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How I Beat My Sugar Addiction

Robyn Openshaw - Feb 27, 2013 - This Post May Contain Affiliate Links

Dear GreenSmoothieGirl:  I am trying to stop eating sugar, but am SO weak!  I've been reading some recommended books, and trying to exercise willpower, and I still struggle.   I'm curious what your process was, that led to success, and how you’ve been able to stay off sugar.  I could do it before I had kids, but now it seems SO much harder. I'd love to hear your tips of how you are able to enjoy family time, birthdays, holidays, etc, without the sugar.


Answer: You got it, Dixie. First, today, the “how I did it” part of your question. Then, tomorrow, some data download on the artificial sweeteners and why they’re even worse.


I really believe that to truly kick the sugar addiction, you have to go off it permanently, cold-turkey. Can an alcoholic just “cut back?” Can a cocaine addict do lines “just on the weekend?”

I’m not saying you will NEVER eat sugar again. (I can’t handle that thought either. I have come further than most, though, to say, “I will not eat it for a year.” Don’t think too far in the future. Think about a long period of time, though. Something that hurts your brain a little. Something challenging.)

What I AM saying is, as long as it’s going to be a casual indulgence, it’s going to be an addiction.

It doesn’t work like that, casually. Addiction to chemicals hijack the brain. It makes us less than we are. It makes us feel we have no “willpower” and aren’t in control of our weight, our life, our health.

Is it worth it? Is sugar worth the price we pay? Academically, we all know it isn’t.

One day, I got completely out of the sugar rat race. It was Sept. 11, 2011. Matthew Flinders and I bet $10,000 that we wouldn’t eat sugar for a year.

When the option was off the table, I stopped thinking about it. It’s so incredibly rare that I even think about sugar now. Seriously. It takes a matter of DAYS before you just quit thinking about it. (Why think about it? Is there a cookie that’s worth $10,000? There isn’t, right?)

I have other treats I *could* have.

I have honey-sweetened homemade halva balls in my freezer right now. They're legal, I could eat them every day if I wanted, but sometimes they're there for weeks before I reach for one. Ditto a the stevia-sweetened dark-chocolate hot fudge in my refrigerator--haven’t touched it in months.

It’s important to know I COULD IF I WANTED. I just don’t really care, most of the time.

“Ah,” you’re thinking, “now you’ve lost me. You’re not like me. I really don’t see the point in living, if it doesn’t involve my daily treats.”

No, listen. I get it. I don’t know if anyone was a bigger sugar addict than me. Writing that treats sit in my freezer and fridge are a big triumph, since I was a lifelong sugar addict. I have deep fillings in all my molars to prove it. Did I fight it more successfully than most? Yes, by sheer will. Like a daily arm wrestle. But in MY OWN RESEARCH, 65% of green smoothie drinkers have fewer cravings for sweets and processed food.

I, my friend, was in the 35%. I still wanted my damn treat.

But here’s something true. A weird thing happens when you get off REFINED sugar. All sugar seems less interesting.

I’m just not interested in brownies anymore. (OMG! Thank you for asking me this question, Dixie! I’ve been thinking about so many MORE INTERESTING THINGS THAN BROWNIES the past 18 months, I hadn’t even realized…….brownies aren’t interesting anymore, and my brain is occupied by better stuff now!)

At first, I’d go to a family birthday or Christmas or any number of other holiday parties, and just not dare LOOK at the dessert table. Now it doesn’t matter. I might look, but I don’t feel the cravings. Now when I look at mint chocolate brownies (my former favorite), it looks like a bunch of chemicals and food colorings and stuff. While I do have lots of memory of pleasure associated with that food, it isn’t particularly tempting.

readers-favorite-healthy-recipes-vol-1-350x350I enjoy celebrating, still. I eat the dinner, just not the dessert. If I were still in a place of feeling deprived, I’d take my own (raw, yummy, chocolately) treat. You can do that. Get our READERS FAVORITES books, or check out Ch. 11 of 12 STEPS TO WHOLE FOODS.

I’m over halfway through Year 2 on the Sugar Bet. Matthew did Year 1 with me as a test of his willpower--he loves games and contests--and didn’t want to do it forever. So I had to get Natalie Harris to do it with me as my first bet ended.

This year, I’m allowed to have sugar one day a month. Honestly, in 2013, thus far, I haven’t seen anything I wanted to eat enough to “use” my day. I’m banking them.

I’m not saying I’ll never eat sugar again. If I go to Las Vegas and get to the Wicked Spoon at the Cosmopolitan? Totally worth it. Ditto a five-star all-inclusive resort in Mexico, on a vacation.

But I am saying, it’s the nicest feeling in the world to (a) have sugar cravings no longer intruding into my thoughts, demanding my brain functions I need for higher things, making me ridiculously obsess about WILL I OR WON’T I TODAY?

And it’s the nicest feeling in the world to (b) discover that not only is life worth living without sugar? It’s just better.

My life is so much better without sugar.

I didn’t lose weight when I ditched sugar. (I ate little of it anyway. But I spent far more time THINKING about wanting to eat sugar and BATTLING it, than actually DOING it. This might be the definition of ANNOYING.)

I weighed 135-137 then, and I weigh 135-137 now.  I don’t really feel any different. I felt great then, and now.

(I had learned MANY years ago to never, ever do it on an empty stomach. That made me sick from the time I was a hypoglycemic kid. I finally wised up and stopped doing it by my mid-20’s. Then I had a long phase of still eating sugar, but only after a healthy meal. Then a long phase of not eating sugar regularly, but still sometimes.)

So why am I still THRILLED that I’ve been totally “off sugar” for 18 months, if I didn’t lose weight or feel any different?

Because now I am in charge of my life. Only after getting free of the sugar demon am I able to look back and realize how CONTROLLED I was by Sugar’s pushy, interruptive, bossy presence in my life.

It was a gradual process, to realizing that I don’t hate my life without sugar.

You won’t either. Promise.

Posted in: 12 Steps To Whole Food, Green Smoothies, Lifestyle, Recipes, Relationships, Tools & Products, Whole Food

33 thoughts on “How I Beat My Sugar Addiction”

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  1. PamPeekeMD says:

    You get it absolutely right when you say:

    “Because now I am in charge of my life. Only after getting free of the sugar demon am I able to look back and realize how CONTROLLED I was by Sugar’s pushy, interruptive, bossy presence in my life.”

    Sugar and other hyperpalatable foods (foods that layer salt, fat, and sweet flavors, proven to increase consumption) wreck havoc on the prefrontal cortex, the executive center of the brain, weakening judgement, planning, organization and will power. At the same time, such foods deeply damage the dopamine system, which regulates the sens of reward and other pleasant things.

    The longer you stay away from those foods, the more your brain will bounce back, the more ability you have to say no and the more the rewards of being in control of your life will outweigh the fleeting pleasure and high of eating.

    You’re doing a great service by testifying to your life beyond sugar.

  2. Alisha says:

    This is off topic, but how do minerals differ from the heavy metals? Cadmium, tin, tungsten, are all listed in liquid light mineral complex. But reports are saying autism is linked to heavy metals, and then lists some, such as cadmium, tin, tungsten, mercury and lead.

  3. Been off sugar two months on a candida cleanse, never felt better. We are full of energy and life. The big bonus, anxiety and depression have gone away too!

  4. Dani Hartvigsen says:

    I’ve lost my cravings for sugar. I didn’t do it intentionally. I just stopped craving sugar when I started drinking daily the 72 ounces of water that is recommended for a person of my weight (75 ounces actually recommended). Most days I only end up drinking 64 ounces now, but still no cravings or even much interest in sugar. It didn’t happen entirely on the first day, because I did have a psychological habit, but the physical cravings left immediately.

  5. Adrienne says:

    Hi Robyn, wonderfully inspiring post!! I’ve gone 2 weeks without sugar and I feel amazing, I can’t wait until it’s 2 months (not sure about 2 years, but 2 months is definitely attainable!). I have a whole foods lifestyle, but I have not had fruit beyond berries or apples, no dates, no coconut sugar, no honey, etc for 2 weeks. It feels really good, my head is so clear!

    I wanted to ask if you could clarify. I know you are not or have not been eating any REFINED sugar for a very, very long time, but when you say you’re not eating SUGAR, are you not eating “whole sugar” in the form of dates, coconut sugar, honey, maple syrup, etc? When you say you’re allowed sugar one day a month, does this mean a not so good for you treat, or is it still a “good” treat made with honey, dates, or coconut sugar, and you’re still not eating it?

    A curious mind just wants to know, thanks!!

  6. Nancy Bogart says:

    I always bragged that I was not interested in sugar at all, but when Type II pre-diabetes hit, I started looking at what I do eat. Amazing the sugar that creeps in even when you think you are clean! Pasta, white bread, rice, carbs, coffee cream, yogurt, breath mints, and even condiments. That is the extreme short list. So, now I am so conscious of sugar. My favorite greek low fat yogurt has 20 grams!

  7. katiegibson1 says:

    I have a hard time being OK with coconut sugar or agave, but not white sugar. Are the natural sweeteners really THAT MUCH better for you? Do they magically not feed the sugar addiction? I know my brownies made with whole wheat flour and coconut sugar taste pretty close to the ones made with white sugar and flour. Maybe my body disagrees 🙂

    1. Amy says:

      Wait, am I missing something here? I thought that agave is worse than HFCS in that it has wayyyy more fructose, like 80% as opposed to about 40-50% in HFCS. And also agave is overly processed like HFCS. Is that true?

  8. Deborah says:

    Thanks for sharing that huge step with us (your readers). I am excited (I think) to hear about Why Artificial Sweeteners Are Terrible..also Truvia & Stevia??? As a diabetic, who has not conquered sugar YET, I thought I found the answer in these two forms. So now I’m back to square one…again. I clearly see why cold-turkey is the only way!

  9. So your saying bet with someone $10,000 to not eat sugar for a year? I know the craving for sugar can be unbearable at least for me anyway. Is there something that can help reduce them? Green smoothies? Any supplements or herbs? Stay off or artificial sweeteners? I take it your suggesting go cold turkey and I get that but, if it’s an addictive substance I would think it would take more than that.

  10. Cherilyn says:

    You could have inserted my name with Dixie’s. Ughhhh… Mentally it all makes sense but implementing seems impossible.

  11. Sher says:

    It’s true about the green smoothies lessening your sugar cravings – there’s so many nutrients in them that you body doesn’t crave a lot of food or junk food. I have stopped sugar for long periods of time, but gave in at some parties. If I didn’t eat too much, or only for that one treat, I would be fine the next day. If I ate sugar for two or more consecutive days (like Christmas time), then I had trouble quitting again. Everyone’s different. I’m still a work in progress!

  12. Jana says:

    Great article. Thanks. So your definition of ‘refined sugar’ is what?

    1. Jana says:

      Actually just read one of your article about sweeteners that answered my question. Thanks.

  13. Leigh says:

    Robyn you never cease to inspire! Very cool! Thank you for sharing. I just read a tip today that if you are craving something sweet than you should eat something sour like dill or lemon. Apparantly it will cancel out the craving like an equal and opposite reaction kind of thing i guess….Have not tried that out yet. A pickle anyone? Fermented of course! =)

  14. Dr. Patryce A. Smith~PhD says:

    How true…any ‘monkey’ on your back is so wonderfully ‘freeing’ to get it off!! And then eventually turn around and know you are in charge of YOU….
    As always hoping your tips help many..

  15. Dixie says:

    Thanks for responding to my question! I have realized I was still not completely committed to cutting out sugars until I read about a man who wasn’t fully converted to his church. “I once knew a man who had to make a decision whether to attend church every time Sunday came around. He had to decide whether he would take a drink every time he was offered alcohol. One day a friend told him…”Why can’t you just decide once and for all which side you’re on? Why do you have to re-examine your loyalty every time a decision is called for? You will never make any progress until you stop reinventing the wheel and build on what you already know.” A while later, his friend called back and stated, “You know, I wouldn’t like it if my wife told me she had to decide every morning whether she still loved me or not, or if she told me she only stayed with me because she hadn’t found a reason to leave—yet. I guess the Lord is entitled to more of a commitment than that from me.” (Oct 1993 Ensign, Enduring to the End, Stephen E. Robinson). I realized I was ‘that guy’ trying to make a decision every day what I was going to do. I’ve realized that if I want to make any changes, I just need to commit and jump in with both feet. Thanks for your courageous example!

  16. Carol Lombard says:

    Why isn’t coconut palm sugar considered sugar?

  17. Heather Mosher says:

    I didn’t find the how you did it in there? I was hoping for more of a way to get off sugar, some sort of trick…..

  18. Lisa Brinkerhoff says:

    Hi Robyn, I have only been off of sugar for 5 months and some days it is still very hard. I made the decision for my health. I was underweight and suffering with Fibromyalgia (along with other things). Sugar really affects me, it is the difference between me being able to function or not. I am curious about the Cocoa Mojo doesn’t that have coconut sugar? Thank you for your mission on health, I have been a Green smoothie girl now for 2 years in May. Thanks for keeping it real.

  19. I Love your straight-forward writing.
    Writing and health — two favorite worlds of mine — and you put the two together wonderfully with your inspiration, your realism, your humor, and your down-to-earth accessibility.

    What struck me is that what you said made perfect sense…. hits home in the “addictive mind-set” part of my life, which seems to be even more insidious than the eating habits with which I struggle. I truly am sick of focussing on “foods to not eat” — whether or not I eat them regularly!
    Something both deep, and lightening-up, about “letting go” for real — thx for expressing it.

    I’m sure that so many people appreciate your contribution to helping change the way the world eats!! (is that too much to lay on you? 🙂
    Please keep on keepin’ on!!!
    All the best and thanks again — ongoing —
    Patricia (“the berry lady” in Rochester, VT)

  20. It’s true…’s really true. People have a really hard time believing that I don’t really get cravings or think about it much. And that just being off the refined sugars helps with most all sweet cravings. Give it a try you’ll see that Robyn’s right. I didn’t realize how addicted to sugar I was until I wasn’t addicted any longer!

  21. Hi Robyn, great article! Sugar is deifinitely addicting, the more you have it, the more you crave it & it’s amazing how good you can feel once you stay away from it….Frank

  22. Dr. Patryce A. Smith~PhD says:

    The chemical makeup to your brain and the self-talk of you and your body become very important when breaking habits that one is ‘addicted’ to as you progress to a healthier lifestyle know there is much help out here for you. Congrats on taking the first step…knowing you need to cut that sugar & worse the artificial ones our of your daily choices.

  23. Melissa says:

    This is the truth! It’s not what most people want to hear, but it is TRUE. I couln’t have heard this a year ago, but I hear it loud and clear now! For the last 3 months I have been almost 100 percent sugar free (I’ve had some dark 60-85% chocolate on 3 occasions). I’m a chocolate lover, so I’m learning to get that “chocolate fix” without the sugar. There’s lots of options, one of the simplest is frozen bananas + cocoa powder in the Vitamix blender = yummy chocolate icecream. I’ll tell you what really did it for me was learning (at a Green Smoothie Girl event – and I can’t remember if Robyn said this or if Brian Clement said it) that cancer cells have 19 insulin receptors and healthy cells have 2. SUGAR FEEDS CANCER. I’m thinking if I have cancer cells or “pre cancerous” cells anywhere in my body, I don’t want to feed them. So, I stopped eating sugar. 🙂 Easy as that. Whose in control now, sugar!? LOL!

      1. Dr. Patryce A. Smith~ says:

        I think by the question you are on the ‘wrong’ page for health. Or you could come up with the non-sugar (thereby non-alcohol) cocktail you are seeking.

  24. JP Edwards says:

    After reading Nourishing Traditions by Sally Fallon (listed in the recommended reading from gsg) I added, yes ADDED fat into my diet on a more regular basis, not the poly unsaturated, but saturated, especially butter, cream, and coconut oil. I realized about a month later that not only had i not been scrounging the house for ANYTHING sweet out of desperation, but I was walking through the store isles completely unfazed by (but still enjoying) the smell of fresh doughnuts, Halloween candy, and every other thing i battled. I hadn’t craved sugar for at least one week, probably closer to two, and i wasn’t craving chips, crackers, or bread in general either. It changed everything!
    It used to be when my chronic stress would spike those cravings took control, all bets were off, but now the cravings during those times are mild, but most of the time they just don’t exist any more. Also, don’t under estimate the consequences of chronic stress (usually emotional) in your life playing into those cravings. What is going on in your life and your emotions when those cravings are the strongest? Address that and you will be better able to prevent new episodes. =)

    1. Dr. PARS says:

      Who is this woman trying to help this young woman deal with traumas in her childhood? There are other natural health modalities that can assist her to grow into her healthier self. These types of mind, body, spirit and environment issues will need more than a bit of guided-imagery?

      1. Rebecca says:

        I know this was originally posted several years ago, but I just came across it here on the GSG website. To help others who are reading it now, and wondering the same thing, I will answer your question. The woman who is helping in the video is Carol Tuttle. She is the author of 5 best selling books, had an energy therapy practice for several years, and is the creator of the energy profiling system. That is why you hear the two women briefly discussing energy types. Her website,, has a huge following. In fact, Robyn (the green smoothie girl) was one of Carol’s live your truth makeovers!

    2. Lynda Kilfoyle says:

      Someone please clarify the definition of sugar. Cocoa Mojo has organic coconut palm sugar in it how is that much different than other types of sugar. I thought sugar free include all types of sugar but fresh fruit? No, pure maple syrup, no raw honey, no agave? Please correct me if I am wrong but a nice warm cocoa drink doesn’t really sound sugar free.

  25. Amanda Evans says:

    I would really love to know what you mean by being sugar free because there seems to be so much information now that I’m totally bamboozled by it all. Agave as far as I understand it is every bit as processed as sugar; nutritionally it’s similar to high-fructose corn syrup; in fact it can be as high as 90% fructose. When you add fruits, berries, bananas etc to your green smoothies and then blend them, the all important cellular fibre that helps our bodies absorb the fructose slowly when we eat the fruit as a whole is totally destroyed, ensuring that we are just drinking high sugar content (Robert Lustig in his book Fat Chance). Having just bought a high-speed blender thinking I was heading for a healthy lifestyle, I now feel totally confused in a way that I never did before. Would love to know your answer as I’m keen to get this right. Thanks!

    1. Robyn says:

      Amanda, you can define it any number of ways. The only thing I’ve “beat” is my REFINED sugar addiction. I still like treats. Blending is fine and the fiber is not destroyed. However, it’s important to chew foods high in fiber as well, where the fiber isn’t as broken down. I do not like juicing fruits for the reason you mention—too much sugar, fiber thrown away.

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