Expert Advice on How to Triumph Over Sugar Addiction
Updated: Mar 22, 2019
I am an expert on sugar addiction…..
Yes – I am a licensed holistic nutritionist, but this is not what makes me an expert on sugar addiction. I am a sugar addict myself!
It has been one of the hardest things for me to kick. I love Peanut M&Ms – oh and ice cream – the chocolatier the better. Like have you ever tried Ben & Jerry’s Death by Chocolate? That delicious gooey hot fudge sauce and the dense rich chocolate brownie bites all in a creamy dark chocolate ice cream perfection. Omg!
Yes – I am a sugar addiction expert.
I still love sugar no two ways about it, but I do have more control now and the times where I regress are much shorter and not as often as they used to be. This is an important point to recognize in behavior change. Behavior change is often not a linear path, but involves slips backwards. We sometimes get really hard on ourselves when we are trying to change a habit and slip up, but it is a process and hopefully the slip ups get shorter and spaced farther apart over time. Think progress and not perfection.
Now when I regress to eating sugar, it is usually for a spectacular dessert and I can get back to my sugar free eating the next day. A few times a year, I will notice that I have let sugar creep back in more than I want and then I will to do a reset or sugar detox.
In the past, I would eat sugar every day and that was the way I dealt with my emotions and maintained my energy. I lived from one sugar high to the next. I had terrible mood swings, my energy crashed in the afternoon, and I always felt guilty about my eating habits. Now my mind is clear and stable, I have energy throughout the day and I feel good about the way I use food to nourish myself.
You can end your war with sugar – it is entirely possible. Here are some of my top tips for overcoming sugar addiction.
If you really want to triumph over your sugar addiction, I recommend starting with at least a week-long sugar detox. This means NO added sugar in anything for the length of your detox. You will need to read labels on everything to steer clear of sugar. It has many different names so make sure you are reading the labels carefully. I also recommend eliminating natural sweeteners like honey and maple syrup during the detox period.
The first few days will be difficult but it will get easier. During the first few days, as your body adjusts to no added sugar, you may feel moody, fatigued, have headaches, experience brain fog. It is an addiction so your body will be going through withdrawal. For the initial days of detoxing, drink lots and lots of water as this will help you to feel better and help rid your body of toxins. After 48 hours, you should feel much better!
Here is a great resource for additional information on what sugar does to our body:
Dr. Hyman’s How to Eliminate Sugar Cravings Video
Since this is a difficult habit to kick, you may need to come back to this detox from time to time if you fall back into old habits. No worries, remember this is a process and behavior change is not always linear. You are developing tools to help you solidify your new habits.
Protein and Healthy Fats to Minimize Sugar Cravings
When you are trying to minimize your sugar cravings, it is helpful to keep the body satiated with other macronutrients like protein and fats. Protein and fats keep you full longer than carbohydrates and will help to prevent the sugar cravings. Make sure you are getting at least 20 grams of protein with each meal while you are working on beating the sugar habit. Enjoy healthy fats like nuts, olive oil, olives, and avocado.
Trader Joe’s makes these delicious little olive packets (shown below) which are a great grab and go option for a healthy fat.
Your gut contains more microorganisms (bugs) than there are cells in your body. This is the microbiome and when you have been eating a lot of sugar, you may have more bad bugs in your gut than good bugs. The bad bugs love sugar and actually signal to your brain for you to eat more sugar so they can stay healthy and multiply. These bad bugs make it hard to overcome your sugar addiction, so as they die off when you do the sugar detox, you want to add back in good bugs to repopulate your gut. You can do this by adding fermented foods to your diet or taking a probiotic supplement.
Drink Plenty of Water
Some people mistake thirst for sugar cravings. Whenever you want to reach for something sweet, have a glass of water first and see if the craving subsides. You will be amazed at how many times this does the trick!
When feeling low emotionally, some people reach for sugar to boost their mood. The sugar works temporarily by producing a surge in blood glucose and also initiating a boost of dopamine in the brain. Dopamine is one of our feel-good brain chemicals and sugar hits the dopamine receptors in the brain. This is one of the reasons sugar is so addictive. In addition, the more overweight you are the less sensitive your dopamine receptors are and you will need more sugar to feel the mood boost. In one experiment, rats who were addicted to sugar and cocaine were given a choice and they chose sugar over cocaine.
As the sugar cravings hit, ask yourself what you are needing. Is it that you are feeling low and need an emotional pick me up? Perhaps try a bath or a hug from a loved one instead. Maybe it is the sweetness of self-care or human connection which you really need and not a cupcake.
There is an intuitive eating experiment to help you come to terms with the emotional side of your sugar addiction. Think of a sugary food you really love and now make plans to eat this food sometime over the next week. Define exactly when and where you will eat the sugary snack. Now when you eat the sugary snack, write down what you are feeling and how the food tastes. It can be eye opening how the addictive food just doesn’t seem as tasty when you give yourself the unconditional permission to eat it and plan ahead for the event. It loses the emotional rush you might typically get from “being bad” and eating it out of desperation.
These are my top tips for winning your battle with sugar addiction. Remember this is a process and it will get easier over time. Don’t expect perfection at first, but keep working at it and you can find yourself in a place of contentment with your relationship with sweets and feel so much better. No more mood swings, better energy, clearer skin, improved memory and focus and much more!
If you want to end your battle with sugar addiction and would like the support of a clinical nutritionist who is a sugar addiction “expert”, get started by booking a 60 minute intake appointment now.