Sugar Addiction

Picture 115Do these symptoms describe you?

-eating sugar to excess, even when already full
-a feeling of loss of control over sugar intake, inability to stop eating
-a sense of guilt and shame over your eating
-never feeling satiated
-stockpiling sugary food and eating it in secret
-feelings of stress and anxiety that are relieved by eating

Do you experience any of the above symptoms and also have any of these conditions?

-Cardiovascular disease
-Type 2 Diabetes
-Insomnia or sleep apnea
-Gallbladder disease
-Muscle and/or joint pain
-Gastrointestinal difficulties
-Depression and/or anxiety

If you find yourself nodding your head and recognizing some of your own symptoms, there’s a good chance you may have a very serious illness.

These are the symptoms and health consequences of Binge Eating Disorder. BED can manifest with any kind of food, but sugar is a common one because it has been so vilified by the diet industry.

Binge Eating Disorder is a very real illness with serious long term consequences. Like other eating disorders, it can even be fatal.

Fortunately there are very effective treatments for Binge Eating Disorder. Simply avoiding trigger foods is not an effective or adequate treatment for BED. Dieting, or any eating ‘protocol’ that places restrictions on food and eating, has been shown to be a primary cause of Binge Eating Disorder, and dieting has the potential to make the disorder much worse once it is already established. Any weight loss efforts should be implemented under the supervision of a team of medical professionals who have experience treating BED.

Proper treatment for Binge Eating Disorder includes cognitive-behavioral therapy, interpersonal therapy, dialectical therapy and even medication. I can not stress the importance of seeking proper, evidence-based treatment from experts with experience treating this condition. It CAN be effectively treated.

Why did I title this post ‘Sugar Addiction’? Because I am trained to recognize the signs of eating disorders, and with stunning regularity I hear from people who have self-diagnosed themselves (or been ‘diagnosed’ by an internet guru) as having a sugar addiction. More often than not, though, an objective evaluation of their symptoms points toward BED, not true addiction. Which is actually a very GOOD thing, because there is effective treatment for BED.

Addiction is also a very serious illness that, like BED, requires a multi-faceted treatment approach. Simply avoiding the addictive substance is rarely an effective long term approach to dealing with addiction. So whether a person has BED or a true addiction, it is important that they seek appropriate treatment.


If you believe you may be dealing with either BED or addiction, please seek qualified help. Here are some resources to get you started:


29 thoughts on “Sugar Addiction

  1. I had a lot of those from just not eating enough and not realizing it. I was eating a “normal” amount of food. Only I’m not “normal”, I’m bigger than most women an a lot more active.

    • Especially this one: “never feeling satiated”
      I was hungry before, during and right after a meal.. yet I was gaining weight. I remember telling my mom, I am never full, even right after I eat. Well duh, I just needed to eat more. But that makes no sense when your fat.. so I thought.

      • Ashley,
        So true! I had the same thing happen. I thought I had BED, but it was just an overreaction to restricting calories for so many years.
        Also, when you have inherited an abnormal metabolism (I’ve had high insulin levels since I was young and developed pre-diabetes) my doctor explained that you can be gaining weight and yet your cells are starving for energy. This causes never ending hunger, which improves when the high insulin is treated

  2. Years ago I was seeing a Sports Psychologist and when she said the words, “I’m hearing eating disorder” I felt crushed but in a way free. One of the strategies I used to overcome binging was to fill my house, car, work desk with all of these so called trigger foods; chocolate, icecream, lollies and I was to practice having a little bit every single day rather than going hell for leather and then proclaiming I’d never eat them again, knowing that I could have a little bit more tomorrow and the next day and the day after that. It worked a treat. My house is now full of sweets and I can take them or leave them although I still have a piece or two of chocolate and a little bowl of icecream most days :).

  3. As soon as I saw this post titled Sugar Addiction I thought Nope, thats an eating disorder. People in the health food community use this term a lot as a way to describe their desire to eat sweets which is obviously “unclean” and “wrong.” (but in fact very normal). Sugar addiction does not exist. If you are craving sweets very strongly youre probably restricting yourself or telling yourself that you cant have them, which makes you want them more. That is also Binge Eating Disorder (and a symptom of other disorders as well). When I was recovering from my own ED (EDNOS) I was watching a lot of youtube videos of one woman who overcame her own ED and is educating others on how to quit. She is a fantastic source of information and this video in particular enlightened me to the many terms the health food community uses to disguise their own disordered eating habits.

    “Food Addiction and Eating Disorder Recovery”

    And two other videos that talk about similar things,

    “Can you still eat sugar and be an intuitive eater”

    “I overeat because im unhappy” (ha)

    Honestly I could go on, but I strongly suggest that if anyone has problems with ANY ED (she has been through them all) to check out her youtube channel because I would have NOT been able to recover if it werent for her videos (and Im still recovering, but I wouldnt have been so successful so far if it werent for her videos).

      • I think you haven’t gotten the point. A persons appearance does not tell you if they have an eating disorder AND if someone is still struggling with ED they can still have something valuable to say. Who cares what this woman looks like if she is helping others to overcome disordered eating?

  4. Do you think clinical help is always needed? I’ve been thinking for awhile now that I have BED…

    • I think it may be possible to overcome ED without clinical help, but if it’s an option for you PLEASE avail yourself of it.

        • Should have worded that better — it is definitely possible to cure a BED w/o formal therapy. Didn’t mean it to sound like I was saying everyone can definitely do so alone.

  5. Great post! People claim to have a sugar addiction so they have another reason to restrict it …

    I developed a binging problem when undereating for about a year … still struggling with it two years later. '?

    • Okay,, so I’m struggling bigtime with binge-eating now, BUT counselling hasn’t done much for me. I do feel it is emotional (orthorexic background)…I binge on : fruit (copious amounts), dark chocolate (barely any sugar), entire jars of nut butter, tubs of yogurt…but I’ve also binged (shamed) on multiple king sized bags of popchips, the past I ate everything I wanted….nowadays I’m too fatigued to exercise (nothing, aches and pains), digestion/bowels are a true mess, weight is low despite the binging and never ever purging or exercising and constipated primarily…so….I’m lost to be honest. Really lost. I feel I need a nutritionist to first heal my gut + metabolism + hormones BEFORE I can ever sit and be still enough to mentally address this…thoughts? Email me? Truly lost!

  6. Interestingly, I never binged until I hopped aboard the crazy diet train. At times, over the years, I convinced myself my problem was sugar addiction when in reality (for me) it was restriction. Now I eat mostly healthy foods but make sure to have a treat every day – usually a small scoop of ice cream. '?

  7. Thank you, thank you, thank you for posting this. I struggle with this. I have never been formally diagnosed. However, I have done fine for years. I gave up trying to “diet” and ate sensibly. I was able to lose weight that way. However, recently I started dieting again. I did ok with it for about six weeks and now all of the sudden I find myself bingeing and wanting to binge again. I think about food almost all the time. I want to eat foods (and lots of them) that I could easily pass up when I was not “dieting.” It is highly embarrassing and I feel like a major loser for doing it. Thank you for posting this. I need to learn more about this disorder and you have given me the resources I need.

    • I hear you Melissa. I tried the diet thing too and it worked for a bit and then I had a major binge. Thank you for sharing your experience.

  8. This is so very true. And don’t be fooled – you can exercise a great deal and maintain a good shape and still have BED. I’ve been struggling with this particular challenge since I was a teen and it’s difficult to find a practitioner who understands. Most of the time people laugh me off and tell me I am just lazy or have no willpower. The reality of BED is that it has nothing to do with willpower or a desire to lose weight. The food isn’t even the problem. It’s the un-examined emotions that pop up that trigger a binge session.

    And living with someone with an addiction makes it worse. My ex-girlfriend was an alcoholic. The more she drank, the more I ate.

    Thank you for posting this. I believe that this is a grossly misunderstood eating disorder.

  9. I do agree with this completely but I think there is some truth with sugar being a trigger food – especially refined, processed sugar for me. I can completely subscribe to suffering from BED, but I have found over the years that sugar will set me off. If I am taking care to avoid sugary, processed foods then I find I am not craving it to the point of feeling really freaking crazy. Without the sugar in my diet, I am in total control. Sugar will completely set me off in a way that I cannot even quite explain. I do eat fruit liberally and the occasional delicious goody but I have to go out for it or purchase a small quantity or I will eat every last bit. If I only have a finite amount or access to a finite amount then I am good.

    • I hear you. I think the issue is that the food is only a manifestation of a deeper problem, and like alcoholism, if the deeper problem isn’t addressed it can keep manifesting in other ways. Hopefully that isn’t the case for you, it sounds like you’ve got a pretty good handle on things. '?

  10. I am so happy to have found this post. I have struggled with every single one of those symptoms for 2-3 years, and have beat myself up for not being able to conquer what I thought was my addiction to sweets. I’ve tried portions, I’ve tried removing sweets altogether, I’ve tried keeping it in the house and eating intuitively. You’d never know that I have the issue- I am an extremely active athlete and I race/exercise at least 13-15 hours a week- but almost every night I find myself seeking solace in sugar and then swearing off it with some new plan. Now I have a deeper understanding and know to seek help. I’m looking forward to co-existing with my sweets and cookies peacefully!

  11. Interesting post…provides an important message..thank you!

    I do think that sugar does have properties that make it difficult for some to process, and science does show that simple carbohydrates do present a metabolic problem in some individuals, resulting in fat storage, etc.

    As someone who is borderline insulin resistant and has had blood sugar issues since I was a child (and not overweight), my body does react differently to sugar and simple carbs. I have to balance my meals with adequate protein or I will get the shakes and other consequences of low blood sugar.

    But you have given me something else to think about…. that perhaps calorie restriction is not helping my problems with weight. If I eat more calories of other healthy, nutrient dense whole foods I am less likely to crave sugar?

    Thanks again for the information. Am loving your site.


  12. I think this worries me though….becuz even if it is BED secondary to the fact that I was once so disciplined/orthorexic or whatever….it still does not deny that I’m binging nightly (very late at night) , ruining my digestion, can’t exercise and definitely don’t purge…and now in my early 30’s this has got to be impacting my gut health + hormones (messed up) metabolism…and I fear keep gaining and gaining and I fear insulin resistance , diabetes etc, blood sugar instability as a result of it…so not sure what to do …but eating a LOT of calories at 11 pm including bags of grapes, melon, etc…can’t be good.

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  18. This sounds exactly like my mother, actually. I’ve suspected she has been binge eating for a while (she even went through lap band surgery, but knows tricks to “eat around it”) and have mentioned that I think she might want to try eating some healthier food. On separate occasions I’ve mentioned that she might want to look into some counseling for her depression/anxiety issues. But we don’t get along that great and I live two states away. I’m torn how to approach her. I know she is on zoloft and also has type 2 diabetes (now on injectable insulin too), but keeps her doctor in the dark regarding her binge eating. Do I call her doctor and clue him in? He was my doctor since birth, so I know him. Or do I call one of her friends and try to get them to talk to her?

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