If there was one thing that had once consumed me in a powerless relationship over food via emotional eating, it was my sugar addiction. It was neither predictable nor optional when the cravings I had for sugar surfaced. And if my sugar cravings awakened early enough in the day, they would only invite even more feelings of temptation and surrender into my valiant, yet ineffective attempts to silence this unforgiving addiction.
Sounds like a pretty bad situation to live with every day for a lifetime. Right?
Although my sugar addiction was by far my greatest eating enemy, it was exactly the nemesis I needed to drive me to explore the concepts and strategies that I had, in order to overcome my uncontrollable sugar cravings once and for all.
Believe it or not, before I was a dietitian and nutritionist, (I too) went to see a dietitian! This came to light at the very beginning of my college education when I knew that my sugar addiction was my greatest weakness. I knew if I was going to go to school to become someone who could help others with nutrition, then I should probably learn how to help myself first!!
I went to one of the most reputable dietitians in town. I was ready to spend weeks, months, or even years sitting in this dietitian’s office hashing out my deepest and darkest thoughts that were what I thought to be manifesting into this sugar addiction that I could never overcome. I believed that the cravings, and the temptations, and the emotional experiences that I went through – that were shortly followed by a chocolate ice cream binge – were somehow connected in some subconscious and interwoven way.
Here’s the thing: Science is, in fact, a beautiful thing. Isn’t it? It is so straightforward. Black and white. True and false. And after years of my life revolving around feelings and emotions when it came to food, not a word about a single emotion was spoken that day between this dietitian and myself.
“The answer is simple” she said, “You just need to eat more complex carbs in ratio to your sugar.”
I remember hearing her say this, and thinking, “Oh my god she has the holy grail of sugar addiction knowledge!!!” But in that moment, I was also skeptical. I then said, “So…what you’re saying is that I need to eat more complex carbs…Like, exactly how many complex carbs should I be eating when I eat sugar?”
And then I was on to something! Numbers in nutrition can be so satisfying. Everybody wants to know exactly “how many grams of carbs should I be eating” or “what percent of my diet should be protein?” So once I had clarification on a number to work with, the scariness of the unknown started to go away! What was even better was just the idea that EMOTIONS WERE NOT THE SOLE CAUSE FOR THESE CRAVINGS! In that moment, it was not about the triggers that were initiating these sugar cravings…it was the fact that I was eating too much of a food that was causing me to experience sugar cravings!
The very next day I started eating more complex carbs before I ate any foods that had sugar in them, and the cravings eventually started to subside! What was even more remarkable was actually the tremendous shift I saw in my food cravings overall when I switched from a high carb diet to a (healthy) high-fat diet.
Stay tuned to this blog to hear about how a (Healthy) High-Fat Diet Changed my Life!!!
How to Rebuild Your Brain to be Sugar-Addiction Free!
When somebody is trying to “quit” something, there are basically two approaches:
Approach number 1 is “cold turkey” – you basically refrain from taking in any and all sugar for a number of days – many people refer to this as a sugar detox. While this can most certainly allow your brain to re-develop, and make you feel normal again (perhaps more abruptly), there is a period where you can experience those withdrawal symptoms because your body is used to having that external source of dopamine (happy brain chemicals) coming through sugar!
Another concern with this method is the question of sustainability – How LONG are you going to do this for? 1 week may not be enough time and the longer you stretch this kind of intervention, the more difficult it can be to sustain in the long term. Also, it does not address the VERY important fact that once the cold turkey phase is complete…How much sugar do you eat then? You can’t just go back to eating molten lava cakes and never feel the sensation of a sugar craving again because when you eat large amounts of sugar again, then you may just become addicted (…AGAIN!)
Approach number 2 for overcoming your sugar addiction is to WEAN yourself off of the addictive substance and then establish a healthy daily amount for your future. The American Heart Association recommends no more than 25 grams of added sugar per day for women and 36 grams of added sugar per day for men. In my professional experience, even those who are weaning off of sugar do not always tolerate even this much sugar. That is why I prefer to approach this from a different perspective:
The way that I have found to work best for many people is by eating foods that contain NATURAL alternative sweeteners. Now, I get it, the word “natural” means nothing to most people, and honestly, that seems like a good rule of thumb to live by when it comes to most packaged food products! But in this sense, the reason I use the term “natural” is because it is in opposition to the term “artificial”, meaning a chemical substance that has been developed in a laboratory. Natural sweeteners, such as stevia and monkfruit, are 200-300 times sweeter than sugar (so you only need 200-300 less to sweeten something)!
When wearning off of sugar, eating food products with these sweeteners, and of course in combination with a (Healthy) High-Fat Diet, can ease the transition of coming off of a sugar addiction and minimize uncontrollable cravings in the process. A few food products that include these sweeteners are:
- Lily’s chocolate bars and morsels
- Hu chocolate bars
- Halo Top ice cream
- Whole Earth stevia and monfruit sweetener packets (can use in coffee and tea)
- So Delicious No Sugar Added ice creams and ice cream bars
- Simply Delish chocolate pudding mix
By consuming these types of desserts instead of desserts with sugar, you do not send the same signals to your brain that can lead to addiction in the long term. If you would like to learn more about the neurochemical pathways that are associated with sugar (and other food) addictions, stay tuned for my post on “How Food Cravings and Emotional Eating Work” !!!
As a nutrition expert and former sugar addict, I want to be fully transparent when I say that there are certainly still times where I intentionally eat sugar! But what is different now from then is that I am at peace with eating it. I do not experience NEARLY the sensations of uncontrollable cravings that I once had in the past before my dietitian herself taught me how to rationally handle it. I now understand how to time my sugar eating appropriately to use it to its full efficiency and capacity, and am at peace with both the downfalls and potentials that sugar can possess.
Want to learn how to master YOUR sugar cravings!? Email me! I have helped hundreds of others overcome their obstacles around food and I am every bit confident that we can do the same for you!!