It's a very interesting topic that research is trying to better understand. So what is sugar addiction? What are the factors at play? And what can we do about it?
It's very important to start off by saying the lived experience of feeling a strong compulsion to eat sugar is incredibly real. The intention of this writing is not to say that experience doesn't exist, but to explore additional factors that might contribute
A review of the evidence
One of the reasons food addiction is so controversial is because unlike other substances, it's biologically imperative that we eat. It's possible to avoid drugs and alcohol without harming your health. However universally avoiding sugar (a type of carbohydrate) is very difficult as it's naturally found in many foods that provide physical and emotional benefits such as milk, fruits, and foods with added sweeteners like table sugar, honey, and more. The act of trying to avoid it cuts out large opportunities for nourishment.
The research is mixed and a bit controversial. Many of the studies are animal based and typically involve giving the animals sugar after a period of deprivation. While there are studies that show eating sugar lights up the same centers of the brain as drugs and alcohol, those are also the same centers of the brain that light up with any pleasurable activity. Pleasure is not quite the same as addiction. You can read more here from Marci Evans, a renowned expert in eating disorders.
Again, that is not to say people don't experience a strong drive to eat sugary foods. Consider these additional factors that increase the drive and tendency towards high sugar foods.
Clearly there's a lot to consider when it comes to our relationship to food. Every person finds their own path. Too often people get distracted and distraught when they can't copy another person's journey. But please know that while shame, anxiety, and fear can be controlling, it can make many people want to hide and rebel. Try on approaches, see how they fit. If they don't work, instead of blaming yourself consider a gentle, objective curiosity to understand your own lived experience and what feels best for you, right now.
Stay nourished friends!
DISCLAIMER: The information presented here is meant to be for general education. If you want individual guidance to reach your unique health goals, please contact me or a local dietitian directly
Dietitian, personal trainer, mother, wife, runner, and triathlete staying healthy one bit and bite at a time