10 Ways to Help Break a Sugar Addiction
I received a very moving email the other day and in it the sender asked me how I cut sugar out of my life and how was I able to fill the void that sugar was filling, with something else? They also wanted to know how I made that final commitment to remove sugar from my life?
Hi my name is Jenn and I’m a recovering sugar addict.
If you are a sugar addict, I want to let you know I UNDERSTAND exactly how you feel. People who don’t have the same addiction don’t understand and think it’s silly. It’s NOT. It’s very REAL and the feelings associated with it or caused by it can be very painful. I made that final commitment because I realized but more importantly accepted I had lost all self-control when it came to sugar. And that was wearing on my confidence. I hated that feeling of being controlled by sugar. I hated that I couldn’t pass up sugar. I hated that I dreaded social events because I knew that they would probably lead to a sugar binge. I hated that I could never lose weight because no mater how healthy I ate I would still eat sugar. I hated that I would buy it and eat it really fast in secret. I hated that I would go out of my way to get sugar. I hated feeling like a hypocrite. I had a haunch that sugar was holding me back from who I was supposed to be and I really hated that. I tried eating sugar only on free days/meals but I couldn’t do it. I’d start having little bites here and there during the week and that would lead to a binge. The free day/meal or what I call the sane day/meal is popular among people who train and practice clean eating. It’s a great idea and for many people and it can be really helpful in reaching your goals. But a recovering alcoholic doesn’t take a “free day” where they can drink all they want once a week nor does a herion addict. And deep inside I knew I couldn’t either. So I would say my turning point came when I ACCEPTED that I was a sugar addict and would have to treat it as if I was recovering from a more serious addiction. That may sound dramatic to some but for me it is the truth. Just ask my husband! I had called myself a sugar addict but inside I really thought I could control my habit. When I accepted that I couldn’t control how much sugar I ate I started to look at the problem differently.
I thought for a while about how I would face my addiction. I had tried The Sugar Addicts Total Recovery program. It’s a great book but following the 6 step program didn’t work for me. So after trying different ways to use moderation and wean myself off of it. I decided I’d have to go cold turkey and quit entirely. I chose a year because it seemed permanent and impermanent at the same time. Make sense? Probably not. In other words I felt like if I could go a year then I could go a lifetime but I felt like I could have sugar again if I wanted…in a year. It was a good choice because it gave me enough time to experience the real psychological and physical benefits of not having sugar. In my opinion, a few weeks or months just really isn’t enough time. But more importantly it gave me 12 months to build the confidence in myself that I CAN control myself. This is what replaced filled the void that sugar was filling. Confidence. I needed the time to grow which is why I chose a year as opposed to a month or 8 weeks. But I also choose a year so I didn’t feel trapped. I don’t think I could say I can NEVER have it again so I take it a year at a time. I don’t plan on ever eating it again but having an “out” helps me on days when I really want to eat a bowl of ice cream. Last year, as I neared my 12 month anniversary I began to fret about becoming addicted again. Days before I realized how much better I felt off of sugar and realized I wanted to go another year without candy and sweets. It’s been almost a month of year-two and I can say this year is much easier than last.
I know some of you are doing your own “Song of the Siren Sugar Challenge” I love hearing from you. I can’t tell you how excited I am for you. And for those of you who are considering breaking your sugar addiction here are 10 tips that helped me get through as I struggled to break my sugar addiction.
1. Chew sugarless gum. I almost always have a piece of gum after dinner.
2. Buy a travel mug and take hot tea or coffee with you to social events. Sip very slowly. It will give you something to do with your hands. There are LOTS of yummy teas out there and I’m sure you can find on you really enjoy. I love blueberry tea and jasmine green tea. The Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf have some really yummy teas. I love their Strawberries and Cream and African Sunrise blends.
3. At a get-togethers focus on other people and what they are saying. They will think you are the best conversationalist and you won’t be thinking about the tray of truffles on the counter. Okay maybe you will still be thinking about the truffles but time will pass more quickly if your enjoying your friends instead of thinking about how you can’t have the truffles.
4. If possible don’t keep sugar in the house. Duh. This wasn’t always possible for me.
5. Tell EVERYONE you gave up sugar for a year. You will get some weird looks. People won’t believe you can’t do it. But pride, for all it’s downfalls, can be a good motivator.
6. Find some foods that feel like treats but that really aren’t. For a while I ate a serving of A Good Idea Pudding everyday.
7. Fruit. It can help with cravings and you aren’t likely to binge on tangerines. And if you do at least they have nutritional value.
8. Think about how GREAT you will feel in a year and you will be able to say, “I didn’t eat sugar for a year.” It may annoy other people but it’s fun for you and it will help you stay “sober”.
9. If your at a social event and cravings are hitting you really hard be smug on the inside and sweet on the outside. When I’m particularly struggling I repeat “Let them eat cake” over and over in my head. Yeah it’s a little self-righteous but it’s gets me through the evening without a binge.
10. If you can have an accountability partner, a friend or family member. My husband was mine. He didn’t give up sugar but he knew how much I wanted to break the habit so he was very helpful. After a few months he told me he hoped I never ate sugar again because the changes in my depression were that dramatic. I really needed someone who would encourage me to stay strong when a craving hit.
(So the list is going to be longer than 10 things.).
11. Eat breakfast every morning. A real breakfast with protein. My favorite is 1 egg, 4 egg whites, 1/2 cup oatmeal with cinnamon (not brown sugar!), and 1/2 grapefruit.
12. Speaking of protein eat some every meal. It really does help with cravings.
What about natural sugars?? Things like honey, agave nectar, maple syrup, ect? It really depends. I still eat those things from time to time. I believe RAW honey is very good for you, a superfood, and don’t usually have a problem bingeing on it. Why? Because it makes my tongue raw and it’s terribly expensive. There are some gray areas but things like candy, cakes, cookies are off-limits. Occasionally I’ll have a waffle with some real maple syrup if I’m not PMS-ing or if I’m not emotional. And I almost always measure it out with a tablespoon, put it away, and say out loud to my husband that I will not be having anymore. But I’ve also found that I can enjoy things like whole grain (not white) waffles with just fruit. Years ago I got really sick from drinking over a cup of maple syrup so it’s not really a temptation any more. So far I’ve not had a problem bingeing on those things although I’m well aware I’m capable of it and tread that slope with caution. If I having a really strong craving I may have some dried fruit which can be a problem but I still think it’s better than satisfying that craving with cupcakes or chocolate. I wouldn’t recommend natural sugars until you are confident you can eat them without going crazy. I’ve found them to be a lot less addicting than refined stuff but it’s still best to be cautious. It’s much easier to pass by the honey jar than it is the cookie plate.
I hope this helps someone. If I can break my addiction ANYONE can because I was once someone who hid out behind my house pouring a bottle of pancake syrup down my throat.