1. The First Step is Admitting You Have a Problem
Have you ever come home from a long day of work or school and craved a candy bar, a nice slice of cake, a tray of cookies, or really any sweet treat? Or, have you ever found it really hard to eat just one donut from the box? Do you snack on granola bars or other sugary foods even when you’re not hungry?
If you’ve answered “yes,” to any of these questions, you, my friend, are what they call a sugar addict! But don’t feel embarrassed! I used to be just like you! I’d binge eat several pints of ice cream a week, devour two or more Kit-Kats a day, splurge on delicious sweet and saucy pizza every afternoon and still want more! Eventually, I saw that I had a problem and did a complete 180 with my diet. It’s been nearly 5 months since I’ve lived such a prodigal life, and I can now say that I am officially weaned off of sugar!
Breaking from what seemed to be an innate addiction was not an easy effort, but it was possible and it was worth it! I’d love to see you break free from your sugar addiction as well, so pull up a seat and welcome to my 5 Steps to Recovery Program: Sugar Addicts Anonymous!
2. Know Your Enemy Like You Know Your Friend
Like any enemy, sugar is sneaky and deceitful. It’s deceitful because it tricks our bodies into thinking we want or need more of it when we don’t actually need too much of it at all.
Remember back in elementary school when your class would, on occasion, get interrupted so a nice nutritionist could come in with her or his food pyramid chart? Though seated at the top—talk about ego—sugar was always the tiniest portion of the pyramid, and it was (and still is) that way for a reason!
According to the American Heart Association, the average man on a 2,000 calorie diet should limit himself to just 150 calories of sugar. That adds up to about 36 grams of sugar. For every 4 grams of sugar, we’re consuming 1 teaspoon of it, so a man should have only 9 teaspoons of sugar in a single day. For women on a 2,000 calorie diet, the numbers are as follows:
100 calories of sugar = 24 grams = 6 teaspoons
Woah! Stop it right there! Just a few paragraphs ago, I admitted to inhaling at least two Kit-Kats a day! The average candy bar contains about 23 grams of sugar, which means that I would have already exceeded my daily dose of added sugar by simply licking my second bar of candy. Yikes!
What makes this even more horrifying is knowing that by consuming this many snacks and treats each day, I was heightening my addiction to the point where it resembled that of a drug addict. That’s because sugar produces opioids in your brain, the same chemical that is produced from doing hard drugs like cocaine or heroin.
The are receptors in our tounges that, when we consume sugar, send reward signals to our brains. A constant consumption of sugar “on” reinforces these rewards, which makes breaking the addiction all the more difficult.
A Wolf In Sheep’s Clothing
Sugar by any other name would taste as sweet.
When I said that sugar is sneaky, I meant it. It’s in nearly everything and it goes by so many different aliases that it’s easy to find yourself eating it without even knowing it!
Luckily, I’ve compiled a list of sugary sweeteners that pose under other names so that you’ll never be tricked by the evil one again.
- Watch out for anything ending in “ose”
- Anything “syrup”
- Brown Sugar
- Fruit Sugar
3. Know Yourself Even Better Than That
Be one with your addiction. Know when you seem to have the most cravings and plan accordingly.
I’d often binge on snacks from the afternoon to late at night because those were the hours where I’d be the busiest and stressed out. Instead of dealing with my stress in a healthy manner, I’d run to the freezer and finish a pint of Ben & Jerry’s Tonight Show. I’d also never pack a lunch with me, so picking up a snack of seven from the campus cafe was an easy way for me to combat stress and hunger on my busy class days.
Now that I’ve pinpointed my cravings, let’s use that as a model for you! Here’s a chart I’ve created with common (and unhealthy) stress-relieving snacks and the satisfying alternatives that you could opt for!
Pint of Ice Cream
Chocolate Peanut Butter Bar
Bag of Skittles
All-natural “Nice Cream”
Cup of Fruit
Sugar-free Trail Mix
Large Banana w/ Natural PB
4. Watch Your Enemy Like a Hawk
As I mentioned earlier, sugar is (what seems like) everywhere! Know these places and you’ll never be caught off guard! What I mean by this is, to pay close attention to labels!
Don’t be afraid to be “that person,” in the supermarket! Check ingredient labels and do it like a boss! Keep an eye on the placement of ingredients. If sugar is listed as one of the first three ingredients, this is a red flag that it’s one of the main ingredients.
Also, pay attention to wording. Since companies know that more and more people are becoming health conscious and ditching things like sugar, they’ll try to cater to that on the front of a label with phrases like “no refined sugar.” But as I mentioned before, sugar goes by many names, so regardless of the carefully crafted words and stellar graphic design on the front of a product, check the ingredients on the back!
5. Make the Cuts
In with the good, out with the bad.
Now that you’re educated on the many evils of sugar, begin by letting some of it go each day. The very first thing that I did when I decided to make the switch was rid my pantry of all pastas, cereals, breads, and crackers that I had. If you decide to do the same, don’t throw them away, but consider giving the foods to friends in need, or even donating them to a food drive if you have an abundance.
Of course, you don’t have to begin with your pantry, since pantry items are typically staples. You could begin with the sugary drinks in your refrigerator. Pour them out and get yourself an infuser. Infusers are a great way for people who love sodas and fruit juices to begin to love water again!
Next, cut out unnecessary snacking or replace the snack with some of the healthy, sugar-free options that I listed in Step 3!
Go by the apple rule: If you’re not hungry enough to eat an apple, then you’re not hungry at all. By implementing these small changes, you hopefully will be hungry enough to eat an apple to satisfy your sweet tooth someday soon.