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Sugar/carb addiction - how long until recovery? Until re-addiction?

Like many people, I crave sugary and simple-carby foods, but if I cut them out for a while, my craving for them decreases. If I eat them again, it can kick off a streak of being hooked again.

If you have similar cravings, how long do you find you need to avoid them before you don't feel so hooked? How much eating of them before you're hooked all over again? If you stay off them longer, are you less susceptible to getting re-hooked? Or does the amount that re-addicts you stay pretty constant regardless of how long you'd gone without them? Are there research findings about this timing?

Soda is a category of its own for me -- I know if I drink it several times in a week, I'll get hooked specifically on soda, and if I go without for a week or two, I really don't miss it after that. But I'm not sure of the timing it takes to turn on/off my craving for the more general class of sugary and simple-carby foods -- cookies, desserts, chocolate, breads, pizza, pasta, etc. (I don't really get hooked on purely sugary candy that's not chocolate, or on salty snacks. I can enjoy those on occasion without ever starting to feel like I NEED them.)

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  1. To crave something, and to be physically addicted to something are two complete different things.

    1 Reply
    1. re: poser

      Point taken, and I'm not concerned with whether or not it's an actual physical addiction. I'm using the term 'addiction' colloquially, and my question is the same if you replace that term with whatever more precise one you prefer.

    2. I think the answer to this will be highly individual. I've never felt addicted to carbs/sugar, though I like and eat them regularly. When I dieted too stringently in the past I craved fat like melty cheese and juicy steak. My cravings are usually triggered by a visual cue or by suggestion.

      1 Reply
      1. re: WishyFish

        Agreed this is very individual. I am not a big carb fan and can go a long time without craving them. Once I do I'm quickly saturated and don't want them anymore.

        To the OP are there particular foods you crave?

      2. It's a problem for me. I've gone 2 years without eating them, had a taste and launched into the same insanity.

        I always think I've been so "good". I'm not even interested in them anymore so I can just have Thanksgiving free and go right back to my regimen. It doesn't work. Sometimes it takes more than a year to clean out my system and get disciplined again.

        I am currently trying to tame the beast anew.

        Good luck with your own challenge.

        1. This is strange. I don't have I have any strong craving for sugary or carb foods. One week, I may be eating a bunch of carb like fried rice and waffles and ice cream, and in another whole week I could on a fairly veggie and meaty diet.

          What do you mean by craving? Like thinking about the foods in question? I don't.

          I also sometime crave for pizza especially when I walk by the frozen pizza section in supermarkets, but I don't really eat these pizza more than once every 3 months, so I cannot really crave for them very strongly. On top of that, I am pretty sure I crave for the melting cheese more than the pizza dough -- which mean it is not because of the sugar or the carb, but the fat.

          3 Replies
          1. re: Chemicalkinetics

            "This is strange. I don't have I have any strong craving for sugary or carb foods. One week, I may eating a bunch of carb like fried rice and waffles and ice cream, and in another whole week I could on a fairly veggie and meaty diet."

            I feel your pain .... lol. I crave certain foods from time to time, and would eat it several times a week but would tire of it. Then the next week it's something else. Call it food ADHD ? lol.

            1. re: LotusRapper

              :) Maybe we less "food loyal" than others. Come to think of it. I do crave ice cream more in winter than summer. I usually get at least two ice cream containers during winter, and often none in the summer. I think I crave for high calories food during winter.

              I just realize that you are from Vancouver, Canada. Vancouver has a lot of great food from nice restaurants to street carts. It was pretty cool when I last visited. I also love Toronoto. Great Japanese and Chinese food there. Really good.

              Look at all these wonderful knives I bought from Toronto this year


              and the year before:


          2. I don't know what the timing was, but 40 years ago I would have a maple bar (with coffee) for breakfast. Now, the mere thought of eating such a thing is sickening. I can eat a taste of sweets now and then, but never to the extend of developing a habit again. It's easier to give something up entirely than to try to moderate one's intake of it, especially sugar (in all its forms).

            I don't put pizza in the same category, by the way. There's nothing necessarily wrong with thin-crust pizza, in my opinion.

            I would say it takes a year or so, perhaps several years, to get to a point where there is no desire to eat sugary things again. It helps to develop an interest in other foods. For me, sushi was a big part of my conversion to healthier eating, for example.

            1. Wow, lucky are those not at the mercy of their cravings... They say it takes 30 days to make or break a habit. If you can restrict it that long eventually you can reintroduce in moderation without falling off the wagon again. I agree when you cut back you crave it less. After I gave up sugar I started craving fish and chicken.

              Good luck and eat lots of fruit and frozen crystal light!

              1. Some of you are asking what I mean. I'm not sure how to explain it if you don't experience it yourself, but I suspect it might be like this...

                Imagine you just ate one Oreo. Crunched it up and yum, gone. You're holding another one right under your nose. That feeling you might have -- really wanting to eat it, finding it very hard to resist eating it, finding yourself very focused on it and thinking about it while you do other things, finding a lovely salad rather irrelevant to your situation -- that's how I feel when I'm in a sugar/carb-craving phase.

                I feel that way about the sugary, simple-carby foods I mentioned in the OP -- cookies, desserts, chocolate, breads, pizza, pasta, etc. I might have a fridge full of vegetables, fruits, proteins, legumes, nuts, greek yogurt... (yes, even nicely prepared, ready-to-eat things), and they seem, well, beside the point. Once I resist the problem foods for a while, those other choices become appealing again, and I don't feel as preoccupied and will-less when it comes to the sugary/carby stuff.

                Does that help? If that does apply to you, what I'm wondering is how long that "while" is that you have to resist, and then how much you can indulge without kicking the craving phase back into gear.

                (Also, one minor note: I'm not overweight and not trying to lose; it's my overall health I'm focused on.)

                1 Reply
                1. re: fleenshop

                  What you're descring has been well researched, carbs = insulin - dopamine and other feel good endorphins. There are actually people addicted to these foods and it's the same pathways that lead to addiction with other substances like drugs. I'm not saying you're addicted but I understand how you can feel because I've read a lot of research on this topic out of interest because I find it fascinating and also to try to parse out the differences among us - for example, I'm a person who literally gets sick of ice cream after 3 bites, why is my tolerance so much lower, why do I not get that eat more right now instinct? I think it is a very complicated thing and very interesting.

                  I mostly indulge in carbs during the holidays when I saturate my threshold and then don't really want them for nearly a year or so or at least 6 months. However, during those times when I think I really want xyz carb item, that when it hasn't been around and I'm forced to eat the fridge full of fresh prepared food that it usually satisfies me better and so now I make myself stop and think before I just inhale a simple sugar carb food. For me at least, it's usually less satisfying than a real meal.

                  "If that does apply to you, what I'm wondering is how long that "while" is that you have to resist, and then how much you can indulge without kicking the craving phase back into gear"


                  Again, I don't think there is an answer to your question. You might have to be willing to experiment with yourself and find out the answers or find out the specific triggers for you. Perhaps you can have a piece of cake but you can't touch tortilla chips without igniting the craving beast, or something like that.

                  Lastly, if it's your overall health you're focused on then just say no. Fight the cravings, say no. Keep it out the house if you have to. I used to nibble when people would have sweets and always came to the conclusion that I really didn't like them. While this may not be completely true for you as you seem to like the foods, it's a similar mind set to just say no for another reason that you find more important than the instant gratification from eating the food.

                2. For years- like....10? I was a diet coke person. Not obscence, but at least one 20oz bottle a day. I started cutting back and eventually swapped it for a caffinated tea if i needed a pick me up or a sparkling water.
                  I would occassionally have one, maybe once a month or so but it became less appealing. After not having it for more than a year i bought one, took two sips, and it was the most vile thing i'd had!!! Haven't touched it since.
                  The seltzer water or sparkling water- usually with lemon or cucumber and mint- really helped initially.

                  With the carby cravings coming and going that is sooo individual. I get random cravings- the other day junior mints of all things!- but i feel satiated after i've had some. I had a handful of junior mints and that was that. Today they don't sound appealing, so i tossed them out since i want to keep those a rare random treat.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: Ttrockwood

                    I cut out sodas more than 3 years ago. I got p*ssed at what I was paying for sweetened water. …not to mention all the disposable bottles and cans.

                    I don't miss it a bit!

                    Did you know that bodies react to artificially sweetened foods in pretty much the same way they do to sugar? There aren't the same calories but there IS the same blood sugar rush/crash that ends up in bad food choices and extra body weight.

                    Good for you for putting them behind you!!!

                  2. Hi, fleenshop:

                    Here's what works for me...

                    Whenever I experience the craving, I stave it off with a glazed old-fashioned style buttermilk donut...


                    1 Reply