Sugar holds the promise of more energy and hunger satisfaction but eating it does not deliver on that promise. Here are 10 signs that you may be addicted to sugar.
Signs of Sugar Addiction – At-A-Glance
- Sugar is an addictive substance that causes emotional, chemical, and physical changes in your body.
- If you found yourself saying yes to many of these signs, you may be addicted to sugar.
- Constant thoughts of sugar
- Sneak eating sugar
- Using sugar as a coping mechanism
- Needing more and more to satisfy your sweet tooth (craving)
- Eating sugar when you’re already full
- A history of binge eating
- Experiencing an afternoon slump
- Feeling better when you eat sugar
- Experiencing withdrawal when you don’t have it
- Feeling a need to rely on willpower to avoid sugar
10 Signs of Sugar Addiction (How Many Do You Have?) [Video]
In this video, you’ll learn…
- Ten signs of sugar addiction.
- How sugar affects your body and brain.
- Practical ways to overcome sugar addiction.
Signs of Sugar Addiction
#1 Constant thoughts of sugar
Do you find yourself daydreaming about sugar or refined snacks?
Do you find it hard to keep your focus off of them even when you’re surrounded by friends and fun activities?
Constantly thinking about eating sugary treats is one of the signs that you may be addicted to sugar or the refined foods that quickly convert to sugar inside of you.
Refined foods include bread, pasta, and soda or the three C’s: cookies, cakes, and candies.
#2 Sneak eating sugar
Having sugar on your mind can also lead you to do things that are out of character like sneaking around to eat it.
This “sneak eating” can manifest in many ways, from hiding stashes of sugary treats in your purse or desk drawer to driving out of the way to a place where you are less likely to be recognized to get junk food.
#3 You use sugar as a coping mechanism
If you use sugar as a coping mechanism, it may be a sign of sugar addiction.
There is a physiological reason behind why it works, at least in the short term.
This part of your brain is commonly referred to as the reward center or pleasure center. It lights up when you do something pleasurable like eating sugar.
If you find yourself seeking out sugar as a way to deal with uncomfortable feelings like boredom, loneliness, or stress, you’ve created a learned behavior that will take the edge off of that feeling.
The relief, however, will be short-lived. It will put you into a vicious cycle of needing more sugar to obtain that same good feeling.
This leads to our fourth sign of sugar addiction, which is needing more and more sugar to satisfy your craving.
#4 You need more and more to satisfy your sweet tooth (craving)
As you continue to feed yourself sugar, your brain adapts and releases less dopamine.
Whereas that small bowl of ice cream once did the trick and helped you cope with an uncomfortable feeling, it now takes a big bowl with chocolate syrup to get that same pleasurable feeling.
#5 Eating sugar when you’re already full
The desire to eat that big bowl of ice cream or sugary treat doesn’t have to show up on an empty stomach. Feeling an intense desire to eat sugar even when you’re full is another sign of sugar addiction.
The act of eating stimulates your appetite, so it is not unusual to feel like you want “a little something extra” after a meal.
However, if you ignore this feeling or distract your attention away from it, it should soon go away as your brain tells you that you are full.
If it does not, and you find yourself unable to detach from cravings for dessert, it may indicate a sugar addiction. There is research using animal models that support this idea.
The studies show that being sugar dependent may lead to a delay in satisfaction after a meal. “In summary, sucrose-dependent animals have a delayed [acetylcholine] satiation response, drink more sucrose, and release more [dopamine] than sucrose- or binge-experienced, but non-dependent animals.” (1)(2)
#6 History of binge eating
The feeling of being out-of-control around food can lead to binge eating.
While there is a range of causes for binge eating, we see that sugar creates changes in the chemistry of the brain making it hard to stop eating.
It is more challenging to binge on steak, which is a food that is high in fat and protein than it is to binge eat donuts, which are high-sugar foods.
#7 Afternoon slump
I mentioned the effect that sugar has on your brain, but it also impacts your blood composition. This can lead to an afternoon slump.
When you consume a meal that is high in sugar or refined carbs, your blood sugar or blood glucose rises rapidly (3).
That high-sugar state is an inflammatory state (4).
Your body has a check-and-balance system to move excess sugar out of your blood as soon as possible. That quick action leads to a rapid drop in blood sugar, which leads to you feeling a need for a nap in the middle of the day.
#8 You feel better when you eat sugar
The irony is that eating sugar seems to help. Feeling better when you eat sugar is the next sign of sugar addiction.
Being in a state of low blood sugar is a bad feeling. If you are addicted to sugar and eating refined foods multiple times a day, your blood sugar level peaks and bottoms out multiple times a day.
Those sleepy, uncomfortable low-blood-sugar times can be reversed in a moment when you drink a soda or pop a piece of candy into your mouth.
Unfortunately, this does nothing to get you off the blood sugar roller coaster, so you continue to feel the need to feed your addiction.
#9 Experience withdrawal when you don’t have it
Experiencing things like headaches, fatigue, cravings, mental fog, and a general ill-feeling when you try to cut out sugar is a sign of sugar addiction.
#10 You feel a need to rely on willpower to avoid sugar
The tenth sign of sugar addiction is finding yourself relying solely on willpower to try to force yourself to give up sugar.
I am all for grit and determination, but with sugar addiction, you are up against not only a mental desire to stop eating sugar but also the chemical and blood chemistry changes that sugar creates.
Willpower can start strong, but it is easily weakened by things like stress and even low blood sugar.
Overcoming sugar addiction
If you found yourself saying yes to many of these signs, you may be addicted to sugar.
There is no shame in that because sugar is an addictive substance that causes emotional, chemical, and physical changes in your body.
You can lose your taste for sugar. I’ve done this in my own life and it is a core principle of my teachings.
I want to give you the first step, so if you want to get started toward a sugar-free life, I encourage you to download my free 0,1,2,3 strategy and watch the video series that explains how to get the most out of the strategy.
The zero of the strategy stands for zero sugar and it is a great way for you to get started.
(1) Rada, Pedro, N. M. Avena, and B. G. Hoebel. “Daily bingeing on sugar repeatedly releases dopamine in the accumbens shell.” Neuroscience 134.3 (2005): 737-744.
(2) Huseman, Allison, and Allison Huseman. “Small Brain Region Plays a Major Role in the Control of Appetite; Possible Link to Nicotine.” Baylor College of Medicine, 3 Oct. 2016,
(3) Gross, Lee S., et al. “Increased consumption of refined carbohydrates and the epidemic of type 2 diabetes in the United States: an ecologic assessment.” The American journal of clinical nutrition 79.5 (2004): 774-779.
(4) Aeberli, Isabelle, et al. “Low to moderate sugar-sweetened beverage consumption impairs glucose and lipid metabolism and promotes inflammation in healthy young men: a randomized controlled trial.” The American journal of clinical nutrition 94.2 (2011): 479-485.
(5) Wideman, C. H., G. R. Nadzam, and H. M. Murphy. “Implications of an animal model of sugar addiction, withdrawal and relapse for human health.” Nutritional neuroscience 8.5-6 (2005): 269-276.
(6) Mangabeira, Victor, Miriam Garcia-Mijares, and M. Teresa A. Silva. “Sugar withdrawal and differential reinforcement of low rate (DRL) performance in rats.” Physiology & behavior 139 (2015): 468-473.
About the Author
Dr. Becky Gillaspy, DC graduated Summa Cum Laude with research honors from Palmer College of Chiropractic in 1991.