How I overcame my addiction to sugar!

This is the third in a series of posts I have been writing about sugar recently. In the first post I wrote about all the unexpected places sugar is hidden in food e.g. crisps and stock cubes (read more here). In the second post I listed 10 reasons why I have quit sugar – did you know some claim it can make you look older (read more here)? This post is about how I overcame my addiction to sugar.

No Sugar Substitutes

Right at the beginning I looked at the options for sugar substitutes, but the more I read the more problems I found with every single one of them. Plus I read somewhere that eating sugar substitutes keeps up your sweet tooth and keeps you wanting more sweet stuff. So I decided to go cold turkey on sugar (i.e. refined sugar added to foods) and sugar substitutes. Well mostly cold turkey, I decided I would eat honey, but I only had it in negligible amounts, I didn’t start making cakes and biscuits with it. Plus I still eat some savoury foods which contain sugar as I haven’t quite worked out how to make alternatives for them e.g. tomato ketchup and baked beans… 

How I overcame my addiction to sugar

I am probably repeating things here that I have said in previous blog posts, but I think these things are worth mentioning again. When I was younger I smoked for a few years. I wanted to quit though and Allen Carr’s Easy Way to Stop Smoking: Be a Happy Non-smoker for the Rest of Your Life was pivotal in helping me doing it. When I decided to give up sugar, I found that I was able to apply a lot of the principles in the stop smoking book to giving up sugar.

A couple of the techniques from the book that worked for me were:

  • I took a leap of faith and decided to believe that although I think I like sugar, actually it is tricking me to think I like it, when really it isn’t very nice at all. Ask a smoker if they think cigarette smoke smells and tastes good and they will most likely say yes. They will probably tell you they really enjoy smoking as well. Ask a non-smoker the same question and they may tell you cigarette smoke makes them feel sick… Most people believe that sugary foods are delicious and that they really like them. Give someone who has never had sugary foods before a large bar of chocolate to eat though, and they will probably be sick everywhere… 
  • Allen Carr says smoking is like putting blister cream on a blister, which provides temporary relief and then makes the blister worse. The only way to fix the blister (i.e. cravings) is to stop putting on the cream (i.e.. by stopping smoking or stopping sugar). 
Another technique that works for me is the opposite of one suggested by Paul McKenna: 

He suggests that you imagine the unhealthy food you want to eat is covered in disgusting things e.g. it has been chucked on the floor, trodden on and is covered in maggots. Then he tells you to imagine eating it to the point where you make yourself feel sick. That technique never did it for me, although I know it can work for some people. I do the opposite. I imagine vividly having whatever it is I wanted. When I gave up smoking each time I wanted a cigarette, I imagined I was having one and I also imagined having the nicotine high from it. When I gave up sugar I imagined that I had a sugar fix when I needed one and I also imagined feeling good after having had the imaginary sugar fix. That way I could imagine having all the good feelings without having to actually smoke or actually eat sugary foods.

An emotional rollercoaster and transitioning to being sugar free.

Going sugar free was hard from an emotional perspective. I started to get a bit paranoid and unhappy but a few books helped to snap me out of it (read more here).

From a practical perspective though it wasn’t so bad as I was already quite far down the road to being sugar free. I tend to cook most of my meals from scratch and one by one had stopped using sauces in jars and made my own. Plus I have been sugar free with drinks for a long time preferring to stick to water and herbal teas with no added sugar. I did drink alcohol though, but over time drank less and less. 

To begin with I ate a lot of raisins and other dried fruit, which definitely helped me transition to being sugar free. Every time I was hungry in between meals and short on time I would grab a handful of raisins. I would also eat a lot of fresh fruit – more than I did before I quit sugar. After a while though I quit dried fruit too as it is really very sugary and avoided the more sugary fruits like bananas.

Look out for tomorrows blog post about the types of food I usually eat now that I am sugar free!

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