Nutrition Articles

Breaking Your Sugar Addiction

The 4-Week Plan to Stop Sugar Cravings

That white, powdery substance just makes you feel good. You can't get it off your mind, and you keep coming back for more. The more you have it, the more you want it! But even when you try to stay away from it, it finds ways to sneak into your life almost daily. What can you do?

We're not talking about some dangerous or illegal drug here; we're talking about sugar. Although it's considered harmless in comparison, sugar, in excess, can cause a host of problems for a lot of us: cravings, binge eating, weight gain and heart disease among them. According to the USDA, the average American consumed 151 pounds of sugar in 1999—an all time high. Since then, consumption has dropped slightly and in 2010 the average American consumed 132 pounds. (To put that into perspective, consider that the number was just 4 pounds in the year 1700.) At least half of the sugar we consume comes from soft drinks, fruit drinks, and sports drinks. The rest sneaks into our diets in the form of ketchup, teriyaki sauce, chocolate milk and the obvious sweets like cookies, cakes, ice cream and even breakfast cereal. Surprisingly, some "healthy foods" such as yogurt and instant flavored oatmeal can pack in 20-30 grams (5-7 teaspoons) of unnecessary added sugar! It seems like we're drowning in sugar, and nobody is wearing a life vest.

The American Heart Association (AHA) recommends that we limit our daily sugar consumption to 7% or less of our daily calorie intake—that's about 6 teaspoons (100 calories) for women and 9 teaspoons (150 calories) for men. But that adds up fast. Just one 12-ounce can of regular soda contains 8-10 teaspoons of sugar and 130-150 calories. One glazed donut contains 6 teaspoons, and a half cup ice cream (the standard serving size, although most portions are much, much larger) contains 4 grams of added sugar!

Why Should You Care? Is Sugar Actually Bad for You?
Well, aside from the increased bulge around the waistline, diets high in sugar are strongly linked to an increased risk for type 2 diabetes, elevated triglycerides, low HDL (good) cholesterol levels, and heart disease. Sugar intake has also been linked to depression, migraines, poor eyesight, autoimmune diseases (such as arthritis, and multiple sclerosis), gout and osteoporosis.

Recent research has shown that a high intake of carbohydrates, including sugar, releases a feel good chemical in the brain called serotonin. Think of how you feel after indulging in a high sugar meal or treat—almost euphoric, right? The high of a sugar rush is temporary though. After a few hours—or even a few minutes—you start to crash and you become tired, fatigued and lethargic.

Although sweet foods are tempting and delicious to most people (blame Mother Nature for that!), the more sugar you eat, the higher your tolerance becomes. So if you have a strong sweet tooth or intense cravings for sugar, chances are not that you were born that way, but that your dietary habits and food choices created the sugar monster you may have become.

Fortunately, we can reverse this tolerance in just a couple of weeks by cutting out sugar. Once you have decreased your threshold, something that tasted perfectly sweet a few weeks ago, will begin to taste too sweet to eat, and that can help you reduce your intake of the sweet stuff.

Cutting Out Sugar: A 4-Week Action Plan
While the occasional sweet treat won't make or break your weight loss or your health, many people have trouble stopping after a sensible portion or saying no to sugar when it's available. If you feel out of control around sugar, then a sugar "detox" is a great way to reduce your cravings, eat better, and bring sugar back to where it belongs: as an occasional treat that you consciously choose to eat in a mindful manner, not a daily treat occurrence that controls you.

Follow this month-long plan to break your sugar addiction!
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About The Author

Lauri Watson Lauri Watson
is a Registered Dietitian with a bachelor's degree in psychology. She eats her way through life's tasty treats and documents her culinary journeys at, which provides recipes and ideas for a balanced lifestyle.

Member Comments

    Ever since I started being more conscious of my sugar intake by checking the nutritional facts, it was shocking to see how much sugar is added to our food! A lot of people think of substance abuse or drugs when they think of addiction, but sugar truly can be addicting. That's why it can be so difficult for some people to make the life changes they need to lose weight. I hope that more people come to understand just how much damage sugar can do. focustreatmentcen - 9/17/2015 1:53:24 PM
  • CYNTHIA575
    25 days sugar free. I have learned that sugar free does not mean sugar free. Reading labels is very important. I feel so much better. I had sugar free jello last nite. Yuck. That stuff is nasty. I will be making my own stuff. I will know what goes in it. Best advice I can give you is prepare and carry ibuprofen with you. It does help. - 9/4/2015 8:38:12 AM
    Itís funny that people talk about meat and sugar addiction at a time when alcohol addiction is killing the West. We frankly need more rehab centers, effective rehab treatments, and more rehab center review sites like Canada Rehab reviews ( http://canadareha ), anti-drug and alcohol laws, not fancy sugar addiction rehabs. - 8/18/2015 5:48:57 AM
    Does anybody know how to get rid of the nausea after going without sugar, I can go without for 3 weeks but after that I start getting sick and weak and just can't function. I can avoid that by drinking fruit juice but that's just another form of sugar, while it's better than my addiction to chocolate it's still alot of sugar and calories and I can't loose weight that way.

    I was told that there are some teas I can drink to curb the nausea and help get rid of my sugar addiction but wasn't told what those are.

    also have a citric acid intolerance/aller
    gy, a lot of the tips here to get away from sugar involved things I can't eat are there any substitutes?? - 3/24/2015 4:37:56 PM
    Wow I didnt know sugar had a tolorence - 3/9/2015 7:36:58 PM
  • Thank you! We really don't need sugar. I'm not ready to cut it all out, but I do really appreciate the article. I did once, eat a lot less sugar, and it really improved my mood. I was always calm when I was avoiding the sugar. As opposed to moody, which seems to happen when it's present in my diet. So, I'll probably swing back to the no sugar camp, there are a lot of good reasons to be there! - 3/9/2015 10:45:18 AM
    I had reduced my sugar years ago and now I'm back into that darn ice cream. Every night after a healthy dinner I feel the craving for ice cream. I will try some of your suggestions. It's been so tough. Because of a surgery I lost 10 pounds which I've kept off however my craving is hard to change.
    - 2/5/2015 9:50:12 AM
  • All I can say is that I quit ALL sugar two years ago last September 1 (2014) and will NEVER look back...I no longer binge, or crave ANYTHING sweet! It WORKS! - 12/2/2014 4:37:45 PM
  • For a gradualist like me the solution was to cut down little by little.
    Yogurt - my favorite organic had 29 g of sugar while the plain only had 12. I hated the taste of plain
    So I bought a quart of each and mixed 7 parts sweet kind to 1 part plain.
    Gradually I reduced the sweet and increased the plain.
    It took MONTHS, but now plain yogurt is all I eat.

    I did this with the sugar and milk in my coffee too. Now I drink it almost black and it's fine.

    Gradualism was my choice in weight loss and exercise intensity also. Much less deprivation increases the likelihood I stick with the program
    - 12/2/2014 2:33:50 PM
    Big whoops, I've broken my sugar/carb addiction at least 27 times in my life, I'm 68 now, you think you are ok, but it comes back to you, because your brain needs the quick serotonin. It's just the way it is. Don't waste any money on those stupid herb tinctures, either, BOGUS, the companies that make that stuff should be out of business.........
    ...Cut your calories and exercise, the old fashioned way, to lose weight. - 12/2/2014 1:03:44 PM
  • When you quit eating sugar carbs are back on the menu. You don't need to count carbs or calories. Just don't eat sugar, it's poison. Fat doesn't make you fat, sugar makes you fat. - 11/29/2014 12:57:21 PM
  • Lots of information here. - 7/30/2014 5:34:35 AM
  • I just have to say that comparing todays sugar consumption to the 1700 isn't a very good comparison. They didn't have the kind of refined sugars that we have today, so of course they're eating much less of it. It was also super expensive back then which gave fewer people access to it.

    Other than that, good article. - 6/1/2014 9:09:44 PM
  • I broke my sugar craving/addiction with tincture of Gymnema Sylvestre.
    IT WORKS!! - 5/18/2014 1:24:19 PM
    "When a craving strikes, try going for a walk or simply drinking a glass of water" --- Seriously? I can't stand it when I look for answers on how to help my sugar addiction and I get advice like THAT. I'm sorry, but when I want chocolate and I want SWEETS, I do NOT want a glass of freaking water or to go for a walk! So annoying. - 5/6/2014 6:54:27 PM

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