You know what, most people have experience of overeating or overindulging in sugar – the one too many chocolates from the box; that extra slice of cake that blatantly wasn’t necessary or the emotional break up ice cream incident.
But where’s the point when it comes to asking ‘Am I addicted to sugar?’
What determines if someone is eating too much or just has a bit of a sweet tooth?
How do you know if it’s the actual sugar that’s the issue, your habits around food or something to do with your environment (e.g. you work in an office environment that could be mistaken for a cake warzone!)?
So you can start to work this out for yourself, here’s a sugar addiction quiz you can have a go with.
Just the process of doing this test will help you understand your relationship with the sweet stuff and identify where you are with things.
How to use this test?
I’ve kept this quite simple so just answer the questions yes or no in each section and then count them up and divide your YES answers by the total questions in the section and multiply this by 100 to get a %.
E.g. 6 questions in Section 1 would mean (6/13) x 100 which equals about 46%.
Section 1: Am I eating too much sugar?
- Do you have sugary treats every day or at least every other day? (sweets, chocolate, dried fruits, cakes/pastries etc.)
- Do you drink soft drinks more than once a week?
- Are you eating more than 4-5 portions of fruit (including dried fruit) everyday?
- Do you eat a lot of packaged foods e.g. stir fry sauces etc.
- When a craving comes, is it distinctly for sweetness and you can satisfy with a range of food even if it’s not your favourite as long as it’s sweet (e.g dried fruit, cheaper chocolate etc.)
- Do you get anxious if there is no dessert or sweet thing available at a friends house or dinner party (or you urge for it to be served sooner!)?
- Do you notice distinct energy differences throughout your day e.g. mid afternoon slump, grogginess in the morning.
- Are you tired a lot?
- Do you also crave bread or starchy carbohydrates often in addition to sugar?
- Do you often think you will feel better eating something sugary but then afterwards you feel worse?
- Have you in the last year been oblivious to how much sugar you’ve been eating?
- Do pictures of sweet food instantly make you feel a craving?
- Do you have a hard time resisting any sugar that is offered to you e.g. dessert, biscuits etc.
Section 2: Am I suffering emotionally because of sugar?
- Do you know you’re not going to feel great about yourself emotionally after eating the sugar but you still do it?
- Do you feel you need to have something sweet everyday?
- Do you overeat or indulge in sugar alone where no-one knows about it?
- Are you fearful of sharing how much sugar you eat to close loved ones?
- Have you ever eaten sugar and hidden or done something so someone doesn’t find out?
- Has the guilt of eating sugar in a situation then led you on to eat more later on?
- Can you identify patterns (e.g. regular tendencies) where you use sugar to alleviate negative emotions e.g. stress, boredom and frustration?
- Do you feel thinking about sugar takes up a lot of your headspace?
- Would you struggle describing any times when you’ve felt good about some sugar you’ve eaten?
- Do you eat straight from the packet or fridge very quickly without thinking?
- Do you feel right now sugar causes you more emotional pain over emotional pleasure?
Section 3: How significant are your habits?
- Can you pinpoint the regular instances where you’re eating too much sugar e.g. in the evening after work, after a meal each day
- Do you have strong sugar habits around very specific foods e.g. Haribo sweets, a certain chocolate or type of biscuit etc.
- Can you remember a time when these sugar habits or food preferences didn’t exist?
- Is a large amount of your sugar intake from adding to tea or coffee or eating something sweet with tea or coffee?
- Do you feel the sweet after the meal habit is your most significant area of sugar intake that you’d like to change?
- Are there days when the sugar habits just don’t happen because a situation is different e.g you’re not home alone so it’s different
- Have you noticed your sugar habits change when your routine changes?
- Have you tried to change lots of sugar (& health) habits all at once but they’ve all slipped back?
Section 4: Is your wider relationship with food playing significantly into your sugar issues?
- Have you dieted or restricted your diet for an extended period of time (over 3 months)?
- Do you sometimes overeat on other food other than sweet things e.g. crisps, carbs, junk food etc.
- Do you often tell yourself this is the “last time” I am doing this and tend to over eat because you “thought” it was the last time?
- Do food buffets and social situations make you feel slightly anxious?
- Do you have strong rules you try to stick to everyday e.g. eat no sugar, limit carbohydrates etc.?
- Do you overeat excessively when you feel you’ve fallen ‘off the rails’?
- Have you ever, or do you eat too much sugar to the point of feeling very sick?
- Have you ever suffered a large sugar binge? (eating over 1000 calories of sugary foods and feeling particularly bad about it)
- Have you got a history of any disordered eating?
Section 5: Are there bigger things going on?
- Are you feeling very desperate to lose weight rather than it just be ‘nice’ to lose a few pounds?
- Has your sugar intake increased in line with a recent increase of stress, pressure or challenging life situations?
- Would you rate your body confidence lower than usual?
- Have you suffered from any other conditions such as anxiety or depression?
- Do you feel you have no time for yourself or your own interests/hobbies?
How to analyse your answers
The sections are your indicator here. If you have a high % (generally over 50%) for the section, then the answer to the title of that section is very likely a ‘YES’ and will indicate which of the following strategies to take note of.
If you have a high % for Section 1 and not so much the others:
In this case, it is more likely that you may have a stronger physical sugar (fructose) preference.
Your best strategy could be to spend some time learning about the different types of sugar, look for ways to substitute lower sugar alternatives and work on recalibrating your tastebuds to become more sugar sensitive.
If you have a high % for Section 1 and you are above 50% in Sections 2, 4 or 5:
You will need to do the above re-calibration strategy but simultaneously address the emotional and food relationship issues with other mindset reframing exercises. You will likely need quite a personalised approach based on your answers to different questions.
If you have a high % for section 2:
You are potentially damaging your health more with the internal stress your relationship with sugar is causing than you are with the physical impact of the sugar. It will be helpful for you to look into what your coping mechanisms are for boredom and stress. If Section 1 is below 30%, focus a little less on the sugar and more on your habits around emotional processing and resilience.
If you have a high % in section 3:
It’s likely your routine habits are playing more strongly into your relationship with sugar. Potentially habits that are deeply embedded over years e.g. family dessert or hot drink rituals. You are best to put in place a steady singular habit change initiative and prioritise each habit so you avoid doing too much at once.
If you have a high % in section 4:
It’s potentially likely that sugar is just the manifestation for deeper relationship with food issues. I’d advise away from any more detoxes or diets to reduce your cravings. Refocus your efforts on re-learning to eat without a diet mentality and move away from thinking going sugar-free is the answer to your challenges.
If you have a high % in section 5:
It’s likely that the sugar challenges are more significantly the symptom of other bigger issues at hand. Don’t be afraid of seeking extra support in some form (close family or friends, counselling, a therapist or a coach). Make sure you feel safe and do not feel judged on your feelings, your life situation or sugar related behaviour.
As you can see, being ‘addicted to sugar’ can be much more complex than just eating too many grams of the stuff. However all of this has a way forward that can get you to a less ‘sugar addicted’ or emotionally sugar dependent place so essentially you can get on with living a very healthy and happy lower sugar life that let’s you do all you want to.