The majority of my clients have one thing in common: They love sugar and sweets. Maybe they end up being my clients because like attracts like, and I am a recovered sugar addict. Why is this? Why do we love sweets so much? Why are they so hard to give up? And do we even have to?

At BRICK, I run a Food & Fitness Challenge, a ~28 day challenge during which athletes refrain from eating a few things, including added SUGAR. This means not only the white stuff, but also honey, agave, molasses, coconut sugar, and yes, even my personal New Hampshire favorite, maple syrup.

Did you just gasp? Did you just say, “I could never give up sugar!” If you did, then that is a good indication that giving up sugar is exactly what you need to do.

Am I really addicted?

Too much sugar can lead to weight gain, diabetes, heart disease, poor skin conditions, joint problems, migraines, and it causes us to go through high and low mood swings. There are two main reasons why sugar can be so effective on changing your body and your brain. The first is that sugar causes our blood sugar levels to spike, which gives us those highs. But in response to that high blood sugar we pump out insulin. Insulin makes our body suck the sugar out of our blood and into our organs (where it’s mostly stored as fat). When it gets pulled quickly out of our blood we come crashing down from that sugar high. Hence the highs and lows.

Note that there is that period of time when sugar makes us feel good, right? Our taste buds like it. We get a rush of energy. Don’t think your body lets this go unnoticed. This “high” feeling sends a message to your brain. That message says, “Hey, I feel good! Let’s do this sugar thing again sometime soon!” That’s how sugar cravings and sugar addiction are started. The more we feed that feeling (pun intended), the more we crave it. So to answer the question, “Am I really addicted?” The answer is, “If you think you are, you probably are.”

Is it only sugar that’s the problem?

Nope. White starchy carbs eaten without protein may have a similar effect. I’m talking bagels, croissants, bread, pasta, etc, without any protein or fat to slow down the release. Sugar is usually the main culprit though.

How do you stop the sugar addiction?

First, as I like to say, “Don’t let sugar be the boss of you.” YOU are in charge. YOU make your own decisions about what you eat. The best way to stop your sugar cravings is to tackle them head on. Take them completely out of your diet for at least 10 days, but 3 weeks is even better. After 10 days, your cravings will have diminished significantly, but after 3 weeks, you’ll have created new habits. And this is why I torture the athletes doing the Food & Fitness Challenge to not have sugar for that long. They may hate me for the first 10 days, but they feel amazing by the end of it.

Will I ever be able to have sugar again?

Absolutely. Once you get your sugar tooth under control, you’ll get to the point where you’ll want a sweet again. I recommend having a sweet only once per week (or less) though so you can keep those cravings at bay. After taking sugar out of your diet, you’ll also notice that regular sweet foods taste much more sweet. You’ll have a banana and think you had banana pie. And you’ll have banana pie and think it’s too sweet to eat the entire slice.

Taste buds change, just like everything else in life!