“Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.” ― Hippocrates
Jenna, a mother of four, has struggled with a sweet tooth her whole life.
“When I was a kid, I’d have a bowl of cereal in the morning. It came in an attractive box with the cartoon character on front, and I’d eat it without a second thought.”
She had Oreos and Twinkies at school, but the apple and sandwich her mom made for her would go uneaten in her lunch box. Dinner of course, wouldn’t be complete without dessert, like a big helping of chocolate cake or apple pie.
“This went on for years and years. Although my parents always encouraged me to eat healthy, I’d always look for some form of sweets every time we ate.”
It wasn’t until Jenna had kids of her own when she finally realized how damaging sugar addiction is.
She went on: “I’d try to kick my dependence on it and fail every time, so I kind of gave up at some point in my adult life. But what really woke me up was seeing my own children go through the same problems I had at their age. They were gaining weight, had a hard time focusing on their school work, and they’d get lethargic after their sugar rush. Plus, it was wreaking havoc on their teeth too.”
So Jenna knew she needed an intervention not just for herself, but also for her family.
With the support of her husband and health professionals, Jenna managed to overcome her addiction to sugar. Not only that, she also spared her kids from growing up with an out-of-control sweet tooth.
“Our family doctor referred us to a nutritionist and a fitness coach. It’s only been a couple of months now, but I think that we’re on the right track,” she shared.
Why is sugar so seductive?
Like Jenna, millions of people worldwide are dealing with the dangers of consuming excessive amounts of sugar.
In the book “Sweet Poison: Why Sugar Makes Us Fat”, David Gillespie states that a century and a half ago, humans didn’t used to consume added sugar (the kind that’s found in food and drinks).
Today, we’re consuming well over one kilogram in just one week!
Gillespie further cites that twenty years ago, 1 out of 14 adults in Australia had problems with obesity. And that number has gone up to 1 out of 5 people.
We all know how sugar feeds into the obesity epidemic – along with its life-threatening effects – but why do we crave this sweet substance so much?
For one thing, the term “stress eating” exists for a good reason.
For a lot of folks, it’s a normal reaction to grab something on the go for a quick hit of relief when they’re frazzled from a busy day. And their food of choice is usually processed and laced with sugar.
Another reason behind this craving is a resistance to leptin, which is known as the “starvation hormone.”
This is to regulate the body’s energy reserves. So if someone’s leptin levels go below their personal threshold, it kicks into starvation mode, telling them to eat more.
And being resistant to leptin means you’re likely to binge, which of course, includes sweet treats.
Other factors behind sugar cravings include low serotonin levels, not getting enough sleep and hormonal fluctuations.
And the biggest one of all is the slick packaging and shrewd marketing tactics by companies that flood the market with sugar-laden products.
Put that all together, and you’ve got a recipe for a health disaster.
But there is hope – by taking the right steps today, you can start turning the tide.
Here are 3 ways to finally break free from the sweet trap of sugar addiction:
#1: Purge ALL sources of temptation
This is the first step that most people skip when they’re trying to eliminate sugar from their life.
Willpower is an effective weapon against temptation, but it’s a limited one.
How much ammunition do you have against killing the urge to tear into that chocolate cake waiting for you in your fridge?
Chances are, not much – especially when you come home from a long day and you’re running on empty.
If you want to beat your cravings at its own game, you need to play it smart. Take sugar out of the equation, so you only have yourself left to deal with.
Search your entire house and round up all the food with sugar. Go through your fridge, pantry and every nook and cranny, and throw it out.
I know that right now, it seems like a waste of money doing this.
But if you think about the cost of seeing a doctor, or going to the hospital from being sick…
…not to mention the medicine you’ll need…
…then it’s not such as bad trade-off, all things considered.
Grit your teeth and absorb the cost of ditching that toxic junk from your life.
Then take it one step further and redo your grocery list from the ground up.
Sit down and do an audit of the kinds of food you throw in your shopping cart as an afterthought. Start replacing the unhealthy items from your old list and substitute it with other food (more on that later).
From now on, you’ll be doing a conscientious kind of shopping. You need to make sure you don’t let any sugar back into your home.
After all, this is the battle for your health, so you’ll have to resist the “barbarians at the gate”, as the famous phrase goes.
#2: Deal with the calorie deficit
After you’ve eliminated sugar-rich food from your house, you’ll need to fill in that void with something to sustain you throughout the day.
Certain elements can be a good source of fuel, which includes chromium, magnesium and zinc. When you stock up on these in your body, you’ll be able to interact better with naturally occurring sugars (such as in fruits) and burn them more efficiently.
That way, you’ll feel less of a need to scarf down a donut for a little pick-me-up.
That’s why people trying to beat their sugar addiction tend to lean towards food that has these elements, such as nuts (quite filling between meals), seeds and freshly-squeezed orange juice (and not the pre-packaged kind of course!).
Throw in some meat as well, like beef, lamb and chicken, along with seafood such as salmon and halibut. Other sources include green leafy veggies (like spinach or kale), broccoli, whole grains, apples, bran and bananas.
Complex carbohydrates are another ace up your sleeve. They help stabilize glucose levels in your body so you don’t experience energy fluctuations that trigger the urge to consume sugar.
So, try to include complex carbs like sweet potatoes, brown rice, whole wheat pasta and pumpkin to name a few.
And here’s another one that’ll surprise you: water.
Some who’ve successfully dealt with their cravings say that a clear glass of H20 does wonders. It’s their first line of defense because water helps with the hunger pangs and distracts them long enough to find something healthy to snack on.
Mineralized water in particular contains elements like chromium, which can keep your blood sugar level in the safe zone and dampen the urge to consume something sweet.
This is going to be a period of chaos, but always keep in mind that the cravings do go away, as bad as they are. You just need to support yourself properly to get through this phase.
Don’t be afraid to ask for outside help, be it in the form of your family, friends or a health professional. The more you check in with them, the more accountable you’ll be.
#3: Get your mind right
Now that you’ve gotten this far, you’ve almost won the war against sugar.
There’s only one more battlefield left to worry about, which is your brain.
Arm yourself with knowledge. It will give even more reasons to cut your dependence on an emotionally manipulative substance like sugar.
There are plenty of resources, both offline and online, that will educate you further on the extent of sugar addiction and what it does to your body.
You constantly need to remind yourself WHY you’re doing this in the first place.
Dallas and Melissa Hartwig, authors of “It starts with food”, point out that sugars and sweeteners do not pass their standards of good food.
They said that “it lights up pleasure, reward, and emotional pathways to the brain, offering supernormally stimulating flavors without providing the nutrition that nature intended.”
That means you need to rewire your mind and its thought patterns around consuming sugar – and the psychological attachment to it.
Another way to cut the umbilical is by starting a diary to list down the times when those cravings come knocking. They might kick in when you’re feeling or stressed, or skipped a meal like breakfast or lunch.
With self-awareness, you’ll have a handle on what’s going on and stay on top of it.
Speaking of which, there’s an interesting TED talk by Judson Brewer called “A Simple Way to Break a Bad Habit”.
He cited a study on how mindfulness can help break the cycle of addiction.
Now, mindfulness is the practice of focusing on the present moment and sensations your body is feeling (such as your breathing), often while meditating.
Brewer asked participants who were trying to quit smoking to actually light up and pay attention to what was happening to them.
One said, “It smelled like stinky cheese and tastes like chemicals…YUCK!”
And so when you’re disgusted with how you feel after partaking in a bad habit (like feeling bloated or lethargic after a crash), it breaks the spell.
I’ll be honest: You will never NOT crave sugar.
But you can minimize it to manageable levels so it becomes a non-issue.
And while cutting out sugar from your diet is important…
…it’s just the beginning.
To really live a full, healthy life that’s free of diseases that come with living in the modern world, you need a holistic approach.
You’ll also need a plan to lose weight safely, improve your gut health and give your body what it needs.
This won’t just help you prevent disease, but also REVERSE it.