When I first made the conversion away from processed foods, I didn’t dump my entire kitchen completely but I definitely stuffed it with tons of fruits and vegetables. I remember not being able to believe it at first – that I could eat food and feel full without having had to dive nose-first into 1,300 calories – and, like I wrote before, still tried to eat some processed foods while thinking I could maintain that control. Yeah, needless to say, that was a fail.
In my opinion, if you’re an emotional eater, then your emotional eating and sugar addiction go hand in hand. Sugar addiction exists because of the feeling that ingesting sugar gives you, and the amount that you ingest will increase each time you eat and don’t get the same kind of feeling you were hoping for. The chase of that high comes coupled with a slew of calories, which is why it can become a weight issue, as well. An emotional eater can also be an extremely active person and, therefore, not have any weight issues.
It wasn’t until I failed – several times – that I realized that I simply cannot eat processed foods. Call it – or me – whatever you will, I know my limitations… and they include products created by companies who have millions of dollars invested in creating formulas (because they aren’t recipes) that the public cannot resist. The best thing I could’ve done for myself, in this instance, was making myself aware of my limitations. This is one of them. They simply trigger a part of me that I have no desire to test to determine whether or not I’m truly beyond it.
That being said, when I saw that SparkPeople has an article about beating and defeating a sugar addiction, I was overjoyed. A lot of this outlines what I endured and how I overcame my own addiction, and I think I may even add to this later on in the future. It’s really a dope start.
Week 1: Identify Sugar and Where It’s Hiding
The first step in conquering your sugar habit is to rid your pantry and refrigerator of added sugar. Some things (think ice cream, cookies and candy) are obvious, but most of us need to look closer at where the sugar in our diets is coming from. This will require a bit of label reading in the beginning, but after a while, it will become easier.
In order to cut back on hidden or added sugar, scan the ingredients list of a food label. If you see any of the following terms listed, then sugar has been added to the product in one form or another and it is best left on the shelf at the store—especially if that sugar shows up within the first five ingredients of any food product.
This first week is about awareness. Reading labels before you buy—or bite. How many of your favorite foods contain hidden sugars in the top of their ingredients lists?
Once you have identified the sources of sugar in your diet, clean out your kitchen. Throw out or donate all of the products that contain hidden or added sugars, including any juice, soda, candy, sweets and seemingly healthy snacks like granola bars, fruit and grain bars, instant oatmeal and sports drinks. This may sound drastic, but stay with me!
Remember, you don’t have to throw away everything that is sweet! Natural sugar, like the kind you find in whole fruit, contains vitamins, minerals and fiber, which are lost in the processing of juice. Milk contains naturally occurring sugars, but also provides calcium, vitamin D and protein. So unlike soda, fruit juices and other processed foods, whole fruit and dairy products provide us with essential vitamins and minerals that our bodies need. Be wary of certain fruit- or milk-based products that contain added sugars though: flavored milk, many yogurts, fruits canned or jellied in added sugar or syrups, and the like. Opt for unflavored skim or 1% milk, plain yogurt or Greek yogurt, and whole pieces of fruit. Remember, we are trying to cut out the 151 pounds a year of added sugar, not the naturally occurring sugar found in whole foods.
Week 2: Stock Your Sugar-Free Kitchen
In one week, you’ve probably found lots of sugar in your diet. Some of it may have been obvious, like those frozen waffles or lattes from the local coffee joint. But others might not have been so clear, as sugar tends to lurk in many “diet” foods and lower-fat foods, added by manufacturers to make their low-cal offerings taste better.
Now that you know what to look for (and avoid), it’s time to replace the products you tossed with sugar-free counterparts. For example, replace high-sugar cereals with a whole grain cereal that contains little to no added sugars. Sweeten it naturally with fresh berries or half of a diced banana. Instead of snacking on candy or cookies, reach for a handful of nuts or some raw veggies and hummus. Replace sweetened yogurt with Greek yogurt or plain yogurt. Look back at week one and the foods you used to eat that contained sugar. Can you find no-sugar oatmeal? A healthier snack than a sugar-sweetened smoothie (how about a whole piece of fruit)? A more filling afternoon treat than that sugary “protein bar” (such as peanut butter on whole-grain crackers)?
When choosing a refreshing beverage to quench your thirst, keep in mind that you want to eat your calories, not drink them. Choose ice cold water flavored with a squeeze of fresh lemon or an orange slice. Or flavor unsweetened iced tea with fresh mint, crushed raspberries, or a squeeze of citrus.
One tip to help you avoid added sugar at the supermarket is to shop the perimeter of the grocery store as much as possible. Think about the general layout of a grocery store: The outside is home to fresh fruits and vegetables, lean meats, dairy products, and whole grain breads and the inside aisles are stocked with cookies, chips, soda, fruit juice, cake mixes, and other processed foods. Spend most of your time on the outside and only go down the inner aisles for specific products, like whole-grain pasta.
Never shop on an empty stomach and always shop with a list. Shopping while hungry can lead you to adding all kinds of snacks and impulse buys to your cart. Meal planning can be a tricky task at first, but following a meal plan is an important part of breaking the sugar addiction. It will help to keep you on track and help prevent stopping for fast food when you don’t have a game plan for dinner. Spend a little time on Sunday afternoons jotting down some meal ideas for throughout the week. Make a list of the food items you will need to make the meals you wrote down and stick to it!
Week 3: Stop the Cravings
Now you really start to put your plan into action. You’ve identified the sources of added sugar in your diet and replaced those foods with healthier and more wholesome alternatives. Your kitchen is now set up for success!
This week’s focus should be on making a conscious effort to avoid sugary foods. When a craving strikes, try going for a walk or simply drinking a glass of water. Take a hot bath or get lost in a good book. Typically any craving will pass if you wait it out long enough. But it’s important to begin understanding the difference between true hunger and food cravings. If you are truly hungry, a handful of nuts or some raw veggies dipped in hummus will sound appetizing, so go ahead and eat one of your healthy snacks. But if you’re craving something sweet or a specific sugary food, use a distraction technique.
The first week of saying no to sugar will be the hardest, but the more diligently you stick to your plan, the better you’ll fare in the end. Even a tiny taste of sugar during this time period can lead to setbacks.
After a couple sugar-free weeks, your sugar threshold will start to decrease and you will find that you no longer crave sugar or sweets as you once did. As with any lifestyle change, the first couple of weeks are the hardest. Eventually, it will become habit to reach for a mint tea or piece of fruit instead of juice and candy.
Week 4: Game Plan for Life
Now that you have yanked that sweet tooth, it’s time to devise a plan to prevent a sugar relapse. Although sugar isn’t necessary for health and it’s perfectly fine if you want to continue avoiding it, it probably isn’t realistic for most people to avoid all forms of sugar forever.
So if you want to allow a little sweetness back into your life, that’s OK. Moderation is key. Don’t let sugar and sweets become a daily habit. Instead, consider them to be special occasion treats only. With your lowered threshold for sweetness, that shouldn’t be too hard. But if you begin to indulge too often or overindulge over a short period of time (such as a weeklong vacation), you could find yourself back in trouble with sugar all over again.
If you slip up, don’t beat yourself up over it. Accept your action and decide to make a better decision next time and move on. Continue to experiment with your new, healthy foods and recipes. You’d be surprised at how many ways you can make treats healthier and use far less sugar than a recipe suggests.
And remember: It generally takes about 3-4 weeks for a new behavior to become habit, the most important thing is to stick with it.
While there are a few parts of this that I don’t agree with – “moderation” being one of them, ignoring what makes people turn to sugar in the first place being another – there are large chunks of this that I believe parallel what I’ve experienced in my own journey. And while I, also, don’t think it’s only a “four week” affair, I think that taking a long, hard look at the steps it takes to defeat a sugar addiction can give many people the leg-up they require to be successful.
What do you think about chewing sugar-free gum? Does it help or hurt sugar addicts?
If the goal is to lose the desire to binge on sugar, then I don’t see how chewing something that still has the unnaturally sweet taste to it would be helpful. Besides, they’re SUPER unclean – most if not all sugar-free gums contain aspartame, and that stuff’s ridiculous.
I have something to add on the subject of gum. Up until recently, my family and I chewed gum all of the time. There is definitely something addictive in sugar free gum, because we were going through a few packs every week. My mom started having some stomach problems, and she asked her doctor about it. The first question he asked her was, “Do you chew gum?” When she told him that she did, he told her that the xylitol (a sugar substitute) in gum can have a laxitive effect, and that it was probably causing all of her bloating and stomach problems. He also said that gum with real sugar probably wouldn’t give her the same stomach problems, but that it would obviously increase her intake of refined sugars AND it probably wouldn’t be good for her teeth.
Right after hearing this, my family and I stopped chewing gum. Automatically, my mom’s stomach started feeling better, and he have all experienced less bloating. A few days ago, my mom decided to have JUST ONE stick of gum, lol, and she bloated right up all over again.
Gum was a “non-clean” indulgence that I didn’t feel could be harmful (less than 5 calories…cleans your teeth…helps curb cravings…gives you fresh breath), but I think the lesson my family and I learned was that even something so small can make a big difference in your health if it is heavily processed. I mean, really, gum isn’t meant to be thought of as real food, so it obviously isn’t going to come close to resembling it.
I completely agree. I’ve done everything in this article and have shed twenty five pounds in three months. Recently, I started having an occasional diet soda and chewing sugar free gum. I knew it wasn’t the best choice but I did it anyway. Just last week, I had the worst gas and bloating. I wasn’t eating dairy so I was baffled. Then I stumbled across an article which highlighted adverse reactions to artificial sweeteners. There was a laundry list, but gas, bloating, poor digestion, fatigue, were among many. I immediately stopped and the symptoms have went away.
To stop sugar cravings, I supply the body with the personalized nutrients their body is really trying to obtain for biochemical balance. For example, my chocoholics tell me after 2 weeks on specific minerals, which are found in chocolate, that they dont even go down that grocery aisle anymore!
Sugary foods are low in minerals/vitamins that the body needs to break down the simple carbs. When these nutrients are low, the body has to rob from other body parts, in order to keep vital functions like the heart, lungs, brain functioning. The body first robs from the hair, skin, and nails, then the joints–so many symptoms can show up in these areas, which are due to nutrient deficiencies. If empty calories are only offered, then the body has difficult time supplying nutrient needs. Nutrient-dense foods supply more of what the body needs, in minerals, vitamins, protein, good fats, fiber. Then the body doesnt need to crave sugar for quick, but unsustained energy.
Many diabetics or people with blood glucose issues, actually have enough insulin. But the cells need minerals, such as chromium, magnesium, zinc, et al., in order to transport the insulin into the cells to break down the sugar.
So to promote recovery from dysglycemia, or blood sugar imbalance, taking specific, individualized nutrients can speed the process, until enough dietary, behavioral, lifestyle corrections take place. When proper nutrients are available, then the body stops cravings. and can function like Nature intended. Think in terms of nutrient deficiencies, not drug/med/surgical deficiencies.
I think this article makes good points and lays out a good plan. Although Presenting it as a 4-week plan is a little unrealistic to me. Identifying sugar-foods and replacing them with healthy foods need to go hand in hand. For example, if I get rid of all my sugar cereal in week 1, but haven’t found a good recipe for the steel cut oats sitting in my pantry, then I am hitting McD’s!
Personally, I approached the change one meal at a time and we started with dinner. We were eating healthy, home cooked, clean dinners for almost a year before I was ready to tackle breakfast.
I am not even sure what “emotional” eating means for me anymore. I don’t think I eat 4 bowls of cereal in a row right after lunch because I need a pick-me-up (yes, I did that this week when my DH indulged in a Kellogg’s sale). I think it is addiction pure and simple. I love clean eating and I am pretty happy in life right now. But the taste of processed sugar makes me lose control.
I think our society is glossing over the pure addictive properties of processed sugars. Like you pointed out, even this article gives it’s stamp of approval to “moderation”. What other addict is told after they kick the habit to go ahead and indulge in moderation?
See, that’s exactly what I said – I don’t like that it’s condensed down into four weeks, but I can appreciate the fact that the steps are outlined in this fashion. So while it might not take your merely four weeks, you at least know what stage you’re in and how far along you have yet to go.
To me, emotional eating is about 99% of eating that has nothing to do with hunger. That’s a really blunt way to put it, but that’s what it is to me. In my mind, they go hand in hand – people are addicted to food, in a lot of ways, because of the way it makes them feel. So while you might not’ve sought out to eat 4 bowls of cereal for a “high,” you sought it out for SOME reason. If it was “bored eating,” that’s a tricky area, but was that what I’d call four bowls? I’own know, y’know?
Alot of these healthy foods are expensive. If you can’t afford it, you won’t buy it. I have a large family, and I can’t see me wasting food. If you buy something and the kids hate it, it goes in the trash. It isn’t doing anyone anygood there. I suggest getting up and walking more or something cheaper.
Granted sodas are no good, but what is left to eat that is affordable and tastes good that kids and your husband will eat? Let’s be real. I understand health risks and the like, but no one is eating steel cut oatmeal that tastes like something a cow chewed. If it is not practical, it won’t work.
It depends – what are you considering “healthy food?” If it has a label, it probably isn’t as healthy as you think. What do you consider to be a healthy meal? It doesn’t HAVE to consist of four, three or even TWO courses.
I don’t understand why people insist on saying “just be more active”…”getting up and walking more”… how long do you think it’ll take you to walk off the 400 calories you drank up? Who says the only healthy breakfast is steel cut oats? I don’t even eat steel cut oats.
Saying that you “can’t afford it” and “your kids won’t eat it” sounds more like you’ve got a wrongheaded idea of what “healthy food” is (resulting in you buying rice cakes and other bland processed garbage), or you do and you don’t know how to cook. “Healthy food” is fruits, vegetables and sensible amounts of protein, and countless civilizations have figured out how to make it taste good and sustain on that alone. I have faith that you can do the same, LOL.
Good post. I’m not a heavy sweets eater (i.e, cakes, cookies) per se, but I do enjoy them enough and I’m sure there are other foods I’m taking in that are heavy in sugar. No need to kick myself for it; on the flip side, I’m glad you created this post about hidden sugar. It is a step by step habit by habit forming change. I am continuing to write my vision and make it plain. And one of my visions is to be a woman who takes care of her beautiful God given body. The battle with processed food is serious, my God; but your site has been very helpful. Thanks again,
This is definitely my Achilles heel. I can’t afford to do without the food currently in my pantry as I am unemployed as of Saturday, but once it’s gone, I will implement this.
The thought of being darn near sugar-free for the rest of my life excites me! :O)
I’m just thinking when you mention going sugar free you don’t mention things like juicing your own fruits and green smoothies. Do you just not have an opinion on these or you don’t care for them? Personally the green smoothies were a *huge* help in reducing my cravings from sugar when I became unemployed. The hardest time for me when it comes to sugar is when I stop working because I do not do sugar at home because of all the sugar I deal with at work. I just do not recall you speaking about the benefits of doing these things yourself.
I’m confused, so bear with the old lady for a minute. Are you saying once someone conquers their sugar addiction, they are never to have it again? I guess I’m missing what’s wrong with moderation. Why is that a bad word? Is it because an addict can’t be trusted not to backslide? lol
Well she did say to have it as a special treat every once in a while. Just not everyday.
I thought I didn’t have a sugar problem. I never ate processed foods or any kind of sweet. Then I learned that my binging material of choice, breads and pastas, while they didn’t have added sugar, were still giving my body a sugar high. All that starch gets converted and led to an inevitable “crash” that I had unconsciously been considering as that “bliss” feeling you’ve talked about with emotional eating.
So even though I don’t have a sweet tooth, my body was still addicted to something else that mimics the high. I ultimately had to learn that I could never eat white rice, white pasta, or white bread…which sounds like “duh” for clean eating but I really was stuck for a while on that “I can eat it in moderation” ish until I finally admitted that I can’t.
“The best thing I could’ve done for myself, in this instance, was making myself aware of my limitations. This is one of them. They simply trigger a part of me that I have no desire to test to determine whether or not I’m truly beyond it.”
I am slowly realizing that my love for desserts is my kryptonite. The more I have the more I want. I’m getting to that place where I may have to just give it up and call it a day.
I have tried to cut sugar from my diet. The thing that makes it hard is having fruit and dairy allergies, so I try to eat veggies when I need a snack. Many times my blood sugar ends up crashing and I have to have a half of a glass of juice, which onsets a sugar binge 🙁 self control it hard.
My bad habit has been chewing gum….I had to substitute my Diet Coke/Diet Mt. Dews for something else. I do eat fruits like blueberries, raspberries and strawberries.
Erika! Thank you for this posting. I recently came to the realization that I am absolutely addicted to sugar. I thought it wasnt so bad since I added splenda and equal and didn’t use REAL sugar, however I found that these substitutes put me a in a worse predicament – addiction without guilt (or so I thought).
So now I’m ready to kick the habit and anxious/nervous but know it can be done. I kicked diet soda for 60+ days (YES i was counting) and a stressful situation thrusted me back into the throes of Diet Pepsi! So tomorrow I began anew …again, but adding all the other sweets to the habit being kicked….The 4 week plan looks good – Im sad to part with some of what is in my pantry but that will make room for all my new Clean Eating must haves.
Thanks again for posting this. I’ll pass back with progress. BTW – excellent job on the site in general. You are a HUGE inspiration and 53 thousand + FB followers is remarkable!
I think it’s an interesting analogy to compare sugar to other addictions. That said, moderation is my goal and ideal.
Food addictions are different because you need to eat, unlike cigarettes, alcohol or drugs. There will always be some aspect of sugar in the diet; whether it’s natural or processed, so in my mind being truly sugar-clean is impossible.
Definitely a bookmark, thanks for re-posting on Facebook. :]
Hello all! After reading this article and many of the posts and comments, I have a comment and a question; I need to cut way down on my sugar intake also, I’m not a big junk food/sweets eater. I do, however, have a weakness named tea. I’ve cut down on the amount of sugar I use in it, but I want to stop using it all together. What are some affordable and healthier choices I could choose from? Honey is out, it makes me dizzy, I think it affects my blood pressure in some way.
Steviaaaaaaa! I see I’m gonna have to do a post on how to use it!
I love stevia
Some scientific studies have shown that sugar addiction is as strong as a cocaine or heroine addiction and has pretty much the same effects in the brain. People need to know what they’re up against if or when they start on this 4-week plan or any plan to kick the sugar habit. The Sparkers just make this sound way too easy if you ask me. I definitely agree with you that you need to know what triggers are there to eat the sugar in the first place. Personally, I’ll never go completely sugar-free or to a processed free diet. Just can’t do it so I try to just be as healthy as I can without feeling deprived.
Thank you. I have needed this article for years. Lack of sugar affects my attitude and that is terrible. Now I have a way to kick the habit. Thank you.
Love your website and tips. Don’t use sugar, quit many years ago, however this post on hidden sugars, have opened my eyes. I am currently struggling with losing about 30lbs of baby weight 3 yrs later. One issue is wine and alcohol in a whole. My husband and I, use it as a means of socializing with each other, quite often(daily sometimes). Can you suggest any low sugar wine and sugar content of alcohol, such as beer, vodka and tonic, etc.
Can you please do a post on salt? In our house we have a serious addiction to chicken stock and powders, we realize from this post they have hidden sugar, so flavour options and suggestions to replace them would we wonderful. We want to lower our salt intake at the same, any advice would be greatly appreciated.
I need serious help with this. I am a candy addict. If someone doesn’t believe sugar has addicting properties, I am Exhibit A. Definitely will give this a try, but skeptical if it would work, have tried everything. I get literal cravings for sugar, not cakes and pies, but gummy, gooey candy, basically 100% sugar and my mood is affected if I don’t get it. I really do want it to end.
Hi yevette don’t give up I crave the pure sugar a lot too and some say it is mostly because my body is missing something like a well balanced meal or enough calories I don’t know how true it is but o know it is like being addicted to a drug. And like any drug when u r breaking yourself from it it is natural to go through withdrawls. That is were the bad mood comes from just stay strong and know that u r not alone:)
You must be very happy about your weight loss, I am too and struggling as well. I stumbled across your website and like what I saw. I did purchase the Bugetarian Plan but have not started yet. I would like to know if anyone out there on your website is Type 2 diabetic and if so which meal plan do you recommend or what assistance could you give me. I am 5.5 and 258 lbs. Thanks for your help.
I think that all of the plans are equally diabetic-friendly. They allow for flexibility, don’t call for a ton of fruits or foods that aggravate the blood sugar in any excessive manner, short of the risotto in the vegetarian plan.
I’m going to try this because I know sugar is my weakness and I’m certainly and emotional eater. I hadn’t thought about hidden sugar in other foods.
I believe part of the reason the plan is 4 weeks is due to the widely held belief that it takes about 22 days to form a habit. And if you think about addiction detox treatment is typically 28 days. Yes,it will be difficult but impossible that’s debatable. Step 1 is essential though because you can’t eat what you don’t have.
How do you guys sweeten your morning coffee? I’ve only been using one teaspoon but since it is the first thing I have each day I think I might be sabotaging my diet.
Oooh, you know what? I’ve actually taken a liking to having mine black. A good, smooth, cup of black coffee? Man, listen. There’s nothing better.
I am pretty glad that I read this article, because this [sugar] is something that I struggle with regularly. 3 yrs ago I was 42 lbs overweight and I pushed myself to make the big change. Now, I’m trying my hardest not to fall back in the slump! Due to the fact that my schedule fluctuates in between 2 jobs and a hustling social life in the works of creating an LLC, finding the time to eat healthy on the go just destroys me. Especially when I know I just spent money to buy fruits and veggies to gorge on during my off days. I went back to juicing again, as that was a giant appetite curb for me, and I just walk everywhere, granted at the time I don’t have a car currently. As each days passes, I keep paying attention to what I put in my mouth cause I want to feel great and not “just satisfied”. THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR YOUR POST! YOU KEEP ME MOTIVATED!!
Good Morning Glorious Erika (sorry I spelled your name wrong the last time I posted):
I do not understand why you posted your delicious looking pancake recipe. Also, does not flour (white and wheat) turn to sugar in your body? I am deeply addicted and totally confused.
With Ravishing Regards,
I think we all have to know our limits and set boundaries that work for us. If you know that, at this point in time, pancakes in any form using ANY recipe would trigger that feeling for you, then by all means set that boundary. Many others are not at that point, never have been, or have gotten to a point where they can enjoy pancakes without stress, and they should have a healthy means of enjoying them.
Flour *can* turn into sugar in the body, but that’s a little more complicated than this. Not only do some of us need that – think endurance athletes, those with high metabolism, those with intense post-workout nutritional needs – but pancakes made with quality ingredients have fiber to offset the effects of the simple carbs and protein which fill you up. The nutritional profile for homemade pancakes isn’t quite the same as the profile for the stuff you buy in the box.
In other words, homemade pancakes aren’t the same as processed food ones, but don’t be afraid to set boundaries and STICK to them. Self-care is real. *hugs*
Thank you so much. Wow! You are really on top of your game. I just asked that question a little while ago. You are the truth!
Repect and Esteem,
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