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Five signs of sugar addiction

Sugar Blues: Five Signs You're Addicted to the Sweet Stuff (and what you can do about it)

health and wellness Apr 21, 2023

Quitting sugar 10 years ago was hardest thing I've ever done.  Even harder than losing 30kgs.  

I clearly remember the moment when I knew the gig was up:  A comment made by my then 5-year-old son.  He was eating a bowl of ice cream and wanted to go to the toilet.  As he walked towards the toilet, ice-cream firmly in hand,  I told him he had to leave it in the lounge because it was gross to take food into the toilet.  His reply:  “I have to take it cos if  I leave it here, you will eat it!”  And he was right.  The main reason I wanted him to leave it was because I wanted to eat some.

I’d been caught, red handed.  My desire to eat everything sweet in the house (that I was trying so hard to hide) was no longer my little secret.  Mister 5 was on to me. 

That was the moment I knew I had to do something about my daily sugar obsession that had clearly become an addiction.

My addiction was a sneaky beast (as they so often are).  It started creeping up on me when I went through the young-children phase.  The stressful combination of lack of sleep, lack of control and lots of yummy sweet, crunchy things in the cupboard (not to mention leftover goodie bags from birthday parties.)  I would spend a good portion of my day constantly thinking about food, calculating calories in my head, working out if I had any spare room for those extra ‘sweet little somethings.’ 

Even if I didn’t it really didn’t matter:  I would eat it anyway. 

I often think that if I had spent as much time thinking about making money the same way I did about eating sweet stuff I would probably be a millionaire by now!

In the past 12 years I’ve worked as a coach, I’ve seen my fair share of people come through the door who share this challenge.  It’s more than just the usual monthly sugar cravings.  Having the desire for sweet things from time to time might not be great for weight loss, but it is in a different category to addiction.  Addiction is a different beast.  It is far more sneaky, more devious and definitely more soul-destroying.  

Sugar addiction is a problem physically, with an increased risk of type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease, not to mention weight gain, but the real problem is with mental health.  Food obsession, intense guilt, shame, regret and depression.  

If you're concerned about your sugar habits, here are five warning signs that you might be going in the direction of addiction: 

You hide your sugar intake

If you find yourself wanting to close the curtains, lock the doors and have a little sugar binge party-for-one, it could be a sign of trouble.

For the longest time, whenever I put on a pair of trousers I would find a hidden chocolate wrapper in the pockets.   Sneaky treats I would eat and then try to hide the evidence.  Stopping at the dairy on the way home, eating chocolate bars and then throwing the wrappers away so no one else would find out. 

If you're not comfortable eating in front of other people, chances are it's because you know you probably shouldn't be eating it. 

You can’t stop with one

It’s not unusual to eat something delicious and then want another one.  If this happens from time to time, it’s probably not a problem.  However, if this pattern is repeating daily, it's time to start really paying attention to those cravings. 

I found that every time I ate something sweet, it would set me off on an obsessive desire for more.  It might start with a biscuit and lead to another biscuit, handful of raisins, piece of chocolate, more raisins…..etc etc.  If I ate something sweet with lunch, I’d be thinking about getting more all afternoon.  Compulsive, obsessive thoughts. 

It really is so tiring!

Continuing to eat, despite the consequences

The obsessive desire for sugar is usually completely detached from hunger.  In fact, sometimes the feeling of being really full is a trigger to eat more sugar!

Observe how often you are feeling bloated, full, uncomfortable but still desiring another hit of sugar.

Quitting leads to withdrawal symptoms

If your body has developed a reliance on the constant stream of sugar, you may experience withdrawal symptoms when you try to stop. 

Headaches, mood swings, nausea and even muscle pain.  I had a client who had flu-like symptoms for a week when she stopped eating sugar.  

You become reliant on your sugar ‘fix’ as a way to self soothe

Hard day?  Lots of stress at work or home?

In the same way an alcoholic pours a drink or an online shopper makes yet another purchase, we head to the pantry and have a ‘little something sweet’ for relief and to 'take the edge off' those stressful feelings. 


It's important to note that experiencing one or two of these signs does not necessarily mean you have a sugar addiction, as individual experiences may vary. However, if you notice several of these signs consistently in your behaviour and eating patterns, it may be worth exploring this further:

Start tracking

Track how much sugar you are eating in a day and take note of the impact it is having to your health, both mentally and physically.

Reduce your intake

Once you are aware of just how much you are eating, try gradually and mindfully reducing your intake and see if it is actually possible for you to do so. 

Find alternative coping strategies

When cravings for sugar strike, try different ways to deal with them.  Get outside and take some deep breaths, go for a quick walk or break the pattern by doing something fun like listening to music.

How I finally quit sugar

After making the decision to quit sugar, I was on my own.  It was a journey of researching, journaling, awareness, acceptance, taking action, failing multiple times and then finally being able to cut the cord and quit sugar completely. 

It took me a whole year.

I am determined to help others who are struggling so it doesn't need to take this long!  This is why I am launching my new programme:  

SWEET FREEDOM:  A 6-week programme to kick sugar for good

This programme starts on the 15th of May and teaches the process I used to quit sugar. It includes weekly coaching, resources, action plan and a private Facebook group for community and support. 


I would love to help you overcome your sugar cravings and discover how good it feels to live on the other side of this addiction.




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