I’ve had a sweet tooth my entire life – but what happens when an innocent indulgence becomes an full-blown addiction? Read on to learn some practice ways I overcame my sugar addiction – and how you can, too!
Oh, Halloween. One of my very favorite holidays when I was a kid. Why, you ask? Was it the costumes? The scary movies? The changing of the seasons? (Well, sort of – I am from LA after all!) Nope – it was the candy that was my absolute favorite part of Halloween. A holiday where I got to walk around my neighborhood and get free candy?! That was better than Christmas for me. Because I. love. sugar.
I’ll take sugar in almost any form, but I LOVE candy. I love it so much that I would make myself sick – I remember one year when I was younger where I ate so much candy after Halloween that I my body literally rejected it all and I got really sick because I had had too much – whoops. I was, and have been all my life, addicted to sugar.
Sugar addiction is rampant in American society, where almost everything (including supposedly “healthy” stuff such as green juice) is packed with sugar. I know there are various types of sugar, and obviously sugar from fruit is healthier than sugar from processed foods like candy – and I’m not a nutritionist so I won’t go into all that here – but the fact is, sugar is everywhere. I always knew I was addicted to desserts which obviously are made mostly with sugar, but as I got older I realized it’s not just desserts that have tons of sugar – almost every food I love (including ketchup, teriyaki sauce, cereal, soda, etc. etc.) has sugar in it.
I’m now a lot more conscious of which foods have tons of sugar in them, but it’s something I struggle with a lot since I’ve tried to start eating healthier in the past year. One thing I could not seem to let go of when I started really watching what I ate (more on that journey coming soon) was my nightly desserts. It was my nightly ritual – Steve and I would settle down for a few hours of TV at the end of the night, and I could not enjoy that time unless I was eating some kind of sugary food.
Sure, I could tell myself that my vanilla almond milk yogurt and my Honey Nut Chex wasn’t the same as eating a brownie sundae, but it was more the fact that I felt like I had to be eating something in order to relax. Similarly to the way some people reach for a glass of wine every night, I had a nightly sugar fix – and if I didn’t have it I was consumed with cravings until I would give in.
Sugar in our society
While I obviously know that sugar addiction is not the same as alcohol or drug addiction, it’s an addiction nonetheless. And it’s not good for you. And what’s even worse is that it’s not really talked about in our culture – in fact, it’s promoted. Our culture is in a lot of ways centered around sugar as a form of happiness and celebration – similarly to the ways we use alcohol to celebrate. When we have a birthday, we have cake. People bring cookies and doughnuts to the office on Fridays. We pass out candy during presentations and we use it as a reward when people raise their hands or get a correct answer.
Once I realized I was addicted to my nightly desserts, I realized I needed to break the habit. Easier said than done. But I think realization is the first and most important step, because you’re not going to do anything if you can’t admit that this thing is bad for you and you’re addicted to it.
I’ll list some things below that worked for me in helping break my sugar addiction. I am by no means completely off sugar, but the tips I share below helped me feel more like I was in control and less like my sugar cravings were controlling me.
I think this one is key. When I was craving sugar and feeling the urge to get up and get a treat, I tried to just pause and take a few deep breaths and wait until the urge passed, rather than fighting it. And it always passes. This sometimes works and sometimes doesn’t, but it definitely helps me not just reach for sugar mindlessly every time.
Don’t keep tempting treats in the house!
This may seem like a duh, but I couldn’t even get to the point where I admitted I probably shouldn’t stock my pantry with sugary foods I would be inclined to eat. I knew I needed dessert to feel happy, so I bought dessert foods. I’d always think, “Oh this is healthier,” or “I’ll only have a few.” Surprise – that did not work. What really helped was not even keeping it around. I also used to drink really sugary juice with every meal and I completely stopped buying that as well.
Allow yourself to occasionally indulge
I still want to eat sugar as a treat, mostly because I love it and it doesn’t work for me to completely deprive myself (but I know going cold turkey totally works for some, so if it works for you – great)! So, I allow myself to have 1-2 “dessert nights” per week where I can indulge in a small dessert of my choosing.
Use an alternative, like gum or sparkling water
Sometimes I’m just really craving sugar, and when that happens, I chew gum. It’s still sugary but not the same as eating a cookie. And if I feel like I want soda, I reach for sparkling water. I know people don’t think it tastes good, and it initially doesn’t (because it’s not packed with sugar), but try it and you’ll get used to it!
Don’t allow yourself to eat after a certain time
The same way I wrote about not using social media after 8pm, I try not to eat after 8pm. This really helped me kick my habit of eating dessert during our TV time because we usually start watching TV around 8:30 or. 9. So if I’m not allowed to eat anything after 8, I got used to not eating while watching TV, and now that’s not an issue for me. Yes, it was hard at first. Yes, there were times where I cheated. But feeling free of the nightly urge to eat dessert made me feel so much happier than being a slave to my cravings. Also, not eating late at night is just a good practice in general – so win, win!
I know everyone’s relationship to sugar is vastly different, and it’s always a process. But hopefully if you relate to any of this, you see that you’re not alone, and there are concrete steps you can take to recognize and break your habit (or at least get to a place where it doesn’t completely control you). I hope everyone has a wonderful and safe Halloween, and I will definitely be eating some candy tonight, because #balance, right?!