Is Sugar Addicting?

Is sugar addicting? I recently received an email from a friend who had this question. She felt that she was completely addicted to sugar and wanted to know my recommendations on how best to detox her system.  Little did she know, she was asking a question that researchers and scientists seriously debate.  Just google the term “sugar addiction” and you’ll see a litany of results and no real consensus.

According to a Wikipedia article on the topic, the real issue is that no one can actually agree on a definition for the term “addiction.”  I did find a pretty decent article from Penn State on sugar addiction.  If you’re interested in the topic, I highly recommend you read it. It’s only a page.
But on a more practical level, many people do feel as if they are totally addicted to sugar.  So if you fall in to that category here are a few bits of information and some strategies that may be helpful to you.
  • The physiological consequences of eating candy, chocolate, and other high sugar foods are a rise in serotonin and endorphins which make you feel good.  This sensation doesn’t last long and may be part of what encourages you to want to eat more of it.
  • Consider the company you keep while eating high sugar foods. An encouraging companion, alcoholic beverage, or social occasion will encourage you to eat more.
  • Create a healthy environment.  If you find that once you start eating sweets you just can’t stop, consider what you keep stored at home.  Rather than a jumbo bag of M&Ms, go out and buy a small pack when a craving hits.
  • If you find yourself reaching for sweets after every meal try skipping your sugary treat just once.  Distract yourself after your meal and check in a few hours later.  How do you feel?
  • Try to eat chocolate mindfully with this exercise

These are just a handful of basic suggestions. If you feel like you have a serious addiction to sugar, consider working with a dietitian that has experience working with binge eating, emotional eating, compulsive eating, or disordered eating behaviors. A little structure, support, and guidance may be helpful.
So on this Valentine’s Day select a small portion of your favorite treat, sit back, relax, be present, and enjoy.