The Best Sugar Detox Meal Plan to Help You Finally Break Free from Sugar

Can a sugar detox meal plan really help you quit sugar for good?

Well, that depends. As a nutritionist, I help people get off sugar for a ton of different reasons. Some of these include a diagnosis of type 2 diabetes or prediabetes, having inflammatory conditions, wanting to lose weight, or simply needing sustainable energy all day that doesn’t require hits of sugar and caffeine just to make it through the day.

The connecting factor in all of these is that the ultimate goal is to get started on an Anti-Inflammatory Diet.

the best sugar detox meal plan

The problem is that the first step is to cut out sugar. And for many people, this can be really difficult. In fact, I’ve surveyed thousands of women who want and need an anti-inflammatory diet and lifestyle, and the number one reason for not being able to stick to it is having an extremely hard time quitting sugar and refined carbs.

But most people search online and decide that the best way to quit sugar is to start with a sugar detox. Most will see many different versions of sugar detoxes.

The Goal of a sugar detox determines the effectiveness

So first of all, a sugar detox can be effective, depending on the goal.

If the goal is to simply give your body a break from sugar for a week… This will accomplish your goal. (So long as you actually stick to the sugar-free rules.)

If your goal is to detox so that you can break free from the cravings and subsequent binges, there’s way more to it.

the best sugar detox meal plan

How to know if a sugar detox will help you quit sugar for good

Truly quitting sugar and refined carbs for good can actually be more complicated than it might seem at first. That’s because there is a sort of spectrum of people that start a sugar detox meal plan in an attempt to quit sugar:

  1. Those who can quit it and forget it,
  2. those who crave it and can’t resist it or quit it once they’ve started (bingeing),
  3. and then a range of in-betweens.
spectrum of sugar addiction for sugar detox meal plan

If you don’t know where you’re at on that spectrum by the time you get to a point of wanting to do a sugar detox in the first place, you’ll know by the end of the first week of going sugar-free.

This is really important, because if you’re a ‘Quit It and Forget It’ type, you have a low probability of actually being addicted to sugar, and a 1-2 week sugar detox meal plan is perfect for getting off sugar to transition into an Anti-Inflammatory Diet.

If you’re in the middle of the spectrum or on the more ‘addicted‘ end (mid to high probability), this type of sugar detox won’t work, because there are many factors at play:

  1. The first is genetics,
  2. the second is the amount of sugar and flour products you’ve been eating daily,
  3. and the third is how long you’ve been eating this way.
the best sugar detox meal plan

All these added together create what I call ‘Sugar Programming’ that affects how easy or hard it is to truly get rid of the cravings and binges of sugar and refined carbs. For some, a sugar detox simply won’t work. You may need “Sugar Deprogramming”.

If you don’t know, take the free QUIZ: What’s Your Sugar Detox Body Type?

The last few years have been instrumental in beginning to understand the effect of sugar on the body and brain. Studies are now confirming sugar is more addictive than cocaine for some as it lights up the same reward centers of the brain. Dopamine (at bare minimum) is released every time sugar or refined carbs are consumed, creating a reward which begins an addictive cycle.

This addictive cycle also breeds addictive repercussions like tolerance and withdrawal symptoms when the addictive substance (sugar and refined carbs) are taken away.

So as a nutritionist, it’s extremely helpful to offer a sugar detox meal plan that is specifically designed for coming off sugar in a particular way, to avoid the withdrawal symptoms and side effects as much as possible.

Most people that do a sugar detox complain about 2 main things:

1- The side effects, and

2- The cravings not going away.

This is why it’s such a big time-saver (and frustration-saver) to KNOW where you stand on that sugar-intake (and addiction probability) spectrum.

The people that see the MOST SUCCESS with a sugar detox are the ones who:

  • Are honest about their level of dependence on sugar
  • Make the commitment to start with a reliable sugar detox (and the CORRECT type!)
  • Do the work (which isn’t just about food, it’s also about mental and emotional connections as well.)

What’s so different about this sugar detox meal plan?

In this meal plan you’ll find meals that were designed to gradually pull you off sugar and higher carb counts. They’re truly sugar-free (meaning not even ‘natural’ sugars like coconut sugar, honey, agave, or fruit juices–because those are STILL SUGAR.)

The 1-week kit also contains some guidance in doing a 1-week sugar detox and avoiding the dreaded ‘detox flu’ side effects that many people experience.

The best time to quit sugar is NOW, and the best way to do it is with a nutritionist-designed sugar detox meal plan and guide to help you understand the hold sugar, refined carbs, and junk food may have on you, and how to beat it for good.

So you have 2 choices:

1: Go ahead and try a 1-week Sugar Detox Meal Plan,

the best sugar detox meal plan

2: OR, Take the QUIZ to see what your perfect Sugar Detox Body Type is so you can quit wasting time and get the CORRECT type of sugar detox specifically for your body type! 👇

the best sugar detox meal plan

If I haven’t mentioned already, I’m a ‘recovered sugar addict’, and was basically addicted to sugar from the time that I was a child (I’m from the South–that should say it all, lol!)

Being addicted to sugar made me spiral into crazy inflammatory problems from hormone issues to emotional and depression issues and early onset osteoarthritis.

The dramatic difference in my life now is 100% owed to my determination to figure out WHY I couldn’t stop eating sugar and carbs (and especially bingeing if I ate one little bite) through my formal education, trial and error, and further deep dive research on food addiction and food science.

Now I’m helping others do the same to transition into anti-inflammatory diets and lifestyles that help them not just ‘manage’ their chronic conditions, but actually thrive with nutrition and healthy lifestyle choices. I WANT THE SAME FOR YOU! But it has to start with quitting sugar, refined carbs, and junk.

If you’d like to chat about it to see what your best option might be (if the information above didn’t do the trick 😉) DM me

xo, Laura

the best sugar detox meal plan

4 Strategies to Stop Letting Sugar Fuel Your Day

Sitting in the line at CVS bawling my eyes out over everything in my life was definitely NOT how I imagined my life at 37 years old. I was totally fine (for the moment) as I pulled into the drive-thru.

stop letting sugar fuel your day

The things on my mind were:

  • pick up the antibiotic for my middle kid,
  • get dinner going in the next 2 hours even though I had no clue what we were eating,
  • feed the baby in the back seat with the little breast milk I had left,
  • oh yeah—and get the five blog posts edited and scheduled that were sitting in my queue.

I had it mostly together that day. Sometimes I even felt proud that I could do everything I was doing trying to raise our 3 kids nearly as a single parent due to the extensive travel my husband’s job required, all while desperately trying to build a business (my one thing, it felt, for myself.)

I patted my leg, giving myself a pep talk as I circled CVS and then stopped in my place in line.

And that’s when I felt it: bumps. Lots of bumps.

I looked down and saw that my legs were covered in welts. And then the panic hit, because that’s what I did—I had anxiety attacks.

I did a mental check to make sure my throat wasn’t closing up even though I’d never had an anaphylactic reaction before. Then I tried to remember if I had any Benadryl with me. It wouldn’t matter anyway, I reasoned, because I was driving and it makes me sleepy.

So I did some deep breathing as the urge to flip the hell out bubbled into my eyes and down my cheeks.

And I sat there crying until it was my turn in line.

Times like this had proven to me that my ability to properly lose my shit and say and do unreasonable things were valid enough to find more healthy outlets for the stress.

Like walking (when I had the time), or journaling (when I had the time).

But now was not the time—forget that I never actually ‘had the time’. Because I was in the process of re-lactating because the baby started developing a rash on her entire body from formula. And ignorance and lack of an ounce of empathy from the doctor’s office had sent me on a journey of my own. A really hard one, on top of everything else life was throwing at me.

When I got home, I covered my legs in cortisone cream and sat down to realize I was pushing having a full-on nervous breakdown. I had zero support, too much on my own, and a severe lack of self besides being a mother.

I grabbed a bag of chocolate-drizzled popcorn and downed the whole thing to make me feel better.

stop letting sugar fuel your day

How did other women do it? How were they successful with kids this little? How the hell was I even doing what I was doing all day? I certainly didn’t eat right.

But I knew… Because this little voice in the back of my head that’d always been there was nagging at me again.

It was the voice of the snacks and the cakes and chips and pasta and every other little thing I’d ever turned to my whole life to make me feel better.

In a word: sugar.

The thing was, with my family’s history of type 2 diabetes, I knew I shouldn’t eat this way. And it was only after completing my master’s in nutrition that I got the full-on gravity of eating that way my whole childhood and early adulthood. It was only by luck that I’d always had a fast metabolism.

But my thirties were quickly catching up with me, and the sugar was sending me on a rollercoaster of emotions and energy all day long that not only made me believe I was being productive, but it also damaged relationships I had because of the Jeckyl and Hyde emotions that plagued me all day.

(Not to mention the terrible allergies—hello hives!—and horrible skin that I’d developed through the years.)

But here was the problem: I’d always had sugar, and I’d always craved it. So when I decided to cut it out, it didn’t go nearly as smoothly as I expected. I had severe crashes if I didn’t have any carbs, and my easy answer was to grab something sugary to help ‘balance’ it.

My frustration with quitting sugar was growing as I grappled to manage the rest of my life seemingly alone.

My dad getting diagnosed with prediabetes gave me a really powerful insight though. He said that once he got out of the cravings period of eating low-carb for a few weeks, those crashes went away.

He could feel the difference of balanced blood sugar just by cutting out the sugar and being consistent.

So I finally sat down with myself and created a real action plan to fight the cravings so I could free myself.

stop letting sugar fuel your day

Creating a plan to quit sugar

This wasn’t easy, mind you—I’d spent years hiding in the pantry to inhale as many cupcakes as I could after every kid’s birthday party before somebody caught me. But this time I was determined.

That willpower helped make sugar feel ONLY like a last resort some days, but for the most part I knew it was always sitting on my shoulder trying to tell me it had a hold on me that I’d never be able to shake, like a crack dealer just waiting for things to blow up so I’d come around for another hit.

At first my focus and productivity were about as dialed-in as walking around blindly inside a cloud. I felt angry, irritated, hopeless, and sad all within a matter of minutes some days. And my energy levels were nonexistent.

The only reason I made myself get out of bed is because the kids needed me. But my Dad’s insight reminded me it was a process. And besides, I’d made a plan, and I was sticking to it.

My grand plan involved things like meal planning to make sure there were never any last-minute questions or eating out unexpectedly. I had learned to read food labels in my formal education and understand which wording clued me in that sugar was added to anything packaged. That also helped me get rid of sugary things from the house that might tempt me. And I fully embraced swapping out vegetables to fill me up instead of rice or pasta.

Successes and failures

What I didn’t expect was for it to take as long as it did for me to get past the cravings. Being as stressed out as I was with no support and no breaks meant I had emotional triggers everywhere, and every day.

I also had headaches with severe exhaustion and a few other random side effects that would start to disappear if I could hold it together long enough.

And if I couldn’t take it anymore, I’d try to have ‘just one bite’, and it’d turn into a binge and I was right back at square one.

This part was the most miserable, because every time it would happen, I would berate myself and begin the self-loathing.

My little successes felt like failures every time those slip-ups and binges happened, but the truth was that once I dove into the research of cravings and sugar addiction, it made perfect sense.

That’s when I realized that every little failure while I was PAYING ATTENTION was actually a success. I was becoming more aware and cognizant. I was recognizing what it would take to get past it.

The more I came off sugar and refined carbs, the better I felt.

I started to (finally) notice I was immensely more productive. I started preening my work to-do list to only include things that mattered or made movement in my business.

Another really cool thing was that I was able to take a step back and breathe through the impulse I’d usually let take over to snap at the kids or my husband about things.

This was huge because I’d basically turned into momzilla (and most days thought nobody wanted to be around me.) My husband and I started communicating. Like, really communicating.

And another great part? I started losing the baby weight I couldn’t shake before. (I even got confident enough to get back into a bikini!)

Getting real about being hooked on sugar and carbs

The thing is that most people don’t realize some critical things about sugar:

  • It’s addictive—like, legit addictive.
  • It creates a ton of inflammation in the body- which is why we cut it out first in an anti-inflammatory diet.
  • It makes your body hold onto fat.
  • It makes you believe you have energy, only to give you a crazy straight downhill crash.
  • It makes your emotions go completely berserk.
  • It actually ages you faster. And it shows up on your skin resembling the plague for some.
  • And then it does its thing and makes you come back for more like that narcissistic ex-boyfriend, because either you don’t know any better, or because you crave it so badly you can’t help yourself.

I’ve been on the addiction side of it. I actually call myself a ‘recovered sugar addict’ because I’ve been through the severe cravings, complete lack of control around it, tolerance of it (needing more and more to get the same effect), and physical withdrawals.

But I made the conscious decision to live as intentionally as possible by getting off of it. Sugar controlled nearly all aspects of my life and made me think I had to have it to function.

The truth I found was that sugar was wrecking nearly everything in my life whether directly or indirectly. That’s the power of food.

Thankfully I had some moments of complete clarity combined with nutrition education and deep dives into current research to be able to, firstly, recognize I had a problem, and secondly, create a plan of action to get off it for good.

I knew that just a 7-day sugar detox wasn’t going to do the trick, because I’d done a sugar detox about 57 times already.

4 Strategies to help you quit sugar

There were 4 major things that helped me to truly cut the sugar out of my life (ultimately what I lovingly call ‘Sugar Deprogramming’:

  1. Shifting my mindset around what addiction actually is and how even food can be the thing you can’t let go of. All my past beliefs were challenged and flipped on their head. Especially the one about how it was my fault that I couldn’t quit it.
  2. Shifting my metabolism by being prepared and giving my body enough time to get through the withdrawals, side effects, and dependence on sugar.
  3. Shifting my stubbornness about any emotional ties I had with sugar and carbs. This involved understanding the crazy huge emotional connection and learning to deal with it, and then improving the other areas in my health that would help support my stress levels to stay off sugar.
  4. And lastly, Shifting my confidence. I was completely exhausted and spent from years of dieting and trying to avoid sugar and carbs through sheer ‘willpower’ (which is a myth, by the way). I truly thought I couldn’t make it happen, especially long-term. I realized every time I went into the next ‘this is the week’, I didn’t actually think it was gonna work. I was wrong. I cracked the code, and I want to help others do the same.

Even now I struggle when my emotions are especially turbulent. A funny(ish) thing my husband and I do is yell, “Intervention!” to each other if either of us feels we’re spiraling into a binge.

I also do daily mental and emotional check-ins to manage stress and responsibilities. This helps me keep ahead of any potential feelings and impulses to bury my emotions in sugary foods and refined carbs again.

These days my life is lived with an intention of goodness and love, productivity and ambition. And I know the way to keep at that is to keep my diet clean. That’s when my journey into an anti-inflammatory diet and lifestyle began, and ultimately changed my life.

Some people don’t think food has the power to do that, but I do now. And I choose to keep mine clean and anti-inflammatory because it’s my fuel for this beautiful ride that I don’t want to miss.

If this resonates with you and you’d like to start your journey in truly getting off sugar and refined carbs, I invite you to check out the other articles in the Cut the Sugar category of TRUEWELL.

I have several helpful resources like:

  1. A super-quick free QUIZ called: What Type of Sugar Detox is Best for Your Body?
  2. A 1-Week Sugar Detox Kit (also free) to guide you through a 7-day sugar detox (with meal plan and recipes) while avoiding side-effects.

If you know you need more help than just those things, TRUEWELL has a course for getting off sugar, and we’ll be doing some challenges throughout the year. (I announce those to subscribers, so join the newsletter over in the right sidebar if you’re not on the list! 💖)

Feel free to send me an email at or DM me if you have any questions or need some guidance on this.

xo, Laura

Psst! Know someone that could benefit from reading this? SHARE or PIN it!

stop letting sugar fuel your day

Exactly What is a Sugar Detox and Who Needs One?

When most think of ‘detox’ they don’t normally think of a food product. But in light of recent research as well as anecdotal reports of feeling addicted to sugar, it’s no surprise we now see the term ‘sugar detox’ as a form of improving our health.

Many begin searching for a sugar detox in hopes of getting off sugar to kick-start weight loss or help go sugar-free to manage a condition. At TRUEWELL the first step to beginning an anti-inflammatory diet and lifestyle is quitting sugar. This is because sugar, refined carbs, and processed junk foods are extremely inflammatory.

what is a sugar detox and who needs one

But there are several nuances to getting off sugar and defining a legit answer to, ‘what is a sugar detox?’

Definition: What is a sugar detox?

As is the case with any detox, removing sugar from the body through diet allows the body to rid itself of the substances that are creating metabolic chains of events that affect our health negatively.

Sometimes this is the constant reinforcement of the addictive loop, and sometimes it’s the spike in insulin and consequent hormones.

Therefore a sugar detox can be thought of as the act of ridding your body of sugars to attempt to ‘reset’ it.

However, a sugar detox is normally done with one of two goals in mind. If these goals are clearly defined, it’s way more likely you’ll be successful with a sugar detox.

an apple in one hand and a donut in another hand

The goal of a sugar detox

The point of the whole process is to get rid of sugars and foods your body metabolizes like sugar so that your brain, taste buds, metabolism, and insulin response can ‘reset’ itself to behave more closely to normal.

What’s interesting about a sugar detox is that every single person going into one has a different goal for doing it.

Aside from FOMO, many people start a sugar detox as a type of ‘reset’ from eating terrible at the holidays, on vacation, or after a long period of ‘falling off the wagon’. Some people have also found their skin looks terrible and that sugar is the culprit.

Others need or want to kickstart weight loss, or for personal or medical reasons.

But the real deep down goals are what determine whether or not someone is actually successful with a sugar detox.

Those goals of a sugar detox are:

  1. To reset because of any reasons above—meaning the end-goal is to simply get off sugar for a week (or however many days the detox is).
  2. To truly quit sugar and refined carbs because of a medical condition they are trying to manage, for weight loss, or simply because they also believe sugar is toxic and want to follow an anti-inflammatory dietary style and lifestyle for amazing health.

Who is a sugar detox for?

With these goals in mind, truly a sugar detox is for anyone. The consumption of sugar by humans didn’t actually begin until the mid-17th century and was fueled through slave labor.

But many people believe it’s not detrimental to their health simply because food companies use it and the government says it’s ok.

After years of fighting addiction to it in addition to years of formal education and deep dives into peer-reviewed studies on sugar, it’s clear that nobody needs it and the gradual inoculation and acceptance of it into our food system is one of the great tragedies of our time.

person doing a sugar detox, pushing a way desserts and eating healthy

Who should do a sugar detox:

That being said, a simple sugar detox is a great option for those wanting to do a reset and start making more healthy food choices to improve overall health or even kickstart weight loss (and hopefully follow an anti-inflammatory diet and lifestyle).

Who should not do a sugar detox:

A sugar detox not a good option for two groups of people:

1-those who truly feel hooked on or addicted to sugar.

The reason why is that nearly all sugar detoxes fail to take that addictive possibility into account. They’re recipes and meal plans that are extremely restrictive, and will eventually create a rebound of cravings and bingeing.

If you are hooked on sugar or addicted to it, you know exactly what I’m talking about. (I’ve been there and done it about 57 times over.)

*The key here is knowing where you fall on this. If you’re not hooked, you can successfully detox for 7 (or however many) days the sugar detox plan dictates just fine. If you do feel addicted, you will need a totally different method for quitting sugar and doing a sugar detox, which is called ‘sugar deprogramming’.

2-You also should not do a sugar detox if you have any sort of metabolic issue

This is because removing sugar and refined carbohydrates very quickly (especially if you’ve been consuming high amounts) can sort of ‘shock’ your body to respond with hypoglycemia (low blood sugar).

This is most especially true if you already have a hypoglycemia issue AND if you are on medications to lower blood sugar levels. Hypoglycemia can be life threatening, so if you fall into this category, it’s best to work personally with a doctor or nutritionist that can help you manage this to avoid a hypoglycemic situation.

healthy food to help quit sugar

How does a sugar detox work?

The basics of a sugar detox require that all sugar (added, refined, unrefined—ALL of it), as well as refined carbohydrates be removed from the diet for a specified period of time.

This can range from 7 days to 30, depending on the source of the sugar detox.

Most sugar detoxes will also require removing dairy and fruit because both of these contains sugars as well.

The sugar detox plan will usually have recipes that contain protein (meat or plant-based), a ton of vegetables, and healthy fats.

There are some sugar detox plans that will also include complex carbohydrates like whole grains, legumes, or lentils.

How do I start a sugar detox?

If you feel like you’re a good candidate for a sugar detox (per the guidelines above), the best place to start is a meal plan with recipes designed to minimize any side effects from coming off sugar and refined carbs that quickly.

If you identify with simply wanting to do a 7-day sugar detox, get our Basic Sugar Detox Kit here to get started: 👇

what is a sugar detox and who needs one

Know someone who would benefit from learning about sugar detoxes? SHARE this or PIN it!

what is a sugar detox and who needs one

A Sugar Detox for Beginners: How to Detox from Sugar

One of the most important discoveries in terms of health in the last decade or so is that sugar consumption is a huge factor in weight gain as well as a myriad of health conditions and diseases. These include heart disease, prediabetes, type 2 diabetes, and other metabolic syndromes. In fact, our sugar consumption has skyrocketed to 10x what it once was just 100 years ago.

With that comes the next step: pulling oneself off of sugar and sugary foods… which may not be so easy. Many people have a sweet tooth which has led to an extremely high level of sugar intake for long enough that they have no clue where to start.

As a nutritionist, it’s really important to help people find easy ways to get from point A to B in their health journey using food, while eliminating excess sugar. And since sugar is inflammatory, it’s literally the first step staring an anti-inflammatory diet and lifestyle.

Part of that journey may include So let’s start out with the basics, and also discuss which TYPE of sugar detox would be best for your body.

sugar detox for beginners detox from sugar

Why do a sugar detox?

Through the decades added sugars have gradually made their way into more and more foods for flavor and sugar’s addictive properties. And now we essentially have a substance that affects the brain in the same way that addictive drugs (like cocaine) do, but it’s put in nearly all processed foods.

This makes it extremely easy to become a sugar addict, especially if you have the genetic tendency toward that. Add in more and more sugar daily, along with years of eating it and you’ve got the perfect storm of sugar addiction.

sugar detox for beginners detox from sugar

Many people decide they need to quit because they’ve tried and know how hard it is. Others have had their doctor give them the wake-up call of a condition that requires eliminating it to manage that condition. And yet others either want to or need to lose weight.

So let’s talk about the different reasons for embarking on a sugar detox in the first place.

sugar detox for beginners detox from sugar

Blood sugar levels

Current estimates are that 1 out of 3 adults has prediabetes. When you factor in the number of adults that currently do have type 2 diabetes, we’ve got a really huge population that obviously has issues with blood sugar levels.

The thing is, there are also many other conditions that get mega benefits from balanced blood sugar levels. These include PCOS, high blood pressure, and inflammatory conditions like arthritis and autoimmune conditions.

But truth be told, our body’s ability to maintain steady blood sugar levels daily is the marker for a healthy metabolism. That can’t happen if we’re programming it to go haywire with high sugar foods and refined flours (which react like sugar in the body).

sugar detox for beginners detox from sugar

Kick-start weight loss

Undoubtedly you’ve heard stories from friends or family members about how much weight they lost when they started keto or low-carb.

The truth is that switching to any dietary style that eliminates sugar and promotes healthy, non-processed foods will inherently cause most people to lose weight. (We happen to be over the moon about the Anti-Inflammatory Diet around here!)

sugar detox for beginners detox from sugar

Consumption of too much sugar in the first place

The last scenario is for those who don’t specifically have a weight loss goal in mind and haven’t had a diagnosis to prompt quitting sugar. You just know that sugar is terrible for your body and have committed to being purposeful and respectful about the food you put into your body.

To you I say, “Well done.” And here’s how to go about that practice.

How to do a sugar detox: Sugar detox for beginners

sugar detox for beginners detox from sugar

Step 1: Pre-Experiment with sugar and flour

Knowing how you respond to sugar and refined flour (emotionally and physically) is a huge first step in detoxing from sugar. Many people go into a sugar detox thinking they can easily get off sugar for a week or so and be fine.

Doing an initial experiment with sugary foods BEFORE you start a sugar detox will help you understand how you respond to sugar, and if you may be addicted to it.

Step 2: Get in the right mind frame

Go into your sugar detox with the correct mind frame. Are you starting this to kickstart weight loss, manage a condition, or just adopt a more healthy lifestyle?

Know your high-level goals, then dig in to really get to the bottom of your big ‘why’ for your sugar detox. You WILL need this, whether coming off sugar is a challenge for you or not.

Sugar and flour can be highly addictive, and if you don’t have your ‘why’ firmly in place, it can be really easy to either quit your sugar detox, or just go right back to your old ways.

Step 3: Shop + prep for meals

Having a sugar-free meal plan that is specifically designed by a nutritionist is KEY to completing a successful sugar detox. This is because (especially if you’ve been on a really high-sugar diet for a while), it can be hard to go sugar-free cold turkey.

A meal plan truly designed for detoxing from sugar actually pulls you off higher-glycemic foods gradually, giving you the best chance possible of avoiding cravings.

Step 4: Follow the Meal Plan (and don’t cheat!)

It’s very important to follow the meal plan for your sugar detox.

Many people *think* they know what foods are sugar-free or safe to eat if they’ve failed to plan. However, this is usually how they ended up in the situation of needing a sugar detox in the first place.

Step 5: Be ready for side effects that feel like withdrawal symptoms:

Many people experience withdrawal symptoms of coming off high levels of sugar can be rough if you don’t know what to expect! Sugar detox symptoms are very likely and are a major reason people don’t complete their first week or two of a sugar detox.

sugar detox for beginners detox from sugar

Sugar cravings

This is probably the number 1 side effect people complain of. Sugar cravings become so severe because sugar programs the body and brain to expect quick doses of energy from your food. And when that doesn’t happen, it starts to revolt (in simple terms).

For some, this is so severe that they feel like sugar is controlling them.

For others, it can easily be redirected. It just depends on that perfect storm of components discussed a minute ago.

sugar detox for beginners detox from sugar


Headaches are also a big one. Headaches usually come because (unknown to many), carbohydrates attract water in the body like salt does. When you reduce those carbohydrates, your hydration levels fall as well.

sugar detox for beginners detox from sugar

Severe Exhaustion

Many people worry that this is coming from having low blood sugar. This may be true if you have a known problem with this, and also if you’re not getting enough healthy carbohydrates (listed below).

Again, this is related to your body revolting from the difference in fuel you’re giving your body. And again- the severity will depend on that perfect storm we talked about at the start of the article.

Foods TO AVOID on a sugar detox ❌

It may sound like common sense to just say, ‘stay off sugar on a sugar detox, duh’, there’s actually a lot more to it than that. (Thanks in part to the food industry these days.)

This is for a few different reasons. First, there are MANY different names for sugar on food labels these days. Secondly, there are other foods that react like sugar in the body. And third, when you’re coming off sugar, even some natural foods need to be avoided for a bit to let your body and brain reset its programming.

So let’s get into it.

Sugary beverages

  • Sodas (regular AND diet!)
  • Fruit juice
  • Sports drinks
  • Coffee/tea with added sugar (this means basically any drink at Starbucks unless straight black coffee)
  • Milk
  • Non-dairy milks (unless they specifically say ‘Unsweetened’ on the label)
  • Bottled tea
  • Any other sugar-sweetened beverages

All forms of sugar

This will require reading a food label to identify sugar. So the easiest way to avoid these are to not eat anything processed or packaged while on your sugar detox, or else be able to understand the ingredients list and food label.

Ingredients that are sugar:

  • any type of ‘sugar’ (ie, table sugar, cane sugar, etc)
  • any type of ‘syrup’
  • molasses
  • dextrin
  • sucanat
  • caramel
  • malt
  • any word ending in ‘-ose’
  • agave
  • honey
  • maple syrup
  • fructose/ corn syrup/ high fructose corn syrup
  • fruit juice
  • concentrated fruit juice
  • natural sweeteners

Many people are confused about natural sugars or sweeteners like honey, agave, and maple syrup. The bottom line on these is that–yes they can contain healthful compounds and minerals–but they are STILL sugar and counterproductive during a sugar detox.

Artificial sweeteners

Artificial sweeteners have been shown to affect gut health, as well as induce cravings. For both of those reasons, I recommend avoiding these altogether, even when done detoxing from sugar. These are:

  • Aspartame (in nearly all diet soft drinks)
  • Neotame
  • Acesulfame K (blue packets- brand name Nutrasweet)
  • Saccharine (pink packets- brand name Sweet N Low)
  • Sucralose (yellow packets- brand name Splenda)

If you’re really hard-up for a sweetened beverage, try adding one of these zero-calorie alternatives:

Most fruits

Although fruits can be part of a healthy diet, eliminating them during this short phase will be a huge help in your metabolism getting reset.

Definitely avoid dried fruits (unless they specifically say no sugar added).

If you feel you must eat fruit, limit it to berries, as fresh fruits or frozen, as long as no sugar is added.


Dairy is a really controversial food, I get it. But in this phase, the consensus is that milk should be avoided (because of the amount of lactose–a sugar) in it.

Yogurt should also be avoided as most types are loaded with sugars. Even plain yogurt could be an issue, so it’s best to avoid it during your sugar detox.

Grains and flour

Refined grains and flours are absolutely out of the question. They spike blood sugar levels the same way regular sugar does.

However, even whole grains can cause a huge spike in the same way. For that reason, I recommend avoiding grains and flour altogether until you’re out of your sugar detox diet.

These include:

  • oats
  • wheat
  • rye
  • barley
  • farrow
  • quinoa
  • corn


Alcohol should be avoided for a few different reasons. First, it can also have an addictive nature. Your goal here is to reprogram your brain and body, and keeping alcohol in the mix is extremely counterproductive.

Second, when we get buzzed, our reason flies out the window. Many people find themselves overeating or even eating things when they’re not even hungry when they’re sippin’ on gin and juice. (Myself included).

Do yourself a favor and get rid of it before starting your sugar detox.

Foods ALLOWED on a sugar detox ✔

You may be thinking that the food you CAN eat on a sugar detox isn’t as important as what you’re eliminating. But that’s really not true.

The reason is that when you load up with sugar and refined flours, you’re displacing nutrient-dense foods that you could have been eating instead. So this detox period is actually giving you a chance to ‘power up’ with healthier food choices while you’re letting your body and brain deprogram from sugar.

sugar detox for beginners detox from sugar

High-quality protein

One of the best things you can do when cutting out sugar is to increase your protein intake. This is because protein (as well as good fats, which we’ll get to in a minute) help blunt blood sugar spikes that may still happen from the carbohydrates that ARE allowed on a sugar detox.

In ensuring it’s quality protein, make sure it’s pasture-raised meat (or organic).

This can be from poultry (chicken, turkey, duck), pork, lean cuts of beef, and definitely fatty fish and seafood!

If you’re ok with soy, organic tofu is also a great option.

And lastly, hard-boiled eggs are also an easy way to get in extra protein.

sugar detox for beginners detox from sugar

Healthy fats

Good, healthy fats are also a game-changer when doing a sugar detox. Again, this helps blunt the blood sugar spikes but it also helps you feel full longer. This can be a really big help when you’re having those crazy sugar cravings.

Types of healthy fat include:

  • extra virgin olive oil
  • avocado oil
  • organic butter
  • virgin, unrefined coconut oil

A few other sources of healthy fats include avocado and nuts (just make sure you have a small handful or less as these can get out of hand quickly!)

sugar detox for beginners detox from sugar

Low glycemic plants + starchy vegetables

I wanted to section out the foods you CAN eat into macros because since carbohydrates primarily come from plants in our diets, it can be tricky to weed through.

During a sugar detox, your focus in the carbohydrate department will be HIGHLY on high fiber foods, with a low glycemic index (sometimes called complex carbs). These will include low glycemic starchy vegetables, leafy greens, beans, and legumes, and they help you keep blood sugar levels stable by avoiding the spike and then sugar crash.

Many people ask about potatoes and sweet potatoes. As a nutrition specialist, I see a ton of people get emotionally wrapped up in these delicious tubers because they’re everywhere.

Here’s the deal: They both have a lot of nutritional value. They both have a fairly high amount of carbs. But one has more sugars (sweet potatoes) while the other has a higher amount of starches (potatoes).

But here’s the kicker when doing a sugar detox:

BOTH can set off those sugar cravings that lead to binges because of the way they can spike your blood sugar. So my advice is to avoid them while coming off sugar.

How long does it take to detox from sugar?

When people ask this question, it normally means: How long until my sugar cravings go away and I can control myself to not crave and binge again?

This is a good question as several different sources online will tell you anywhere from one week, 21 days, 30 days and I’ve even seen 40 days. None of these are truly accurate for any one individual.

I wish I had an easy answer but here’s the reality. Remember that perfect storm from the start of this article (genetics + amount of sugar/flours eaten daily + length of time on it)? All of those will factor into how long it takes.

My easy way to tell goes like this: Try to eliminate sugar from your diet cold turkey for a week or two.

  • If you do this easily, or fairly easily, you should be able to transition into a healthy eating style that supports your health and goals from there pretty easily.
  • If you, instead, feel like this is the worst and hardest thing you’ve ever had to do and couldn’t get through a week, let alone 2, you probably have a sugar addiction problem. In this case, I recommend ‘sugar deprogramming’, which is a much more in-depth approach to getting off sugar for good.

-> Wanna save some time and take the quiz to see what your Best Sugar Detox Type Is? 👇👇👇


If you have type 1 or type 2 diabetes, make sure you speak with your doctor before starting a sugar detox so you have some guidance from the person who oversees your health. Please be smart, and be responsible.

sugar detox for beginners detox from sugar

A few last sugar detox tips

Here are some really great tips for having a successful sugar detox:

  1. Meal plan. Meal planning ensures you’re never in the dark about what you can eat and have available to eat. Especially when you’ve relied on packaged and convenience food for a while.
  2. Meal prep. Scheduling in time to meal prep ensures that your hard work planning those meals wasn’t in vain. It also sets up that ‘guilt factor’ to give you a boost of motivation in the event that your strength is waning as the days go on while you’re trying to kick that sugar habit.
  3. Stay hydrated. Drink water or unsweetened tea often. This helps with hydration and training your stomach in feeling full to help prevent overeating.
  4. Don’t worry about counting ANYTHING during this time period. Don’t even get on the scale. Remember that your sole focus is to let your body and brain deprogram from sugar and start learning to get energy from complex carbohydrates.
  5. Don’t start your endeavor 3 days before a birthday party (or holiday, for that matter).
  6. Plan for traveling. Many people are back working in offices, and some professions travel. Make sure you’ve thought ahead for what you can take with you. For example, what are you able to carry in your car or on a plane?
  7. Get enough sleep. When you have quality and enough sleep, it helps balance the stress hormone cortisol as well as hormones that can determine if you feel hungry or full during the day.
  8. Practice mindful eating during this period. This helps your body begin to recognize hunger and fullness signals that have probably been over-ridden for a while.
  9. Extra credit: Find freezer meals and have all your dinners pre-prepped and ready to throw in a slow cooker or sheet pan!
  10. Avoid talking to family or friends unless you trust them and know they care about you and your health. I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve had clients truly upset about the lack of support (and sometimes even ridicule) because they don’t understand or believe in the need to quit sugar. Bottom line is 2-fold: 1-It’s none of their business, and 2-If they cared about you they’d be supportive of your decisions for your health.
sugar detox for beginners detox from sugar

What next?

After sugar detoxing (or attempting it), one of three things will happen:

(1) You’ll stay off sugar successfully and transition into a clean eating dietary style that supports your health. I recommend an anti-inflammatory dietary style because it’s been shown to be beneficial for nearly everyone on the planet and prevents chronic diseases. {Great job, by the way!!}

(2) You’ll feel better and keep at it for a bit, but then slowly progress back to your old way of eating. If this is where you find yourself, you probably have some issues with sticking to habits.

If you truly want to stay off sugar, I recommend revisiting your ‘WHY’ and learning about habits and how to create them in a way that you’ll stick to with little thought.

(3) You didn’t even make it through the first week or two because this felt like the hardest, worst thing you’ve ever tried. (Or possibly a slightly less harrowing version of that, but either way, you couldn’t stick to it because of the cravings.)

When you’re in this category of outcomes, it most likely means you fall into that perfect storm where your body and brain have been programmed for being hooked on sugar.

In this case, I highly recommend what’s called ‘Sugar Deprogramming’.

Wanna take a quick quiz to see which type of Sugar Detox is Best for Your Body? Click below to get started! 👇

sugar detox for beginners detox from sugar

How to Break The Sugar Addiction and Carb Cravings Cycle

One of the most frequent questions I get asked privately as a nutritionist is, “How can I break my addiction to sugar and carbs?” People ask for all kinds of reasons, even if it’s “for a friend.”

The thing is, I don’t judge. Because I’m a ‘recovered sugar addict’ and I’ve been in the trenches for years, completely miserable and defeated over and over every time I tried to stay strong. And every attempt to quit sugar and refined carbs ended up not just giving in to the cravings, but bingeing hard-core in secret.

how to break the sugar addiction and carb cravings cycle

In fact, I’ve been an addict since I was a child but didn’t know it until the last few years. Research is finally catching up, but the media can make it really hard for those who truly need help because of hype headlines and articles declaring “sugar addiction” is bogus, “eat what you want”, and that “the body ‘needs’ sugar to operate.”

So many people who feel like they’re chained to sugar are being told that they’re crazy and there’s no need to quit the sugar and refined carbs. This couldn’t be further from the truth, and it sends horribly mixed messages to those who are suffering.

People are desperate for help, and with good reason: It’s estimated that we now consume 60 pounds or more of added sugar every year.

In 2017 the prevalence of diabetes was 451 million. It’s estimated that by the year 2045 that number will increase to 693 million. And that figure didn’t even account for the estimated 374 million with impaired glucose tolerance.

It’s obvious that people are searching for a way to break their sugar addiction that works.

My practice helps people begin and maintain an anti-inflammatory diet and lifestyle for all sorts of reasons. But when surveyed, 50% of thousands of women who are trying to stick to an anti-inflammatory diet state that they can’t because they’re hooked on sugar and refined carbs.

So let’s get into the breakdown of a true addiction to sugar and carbs so you can determine if you have a mild sugar problem, or a much larger one that requires more in-depth help than a one-week ‘sugar detox‘.

Can you really be hooked on sugar to the point that it’s an addiction?

Addictions are defined as actions that one keeps repeating over and over regardless of the detriment, and will eventually build tolerance (you need more to get the same effect), and withdrawal when you take it away. This is precisely what happens if you’re addicted to sugar. The latest science has shown that the same reward centers in the brain light up as the ones when drugs like cocaine and heroin are taken.

woman addicted to sugar and carb cravings eating a cupcake

So for people to say that sugar isn’t addictive rubs me seriously the wrong way. I think it’s pretty disrespectful and naive to underestimate the wiring of our brain and physiology in its efforts to make us feel better.

Psychology and physiology are extremely complicated, but they will always operate to try and keep us in homeostasis, even if it means attempts to keep us ‘happy’ with a dopamine hit of glazed donuts.

The other problem I have with people not only dissing the idea of being addicted to sugar but also maintaining that sugar is essential for energy and that trying to get off it is stupid. Well, to say the least, these people are misinformed and uneducated on the matter.

Not only that, they’ve probably never been on the end of cravings that are so severe that they cause uncontrollable binges that result in a self-berating cycle of guilt and out-of-control weight gain and inflammation. (Not to mention the resulting depression.)

Many people have been told by their doctors to lose weight for a myriad of reasons, which starts with quitting sugar and refined carbs. But going cold turkey just seems to make the cravings worse.

Thus the battle cry of those of us addicted to sugar is this: “If we were able to just ‘take one bite’ and move on with our life, don’t they think we would’ve?? “


How do I know if I’m addicted to sugar?

Knowing if you’re addicted to sugar really needs to start with knowing a few things behind the mechanics of sugar addiction. There is obviously a chemical component to it that’s known as the ‘reward cycle’.

But there is also a genetic component as well. Then add in:

  • the length of time you’ve been consuming large amounts of sugar and foods that are metabolized like sugar in the body,
  • as well as the total amounts.
woman addicted to sugar and carbs eating a cupcake

So when you add all those together, you really have a spectrum of ‘levels’ of addiction probability.

This is important because where you fall on the spectrum determines the strategy you’ll need to break the sugar addiction and carb cravings cycle.

This is the springboard to your success in losing weight and living an anti-inflammatory lifestyle.  

Signs and symptoms of sugar addiction

At the lowest end of the sugar addiction probability spectrum, people may feel cravings every once in a while for something sugary, chocolately, or even breads, but they don’t have an issue just having a bite and then moving on. They don’t usually experience guilt about it either.

The mid-level of sugar addiction probability looks more like cravings more than they’d like to admit, some emotional eating, and reaching for sugar, caffeine, chocolate, etc during times of the day that they feel dips in energy or emotions. There’s a modest to more intense level of guilt.


At the most severe end of the spectrum is a constant craving for something with sugar or bread, and every meal and snack is full of sugar and usually includes bread.

Severe exhaustion, shakiness, and irritability happen when it’s been longer than about 2 hours after the last meal. There are frequent binges, especially after 2 events: trying to quit sugar and carbs for a few days in a row, or after (or during) a stressful event.

There is nearly always an intense level of guilt, most especially after the binges happen.

I usually direct clients to answer some questions to help better determine their level of being hooked on sugar and refined carbs before deciding which direction to take.

These questions are in our QUIZ if you’d like to take it and see for yourself.


Sugar detox: Hope or Hype?

Many people ask if sugar detox diets really work.

The short answer for that is if you fall in the lower end of the sugar addiction probability spectrum, it will probably work to get you off sugar to kickstart weight loss and help control conditions you may have that require lessened inflammation and balanced blood sugar.

If you’re in the mid to high range of probability, a sugar detox will just make things worse.

This is because most sugar detoxes not only go cold turkey, but they don’t allow enough time for the shifts needed to truly deprogram from sugar and refined carbs.

What is needed in this case is called Sugar Deprogramming.

How to break the sugar addiction and carb cravings cycle with sugar deprogramming

Step 1: Shift your mindset about sugar addiction

When we typically think of sugar addiction, we think it started or keeps going because of weakness. This couldn’t be further from the truth.

Shifting your mindset is the foundation to undoing sugar addiction through sugar deprogramming. You can’t debug a computer program without knowing there’s a bug in the program, right?

Once you know the science and mechanics (biologically and psychologically) you’re able to more clearly see the bird’s eye view of it all and how to fix it.

Addiction has such a negative connotation to it because people largely believe the person addicted has chosen 1- the first dose of the addictive substance, and 2- continues to use it.

The thing is, when it comes to sugar and carb addiction, there is no ‘gateway’ to any of these substances like there is for drugs—they’re literally right there in the grocery store or even the vending machine in the office, readily available.

So there’s no warning sign or message from the Attorney General about the addictive nature of the ingredients in what you’re about to eat.

We’re hooked on something we never thought possible and never had an option.

When you shift your mindset about sugar and carb addiction, you’ll understand where cravings come from, why they happen over and over again, and why you’ve never been able to resist them.

Another mindset shift involves the number of days your recovery will take. So many ‘sugar detox plans’ claim you can be free of cravings in 7 days, 21 days, or even 30 days.

The truth is that everyone is so different that you won’t know this number until you are consistent with a sugar deprogramming program. This consistency will allow your body to accomplish the next two shifts.

This is your starting point for a blueprint to break the sugar addiction and carb cravings cycle for good.

Step 2: Shift your metabolism

If you’re hooked on sugar and refined carbs, your body has become accustomed to getting energy from the quickest form of fuel there is: simple carbs. These don’t need to be broken down any further to harness immediate energy.

By taking simple carbs out of the diet and giving your body complex carbs for sustained fuel, your body will inevitably rebel, because suddenly it has to work for fuel. Your metabolism has gotten lazy.

For many, this alone will create rebound cravings. This is why it’s crucial to understand the types of carbs and how to adjust them in your meals during your healing and recovery period.

And lastly, shifting your metabolism also involves discovering nutritional deficiencies and filling these consistently.

Step 3: Shift your emotional involvement and connections to sugar and carbs

If you’ve ever thought or been told eating is emotional—the answer is a resounding Yes! Especially when it comes to sugar and refined carbs. So many people are programmed as a child to connect sugar and carbs with rewards. (If you have kids you’ve surely seen this complete nonsense at your kids’ school. Candy is given relentlessly as a reward.)

Pinpointing your emotional involvement in the addiction to sugar and carbs is a crucial step to disrupting that cravings cycle.

The next step in the emotional shift is knowing what to do with that information and how to heal emotional traumas, as well as manage daily stressors that are contributing to the cycle.

Step 4: Shifting your confidence

So many clients come into this journey expecting absolute failure. And why not? They’ve failed a thousand times before at quitting sugar and refined carbs.

The truth is that there IS a proven process to breaking the addiction to sugar and carbs. It’s called Sugar Deprogramming.

And building your confidence in that truth helps keep the momentum going until the full metabolic and emotional shifts can happen that will free you.

This last step in sugar deprogramming is really the cherry on top where it will all come together to keep you going and know that you have all the tools, gameplan, and confidence to finally kick-start that weight loss, balance your blood sugar, and manage your energy and emotions all day.

This is where you find your truth that allows you to confidently face sugar from now on.

If you’re ready to start your journey of sugar deprogramming, check out the program we offer at TRUEWELL by clicking HERE.

And if you have any questions, feel free to DM me

xo, Laura

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Is Sugar Addiction Real?

As a nutrition specialist working with many people hooked on sugar, I chat with many others that are totally clueless on the subject. Some can see the point in wanting to give your body a break, but others feel like a world without sugar is unbearably dull.

My response to that is that clearly they either:

  1. don’t feel they’re hooked on it,
  2. don’t want to admit it,
  3. or have no medical need to get off it.
is sugar addiction real

The reason getting off sugar and refined carbs matters is that even if you don’t have a chronic condition you’re trying to manage, or need to lose weight, eating an anti-inflammatory diet will help prevent any of those things from happening. It’s one of the most amazing things you can do for your body to keep inflammation at bay.

That being said, quitting sugar and processed junk food is the very first step in going anti-inflammatory. Many people try to skip this step and go right on into eating an anti-inflammatory diet or jump into an elimination diet.

Neither of these options is possible if you can’t quit eating sugar or refined carbs.

Once I realized this, I strived to make healing my addiction to sugar and carbs my first order of business on my journey to live an anti-inflammatory lifestyle.

One of the lowest moments of self-loathing in my life was being about 25 pounds overweight, constantly ‘saying’ I wanted to lose weight, but hiding out in the pantry, terrified of being caught, while I shoved cupcake after cupcake in my face because I literally could not control myself.

So if you had asked me, personally… Hell yes, sugar addiction is real.

woman addicted to sugar holding measuring tape around her waist

If you ask my husband, who’s always been able to just have a bite or two and walk away… well, he doesn’t really know. But he can tell you that he feels that way about potato chips.

As a nutrition specialist with a Master of Science in nutrition under my belt, as well as countless hours doing deep dives into the newest peer-reviewed research on sugar addiction, I can confirm the research supporting ‘food’ being addictive, including sugar.

For some, sugar alone is what will get them. For others it could be the salt, or even the combination of the flavors like fat + sugar, or fat + salt. Food companies have spent billions of dollars figuring this out. And make no mistake: their interests lie in making sure you keep coming back for more.

As a nutrition specialist and recovered sugar addict (and mom), I get asked this question over and over: Is sugar addiction real? Like really real?

And although the answer has taken many forms over the past several years, my answer to the question is a resounding YES, sugar addiction is really real. And I’ll explain why.

My relationship with sugar started as a kid from the south whose family knew no bounds of cooking with sugar and white flour. This meant dessert after many a meal, and the biggest, sugary-est birthday cakes you’ve ever seen. I loved the sugar and butter combination (or sugar and shortening), and from the time I was a kid, I would always request the piece of cake with the absolute most icing flowers on it.

woman addicted to sugar binge eating a donut

I never knew the damage all the sugar was doing to my gut bacteria, nor that it could have an effect on my moods, hormones, skin, metabolic markers, and definitely not my neurotransmitters or immune system.

I developed asthma around 12 and had terrible hayfever that I never really shook. By my teen years, I had terrible acne, was constantly irritable, and forever anxious.

It wasn’t until adulthood when I started studying nutrition that I really took a step back and thought through my constant depressive symptoms as a teen and young adult, and put a few pieces together for the ups and downs of my moods, skin, and hormones.

But it wasn’t until after having gestational diabetes for 2 out of 3 pregnancies (type 2 diabetes runs in my family) that I noticed that I felt a thousand percent better when I nixed the sugar.

But quitting sugar wasn’t as easy as just saying ‘no thank you’.

Every birthday and holiday was a struggle. I’ve been in the throes of postpartum depression 3x where I would hide in the pantry to stuff as many cupcakes in secret as I could into my face before anyone could see.

woman addicted to sugar binge eating in secret

I’ve binged for hours, alternating sugary and salty snacks, in secret when my husband was out of town for work.

And I knew that there was never any circumstance that could keep ‘just one bite’ from turning into 75 bites.

So I can attest first-hand what it feels like to be addicted to sugar. No matter what kind of logic your brain tells you about how crappy you’ll feel the next day (physically and emotionally), that addict part of your brain takes over and mutes the logic.

The Science behind sugar addiction

While in my master’s program we had to do many projects on various topics that all require peer-reviewed studies to support our answers (which is how the medical community and medical organizations formulate their recommendations of things for public health.) Part of the studies I sought out revolved around sugar addiction.

At the time one professor pointed out that the only study supporting sugar addiction thus far involved rats that preferred sugar over cocaine. This boggled me, so I veered on a tangent toward addiction itself to try and get more answers.

Addictive behavior toward substances has these criteria:

  • Strong cravings or desire to use a substance
  • Failed attempts to quit using the substance or even lessen the frequency
  • Using that substance even when you know it’s causing harm
  • Tolerance of the substance (you need more to get the same feeling or effect)
  • Withdrawal symptoms (if attempts are made to quit using the substance)

At the time I was in my master’s program, the International Classifications of Diseases (one of 2 books used to give diagnostic codes so insurance can decide if they will or will not cover medical services) contained mental health diagnoses for food addiction, but not specifically sugar.

The reasoning was that they, at the time, couldn’t definitively prove that sugar itself was physically addicting, further confusing the ‘Is sugar addiction real?’ question altogether.

I personally have a problem with this, because many people (including myself) have felt the withdrawal symptoms of coming off sugar. These side effects are definitely not imagined, and some have described them as feeling like having a mild case of the flu.

The clincher of sugar is that when consumed, it occupies the same receptors in the brain as drugs like cocaine and heroin. It gives a dopamine hit, which makes you feel good. So it activates those reward systems in the brain and essentially ‘programs’ the brain to want more and make you think you need it.

And once you keep eating it, cravings will start for it.

From that point, it can be very difficult to satisfy the craving and keep yourself from seeking anything to replace it until you completely get off it, and for long enough.

Another thing that happens is that you build tolerance. This is when the brain receptors get a lot of the dopamine hits but eventually adapt and need more to get that reward response. Studies have also proven that the sensation of sweetness builds a tolerance.

woman lying head on table eating carbs

There is also evidence of a genetic component to some people feeling addicted to sugar. The gene that controls the dopamine receptors in our brains can have mutations that impair the reward system in the brain, thereby triggering some people to exhibit more addictive behavior toward sugar.

This tends to be one of the hallmarks of a definition of ‘addiction’, but again– the issue is whether it specifically is sugar, or is another component of the food you’re eating, or even a combination of components.

Recently, research has been compiled to compare the criteria of an addictive substance to the proven addictive traits of sugar.

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According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), two of the eleven criteria must be met by a patient for that patient to qualify as addicted to a substance. The study done proves that five criteria of addiction to sugar could be met, exceeding the minimum criteria.

How to break the sugar addiction

Without a proper understanding of the truly addictive nature of sugar, many people are at a loss as to how to break their sugar addiction.

Many have tried dieting and quitting cold turkey over and over again, to no avail.

Experience with myself and clients through the years has shown that there are many different factors at play, including:

  1. genetics,
  2. how much sugar (and refined carbs) are consumed on a normal basis,
  3. and for how long.

A popular term that comes up in searches and circulating in ‘wellness’ media is a sugar detox. While many may think this concept is a godsend to those trying to quit sugar, it may do more harm than good to those truly addicted.

The reason is that some people can do a sugar detox and are done with sugar, no problem. Those of us that truly have that addictive component to sugar usually can’t manage longer than a week on a sugar detox.

woman trying to resist sugar holding up apple and donut

The cravings will make us give up, and the withdrawal will send us on a binge.

We’ve essentially been ‘programmed’ to be hooked on sugar and refined carbs.

Thus, the first step is figuring out if you’re more likely to be addicted or less. If less, a sugar detox can be a great way to get off sugar for a week or so and learn how to switch out meals to healthier sugar-free versions.

If you are more likely to be addicted, undoing that ‘sugar programming’ will take a lot more work. Because it’s literally been programmed into your reward response system as well as your metabolic expectations.

This is incredibly disappointing that the government has allowed our food system to create this trap. But there is a way to break that addiction with what I call ‘Sugar Deprogramming’. If you’re ready to break your addiction with sugar deprogramming, read the next article in this series: 👇

DID YOU KNOW… The TYPE of sugar detox that’s best for your body depends on your sugar addiction probability? Take the QUIZ to find out yours! 👇

is sugar addiction real

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