How I Beat My Sugar Addiction
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.
HOW I BEAT MY SUGAR ADDICTION
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.
I 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.