If you have asked yourself the question as to whether you are addicted to sugar, you are not alone. We have developed a short and easy to use quiz, to help you decide. Please note that this is not a scientifically proven tool, so please use it as a guide. Use it to decide if you may have some addictive patterns around sugar or food.
It’s very straightforward to use. You simply answer the questions honestly. If you answer ‘yes’ to any question, then that’s an answer which indicates a potentially addictive habit. However remember that one or two ‘yes’s is perfectly normal. We all sometimes overeat or have too much chocolate. So, to answer whether you are addicted to sugar, you will probably answer ‘yes’ to all the questions, having a score of 100%. Even in that case, I advise you not to jump to labeling yourself as an addict. Rather just see it as an indicator that your behaviours or thoughts around sugar or food might need looking at.
Use each question as an opportunity to pause and consider your eating habits. All the ‘yes’ answers indicate a habit to look at more deeply. Of course, I use hypnotherapy to help with overeating. However there is a lot of information available online. There are several ways to reduce your overeating or deal with a sweet tooth. You may find a dietician or nutritionist helpful. Often CBT (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy) can also be very effective for eating addictions or reducing habits.
When it comes to overeating and sugary foods, things have really changed during the past few decades. The notion that someone can be addicted to sugar has recently gained increasing support. Indeed, for a while now, food addiction itself has become a more accepted idea. Unfortunately it used to be that obesity was seen as laziness. That being overweight was a sign of being wrong or a bad person. Fortunately now society is moving away from this sort of ‘fatshaming’ language. Increasingly we are viewing sugar to be addictive and that overeating is about emotional or social issues as well.
In my London hypnotherapy clinic I see many people who find it very difficult to stay in control around food and often sugar is the hardest challenge. I take a more emotional or psychological approach to help them. Like with any addictive pattern, I look at how the substance, in this case, sugar, is being used. When do you eat sugary foods? What is going on at that time? It may be true that sugar affects receptors in the brain, but my approach, using hypnotherapy and other tools, is to look at the consumption of sugary foods or drinks from an addictions perspective.
Other professionals using brain imaging and other studies have taken a more biological approach. You can see the effects of compulsive overeating and sugar on the pleasure centres in the brain. Laboratory studies, using animals and humans, have shown results, that for certain individuals, the same pleasure or reward centres of their brains are triggered as are triggered by taking addictive drugs like cocaine or heroin. In other words, the brain gets stimulated and lights up from that sugar rush in a similar way. So, it’s no surprise we crave that candy fix. This is particularly true for foods filled with lots of sugar, fat or salt. You can see why fast foods will always have lots of these three groups in them. You crave these more and so visit those fast food restaurants more.
When clients come for hypnotherapy to help them with overeating, it’s indeed those food groups which are often the main discussion. People rarely call up because they are finding it hard to stop eating cucumbers or carrots!
So, just like addictive drugs, these food groups will trigger that feel-good feeling for our brains, releasing chemicals such as dopamine. It’s so simple. You eat some fat or sugar and then experience that pleasure which comes with an increase in dopamine, which then reinforces that original association and signal. This means we start associating that food with that good dopamine feeling, we had with it. Therefore in the future, when we want to feel good again or alternatively avoid feeling depressed or anxious, our brains think about that food more immediately. In simple terms, that’s how an addictive pattern can start to form.
Indeed, if you are concerned about sugar addiction, you will realise that this reward signal from sugary, fat or salty foods can override our natural body signals about feeling fullness and satisfaction. It’s no shock that then we can simply keep on eating, even when we are full up and no longer hungry.
Compulsive overeating of sugar is perhaps a type of behaviour addiction pattern. This means that someone might easily become obsessed with thoughts around doing or planning this behaviour. Do you find you get preoccupied with thinking about food or spend time worried about when you will eat next? People with a sugar addiction can lose control over their eating habits and then also find themselves using up time and money thinking or worrying about food, or worrying about things that food helps them with, such as stress or anxiety. You might worry about how you will feel or cope without food to help you feel calm or deal with a stressful situation.
When someone shows signs of sugar addiction, they might also develop a heightened tolerance to how much sugar they eat. This is similar to when an alcoholic can function on greater and greater volumes of alcohol consumed. It can be easy to eat more and more, and then discover that that sugar hit will feel less and less satisfying.
Scientists now consider that food or sugar addiction might have a significant role in obesity. However, it is also true that people with a healthy weight might also struggle with food addiction too. In that case, the explanation could be that their bodies are more resilient or they are fortunate to have a genetic makeup which helps them to better handle those extra sugar calories they take in. Alternatively they may have increased their physical activity to compensate for overeating. However, in truth, you need a lot of exercise to burn even a small amount of calories.
Some individuals who are addicted to sugar might continue to eat sugar despite the unhealthy consequences, which can include weight gain or lowered self esteem or feeling heavy. In a similar way to people who have an addiction to drugs or alcohol, a sugar addict will experience a challenge stopping eating so much, even when they wish to or have attempted to do so many times.
If you take the quiz (link above), you will see some helpful questions which can help you consider your sugar consumption patterns. Any ‘yes’ answers you give will indicate an area to be concerned about.
Yale University has a special centre, called the Rudd Center for Food Science & Policy. They have created a questionnaire to identify people with food or sugar addictions. You may find that useful to investigate. As well as those found in our quiz, here are some questions that can be useful to help you consider your behaviours or thoughts around sugar.
=Find that you eat more sugary foods (chocolate etc) than you planned to when you began to eat?
=Keep eating or munching on certain foods and that’s even when you are no longer hungry?
=Ever eat so much you feel sick or unwell?
=Find you worry about which foods you do and don’t eat or you worry about whether you are able to cut back on eating certain types of foods?
=Find that when unable to get hold of certain foods, you make an effort, going out of your way to get them?
=Sometimes eat too much, which can have an effect on your work, career or personal life?
Just consider if these situations may apply to you:
=You ever overeat on certain foods often enough or in such big amounts that you will be eating or planning eating instead of doing other things such as working, spending time with friends or family, or taking part in hobbies or other recreational activities?
=You avoid work or social events where sugary or oily or unhealthy foods are available. You do this since you fear overeating if you go?
=You experience problems functioning well at your job or uni course because of food or overeating?
=Do you ever find it difficult to say no to food or cut down on sugary snacks?
Consider the psychological withdrawal symptoms of decreasing high levels of sugar.
For example, if you cut down on sugar, do you ever have anxiety or agitation or other physical feelings? Maybe use these question that follow to think about the emotional or psychological ramifications of sugar addictions. The emotional and psychological aspects of addiction or overeating are often main concerns of people who see me for hypnotherapy for overeating in central London. Do any of the following apply to you?
=Your overeating or sugar intake cause problems such as depression, anxiety, low self esteem or guilt?
=You find you reach for more and more sugary snacks in order to deal with unpleasant emotions, numb yourself or escape?
As mentioned, there are a number of ways you can tackle sugar addiction. I see clients and use clinical hypnotherapy, NLP and CBT at my London clinic, close to Harley Street. However you may find other treatments work for you too. Sometimes it is wise to only use scientifically proven treatments. If they do not cause known harms, more alternative methods may have benefit too.
Some people will say that recovery from sugar addiction may be more of a journey than when resisting other types of addictions. An Alcoholic, for example, of course, didn’t need alcohol from birth. You can live without alcohol. However we all need to eat and it can be difficult to say no to food for that reason.
A nutritionist, dietician, psychologist, coach or doctor who is educated about food addiction may be able to help you break the cycle of compulsive overeating. Indeed I run a course to train therapists and similar health professionals to better help their clients deal with addictive patterns around food.
Increasingly there are more programmes which help people with a food addiction. Some, like Food Addicts in Recovery Anonymous, are based on a 12-step programme, which has famously benefited many people addicted to gambling, alcohol or drugs. Sometimes programmes will use the principles of the 12-steps but use also strict diets that encourage people to abstain from problem foods like sugar, salt or fat.
I use hypnotherapy at my London clinic. We look at patterns of eating. Together we look at what is driving your desire or craving for sugar. We look at how you might use sugary food when feeling down, bored or stressed. Often we turn to foods when we feel lonely, isolated or tired. This is similar to using food as a source of comfort or love. Sometimes an addiction is really a signpost, pointing out real needs we have. However rather than finding good and healthy ways to get those legitimate needs met, we turn to the quick dopamine high found in sugary foods. For example, when feeling depressed or low, you might overeat on ice-cream or something sweet. However there was a real need there. Maybe you just needed a hug, a nap or rest or a friend or someone to talk to. Since those were not readily available, rather than feel that low feeling, we turn to something sweet to escape feeling our feelings. This can happen late at night or when we aren’t very hungry as well. This pattern or eating can of course result in weight gain. Weight gain, in turn, can pull us down and a cycle might begin. Let’s break the overeating sugar cycle! Get in touch for more details about my clinical hypnotherapy sessions in central London.