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
Books on mindful eating and eating with compassion:
- Eat by Choice, Not by Habit by Sylvia Haskvitz
- Eating with Fierce Kindness by Sasha Loring
- The Zen of Eating by Ronna Kabatznick
- Why Weight? A Guide to Ending Compulsive Eating by Geneen Roth
- Making Peace with Food by Susan Kano
This is amazing! I have suffered from both depression and bulimia and hyperglycemia for nearly 30 years and this is the first time anyone has connected them and it has made total sense to me. I feel like a light has finally been turned on. The Sugar has to go! The only real problem this causes is that I am a professional in the wine industry. I am assuming all my wine will also have to go. Thanks again I'd love to hear anyone's thoughts on how I will be able to manage my sugar free life and my work.
I am so glad that you gained the information you need to find health and wholeness. You sound just like me when I made the connection between food, my moods and my eating disorders. The first book I would encourage you to read would be Potatoes Not Prozac by Kathleen des Maisions. She talks about the connection between sugar, alchohol and addiction.
As for wine, you may be okay with it. I have definitely been addicted to sugar, but, ironically, I never had a problem with alchohol. Partly, I just don't like the taste. But one drink of alchohol doesn't cause an insatiable desire for more in the way that sugar does.
So I would encourage you to honestly assess yourself and ask – is my problem with sugar? With alchohol? Or with both?
I'm so glad you found us.
We just discussed this last night in group. Everytime someone relapses, which is all to frequently, we have to go over what happened and devise tactics to defeat it next time. Sometimes that means re-visiting the basics and sometimes it gets a lot more complicated. Anyway, thanks for sharing.
Hi Karly i never thought there were so many people out there experiencing same i’ve been going througj in the past 30 years. I was googleing how to treat addiction to sweets and came across your website. Just ordered one of your books and i am hoping to start making changes soon. I have been always used sugar to reward myself, to comfort me. I think it is about time to take control and change these old habits i have had since i was a kid. Metabolism is not getting any faster and i am not getting any younger (35 yro). Thanks for sharing so much info and details about how to stop the sugar intake and how to create a new habit, a healthier lifestyle.
I’m so glad we found each other! Yes, sugar and food addiction are more common than one may think – you are not alone my friend. You may be interested in listening to my latest synthesis on understanding the roots of sugar and food addiction, as it gives you an understanding for what’s really going on – why sugar addiction is not just about the taste or pleasure of sugar, but how sugar is actually a biochemical substitute for our deepest needs as human beings – needs for love, belonging, mattering, connection and more. You can listen to the webinar here – https://growinghumankindness.com/webinar-replay-wfiym-140109/
And here’s more about the When Food is Your Mother course that followed the webinar: https://growinghumankindness.com/products/
In support and care, Karly
I forgot to add that I’m a diabetic, who is needing to change.
THANK you for the detailed website. I enjoy the smaller, yet informative, paragraphs. You are an educated woman who knows what she’s talking about. Thanks for taking the time to share your knowledge and of course your books.
Dear Liz, I’m so glad that the resources are helpful to you! There are so many generous beings who are here to help and I’m glad to connect you with them and your work! My family’s history of diabetes and my low blood sugar have encouraged me to examine my relationship with sugar, as well. I hope you find everything you need to care for your body and heart.