Why is sugar so addictive?

Sugar… (dun, dun, dun, dun, dun, dun)… ahhhh honey, honey… (Remember The Archies?) You are my candy GIRRLLLL… And you got me wantin’ YOUUUUUU.


Do you have a thing for sweets? When you get stressed, upset, sad, mad, happy… do you find yourself turning to a big ole’ tub of Ben & Jerry’s? Then this blog is for you! 


Okay – back to sugar. Let’s role-play: 


Today, Sue celebrated her birthday at work – there’s cake in the boardroom at 11. You made a decision this week to eat healthy so you joined in the festivities but kindly rejected that sweet piece of black forest and returned to your desk.


An hour goes by, you’ve been thinking about that cake. You get a little bored, and you decide to grab a cup of joe. There she is, in all her glory – Mrs. Black Forest sitting on the kitchen counter. You decide, “I’ll just have the leftover maraschino”. YUM! Hello, Dopamine! (see more on dopamine below)


Okay, “I’ll just have one sliver at my desk.”


So, without really tasting much, the cake goes down the hatch and you feel amazing. Mrs. Black Forest didn’t stand a chance. You sneak back to the kitchen, have one more tiny (blissful) slice. (Dopamine double-time!)


Then, to keep calories in check for the rest of the day, you decide to skip the cobb salad you brought for lunch.

Fast forward to home time… you bust through the door, and you’re HANGRY. You down a granola bar and a leftover slice of pizza (and wash it down with a glass of vino – your day was shot anyway!). Then, 30 minutes later… you sit down for dinner. 



Here are a few things to be conscious of to better control sugar cravings:

  1. Understand Dopamine. 

  • You see cake. 

  • Your brain thinks about cake – there is a build up of dopamine, a neurotransmitter, that motivates you to go after the reward (IE, cake or other mechanisms that will make the brain feel bliss). Also, dopamine releases stress hormones (which is why you incessantly think about the cake.) 

  • You succumb and eat a slice of cake. 

  • REWARD! Sensations of pleasure and satisfaction!

What can you do about this? 

Read James Clear’s book – Atomic Habits – to better understand 4 Stages of Habits (Cue, Craving, Response, Reward). 

Make an INTENTIONAL decision to eat the cake (see #2 below), OR, take action with a different response. 

Instead of eating the cake, take several deep breaths, in through your mouth, out through your nose. Commit to taking a 10-minute walk. On that walk, call a friend, go to talk with a coworker you enjoy, or tell someone they look nice today. Purposefully find something to do that’ll make you smile (or laugh). 

The space between you and the cake will make your decision easier. The smile/laugh will produce the dopamine hit and give your brain the same sensation of a ‘reward’. 

  1. Making conscious eating decisions.

In the above scenario, notice how quickly the cake gets eaten? When you make the intentional decision to eat: sit down, take small bites, chew, put down your fork, and repeat. Really taste it. Enjoy it. Do NOT scarf it down. Be very aware of when (and what) you’re eating quickly. 

We talk about emotional triggers and the importance of recognizing how food makes you feel in this blog post.


  1. Do NOT skip meals

By skipping lunch, you may have saved a few hundred calories temporarily, BUT you allowed your blood sugar to drop. This is why you were famished when you arrived home and with all of your ‘pre-dinner snacking’, you ended up consuming ~550 calories (and not the best kind, either). 

Eating your meals as planned will ensure you stay satiated, curbing the hunger, to begin with.

By honestly practicing these few tips, you’ll be able to avoid and limit many out-of-control sugar attacks. Not all… but it’s a work in progress. After all, at HE, we believe you deserve to have your cake and eat it, too. Sometimes. 

It’s all about learning to take control of your decisions. These are a few tactics we like to teach in our program. 

If you feel like sweets control you, attend one of our free breakthrough sessions. Our team will give you more guidelines on how to nip cravings in the bud… and you might decide we’d be a good support system to help end your ‘dieting’ efforts for good. 

– Dr. Dan


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