Do you feel addicted to sugar? It is so seductive that scientists have recently revealed through brain scans that our brain lights up when it eats sugar in a similar way when taking strong drugs like cocaine! The World Health Organization recommends you eat less than 6 tsp of sugar per day. If you eat more, you are not alone, and there is a way out of sugar prison! I used to be addicted to sugar and flour and finally figured out how to break up with my refined food habit for good.
Step 1. The first thing I had to do was admit I had a problem. Only then could I see the aberrant behavior such as hiding food in the clothes hamper so no one would find it. Consider researching more help here.
Step 2. I had to get counseling to address the emotional root of my binging. I realized that when I felt sad, mad or lonely, I would binge to stop feeling my feelings. It would cause me to numb out. But after the binge I felt 10 times worse, so I knew there had to be a better way. After some deep therapy work on my triggers, I found new ways to cope with my feelings.
Step 3. I needed to break up with the big trigger foods like a bad boyfriend. I slowly said goodbye (with the occasional relapse that reminded me of break up sex) and kept a food journal to monitor my feelings after each food. I started to connect the pain to certain foods and it help me break out of food prison.
Step 4. I got an accountability partner. I used to text what I was eating to my sister. We made a game out of who could eat the healthiest meal. This worked so well that I have recently started a support program for my Transformation Program Students that has them report their weekly food journal and I give them feedback on random days, like nutritional coaching roulette.
Step 5. I sought out beautiful sugar-free foods. There is no need to mourn the loss of sweets when there is such beautiful food to eat. I made hearty soups or a beautiful main dish salad with artichokes (they reduce cravings), roast squash and toasted some nuts or seeds in some seasoning. There are so many amazing foods to enjoy — so enjoy them! By eating lots of varied foods, you reduce the feeling of deprivation. Have a serving of fruit, but buffered with good fat to reduce the sugar impact. Here’s a good tip before giving in to your sweet craving: cut a piece of ripe fruit into slices and dip it into hemp hearts or other seeds and chew slowly. It really does work!
Step 6. I read labels to find the hidden sources of sugar that kept me looped into my addiction. Be aware of sugar in disguise (avoid dextrose, dextrin, cane juice, cane sugar, maple syrup, sucrose, glucose syrup, corn syrup, brown sugar) in dressings, sauces (ketchup) and packaged foods. Small amounts of sugar and trigger you to crave more! If you can’t give up all sweeteners, switch to low Glycemic ones like raw honey and coconut nectar. For a complete list of favourite alternative sweeteners, click here.
Step 7. I found substitutions for my crave foods so that I still had lots of pleasure in my menu! We all need to eat so it is important that the new healthy food gives you lots of joy. I loved cookies, so I worked hard on creating great recipes with extra spices like doubling the cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves and cardamom to add sweetness to your foods and reduce cravings. Plus, cinnamon also controls blood sugar (bonus!). Here is a recipe for my Gluten-Free Ginger Bread Cookies that helps to satisfy your sweet tooth.
I loved gummy bears, so I found sugar-free gummy bears that taste great. I love chocolate so I found a sugar-free chocolate bar that tastes even better than the ones I used to crave! If you can’t find stevia sweetened, then look for coconut sweetened chocolate with the highest percentage of cacao you can find as it lavishly releases endorphins without spiking your blood sugar.
Final Thoughts: I suggest that you work on being gentle and kind to myself. Breaking up with sugar is a dance that takes a few tries to master, so don’t beat yourself up if you need more time and understanding. I know you can do it. Let go of the past and remember every healthy meal is a chance for self-love.