I am definitely a sugar addict and I struggle with my sugar intake on a daily basis. However, I do think different people struggle with varying levels of cravings, and I consider myself lucky, because when I finally decide to wean myself off of sugar (I go in cycles and never really, truly give it up all together, but instead drastically reduce my intake), I really do make a commitment. The tips in this article are all specific and thoughtful examples that I have personally used to curb my sugar addiction. I hope you find them helpful as well.
WHY SUGAR IS BAD
Sugar has been linked to so many terrible health ailments, and I personally have felt so many negative effects from an excessive sugar intake.
If I eat sugar before or around my period, I have found my cramps to be more intense, my emotional PMS outbursts to be stronger and more frequent, and the intensity of my period headaches to be much worse.
The other major problem that I have personally struggled with when it comes to sugar, is the addictive nature of it. I can go months and months being really good about my sugar intake. But during the holidays for instance, it only takes a few weeks of steady sugar consumption, and I’m back on the hamster wheel of addiction. I really need to watch myself when I do decide to take the plunge with sugar indulgence, and I must know that if I start up again, it’s going to be an uphill battle to get back to normal.
YOU HAVE TO WANT TO STOP
I will tell you right now that these tips are not fun or revolutionary. This process will not be enjoyable, and will not even work unless you are at the point where you are completely fed up with your sugar addiction, and just don’t know how to stop. Once you decide that you want to improve your situation, you must know that for the first few days when you are coming off of sugar, you will have urges and cravings and it will be really hard. That is where my tips and tools come in. The examples I talk about are crutches to get you through the difficult times, but they make all the difference.
If you haven’t already, you should watch this documentary to educate yourself about what really happens when you put sugar into your body. If you struggle with guilt and shame about your sugar addiction, please know that this documentary will help you to understand how much of this is NOT YOUR FAULT.
Click HERE to read an NPR article about the documentary.
I am not a scientist or a doctor, and do not claim to give any medical advice, but the basic gist about the way our body processes sugar comes down to fiber content. If you consume anything with processed sugar, your body goes completely berserk during the digestion process, and is exhausted and overwhelmed on the whole. If you eat something with natural sugar that includes an adequate amount of fiber, your body can handle that much more efficiently.
“Whole fruit contains fiber, which fills you up and keeps you from overeating. The cellular structure of fruit is also important – since your body has to break down the cells of the orange before the sugar can be released, the sugar is absorbed into the blood more slowly. Eating fruit raises your blood sugar levels, but in a slow and controlled manner, promoting fullness and preventing overconsumption.”“Natural Added Sugars: Two Sides of the Same Coin” | by Mary E. Gearing | Harvard University
As I have said before, I am not a doctor, and these tips and techniques are what have worked for me personally. I am 5’10” and when I was at my heaviest, deep in the addiction, I weighed about 187 lbs. Once I finally decided to wean myself off of sugar, it took me about two to three months to get back to a much healthier weight of 175 lbs. (my happy weight).
I am so excited to share with you how I managed this feat!
1. TULSI CINNAMON ROSE TEA
Excited yet? I told you these would be fun! What is a better substitute for a luscious, decadent, emotionally-charged, sugary snack than a piping hot, bitter, liquid drink with no caffeine? Hear me out though. Remember, you want to stop, and you know it will be tough in the beginning.
In my earlier days of deep sugar addiction, I relied so heavily on this tip, and am so grateful I stumbled across this tea. This tea specifically, from Organic India (I have never come across any other brands that make this tea), is unlike any other tea, because it has a naturally sweet flavor. It is very cinnamon-forward, and is less bitter than other teas. You can go in the fruity tea direction if you want, but when I tried that, it just tasted like I was drinking a fruity tea and I still wanted sugar. When I drink cinnamon rose, I can sort of trick myself into believing it’s a sweet treat dessert kind of drink, because it has a much richer flavor than a fruity type of tea.
I used to get cravings at night, during that dangerous period of well after dinner but not quite ready for bed yet. The last thing you want to be doing is snacking before bed, but since this tea is CAFFEINE FREE, you are totally safe to drink this, like right before bed if you need to. The slight bitterness that comes with all teas is also amazing for curbing your sugar cravings, and your appetite for that matter. It kind of works like magic.
2. WHOLE GRAIN TOAST WITH RAW HONEY
I use a freshly baked whole grain bread from my grocery store, toast it, and add raw, organic honey from Y. S. Eco Bee Farms. Raw honey is a little bit thicker than the stuff that comes in the plastic bear jar, but the heat of the toast melts it pretty quickly and it becomes easily spreadable after a few seconds. I also use raw honey to cleanse my face!
Ok, so this one is not the healthiest option, but it is better than indulging in baked goods or straight up candy. It’s true that even though honey is a “natural” sweetener, your body still deals with it in a similar way to your nasty processed sugar. Please keep this in mind.
“Honey has a lower GI value than sugar, meaning that it does not raise blood sugar levels as quickly. Honey is sweeter than sugar, so you may need less of it, but it does have slightly more calories per teaspoon so it’s wise to keep a close eye on your portion sizes. For diabetics, or those trying to manage their blood sugar levels, there is no real advantage to substituting sugar for honey as both will ultimately affect blood sugar levels. It’s also worth remembering that like other syrups, honey is classed as ‘free’ sugars – the type we are advised to cut back on. If you do prefer honey, try to choose a raw variety, which contains more vitamins, enzymes, antioxidants and nutrients than white sugar and use it in moderation. It is worth remembering, however, that any nutritional benefit from consuming honey is negligible.”“Sugar Substitutes: Honey Explained” | by Jo Lewin, Registered Nutritionist | BBC Good Food
Again, these are all crutches, and I was able to lose weight and break my sugar addiction while still eating honey on a regular basis. I typically have honey toast for breakfast and the size of the toast is about half the size of a normal piece of processed bread. But, as mentioned above, it fills me until lunch time, gives me a bit of sweetness, and is delicious with a morning cup of tea. If you’re going to allow yourself some sugar-forward honey, it’s best to go raw, because at least you are getting some added health benefits, rather than just straight up sugar.
“Raw honey contains an array of plant chemicals that act as antioxidants. Some types of honey have as many antioxidants as fruits and vegetables. Antioxidants help to protect your body from cell damage due to free radicals. Free radicals contribute to the aging process and may also contribute to the development of chronic diseases such as cancer and heart disease. Research shows that antioxidant compounds in honey called polyphenols may play a role in preventing heart disease.”“The Top 6 Raw Honey Benefits” | by Rena Goldman | Healthline
Just make sure you take it easy on this one, and remember that if you are taking in a bit of honey every day, you should really count that towards your daily sugar intake of (AHA recommended) 25 grams of sugar for women and 36 grams of sugar for men (not sure why women get the shaft here, and don’t tell me it’s because we’re smaller, but whatever).
3. PRUNES AND OTHER DRIED FRUIT
Don’t knock prunes until you’ve tried them. And don’t get freaked out by how they look, or the elderly-constipated-person stigma the comes along with prunes. Prunes are essentially dried plums, and plums are delicious and super cool! Prunes are just plums that have been chillin’ in the sun for like a really long time (modern-day prunes are made in ovens, but still, prunes are just plums transformed).
This is why prunes are better than cookies…
“Prunes can help you manage your weight. They do this by keeping you feeling full for longer. The reason for this is likely twofold. First, prunes contain lots of fiber, which is slow to digest. Slower digestion means your appetite stays satisfied for longer. Second, prunes have a low glycemic index. This means they raise the glucose (sugar) levels in your blood slowly. This may in part be due to their high amounts of sorbitol, a sugar alcohol with a slow absorption rate. Avoiding spikes in your blood sugar levels, which can be caused by foods with a high glycemic index, can help keep your appetite at bay.”“The Top Health Benefits of Prunes and Prune Juice” | by Summer Fanous | Healthline
I have to say, when I snack on prunes, I’m amazed by their level of sweetness. Granted, it’s a different kind of sweetness than a donut or a candy bar, but they are damn sweet! They are actually so sweet that I typically like to eat a handful of nuts or a small slice of cheese to go with them, just to balance out the sweet with some salt.
Please also keep in mind that prunes, and dried fruit in general, are still very high in sugar and calories, so you must eat them in moderation. One prune has about 3.6g of sugar! This means that if you are female and have five prunes, you’re almost at your daily limit for the day, yikes! So, honestly, for me, utilizing a snack like prunes, in place of say a cookie or another naughty sweet treat, is another crutch I use to kind of get the “baked good sweet craving” out of my mouth and brain and body. When I switch to more fiber-heavy, nutritious forms of sugar, I’m at least replacing terribly empty calorie sweet treats with some substance that offers vitamins, minerals, and fiber. But please, don’t kid yourself, and don’t eat too many! It’s still sugar, and too much is still really bad for you.
4. DARK CHOCOLATE
I know this one seems kind of obvious, and I have definitely talked about this in other posts like WHAT I EAT IN A DAY TO DETOX FROM THE HOLIDAYS. But I repeat myself because it works.
One chocolate square of Ghirardelli 86% Cacao (individually wrapped, not from the bars) contains a little over 1g of sugar. That’s amazing! There is still fat content and it’s not like this treat is amazing for you, but it’s a beautiful crutch when you’re coming off of sugar, and an even better long-term solution.
When I was being super disciplined, I would avoid sugar all day (aside from my honey with toast) and save all of my cravings and urgings for my after-dinner chocolate square treat. When you begin to eat more dark chocolate (as opposed to milk chocolate), you also become more sensitive to the taste of sugar, and eventually, super sugary things will become just too damn sweet for you.
Dark chocolate also has a good deal of bitterness, which again, I find curbs my appetite and my sugar cravings. It’s a very rich treat, so it’s not like you can have 10 of these guys. One (maybe two if you are feeling really weak) square of this after dinner gives you your sugar fix, and you can be done with sugar for the day.
5. GO HALFSIES
Tall Iced Chai Latte from Starbucks (my sugary death drink of choice). Don’t order a Grande, just don’t. And I won’t even dignify ordering a Venti with a comment. It’s bad enough you’re at Starbucks, so just get a Tall and be happy with that!
This tip is kind of a mental trick and one of my more sneaky techniques, but it’s fun and you get the best of both worlds. Sort of.
This beverage contains 31g of sugar (holy shit, that’s over my daily allotment for the day!). Keep in mind, this is with 3 pumps of sugary chai mixture. If I’m feeling in the mood to be really extreme and also high-maintenance to the Starbucks employee, I will ask for 1 or 2 pumps instead, in order to reduce the amount of sugar I’m getting. But mostly, I just make sure to only let myself drink half. I know, it’s terribly wasteful, and I’m sorry for that. But what do you expect?! I’m a crazy sugar addict, I’m doing my best with this, and I’m not always in my right mind.
THIS IS NOT A DAILY THING OR EVEN A WEEKLY THING. THIS IS AN ONGOING THING THAT YOU CAN DO TO KEEP YOUR SUGAR INTAKE AT BAY, AND A FUN WAY TO TREAT YOURSELF EVERY ONCE IN AWHILE, ESPECIALLY IF YOU’VE BEEN REALLY GOOD FOR A LONG TIME AND DON’T WANT TO GET BACK ON THAT HAMSTER WHEEL.
I also do love a bit of fast-food drive through during quarantine date nights, and it’s no fun to order disgusting salty junk food with no sugary drink to wash it down. However, just like Starbucks, I will order a sugary drink (sometimes lemonade is just as sugary as soda, but use your best judgement) and then only drink half. This way I’m still having fun, I’m still enjoying the junk food bonding with my partner, but I’m not murdering my body quite as much.
The worst thing you can do when you are trying to break your sugar addiction is to deny yourself all forms of sugar. It’s too much of a jump too quickly, and it’s much more effective long-term if you can begin by reducing your sugar intake. Every little bit helps. I do know some people who have such strong addictions that they really do need to go cold turkey and just eliminate sugar all together. But if you have a moderate to strong sugar addiction, this might be a safe bet.
6. DON’T BUY SUGARY THINGS AND DON’T KEEP THEM IN THE HOUSE
Get used to looking at snack-less shelves in your kitchen and consider instead transforming your snack storage space into something more useful. Try eliminating one or two shelves where you typically store sugary snacks, and instead redistribute your healthier pantry items, glassware, or other appliances to take up that extra space. If you only have a small, designated space for something sweet in your kitchen, you are on the right track.
Your health is important and you are worth it!
Yeah, I know this seems obvious, and I know it’s no fun, and it’s the hardest thing ever. But if it’s late at night and you are craving sugar, and you have none in the house, it sucks, but you will be forced to make do with what you have. A piece of fruit. A cup of tea. And this is really the only way for you to break your sugar addiction. You gotta do the work. You gotta resist. Stay strong. Help yourself out and don’t give yourself any outlets to be tempted. Keep a few crutches around so you don’t go insane, but don’t by anything indulgent or decadent. Just don’t.
Try this: For every sugary product that you eliminate from your pantry, purchase the same quantity of fruit in its place, and try EATING THAT INSTEAD for one week.
- When in doubt, always default to fruit. It’s fibrous, has tons of vitamins and added health benefits, and is a healthier sugar substitute.
- If you love to bake (like I do), reduce your baking projects to maybe only once a month, or once a season, and go the rest of the time being disciplined. This way, you still have sugary happiness to look forward to, but you are giving your body a nice break during the interim.
- If you are deeply struggling, consider attending an Overeaters Anonymous (OA) meeting and/or purchasing OA approved literature.
- Be patient with yourself and the process. This may take some time, and the first few days (or weeks) will suck. That’s normal, so just hang in there.
I don’t pretend to be an expert with sugar addiction and as I said before, I struggle with this daily. It’s an ongoing battle, but sugar is so destructive in so many ways, and I want to live a long and healthy life!
Please tell me what you do to curb your sugar addiction! Have you had success or are you still struggling? I wish you so much luck on your sugar reduction/elimination journey and hope for your continued health and happiness!