Once you get started, it can be difficult to stop eating sugar. It tickles your dopamine center and your eyes roll to the back of your head and a sigh escapes your lips.. Well, maybe one more bite.
Do you constantly need something sweet? Do you crave refined carbohydrates, such as pasta, bread or potato chips on a regular basis? Have you thrown out all the sweets in your house only to make a late night run to the grocery store for some ice cream?
I did. I was a compulsive eater for most of my life. I hated my body and loved red wine and chocolate… lots of chocolate. When I ate, I overate and didn’t stop until I was in pain. I felt totally out of control and sugar brought me relief. It was my kryptonite and my savior. Chocolate cake, cookies, and ice cream were my favorites and I ate them a lot, which over time, expanded my waist, decreased my energy, and sucked all the mental clarity out of me.
I felt fat, ugly, tired, helpless, and alone.
It’s Not Your Fault
I have come a long way since then. Once I figured out how the food industry designs food to be addicting by combining sugar, salt and fat; the three ingredients that keep us coming back for more, I was furious. I knew I had to do something.
Since then, I have discovered many strategies that have helped me and my clients step away from sugar and into their own power.
Here are some strategies I found helpful in my own journey. I hope that they may be of value to you!
1. Take Care of You
You are reaching for sugar because it fills a need you have. A need to feel loved or connected to yourself. A need to avoid boredom. A need to say “screw it!” and eat the whole pint in order to feel powerful and significant. Whatever need you are trying to feed, soothe or avoid with sugar, it is imperative to feed, soothe, or face those needs in a more positive way.
This creates a shift where you begin to operate from a place of self-care and self-love rather than a place of self-sabotage, guilt and shame. It will satisfy your needs in a much deeper sense than sugar ever could.
So, instead of reaching for sugar, reach for self love. This can take the form of an activity that involves self-care such as taking a long hot relaxing bath, reading a good book, watching a funny movie, going for a walk, or even writing in a journal to document your journey and reflect on your experiences. What hobby have you wanted to start? Do you like to knit? Paint? Read smutty romance novels?
Often we eat because we are not feeling fulfilled. This replacement approach has a dual effect; it increases your feelings of fulfillment while caring for yourself in a positive way and helps you shift from feelings of lack and emptiness into a space of fullness and wholeness.
You could also reach for an inner resource, an inner knowing or positive mantra you repeat every time you feel tempted. Something like, “I have all that I need within me. My health is sweeter than any sugar tastes.”
Have a plan in place so that every time you feel the urge for sugar arise, you move directly into doing something you love.
2. Get Out of Your Head
If you know how to get out of your head, you know how to stop eating sugar.
When you feel the chaotic and compulsive nature of a sugar craving arise, shift your focus from your thoughts onto your physical body instead. For instance, if that pint of ice cream is screaming at you from the fridge and the little devil on your shoulder is telling you to, “Just go for it, you don’t want to be thin anyway,” shift your focus to your heart and away from the chaos, the ice cream, and the little devil. Feel your heart beat in your chest. Sense your breathing. Feel the amazing life energy that flows inside you.
3. Do The Hunger Check
You will find that when you shift from your head to your inner body the chaos fades away.
Then you can do The Hunger Check and tune into your physical body and ask, “Am I even hungry?” If your body is hungry, ask it what it is hungry for. Be sure that you are tuned into your bodily sensations and not the crazy comments that your thinking mind is making on the main stage. That tricky mind will tell you in the blink of an eye that it is starving and to please eat the ice cream! But if you really tune into your physical body and get out of your head, you will tap into your inner guidance and intuition, which never fails you.
The basis of sugar addiction is simply the chaos that arises from your thinking mind. The nature of who you really are beneath your thinking mind is at peace. You are free, whole, and utterly complete. When you tune into your body you will be able to separate physical hunger from emotional hunger. Physical hunger is located in your gut, emotional hunger resides in the mind.
4. Balance Your Blood Sugar Levels.
Sugar puts you on a blood sugar roller-coaster ride and ultimately leaves you feeling wiped out and desperate for more. To stop the cycle, check out our 30 Day No Sugar Challenge.
This is where you put your foot down and with our help, challenge sugar and kick its butt! This will balance your blood sugar levels, increase your energy, mental clarity, balance hormones, mood, and make sugar cravings and compulsive sugar binges a thing of the past.
5. Do A Sugar Detox
The 30 Day No Sugar Challenge is a fully supported sugar detox. When detoxing, it is essential to take extra good care of yourself. Drink lots of water, get a massage, enjoy hot baths, going to bed early, sleeping in, and reading and resting are all fabulous ways to help the body detox from sugar.
These activities give you extra support and facilitate the elimination of toxins from your body. The first 10 days of any sugar detox can be uncomfortable. This is usually when cravings are at their peak. You may get moody and feel overwhelmed as your mind tries to convince you that giving up sugar is a terrible idea.
Let your support network know that for the next 10 days you need lots of love, support and down time. Don’t take on any extra work or make any drastic changes in your life. Use this time to take care of you.
6. Journal Often
There is a compulsive nature to sugar cravings and food binging, so when you have an urge to reach for sweets, reach for a pen and paper instead. Scribble and scrawl away. Don’t judge yourself, just write freely. Don’t even worry about it making logical sense. When you are done, once the strong emotions have passed, your writing will help you to see what it is you are trying to soothe, feed, or avoid by eating sweets. You can discover what needs you are trying to fill and then contemplate alternative ways to fill those needs.
This really clarifies what emotional hunger is and further helps you differentiate between emotional hunger and physical hunger. Just be gentle with yourself and don’t take your thoughts, beliefs or emotions too seriously. Most of what we “puke” onto paper about ourselves isn’t even true!
7. Look At Your Thoughts With Curiosity
The mind is cunning and will do all it can to try and get you to eat sugar because it is a behavior that has been conditioned within you for a long time. When you do something over and over again it becomes a habit. Pay attention to your thoughts with openness and curiosity and ask yourself, “Is this thought contributing to my life in a positive way?” If it is not, you may want to release it and let it go. It is important to understand that just because you think a thought, doesn’t mean it’s true.
8. Allow Your Thoughts to Be
Observe the nature of your thinking mind without trying to resist your thoughts, push them away, or pretend that they don’t exist. Instead, allow them to be present and just watch them without buying into them or believing them. Let them float by like a leaf floating on a river or clouds passing in the sky. If we struggle against our thoughts, our suffering often increases. When we allow our thoughts to just be as they are, without judgment, they lose their power over us and we regain control. You might even find yourself laughing out loud at how utterly crazy some of your thoughts actually are!
9. Discover Your Authentic Self
While your mind may be screaming at you for a hit of sugar, you don’t need to identify with it. You are not your emotions. There is more to you than your mind. You see, as you move through phases in life, you face certain challenges. Sugar, along with your thoughts, beliefs, and emotions are methodologies you’ve used to cope when you’re faced with these challenges.
You have used sugar and food to take you out of painful emotions or stressful situations in the past. Overtime, you may have learned that it is a way to comfort yourself or connect with others. You may use sugar to relieve boredom, numb pain, or pull you out of uncomfortable emotions that you just don’t want to face. You may also eat sugar for the high; the rush that can distract you from things in your life that may not be working so well. There are many underlying reasons as to why we reach for sweets.
The good news is that your mind is extremely flexible. Just as it can be trained to find solace in sugar (the negative way of meeting your needs), it can also be trained to meet your needs in positive ways by reaching for something personally beneficial to you. Thus you will no longer need to cope or avoid anything. You operate not from your thinking mind, but from your own inner guidance.
When you tune into your intuition, you discover your true and authentic self that lies beneath your thoughts, beliefs, emotions, and ego.
10. Hop Back On The Wagon
If you fall off the wagon don’t worry about it! Just pick yourself up, dust yourself off, wipe the chocolate off your face, and hop back on. Remember that the wagon will always wait for you and it is filled with many other people going through the same thing. So don’t let yourself slip back into sugar for months on end.
11. Release Self-Judgment
I felt very ashamed about my sugar addiction and thought that I was not worthy or lovable. Releasing that shame was like lifting an enormous weight off my shoulders. When I was able to pull myself out of my own wallowing and self-pity, I realized that I was doing the best I could with the tools that had been given me. I just needed some new tools, strategies, and a good reality check.
We all go through the same things and we all make mistakes. That’s just life. The trick is to let go of self judgment and know that you are doing the best you can. The voice in your head has merely been trying to protect you. Send gratitude to that voice and instead of buying into those repetitive negative thoughts, let them pass through and set your focus instead on the amazing aspects of who you are. Accept that you are not your negative self talk, but the amazing, joyful spirit inside your physical body.
12. Create a Plan
A plan provides structure and brings awareness to your routine. It also eliminates the impulsive nature of food binges and spur of the moment relapses. Many people use family events or parties as an opportunity to binge for weeks straight. However, if you map out your social calendar and mark the days that you have parties as “splurge meals”, you really can make Good Decisions… Most of the Time, and enjoy your friends and family too! Knowing that you will have a designated splurge meal helps you to hold out and can strengthen your ability to say no when other potential splurges arise.
13. Be Prepared
Once you have a plan, prepare for the week. Shop on weekends or on your day off and know what each meal will consist of. Creating a menu plan for the week increases your chance of sticking to it. If you have your lunch and a snack with you, you will less likely be tempted by the donut in the break room and thus, your environment is set up for your success.
14. Don’t Go it Alone
While this article serves as emotional support, I also wrote the book Good Decisions Most of the Time and developed the No Sugar Challenge specifically to help you stop eating sugar. If you would like extended help in setting up a detailed plan of action that includes shopping lists, daily menu plans, and more tactics on how to stop eating sugar, I encourage you sign up for our 30 Day No Sugar Challenge. It is a fully guided 30-Day Sugar Detox. Check it out, I am with you every step of the way.
Yours in health,