You may be starting to notice that you might have an addiction. You may have been at a party and wanted nothing more than to sit next to the snack bar and devour all the cookies, cakes, chips, and bread. Or, maybe you find yourself hoarding candies/ sweets and eating them when no one is around. In this post, I will share my top 10 tips for breaking a sugar addiction, plus a ton of information about why one might pick up a sugar addiction, and how to overcome it.
Top 10 Tips To Breaking A Sugar Addition
Many of us have felt the urge to grab something sweet, but how do you know when it’s a habit that is getting out of control? Hello, my name is Vanessa and I’m a recovering sugar addict. It sounds a bit ridiculous to say, but it’s true. To be even more honest, I’ve only been in recovery for 3 years, so it is still a new process for me.
My addiction started like most. During childhood, my father was also a sugar addict and often shared his treats with me. This made sugar have such an imprint on my life. It was a part of every positive childhood memory. The holidays are the obvious, but even during family events, movie nights, sleepover parties or when we did well in school, the treat was always something sweet. It only got worse as an adult as I continued to treat myself with sugar. Whenever I did something well, accomplished something great, or even felt bad, sugar was my go-to treatment.
So, why do we do it? Why does that cookie have such power? This may be an indication that you have a lack of willpower, or maybe your need is hardwired into your brain. Or, maybe it’s both!
Why We Crave Sugar
Sugar triggers the release of the feel-good brain chemical called dopamine in the section of the brain normally associated with addictive behaviors. This dopamine releases and produces a drug-like “high” and as the body and brain work to process the sugar, it adapts and naturally craves more.
Researchers have studied the effects of sugar on the brain using rats, and what they’ve found is astonishing. When they offer rats a mixture of water that had either sugar or cocaine in it, 94% of the time the rats would choose the water with the sugar. When the rats were already addicted to cocaine and offered both mixtures, again the rats would choose the sugar. The rats changed their addiction to sugar even when already addicted to another substance.
Thinking about grabbing the “sugar-free” products instead? This will really just make matters worst since artificial sweeteners are even more addictive than regular sugar. I know this is a tough one to understand since many people rely on diet sodas as a “sugar-free” substitute. But, truth be known, aspartame, Nutrasweet, Splenda, and even low-carb sugar products don’t eliminate sugar cravings but increase them. For some people, they also bring unpleasant side effects like headaches and stomach pain. And, because artificial sweeteners are more addictive, they can actually cause you to gain weight.
So, if you’re going to have sugar, then have the real thing, but better yet, break the sugar habit altogether, here’s how!
How To Break A Sugar Addiction: Top 10 Tips to Overcome Sugar Addiction
- Become Aware. Ask yourself, “Why do I want sugar right now?”Are you bored, depressed, or want a time out from stress and anxiety? How does it really make you feel? Become aware of why and when your cravings happen. Sugar creates a happy feeling in your brain, so maybe you’re just wanting more happiness in your life. Understand how much sugar you are actually eating. Get clear about what will most likely happen if you continue with this unhealthy habit. Educate yourself on how sugar affects the body and know that you must change if you want to live a full and healthy life.
- Understand Your Triggers. There are times when you are more prone to indulge in an unhealthy sugar habit. We all can benefit from having healthy boundaries for ourselves and understanding when/where you are triggered the most can help with avoiding and/or overcoming that situation. Create rules that will serve you in those situations like, “I will eat before I leave for the party” or “I will shop in the health food section and not go down the candy aisle”. Know what triggers you so you can make a better plan ahead of time, outside of the tempting situation.
- Don’t Just Eliminate, Replace. It’s important to not just eliminate the highly processed sugar but to replace it with healthier alternatives first. This will minimize the chances of a relapse. So, stock your kitchen with fresh fruit, and if needed, use agave or even honey. These are much healthier and have a lower glycemic index, BUT they still have similar effects of sugar so use them moderately. Fresh fruit is always best! Also, try shifting your habit to something that isn’t sugar related, like reading a book instead of eating ice cream in front of the TV, or going for a walk when you would normally grab a treat.
- Be Kind To Yourself. The first week of sugar abstinence can be uncomfortable, just like a detox. Be kind to yourself. Take things slowly. This is not the time to tackle a big project or work overtime. Go to bed earlier. Take naps. Cook simple meals and don’t cook for your family with the same ingredients you are trying not to eat. Instead, inspire them to join you so this can be something you do as a whole family. We did! Take your time. It’s not a race. Spend some time in prayer or meditation, which always helps to refocus your thoughts.
- Avoid The Crashes. Avoid the sugar crashes so you don’t feel the need to grab a sugary pick-me-up. Make sure to eat enough protein, healthy fats, and fibrous fruit for breakfast, a meal that is normally stocked with simple sugars and other fast-acting carbohydrates. I am constantly eating fruit throughout the day, but breakfast consists of mostly fruit so that I get a healthy level of sugar without the crash. Occasionally, I will have something with dates but I am always careful of the amount of sugar in my cup or on my plate.
- Know Your Worth. You are worth the change! Yes, your body may be sugar sensitive and you may gorge on sugar, but that’s not “you.” It’s just a coping mechanism. It’s how you’ve learned to care for yourself when life feels overwhelming or unsatisfying. You most likely developed this habit as a child and it followed you into adulthood. If you use sugar to cope with life, there’s hope. Your brain is a remarkable tool that can be retrained to learn new ways of caring for your needs. You just need to take the first step. Remember, being addicted to sugar is not a character flaw. It’s simply an unhealthy habit that can be shifted with a little patience and self-love.
- Make A Plan. It’s better to over-plan than under-plan. Every time you prepare a meal or go out, whether it’s a party, movie, or friend’s house, have a plan. That has been super helpful for me in maintaining a proper diet. If it’s a party, I usually eat before I leave and pack food just in case the choices there don’t fit my needs. Check the menu before you go out to a restaurant to make sure they have something you can feel good about eating. Remember, if you fail to plan, you plan to fail. Always make a plan!
- Get Support. It’s hard to admit to people that you have a sugar problem. Most people will probably look at you like you’re crazy. Letting people in and openly sharing your struggles and goals with sugar is a great way to keep you accountable and get the support of others. It was a big help for me to have the support of my husband & some of my family. They would build me up and push me toward the healthier options, of course, there was teasing and I would break from time to time but really it gave me strength. Now I can go to a party with all the cookies, cakes, and chips and not feel tempted for a fix. Plus, now that most people know of my unhealthy habit they usually have a healthy alternative for me!
- Forgive Yourself. I often times felt guilty or ashamed about my sugar addiction. Especially when I relapsed, I would just hold myself in guilt, giving me the excuse to continue on my sugar binge. Releasing that guilt lifted an enormous weight off my psyche. We’re all imperfect. We all cope with life in messy ways. If you have food issues, offer yourself compassion. Find self-acceptance. You need to recognize that all those times you gorged on sugar you were doing the best you could. Find forgiveness for yourself and make peace with your sugar addiction. Every day is a new day to start fresh.
- Don’t Give Up. There will be times that you fall off the wagon. I often call it a relapse because once you eat sugar again, it’s hard to re-break the habit. We know that the more sugar you eat, the more you will crave, so I honestly strive to avoid processed sugar altogether. I will usually grab the fruit first but sometimes I don’t and I go back to old habits of food choices. Yes, I have done this many times but real failure is when you give up. So don’t give up! Get it clear in your head why you relapsed. Show compassion for yourself during those situations and come up with a plan to do better next time. Awareness is key. You can do this!
Child Sugar Addiction
Addictions are built over time and usually start to develop during childhood. What can we do as parents to stop this cycle and reverse the effects? Here are some tips for breaking your child’s sugar addiction. Don’t reward your children with sugary treats. Instead, create a reward system that always points them toward a healthier lifestyle. Educate them about the dangers of sugar. We recently watched Fed Up with our children and it really help with starting the conversation. Above all always lead by example. Our children look to us for guidance, so what they see you do they will follow also.
I hope this post helps with understanding sugar addiction and how to create healthy habits around sugar. Comment & share what you are having trouble with, no judgments, just compassion in knowing that we are in this together <3