If you want to stop sugar binges, start by reading my book, Overcoming Sugar Addiction. Acclaimed for its combination of personal story and step-by-step encouragement for how you can make the shift, this book is a great place to start. The reading list below offers supplementary information on the biochemistry of sugar, why sugar is so addictive, how it physiologically impacts the body, what to eat, how to heal the addiction process itself, and more.
Step 1: Why is excess sugar harmful to my health?
Start here to understand how sugar impacts the body, the physiology of sugar addiction, and more. This is not my area of expertise, so I’m happy to direct you to those resources who do focus on this aspect of sugar addiction.
Resources about the physiology of sugar addiction and the benefits of a low sugar diet:
- Get the Sugar Out: 501 Simple Ways to Cut the Sugar Out of Any Diet by Ann Louise Gittleman
- Lick the Sugar Habit by Nancy Appleton
- Little Sugar Addicts by Kathleen Des Maisons
- Potatoes Not Prozac by Kathleen Des Maisons
- Sugar Blues by William Duffy
- Fat Chance by Robert Lustig
- Sugar Shock! by Connie Bennett
- The 21 Day Sugar Detox Diet by Diane Sanfilippo
General nutrition books:
- Chakra Foods for Optimum Health by Deanna Minich
- Fast Food Nation by Eric Schlosser
- Mindless Eating: Why We Eat More than We Think by Brian Wansink
- The Crazy Makers: How the Food Industry is Destroying Our Brains and Harming Our Children by Carol Simontacchi
- The Diet Cure by Julia Ross
- The Mood Cure by Julia Ross
- The Slow Down Diet by Marc David
- Ultra Metabolism by Mark Hyman
- The End of Overeating by David Kessler
Step 2: How do I heal the roots of a sugar addiction?
Once you understand more about the physiology of sugar addiction, you may be at a place where you want to take this knowledge and put it into action, changing how much sugar you eat. This is where the rubber meets the road, where most people struggle, and is my area of expertise. It’s the, “yes, but how?” question – yes, I know I need to eat less sugar for my health, but how do I actually do it?
In a nutshell, here’s why it’s so hard to stop eating sugar: when you change how much sugar you eat, you’re not just changing your eating habits. You’re changing your very relationship with sugar – and life – itself.
If you’re addicted to sugar, it’s not just physiological. It’s not just a “bad” habit or even a compulsion. With addiction, there’s a relationship: you have a relationship with sugar – an emotional bond – where you’re using sugar to meet your physical, emotional, relational, and spiritual needs. Sugar may be how you care for stress, how you cope with life’s pain, how you self soothe or how you care for your emotions.
Where the physiology and psychology of sugar addiction intersect is this: sugar (and all addictions) are biochemical substitutes for what we are meant to receive in relationship – things like love, warmth, connection, soothing, tenderness, care, and affection.
When you turn to sugar to fulfill these needs, you’re using sugar as a substitute mother, friend, or lover. People in my classes often describe sugar as their mother, their best friend, or like a “bad boyfriend that they can’t let go.” Their choice of words reflects their intuitive understanding that the sugar is not just a habit or even a pursuit of pleasure – it’s something they rely on for emotional scaffolding.
Simply saying, “cut it out,” or “stop eating the sugar” doesn’t work, and it doesn’t solve this problem. It doesn’t heal the root of your sugar addiction and it doesn’t lead to long term behavioral change in how much sugar you eat. The only way to heal a sugar addiction is to find other ways of caring for your physical, emotional and relational needs so you don’t need to use sugar in this way.
This change is a change in relationship – a change in how you use or eat sugar, a change in how you respond and relate to your needs, and a change in how you respond to life’s challenges, stresses and pain. As you find other ways of caring for your needs, you can organically soften your impulse or desire for sugar in the first place. You replace the relationship that you have with sugar – something that never satisfies your longing – with relationships that can truly meet your needs. (I explain how to do this in When Food is Your Mother.)
This is a process, an unfolding one that takes place over time. In the meantime, you’ll need support to care for all the emotions that arise throughout this change process – feeling the grief of the loss of sugar, soothing all the feelings of deprivation, caring for feelings of resistance (“you can’t make me” or “I don’t feel like it”,) the sadness in not eating sugar, and the frustration in having to change how or what you eat.
Resources for healing the roots of a sugar addiction:
- Overcoming Sugar Addiction by Karly Randolph Pitman
- Emerge: Create a New Habit by Karly Randolph Pitman
- When Food is Your Mother by Karly Randolph Pitman
- In the Realm of Hungry Ghosts by Dr. Gabor Mate