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I realized recently that I had only gotten partway through my series on sugar. Life just got in the way and I totally forgot about it. If you haven’t read Part 1 and Part 2 of this series, I suggest reading those first and then heading into this one. Part 4 will be some frequently asked questions about sugar addiction, disease, and recovery, so feel free to email me any questions you would like answered.
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First, I want to state a couple things before I begin.
I’m not saying that you can never, ever have another sweet treat in your entire life. I still believe that treats in moderation are fine. Just remember what the definition of a treat is:
“An event or item that is out of the ordinary and gives great pleasure.”
So, keeping that in mind, I think that treats are fine. On occasion. But definitely not everyday.
However, if you suffer from diabetes, insulin resistance, or sugar addiction, then you need to be more careful. Especially if you’re diabetic or borderline diabetic. In these cases, then I think it would be wise to avoid all sugar, and even treats on special occasions. Your long-term health depends on that and I don’t think we really understand just how bad sugar is for our body.
Pay attention to how your body feels after consuming sugar, even in moderation. Once you start tuning into your body, you will be able to see the effects of sugar on your system and that may encourage you to start avoiding it more and more.
What Causes Sugar Addiction?
A lot of people would probably laugh at this series. Sugar addiction? You can’t be serious. How can someone be addicted to sugar? Well, to those people, I say that sugar addiction is very real, with over 1.4 million hits coming up when you search for “sugar addiction” on Google. Who becomes addicted and how it starts is still a mystery. However, I think that one of the main problems is that our food is laden with sugar and a lot of times we don’t realize it. Even items that aren’t sweet, still have sugar in them. It’s unbelievable!
Many times, people turn to sweets as a comfort food. Perhaps it starts out when they feel sad about something and they have some cookies. Then, it makes them feel better. So, the next time they feel sad, their brain remembers what made them feel better and then they eat more cookies. And thus the cycle begins. This was me. I ate and craved sweets when I was emotional. Didn’t matter the emotion – happy, sad, stressed, angry – I wanted something sweet. I started dealing with my emotions using sugar and I then became a sugar addict. It’s not hard to do and unfortunately, it’s often difficult for people to notice happening. And, because the vice is in the form of food, a lot of times family and friends won’t see a problem either.
10 Steps to Recovery From Sugar Addiction
So, how do you recover? Here are the steps that I came up with that have helped me:
1. Recognize and admit to yourself that there is a problem. Until you do that, you won’t be able to move forward.
2. Forgive yourself. Don’t beat yourself up about this. Don’t let yourself be emotional about it, or else the cravings will come back. You must be firm, but loving towards yourself.
3. Talk to a family member or friend, if you feel comfortable. Admit you have a problem with sugar, even if it feels silly. Make sure this is someone who you can trust and who you are confident won’t judge you or try to tell you you’re crazy.
4. Identify the times and emotions that make you eat/crave sugar. Start writing these down and paying attention to what goes on in your brain when you’re stressed, sad, angry, or happy. Once you start recognizing the triggers, you will be able to start altering your reactions.
5. Get rid of all of the sugary sweets in your house. Toss them in the trash and don’t look back. And don’t buy more the next time you’re at the grocery store.
6a. Set a goal to weaning yourself off of sugar. First, eliminate all refined flours and sugars from your diet. Get rid of anything processed. Make a commitment that you will only eat treats that YOU prepare. That way you can control the ingredients. Limit your treats to special occasions, or at the very least, once a week. Replace refined sweeteners with things like maple syrup, coconut sugar, and stevia.
6b. Set a goal to stop cold turkey. This is especially important if you’re diabetic or insulin resistant (pre-diabetic). There have been many cases of people who have healed their diabetes or avoided the onset of diabetes simply by completely eliminating sugar from their diet. And this also apply to bread, pasta, etc., but that is a totally different post! Just remember that all carbs turn into sugar in the body in some way, shape, or form. For some, cold turkey might be the best way to go and if you’re strong-willed enough, then go for it!
7. Replace your bad habits with good habits. Once you recognize what your triggers are, you can start altering your behavior. Stressed? Work in your garden or do some yoga. Sad? Take a warm bath with herbs and essential oils. Angry? Go for a walk or a run or head to the gym. Or, find someplace where you can scream at the top of your lungs. Trust me, it will make you feel better! 🙂 The key here is to identify the trigger and replace the sugar with a different, healthy “addiction”.
8. Don’t overthink things. Don’t stress yourself out further. Don’t beat yourself up if you slip-up and eat a donut. Identify why you did it, figure out an alternative behavior, accept the mistake, move on. Don’t dwell on it. Don’t let yourself get emotional about it. Just make peace and move on.
9. Reassess your goals. How are things working out for you? Are there areas that still need improvement or refining? Take some time to reflect on your journey so far and see what else you need to work on or what other techniques you could employ to help you be successful.
10. Finally, celebrate your success! Whether it’s going one week, one month, or one year with no sugary treats, make sure you acknowledge your success and reward yourself. And no, that doesn’t mean eating a piece of cake. Buy yourself a new CD, go get a massage, get that pair of shoes you’ve been wanting. Be proud of yourself!
I Want to Hear From You!
While I am not a doctor and none of the information on this website should ever be taken as medical advice, I am a recovering sugar addict, and this series is coming straight from the heart. I know how hard it is to give up/limit sugary sweets. I still struggle with it. I fall off the wagon. I eat crap and then feel terrible about it afterwards. But, over time, the wagon falls are getting fewer and further between and I am learning not to beat myself up over it. Practice makes perfect.
Do you struggle with sugar? Would you consider yourself addicted? Are you a former sugar addict? If so, what steps did you take to eliminate sugar from your diet? Please feel free to share your stories, tips, or ideas. Your comments will help many, many people out there who struggle with this addiction.
Sugar is a serious problem for me. I started the Atkins diet last March and lost 40 lbs. Because I believe in whole, traditional foods, I tried to stay away from the frankenfoods supposed to be “safe” on Atkins, but I did use them some in the beginning as I weaned off of sugar. Really, though, the best thing for me was simply to cut them out all together. I do use liquid stevia in beverages and a little in cooking. After a certain point, I have ceased to crave the junk. In the beginning stages of Atkins, there are no grains, no legumes, minimal dairy, and no sugar. I felt so good eating this way, which is very similar to paleo/primal eating, that I decided that primal or paleo eating is really the way for me. I made it through the winter holidays without any problem, but hit Easter this year, and started on a downward spiral. In the last two weeks, I have gained ten pounds. I am confident I can lose it again quickly, but I have to again step away from the sugar and grains I have let back into my diet. We have had much celebrating of birthdays, first communion, etc., and that has provided ample opportunity for me to cheat. The biggest problem is not the weight gain but my energy levels and mood are low. I feel much more energetic and struggle far less with depression and just plain grouchiness when I am not eating sugar and grains. It IS possible to cut sugar and bread out of your diet. If I can do it, anyone can!
Hi Jody – thank you for reading a commenting. I don’t think people realize how big of a problem sugar is. I did Atkins for awhile back when it first became popular. I did lose a lot of weight, but I didn’t feel very healthy doing it. I also agree about the processed “safe” foods that they approve. I am pretty much against anything “food” that is pre-packaged. I don’t think there is any nutritional value left by the time the food has been processed and packaged! The paleo and primal diets are something that I am learning more about and they really do seem to be a good way to eat and a lot of people have had much success. The biggest things for me was to eliminate bread, pasta, rice, cakes, cookies, etc. I still consume dairy and fruit, though not as much fruit as I once did. And I try to limit my treats to one day per week. I am not quite to the 100% elimination of everything sweet yet, but I am sure I will get there. For now, I just make the best choices I can! 🙂 I do still have days where I slip up and roll right back down to the bottom of the hill. However, I think those days are fewer and farther between now!
I love your posts Jessica. I used to be a big time sugar addict (of course I never realised it). Now, working in the health industry, I am still working in my ‘natural sugar’ addiction – a date after dinner or a raw cacao mousse or a little this…only natural sugar, but nearly every day and sugar none-the-less…
Hi Caroline – Thank you SO much for your kind words! It means a lot to me! I have to say that I think I still am “natural sugar addicted” too. I don’t crave sweets like I used to, but I do still use sweeteners in moderation. Not sure if I’ll ever be 100% sugar free, but I’m not going to worry about that right now. I just need to keep on moving forward and learning and sharing! That’s how we all grow and improve! Hope you’ve had a lovely day! 🙂
I agree with all I have read here. I realize that that since I have cut out sugar and flour, all processed foods – the next step is to eliminate the powdered stevia I’ve been using in place of sugar. I’ve gotten much wonderful help from folks in O (Overeaters Anonymous). I lost about 60 lbs but recently put 20 back on. Now I’m getting back in the “zone” and ready to tackled this once again – ONE DAY AT A TIME. Don’t think about never having something sweet again. Just concentrate on this day alone, even just one meal at a time and doing the best you can. It’s a process! It is wonderful to feel so much better without the sugar in my life!
Hi CB – Thank you for stopping by, reading and leaving a comment. Much appreciated. It’s all a learning process. One small step at a time. I am constantly reminding myself to just focus on today and not worry about tomorrow. Some days I do better than others! 🙂 I’m glad you have has success with OA too. Like I mentioned above to Chawalee, I have not personal experience with them, but they sound like a great organization! 🙂
I too have been attending OA Overeaters Annonymous. A wonderful organization. We are encouraged with God’s help to stay away from our binge foods totally. I have been sugar free for 9 months. I find honey possible in small amounts. Love waking up without feeling tired; I love not binging on every little bit of sugar I could find in the house. Love not being tempted to buy chocolate bars, and even icecream cones, now that summer is here. I find though, that I cannot give in to even one bite or the cravings begin again. It is total freedom to be sugar free.
Hi Chawalee – Thank you for reading and commenting. I don’t have any experience with OA, but it sounds like it’s a great organization. And it’s fantastic that it has helped you with your journey of going sugar free! I find that once you get the junk out of your system, you no longer crave it. You just have to be careful not to let it back in, or the vicious cycle starts all over again! 🙂
Great advice, Jessica! Sounds like we all appreciate your honesty. Someone mentioned that they are trying to cut our Stevia. Why is that?
I don’t know if I’m particularly phsychologically addicted to sugar (although, I definitely relate to the addiction symptoms regarding my relationship with caffeine/coffee–that’s a whole other can of worms though), but I know that as I have tried to reduce the sweeteners and carbs from my diet, I definitely have physical cravings for it! I recently noticed that they become uncontrollable cravings when I do not take my iron supplement! I have been out for a few weeks, and I’ve noticed that the longer I’ve been off of it, the more I cannot stay away from the sugar (daily chocolate chip binges!), even though I had gone months with only ~1 soda/wk & ~1 dessert/2 wks.
I don’t know how I missed this comment! My apologies for not answering sooner! Everyone is different. I know people who just don’t like sweets. I wish I could have that problem! Life would be so much better! I think I’m the opposite of you. I’ve never had a problem with caffeine. We all have our vices, huh? We just have to remember to do the best we can with what we have and not beat ourselves up!
Refined sugar is addictive because it is a drug, just like cocaine, heroine, and alcohol. As discussed below, the solution is to restore the brain’s ability to produce neurotransmitters with high potency amino acids. Unfortunately, only drug rehab centers usually offer highly effective amino acids that are free of fat-promoting fruit/sugar and toxic addictives (e.g. soy, wheat, maltodextrin, stearic acid, etc.).
For the past 15 years, Aminokit Laboratories has been successfully helping drug addicts overcome their cravings for legal and illegal drugs as well as for refined sugar. It oversees drug rehab centers in the United States and sells Aminokit Recovery Formula – its highly effective, proprietary blend of amino acids, vitamins, and minerals – as a sugar addiction treatment thru Obesity Research Promotions LLC.
Even those who eat only natural food (e.g. unprocessed protein, vegetables, nuts, whole fruit, etc.), too often lack essential nutrients – specifically amino acids – due to animals raised on grains instead of grass and depleted soils. After water, amino acids are the second most abundant substance in the body. The brain needs amino acids to create the neurotransmitters (e.g. dopamine, seratonin, beta endorphins, etc.) needed for the body to sustain normal biochemical mechanisms, including hormonal systems that lead to fat burning and appetite suppression.
Without sufficient amino acids from food or supplements, the body will crave the drugs (including refined sugar) that enable it to produce critical neurotransmitters. Sugar addiction is a physical phenomenon that has been incorrectly attributed to “emotional eating.” People do eat food in response to negative (or positive) emotions, but the food they choose could be natural and healthy, if the body had sufficient amino acids so that refined sugar (or other drugs) were unnecessary for neurotransmitter production.
Thanks for your insight Courtney. There is so much that goes into sugar addiction, which is why it is so hard for people to break the addiction. It can be emotional and/or physiological. It just takes time, patience, forgiveness, and support. As a side note, as you read through my blog, you’ll see that I am a big advocate for grass-fed and pastured meats. I don’t eat commercial beef anymore. I purchase mine from a local rancher that is 100% grass fed. I encourage everyone I know to do the same, unless they are lucky enough to raise their own!
Your sugar series has been a real eye opener to me. I knew I liked sugar but I never considered an addiction. Since your first post, I went cold turkey on refined sugars & began using honey & other natural sweetners instead. That first week, I had a massive headache and serious cravings but the second week I felt so much better. My sugar cravings have greatly reduced & I have found that I use less & less of the natural sweetners. I’ve even started to lose a couple of lbs. Thanks so much for making me aware of my sugar addiction.
Hi Nicola – thanks for stopping by and commenting. I’m glad that this post helped you in whatever way possible. The key to long-term success, I think, is to gradually weed out the junk. Before long, you won’t even miss it!
It is an informative post. We know that sugar contain more calories. More sugar is not good for health and wealth. You must make a plan for eat less sugar in your regular diet.
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I was so happy to find these posts. In part 1 when you described the symptoms of your sugar addiction I felt like you were describing me. I always do great for a while but something happens where I slip up and binge on sugary foods and say to myself “oh its okay I’ll start eating right again tomorrow.” Then recently I heard someone talking about alcoholics saying “oh I’ll just have two more drinks then I’ll quit” and I realized I have a problem. I understand that it is difficult and I have to distract myself when cravings hit but I am so glad to know that I am not alone. Knowing that other people understand, even if I don’t know them, makes me want to work harder to keep on top of my sugar addiction.
It takes vigilance, that’s for sure. I still slip up, even though I know better. I know that at some point, I will completely kick the habit, but it’s something I still struggle with. One day at a time is all we can do! 🙂
after years of being addicted to sugar & carbs I learned a year ago that I have Candida which took the choice of what to eat totally out of my hands. I had to change my diet 100% after seeing a naturopath – I have lost about 70 pounds and my health issues are for the most part gone. In my case there was a reason for the cravings and burning stomach and I am grateful that I finally have the control to make permanent changes!
Hi Linda – Yes, Candida can be a killer when it comes to sugar addiction. It is definitely something that I think everyone needs to look into if they find that they are craving lots of sugar. So glad you were able to get rid of it and now live a healthier life! Congrats!! 🙂
I don’t know how I found you but your blogs were covering my Pinterest home and I’m SO GLAD THEY WERE! I just had a little boy 2 months ago and today I started to workout. It felt soooo good to get my body moving again. Along with working out, I am changing my diet to be much healthier. I had cleaned out my fridge then gone to the store earlier and bought veggies & fruits; good stuff. No junk. After working out this evening, I came home to eat hummus and pita chips and some greek yogurt and strawberries. I get in bed and it hit me – I NEEDED something sweet. Good thing I had a pint of Coconut Fudge ICE CREAM in the stinkin’ freezer. After pigging out on that, I felt so bad like I let myself down already, after ONE day. Then, I found your post on sugar addiction and I realized in about 2 seconds that this is my problem. Tomorrow morning I am going to throw away all the crap. I can already can tell it will be hard because once that craving hits, it is really hard to ignore. 🙁 But I know that if I do this, I will feel so much better. Thanks so much for your information. It is just what I needed to see!!!
Hi Savannah – First of all, thanks for stopping by! Second, congrats on the new baby! 🙂 Third, don’t be too hard on yourself! Just take one day at a time and strive to make the best decisions you can each day. You’re going to mess up — we all are. We’re human, after all. Sugar addiction is one of the HARDEST things to fix. Been there. Done that. More than once. There is a reason people call it a drug — it is often harder to get “off” sugar than it is illicit drugs. What I found helpful when I first started giving up sugar was to find real food replacements for the bad foods I was eating. I have always had a sweet tooth, so instead of buying cookies at the store, I would make cookies at home with nutrient-dense ingredients and healthier sugars like honey, or even some stevia. I have developed a few recipes that allow me to get the sweetness of a treat, without a ton of sugar. Check these out and maybe make some of them to keep on hand when you get that craving.
Apple Pie Bites (my all-time fave sugar free sweet treat): https://www.deliciousobsessions.com/2013/09/apple-pie-bites/
Lemon Blueberry Muffins: https://www.deliciousobsessions.com/2012/10/lemon-coconut-blueberry-macadamia-nut-muffins-dairy-sugar-grain-and-gluten-free/
Pumpkin Spice Bread: https://www.deliciousobsessions.com/2012/11/pumpkin-spice-bread-recipe-gluten-grain-dairy-sugar-free/
Lemon Lime Coconut Candies: https://www.deliciousobsessions.com/2013/07/lemon-lime-coconut-candy-recipe-gluten-grain-dairy-and-sugar-free/
Coconut Cream Truffles: https://www.deliciousobsessions.com/2012/11/coconut-cream-truffles-recipe-sugar-gluten-dairy-grain-free/
Vanilla Bean Truffles: https://www.deliciousobsessions.com/2013/07/vanilla-bean-truffles-and-my-journey-towards-health-featured-on-paleo-parents/
My friend Adrienne has a site that is devoted to allergen friendly recipes, including being candida friendly. Most people who suffer from sugar addiction have candida. The more sugar you eat, the more the candida grows. So, she uses alternative sugars that don’t feed the candida, but still give you a treat to tide you over: http://wholenewmom.com/recipes/.
Trust me when I say that it does get easier with time. The first little bit may feel super hard, but it will get easier! Hang in there, be gentle with yourself, and just take it one day at a time! 🙂