A reader recently emailed me asking for help to end her lifelong sugar junkie addiction.
Dear Sarah, I’m sure you get lots of emails every day but I sure hope you can give me some advice. I’m 52 years old and a horrific sugar addict. At six weeks old, my mother started me on chocolate milk and other than very short periods of time, I don’t think I have been without sugar. It doesn’t matter what form it is in…just have sugar. This morning I told a friend that I could be rolled in chocolate and be happy! So, you see my problem. Please help me get off sugar. Even typing that makes me start shaking and looking for my next fix!! I’m working very hard to change our eating habits. We grow almost all of our food…veggies, beef, pork, eggs, chicken, milk. This week I started making our butter, yogurt, etc. and hope to be making hard cheeses soon. Can you help a middle-aged, over weight, grandmother improve her health? Thank you so much, Regina
Regina, I can relate to your situation. I used to be a pretty dedicated sugar junkie myself back in my 20′s. I was the gal who was scarfing down the Snickers bar (King Size, no less!) at 3pm everyday at my desk while I worked a stressful, travel packed, restaurant loaded corporate lifestyle. A box of Dunkin Donuts on the conference room table was my idea of a good start to the day!
Even after I had the good sense to quit that career and start my own consulting business from home in 1996, I still had trouble conquering the sugar monster.
Not surprisingly, I was hypoglycemic from the lowfat lifestyle I was following and despite eating organic fruits, veggies, and meats much of the time, all that sugar made me a nervous wreck not to mention a real pill to live with from the moodiness brought on by my seesawing blood sugar.
I’m happy to say that my sugar addiction days are long behind me and while I do still look longingly at a box of Dunkin Donuts, I pass them by the vast majority of the time when they are available at a party or meeting. While I do give in and eat one bite sized munchkin from time to time, I have found the hard way (refined sugar gives me such a nasty headache!) that choosing to eat none at all is far easier than indulging even just a bite or two!
So, how did I do it? How did I slay the sugar monster and keep it at bay for so many years?
Here’s the protocol. I’m sure there are other approaches that would work just fine too. Here’s what worked for me and has enabled me to stay sugar addiction-free for many years.
Step One: Replace ALL Refined Sugar with Natural Sweeteners
This step means exactly what it says. You must get rid of all the white sugar and high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) in your home wherever it may lurk and replace it with natural, whole forms of sugar like honey, maple syrup, coconut sugar and sucanat (whole cane sugar). Do not use agave as it is highly processed.
Don’t forget condiments .. they are a big source of HFCS. Replace them with condiments from the healthfood store that taste just as good and don’t have some form of refined sugar as a main ingredient.
Not ready to get rid of soda entirely? Then buy soda only from the healthfood store where there are brands available that use unrefined cane sugar instead of HFCS. These sodas taste terrific. You won’t miss a thing taste and satisfaction-wise by drinking them, I can assure you.
Replace those candy bars with healthfood store versions that use whole cane sugar instead of refined white sugar as the sweetener.
Whatever you do, DON”T replace the refined sugars with artificial sweeteners. Studies have shown that folks who consume artificial sweeteners have more sweet cravings than folks who just eat the sugar in its natural form!
Be aware that you are going to have to start reading labels to complete this step. Refined sugar is hidden everywhere in processed foods!
* The goal in this step is not to reduce sugar consumption but simply to replace it with a more nutritious, unprocessed, whole form of sugar.
When you have accomplished this significant step forward, CONGRATULATIONS! You are now ready to proceed ….
Step Two: Increase the Amount of Whole, Unprocessed Fats in Your Diet
The sugar cravings many of us experience are due to the lack of enough healthy, whole fats in our diet. Dietary fat stabilizes blood sugar .. sweet cravings become overwhelming on dips in blood sugar.
I used to think that it was lack of willpower that was preventing me from succeeding in getting my sugar cravings under control. As it turned out, it wasn’t a lack of willpower at all. It was my lowfat diet that was the primary problem.
Once I switched from skim milk to whole milk (preferably unprocessed directly from the farm), whole yogurt from lowfat or fat free yogurt, and butter from butter substitutes, I noticed my sugar cravings rapidly diminishing!
As part of this step, be sure to clear out of your pantry any item that features a “reduced fat” or “fat free” marketing line on the package.
Fat is your friend when you are intent on slaying the sugar monster!
So go ahead and load up on butter – the best quality your budget can afford. Eat that delicious fat that surrounds your grassfed steak. It tastes great for a reason! It is full of nutrition and it is a huge asset in stabilizing your blood sugar.
Don’t worry that your triglycerides will shoot to the moon and that you will drop dead of a heart attack. It is the factory fats that are so dangerous to your cardiovascular health, not whole unprocessed fats in milk, cream, eggs and butter. Doctors and nutritionists who tell you otherwise are not up on their research.
Definitely avoid transfats, partially hydrogenated fats, interesterified fats and any other rancid, cheap vegetable oils that are used in processed foods. But welcome with open arms cream, butter, egg yolks, coconut oil, and other forms of traditional, nourishing fats.
As you increase the whole fats in your diet, most people find introduction of a therapeutic strength probiotic and homemade fermented foods to be of great benefit. Probiotics will help to rebalance gut bacteria to a favorable ratio and keep candida under control. There are over 18 free videos on this blog which show you how to make all kinds of fermented foods and fermented drinks that will keep those pathogenic yeasts in your gut under control that are a big contributor to out of control sugar cravings.
Step Three: Remove All Forms of Processed, Whole Sugars From Your Home
Once you have abandoned the lowfat lifestyle and embraced traditional fats in your home, you are ready for the next step: getting rid of all processed sugar foods in your home even if made with organic, whole natural sweeteners.
That’s right, lose the natural sodas, organic cookies, pop tarts, organic chocolate and any other organic junk food that you started buying when you switched from refined sugar to natural sugars in step one above.
This may seem difficult, but wait … let me explain.
You can still eat as much natural, whole sugars as you want if made with honey, maple syrup, sucanat, coconut sugar.
The catch is that now you can’t buy them .. you have to make them yourself.
So if you want chocolate chip cookies, have at it. You just must make them at home using whole, natural sugars. You can’t just walk to the pantry and pick up a bag of Newman’s Own Organic Chocolate Chip Cookies.
What this step introduces is the inconvenience factor.
When something is inconvenient, most of the time, you will just skip doing it, am I right?
For example, if I have a bag of organic chocolate chip cookies in the pantry and a very stressful event occurs suddenly out of the blue, the chances that I am going to walk to the pantry and eat some, or more likely, the entire box of cookies is rather high.
At least it is for me.
If, on the other hand, I don’t have any prepackaged, easy to munch organic cookies in my pantry at all, the chances that I will whip out the mixing bowl and make some chocolate chip cookies myself are much much lower.
In this step you are still allowed to drive to the store and buy some organic cookies if your craving is overwhelming. But, when you walk into your front door, whatever you haven’t eaten in the car goes in the trash. That’s right – they hit the circular file.
Only homemade sweets made with natural sugars are allowed in your home from this step forward. You can make as many homemade sweets as you like and consume as many as you like, but they must be made by hand.
This step is where the rubber meets the road. Can you do it? You absolutely can if you are eating lots of whole fats in your diet! Eating lots of whole, unprocessed fats is your ace in the hole because your cravings will never be overwhelming as your blood sugar will be stable the majority of the time.
Step Four: Reduce Consumption of Natural Sugars From All Sources to No More than 3 TBL (36 grams) per Day
Congratulations are in order if you have made it this far to the fourth and final step. You are now 90% of the way to slaying the sugar monster in your life!
The final step involves a gradual reduction in the amount of natural sugars you consume to a manageable level of no more than 36 grams per day. Significant immune system suppression begins to occur above 36 grams (for adults, less in children) so this is the cut off point you want to shoot for.
How long should this step take? As long as is necessary! For some, it will take one week. Others may find it takes several months. The point is to keep moving forward and don’t give up if you fall off the wagon on occasion. Just get up, dust yourself off, and keep going!
Ideally speaking, some of your days should not include any sweets at all after awhile. Having a goal of no sweets ever is not realistic, however, so don’t even go there mentally.
Our culture is sugar saturated so sometimes you are simply going to indulge. Don’t worry about it or feel guilty about it for even one moment when it happens.
If you have slayed the sugar monster in your home by transitioning to only natural sugars, eating more whole fats, forbidding organic junk food from finding a regular home in your pantry, and eating homemade sweets only on an occasional basis, then you have absolutely accomplished your goal!
You are now eating natural, whole sweets in moderation and enjoying them in a safe manner that will not threaten your long term health.
Well done, my friend!
Where To Find Wholesome, Natural Sweeteners
Be sure to check out my Resources page for places to source quality, wholesome sweeteners – even the hard to find, low glycemic ones like coconut sugar.