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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.