I hear from so many dedicated people who are trying to give up sugar – they recognize they’re addicted to sugar and are doing the necessary steps to stop eating it. They may be eating a sugar free diet for weeks, months or even years. And then they find themselves eating sugar again. They feel frustrated, discouraged, and angry at themselves.
I can relate. These past 2 years have been very difficult for me, a giant unraveling. I found myself back in sugar, struggling to implement basic self care, at my highest weight ever, and hurting from adrenal burnout, chronic stress, depression, anxiety and more. In January, I was in such a low place that just getting through the day was a challenge for me.
I’ve been slowly, slowly, gently healing, picking myself back up. After 10 months, I can finally see changes. I’m no longer eating sugar. I’ve lost most of the weight. The darkness is lifting a bit. I’m exercising again.
In this post, I humbly offer the top 5 things that have helped me get back on track – the lessons I’ve been learning that I hope can make your journey out of sugar addiction a bit easier.
1. It’s not your fault. If I could sum up what to do when you’re struggling into one sentence, it would be this: dear one, drop the blame. When life gets difficult, and we find ourselves coping in messy ways – with sugar – we typically turn on ourselves. We tell ourselves we “should’ve done better.” We blame ourselves and call it “being responsible.”
Sometimes life is difficult and we go back to old habits. This is not proof that you didn’t do the work, that you’re not healed, that you’re going backwards or that there’s something wrong with you. It is simply proof that you are going through a hard time and that your current difficulties are greater than your current resources to bear them.
So, my precious, precious child, please drop the blame that says, “It’s all my fault.” Nope. It just became too much to bear. Being responsible means “being able to respond.” When we have what we need, we can grow. We can say no to sugar. So if you can’t say no to sugar it is not a character flaw – it just means you need more support, more help and less stress … you need help so you can grow.
2. Get support. So when it becomes too much to bear, be gentle with yourself. Don’t personalize it and make it all about you. Reach out and get support. This is where many of us stumble, because asking for support means: 1. being vulnerable and honest – “I’m hurting and I need help here.” and 2. asking for help.
Support may mean seeing a counselor, going to a support group, getting a coach, reaching out to friends and family, or reaching out to your spiritual community. Gather all you can; all you need. Needing help is not a sign of weakness. Rather, it is an act of courage and self worth to give yourself extraordinary support, to receive all you need so you can heal and grow.
3. Redefine healing. When we’re in a cycle of difficulty, we may avoid seeking out help because we adhere to the “onwards and upwards model of healing.” We see healing as a linear progression with no backward steps – we think that cycling back to old habits is a proof of “not healed.” We then carry this badge of dishonor as shame.
I gently invite you to see healing as a cyclical experience. Nature grows and flows through cycles and seasons. We are no different. We all go through cycles of growth, rebirth, loss, challenge, celebration, and more.
If we normalize the cycles – which include darkness and loss – then we don’t blame ourselves or think something’s wrong when we go through them. We feel more able to respond with wisdom – I’m hurting; I need help here – rather than with guilt/shame – it’s all my fault. I should’ve prevented this.
When we feel guilty, we hide. We isolate. When we drop the guilt, we reach out for help. We share. We open up. We ask for and receive love.
Honor what is. This is what the past 2 years taught me: if you’re in a falling apart stage of life, you honor what is by giving yourself what you need and not making yourself wrong for needing it.
4. Go back to grounding. When you’re in a spin cycle, you need the basics – sleep, healthy food, rest, and connection with other human beings. In growing human(kind)ness, I call giving ourselves regular, rhythmic, nourishing self care grounding.
Of course, these basic grounding needs often aren’t met because of high stress, money, health issues and more, which is why we’re struggling.
This is why becoming sugar free is not a matter of will power. It’s about having what you need – and this starts with the basics. Gently ask yourself, “What do I most need?” Start here. Walk – care for these needs – before you fly – give up sugar.
Here’s why: you can’t give up sugar if your blood sugar is whacky from irregular meals. You can’t say no to sugar if you’re exhausted from no sleep. You can’t thrive, period, if you feel disconnected, alone and separate from your fellow human beings.
So make a list of your basic needs. What are you most needing? What is missing? What do you need so you can grow? What isn’t working?
5. Take it 1 step at a time.
This is where we get into the nitty gritty of, “How do we get back on track?” Take your list of needs, and start to make changes one small step at a time.
When so much isn’t working, we want to rush in and fix it all. This only adds to our frustration, as we feel overwhelmed and exhausted and discouraged. I know slow change can be difficult – it’s human nature to want to wave a magic wand and make it all better instantly – but it’s both what’s doable and what’s kind.
The fact that our culture communicates these messages only makes it worse. (I feel angry when I see these messages because I see the shame they cause!) So please put away all the magazine articles that promise instant results and solutions. Those only make us feel like a failure – there’s something wrong with me – when the desired changes don’t manifest.
Instead, do 1 thing differently. For example, if you’re skipping breakfast, eat it. Take as long as you need to work on this step. (For me, this step alone took 3 months!) When this step feels solid, like an ingrained habit, then move onto your next step, the next sphere of action or change…
Healing takes time. Rest. Energy. Practice. Patience. Honor this growth process. Honor your precious being. Honor the courage it takes to start over, to care for yourself, to get through a hard time, and if you so choose, to become sugar free.
Your posts are always AWESOME and helpful!
Hi Karly! I just read “Getting Back on Track…” and it so relates to what I am living right now! What your wrote happened to me recently. I was nearing 30 days of not eating sugar when BAM! I lost my way, I gave in, the stress was greater than what I had in me. Five days later I reached out for help. A friend said “Remember the three A’s: Awareness, Acceptance, Action.” Awareness of my feelings–anger, frustration, isolation, despair; Acceptance—to “not judge,” as you beautifully wrote about above under “It’s not your fault”; and Action–I emailed a friend for support, for the strength to change directions and get back on course. I was reminded of slogans that work–“Keep the focus on yourself” and “Let go & let God.” In your article you said to “redefine healing,” and “go back to grounding.” This is what I am doing today. I know what has worked for me in the past and has kept me off sugar: going to the gym (early am works for me), getting sugar (aka Halloween candy) out of the house, writing out a food plan the night before, reading (why I went to your website), and as you said, to “take it one step at a time.” I am taking it hour by hour. I have a plan. Thanks for a great article, to reinforce what I am trying to do. Maria
Thank you for this wonderful article! I can so relate as I feel like I had failed after eating sugar for the first time since being sugar free for over 2 yrs. I love the part that life is sometimes more than we are equiped to deal with. I have sinced reached out for support from a close friend and have gone back to my grounding behaviors. My friend also reminded me of the supplements you had once suggested when I first started going off the sugar. Knowing I have these basic neccesities available to me to help me get back on track has me feeling more in control.
Thanks for all you do!
i love this post, I teared up with the first one, it's not your fault. Just reading that felt like a huge release. Thank you. I'm stuck in a deep depression and anxiety and I believe it's caused by adrenal burnout from sugar and insomnia…. The sugar causes the insomnia and the insomnia causes the sugar cravings. And both of them cause the depression and anxiety that keeps me in my house, too afraid to talk to anybody about anything, just trying to make it through every second….
To take it one step at a time, I always heard that if a person wants to get off of sugar they have to do it 100%, not even a hint of sugar in there or it will be addicting. But what about fruit? What if my first step is eliminating sugar but making fruit, even high sugar fruit like dates and bananas, a pretty large portion of my diet… Is that harmful or is that a step in the right direction..
You really know how to put to words my experience. How do you do that?
Barb, I think because I've had the same experience! We're all in this together.
You have put to words exactly what I have been going through, keep writing!!!
I feel so glad that you know you're not alone!
It's great to hear from you, dear one!
I love the 3 A's – awareness, acceptance, action – and your description of what that meant for you. (Hmmm….I could use the 3 A's for a variety of situations in my life!) I think you are beautiful and brave and bold and inspiring.
I could hear your purpose and passion in this comment, and I feel fully confident that you are back on track and honoring your intentions. You inspire me, Maria and I feel very, very proud of your persistence (and patience.)
In gratitude and love, Karly
I feel so happy to hear from you! I've thought of you often and wondered how you are doing.
I think being sugar free for over 2 years is an *incredible* accomplishment – I feel so proud of you. And as a mom of four, I can imagine that life sometimes (often?) feels like a lot! I can hear how much you've grown in your voice and how many coping strategies you *do* have that aren't about food or sugar.
So I celebrate all that you've done and all that you are.
I'm glad you're feeling back on track and in the driver's seat. You are a precious soul, Gail.
In love and gratitude, Karly
So glad Victoria!
Ive given up trying to control my sugar intake. I turned 67 and I feel old and out of control.. Sugar is all I want. Generally I have a wonderful life…retired, financially secure enough to do what I want with my time…a.n enjoyable, vigorous and convenient exercise routine four days a week exercise….a vlunteer job that is creative and fulfilling…a less than perfect marriage ( although I feel loved and we are in counseling and doing well) I need sleep, that much I know….just hate to give in to naps ( a clue that I AM old). I'll buy the book….