If you can’t stop eating sugar or other simple carbs (like potato chips or bread) once you start, or if one bite of sugar makes you crave more, you may be sugar sensitive. According to Kathleen des Maisons, author of Potatoes not Prozac, and one of the leading researchers on sugar sensitivity, when your body is biochemically sensitive to sugar, eating sugar in moderation is next to impossible.
I’m sugar sensitive. I was a life long sugar binger. From childhood on, I ate massive amounts of cookies, candy, sodas, cakes, pizza, bread, crackers, pretzels, potato chips, ice cream, Cheetos, french fries, and tortilla chips. My sugar addiction caused me tremendous pain and suffering – eating disorders, yo yoing weight, shame and self loathing. It worsened over time, becoming out of control in my 20s.
I finally reached a point of surrender in my 30s, when I chose to give up sugar to heal my addiction. Giving up sugar and simple carbs was like turning off the switch in my brain that made me gorge on sugar and other processed foods like potato chips and tortilla chips.
As I found wholeness, I wanted to help others find healing. I wrote my book, Overcome Sugar Addiction, and my workbook, Overcoming Sugar Addiction for Life, to help you get off the sugar roller coaster.
Here’s how they work together. You need four things to heal from sugar addiction:
1. Physical distance from sugar.
The first layer – or step – is to create a base level of physical, brain and body healing from sugar.
If you’re sugar sensitive, and you want to stop bingeing on sugar, you probably need to minimize your sugar intake in order to be free from cravings. This step, combined with eating regular meals of whole, healthy foods (many of us who have sugar cravings also have low or volatile blood sugar), heals your brain chemistry. On a brain level, you’re not wanting the sugar so much.
In Overcoming Sugar Addiction, I explain how I found this level of physical healing. I outline exactly how I did it so you can feel reassured and guided by someone who’s been there. I hope this will help you find your abstinence.
During this “detox” phase, supplements can help – especially in the first week when the sugar cravings are very strong. Dr. Julia Ross offers suggestions on how to use supplements in her books The Mood Cure and The Diet Cure.
2. Emotional distance from sugar.
And yet abstinence isn’t enough to stay off sugar for good. (I learned this lesson the hard way!) In order to heal sugar addiction at the root, we have to heal and soothe the emotional brain. We need to soothe ourselves emotionally without food – any food.
This is important because life is dynamic and unpredictable. Without this level of emotional healing, when life gets stressful, we go back to sugar or turn to another coping mechanism – like overeating non sugar foods – to soothe ourselves.
I created the growing human(kind)ness therapy to soothe the emotional brain and create this deep level of healing. You can learn more about applying this therapy to sugar in the workbook Overcoming Sugar Addiction for Life.
3. Belonging – safety, support and love.
I know that the thought of giving up sugar feels terrifying and impossible – overwhelming, too, as our culture is surrounded by sugar. That’s why you need support. You need the voice of someone who’s been there, as well as the voice of someone who’s traveling the same path, so you can feel reassured when you’re feeling discouraged or afraid.
You also need care, belonging, and deep listening. In my experience, many of us who are struggling with overeating are attached to food. Food represents unconditional love and nourishment – our “mother” – as well as belonging – safety. In order to let go of the food – the sugar – we need to attach to something else. We need to feel belonging, unconditional love, and nourishment with people. First with ourselves, and also with others.
Do you have people in your life who offer belonging? Do you offer yourself belonging – unconditional love and acceptance?
4. Recognizing that this is a process, not an event.
I so wish I could give you a tool that bada bing! would make all your cravings permanently disappear. But I care, and because I care, I need to be honest.
Mindful, conscious eating is a process, a practice. To stay sugar free, we need to be mindful about what we’re eating. This doesn’t mean being obsessive or neurotic about food. It does mean finding awareness and paying attention.
For example, if you find yourself justifying why you can indulge in a sugar treat now and then because you’re “fixed,” stop and question this thinking.
If you find yourself craving sugar, look closely at your diet. Are you sneaking in hidden sugars or simple, processed carbs? Are you skipping meals? Are you experiencing any health problems that can be contributing to your cravings?
One of the biggest roadblocks for me is continual, ongoing acceptance. Healing from sugar means that I have to keep doing the things that keep me sugar free – those things that honor my sugar sensitive brain chemistry and keep it healthy and whole. If I don’t eat regularly, if I start eating lots of processed food, if I skip meals, I’m going to crave sugar – which can lead me right back into it.
I think of healing more akin to putting gas in your car – something you do over and over again – rather than fixing a broken muffler – something you do once and then it’s done. It’s the only way I know how to do this long term.
I don’t always love being sugar free. I accept times when I resist eating this way; I know it’s not personal. We all feel this way!
At the same time, I try to open my heart to even this – a different way of eating than the way many people eat. I try to embrace my sugar abstinence as love in action, as a way to honor and love and care for myself, the tender human being that is me.
So where do you go from here?
- Read more helpful articles on giving up sugar like how I say no to sugar when I’m really, really tempted, how to stop a binge, how to soften resistance and self sabotage, and more.
- Read Overcoming Sugar Addiction, the book that chronicles my own story and demonstrates how you, too, can break your sugar addiction.
- Learn the tools that keep me sugar free to this day with an at home, do it yourself workbook and CDs, Overcoming Sugar Addiction for Life.
Lastly, follow this link to access a special audio message for you. Listen to my explanation of how you can retake control beyond the initial detox period, find support along the way, honor your sensitivity to sugar, and make this day the start of a new way of living. (Scroll down to the end of the page.)