hyperpalatable foods, triggers our brain’s reward system. A release of dopamine and a rise in serotonin associates these foods with pleasure, and rewires our brain to crave more of them to continue releasing dopamine. 

Quitting sugar is sometimes more than breaking a habit or a matter of willpower – it is breaking an addiction.

Sugar addiction is more comparable to that of nicotine or caffeine addiction that that of a drug addiction. Others think that sugar addiction is a psychological addiction rather than a physical addition. However, that doesn’t decrease the significance of the addiction or dependency.

Please note, that with any sort of addiction or dependency, it’s important that you work with a professional healthcare or mental health provider. The information in this article gives an overview of how to break a sugar addiction, but it’s always best to consult with your provider to develop a plan for your individual situation.

Symptoms

If you’re still unsure if you’re addicted to sugar, consider the possible symptoms below:

  • Intense sugar cravings. If you need something sweet to finish off your meal or experience a need for sugary snacks in the afternoon or at night, you might be fighting a sugar addiction. Thinking about sugary treats between meals and obsessively searching for new dessert recipes can be a sign of sugar addiction.
  • Carbohydrate cravings and loss of moderation control. A sugar addiction can also manifest as intense carb cravings, such as wanting a giant bowl of pasta. Carbohydrates convert to glucose (sugar) in our bodies and have a similar reward effect in our brains.
  • Withdrawal symptoms. If you experience irritability, headaches, a racing heart, stomach issues, muscle tremors, or sweating in the absence of sugar, those are signs of sugar withdrawal. 

Ten Tips to Break a Sugar Addiction

Just to reiterate, addiction is a serious issue that should be treated with care and under the guidance of a licensed healthcare professional. But, these ten tips should help get you started on the right path for addressing your sugar addiction, stopping the cravings, and, ultimately, finding freedom.

1. Consider a therapist to help break the addictive cycle

Having support is an important part of breaking a dependency on anything, including sugar. A therapist or a dietitian can provide strategies to manage stress and make breaking your addiction a success.

It’s also important to make sure that you don’t just go from one addiction to another. Working with a professional therapist is really important to help stay addiction-free.

young woman at a therapist's office

2. Consider a sugar detox

A sugar detox can mean anything from cutting it out completely to phasing it out slowly. Another type of sugar detox might mean avoiding added sugars, but still allowing for natural sugars from fruits.

The bottom line is that you should make a plan for what kind of sugar detox is best for your lifestyle and health needs. Learn more about how to do a sugar detox.

detox written on a chalkboard surrounded by fruits

3. Address past or current stressors that might be causing dependency

At least one study showed that sugar dependency and cravings are not necessarily about the sugar itself, but may be caused by environmental stressors and situations.

One way to manage sugar cravings is to make it a point to be present with yourself and tune into your patterns. Do you always reach for sugar after a stressful day? Do you experience a craving after you encounter a trigger for a past trauma? Awareness of when and why cravings occur is the first step in freeing yourself from them.

woman at sunset at the top of a mountain with her arms raised

4. Consider complete avoidance

Depending on your personality type, completely cutting sugar and sweet foods can help break your addiction. Remove any sugar and sweet foods from your home–make it a family effort, if necessary. Cutting out or reducing sugar will probably benefit everyone in the house.

If you are going 100% sugar-free, then you’ll probably need to avoid sugary foods, limit natural sugars including high-sugar fruits and sweeteners, and maybe even avoid sweeteners. Learn more about what you can eat on a no sugar diet

5. Be gentle with yourself

Remember that you are breaking an addiction that is probably not even your choice–the majority of Americans are raised on sugar. You’re undoing years of programming. Be proud that you are undergoing this and improving your health. Celebrate the wins and support yourself during missteps.

6. Replace the habit

If you are getting rid of added sugars in your diet, then you don’t want to trade one addiction for another. Instead, be mindful of the difference between a habit and an addiction. If it serves you, consider replacing dessert with an after-meal walk or a cup of herbal tea.

glass of lavender herbal tea on a desk

7. Ensure micronutrient sufficiency

If you’re deficient in micronutrients like vitamins and minerals, that can lead to sugar cravings. By working with a functional health practitioner who is skilled in nutrition, you can determine what nutritional deficiencies you have through lab testing, and then change your diet accordingly.

Supplementation can also help to ensure micronutrient sufficiency. See my recommendations for the best supplements for women over 30 and women over 50

healthy foods including salmon and eggs on a tabletop

8. Eat enough protein and healthy fats

Fat and protein satiate our bodies and keep blood sugar levels stable. Experts suggest eating a breakfast high in protein, and choosing snacks that have a nice balance of protein and healthy fats. A balanced diet should lead to a decrease in sugar cravings.

food sources of healthy fats and protein on a table

9. Conversely, eat enough carbs and enough in general

Under-eating carbohydrates for too long can also cause your body to crave starch and sugar to produce glucose. Choose complex carbs like sweet potatoes, brown rice, and lots of vegetables.

collection of healthy carbohydrate food sources on a table

10. Get enough sleep

Believe it or not, but not getting enough sleep can cause junk food cravings. Sleep deficiency can reduce insulin sensitivity and increase stress hormones, which both contribute to imbalanced blood sugar and subsequent sugar cravings.

Aim for 8-9 hours of uninterrupted sleep a night. If you are having trouble getting quality sleep, check out my helpful sleep hacks

sleep log and sleep mask picture

FAQs

How do you break a sugar addiction?

The most important things when breaking a sugar addiction include having a gameplan and having a support system. This is an excellent time to examine your thoughts and patterns and how they contribute to your habits and any other addictions.

And, of course, it’s important to work with your healthcare provider to determine a recovery plan that meets your individual needs.

Can nutrition deficiencies cause sugar cravings?

It is possible that sugar cravings may be related to a nutritional deficiency. Under-eating any macronutrient can lead to sugar cravings. The same goes for micronutrients. In this case, it’s best to work with your healthcare provider to determine what specific deficiencies you might have.

For more support on going sugar-free, you are invited to join my Sugar Free Challenge group on Facebook.

How to Beat Sugar Addiction

My Experience

I have a lot of empathy for anyone dealing with addiction, as I have experienced sugar addiction in the past. My addiction was in conjunction with an eating disorder, and it took a lot of work to repair my relationship with food and with sugar. Read more about my clean eating before and after story.

Conclusions

If you have strong sugar cravings on a daily basis, then you might have a dependency or addiction to added sugars. From doing a sugar detox to other lifestyle and nutrition tips, this article includes some practical long-term strategies for breaking the cycle.

This post is part of a series I’ve done on sugar-free diets, including how to go sugar-free, what to eat on a no-sugar diet, how to do a sugar detox, and now this one on beating sugar addiction. I hope you find these articles helpful on your health journey.

Note: this post is for informational purposes only and is not intended as medical advice. Please consult your healthcare provider for recommendations related to your individual situation.

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