You know it’s bad. We all do. Too much refined sugar is dangerous to your health, your thinking, and even your emotions but it’s so good that we can’t seem to resist.
You can learn how to quit sugar, how to break the cycle of junk, and feel better inside and out. It starts with no longer believing the “health” claims of sugar manufacturers and refusing to believe lies such as “high-fructose corn syrup is good for you because it’s made from corn.”
There’s so much hype in the pushing of sugar.
As a recovering sugar addict, I have to stay on guard at all times. Like any substance that gives you an artificial high, it’s easy to fall back into old habits.
Easier than I ever imagined it would be.
Before I started my journey back to health and feeling better about myself, I focused on the refined carbs and sugar heavy foods to sooth emotional pain. When I was angry or sad or frustrated, I compensated with foods that helped me feel better. It was an illusion.
Over time, I needed more and more of those feel good foods to get the same result. I realized there was a real problem, a potentially dangerous one, a few years ago.
After a truly awful day, I stood in my kitchen and ate the majority of a cake I bought from the store. I started out crying over the day, the upsets, and sadness.
By the time those thoughts receded, I was crying for a completely different reason. I was overweight, I’d recently had a major health scare, and my life wasn’t going the direction I wanted or needed it to go.
Instead of being proactive and actually helping myself, I was searching for fake peace. Standing at my kitchen counter, a fork and cake at my disposal, I sought the same thing I always did and received the same result.
Nothing more than a temporary solution that wasn’t going to last. In the meantime, I was killing myself one bite at a time.
Learning how to quit sugar was the hardest part of my battle to get well.
Going Through Sugar Withdrawal
I’ve never been addicted to drugs, alcohol, or cigarettes so I’m not sure how my initial attempts to beat my abnormal sugar consumption ranked in comparison.
I know the cells in my sick body craved it badly. Trying to go cold turkey made me more irritable than I’ve ever been in my life and I trembled physically. After twenty-four hours of refusing my body any refined carbs, I knew I’d have to take it slow.
I felt weak for being unable to simply “kick it” the way so many fitness gurus said they did. I planned to beat myself up about every bagel I ate or cookie I broke down and allowed myself.
Then I took a deep breath and realized I was being pretty awful to me and emotional self-abuse was only going to make the root issues harder. I decided to use the step down approach.
For six weeks, I gradually scaled back my sugar. I’d been consuming so many garbage carbs that there was a lot to start eliminating them one by one. No more pastries, then I ditched the “side” bread, cut back on all pasta, and cut back on white rice.
I upped my protein and healthy fats intake which replaced the junk fuel I was accustomed to and didn’t limit how many vegetables and proteins I could have in a day.
As a lifetime dieter, I knew those calories had to come from somewhere or I’d end up fighting a battle on two fronts. I needed to deal with one problem at a time if I wanted real change.
I suffered from shakiness but it was less severe than my cold turkey attempt. Irritability wasn’t as pronounced because I was still feeding the addiction a little bit.
The hardest thing for me was the headaches. At first, I got them every day but they gradually tapered off and I was able to stop alternating between ibuprofen and acetaminophen (drugs I typically take once or twice a year).
By the end of those six weeks, I felt better than I had in years. I started noticing big changes to the quality of my sleep and my energy levels were more consistent throughout the day.
How to Quit Sugar in 5 Simple Steps
1. Take it one food type at a time. I can tell you this worked well for me. These days, I allow myself unlimited carbs that come from fruits and veggies but desserts are contained to family dinners every Sunday and I get my daily pure sugar from a glass of wine in the evening. If you have a soda problem (more than one each day – which is still a substantial amount of sugar), try cutting it back more and more until you can get rid of it.
2. Don’t be focused on calories initially. Feeling like you’re “starving” is going to make it harder to stick to what you need to eat. Fast food is quick and easy when you let yourself get to a desperate point. Satisfy your hunger and focus on the sugar.
3. Choose as many whole foods as you can. By eating the right proteins, fats, and veggies, your body will be able to adjust to using them as the fuel required to run all your bodily functions. Another great side effect is that these foods fill you up better and for longer. The energy is released more gradually rather than a big pop and then crash that you get from sugars and refined carbs.
4. Don’t fall into the trap of “diet” foods. No artificial sweeteners! Try using honey, maple sugar, or these alternatives to sweeten tea or coffee. Your taste buds are accustomed to lots of sweetness so it takes getting used to but stick with it for success in the long run.
5. Figure out why you’re addicted to sugar in the first place. For me, I used sugars and refined carbs to trigger the “reward center” in my brain. It gave me a false sense of feeling better when I was suffering emotionally or mentally.
Once I started paying attention, I realized my negative relationship with food was about so much more than the food. I felt bad about myself, my relationship at the time, and where I was going professionally. I started tackling those issues one by one and that gave me the strength to stick to a new way of life.
Learning how to quit sugar isn’t easy and it won’t happen overnight. Even now, if I have leftover pastry after a party, I know I have to send it home with guests or I’ll be tempted to “take just a little.” For me, that’s a slippery slope.Simple carbs are empty calories that strip your body of nutrition and alter brain chemistry. Click To Tweet
My physical and emotional health are far and away better than they were a few years ago. I feel stronger in my body and my mind. I pay attention to what I need and how I feel.
It’s smart, not selfish, to make YOU a priority.
Sugar offers you nothing. Simple carbs are empty calories that strip-mine your body of nutrition and alter your brain chemistry. You don’t have to be chained to it anymore. You can quit sugar for good and change your life.
I did it. I know you can, too.