Last time, we talked about the link between alcohol addiction and sugar addiction. This time, we’ll cover the strategies that have helped me live a life of freedom around food. I want the same for you. So, let’s get right to it.
Sugar is linked to most so-called “Western diseases” because when we are talking about sugar, we are really talking about all refined carbohydrates. And if we take an honest look at our diets, most of us are eating waaaay more refined carbohydrates than we even realize. Because these foods are cheap. They taste great. And they light up the same reward centers in our brains as drugs do.
We must have our eyes wide open about the goal of food marketers and, instead, take matters into our own hands regarding our health. Because we can’t live happily and vibrantly and healthfully if we are feeding our bodies junk. At least not all the time.
But when I propose making changes to people’s diets, I am met with a lot of mixed feelings. All of which I understand.
I mean, how do we love our lives if we can never eat yummy food?! Like, what about cake on birthdays and Friday night pizza, and ice cream in the summertime? It all feels like deprivation and I would rather die than never get to eat my favorite foods again!!!
But I want to love my body. Like, the way I look, I mean. I know it sounds superficial, but it’s the truth. I want to be able to walk the beach in my bathing suit or wear shorts and a tank top and feel comfortable in my skin. I want to look in the mirror and like what I see.
And, yeah, I want to feel good, too. I am tired of waking up feeling groggy and bloated and like all I want to do is hit the snooze button and forget about life for a while. I want to wake up with energy!
But, I’m scared. I mean, what about donuts and coffee at the office? What about cookies and milk at midnight? What about popcorn and soda at the movies? How am I supposed to live without these foods in my life?! I mean, I gave up booze for God’s sake…haven’t I given up enough??
And these feelings of deprivation and sacrifice are what keep us mired in our habits.
I mean, doesn’t it sound all too familiar? Can’t we liken these feelings to the ones we had around alcohol? Didn’t we quietly wish we just felt better, looked better, acted better when we were drinking? Can’t we just sub in various forms of alcohol here? I mean, how do we possibly go to weddings or celebrate New Year’s and not sip on champagne?! How on earth do we celebrate a birthday without our favourite bevvies? How the hell do we function at a football game without beer?? How will we ever get used to this idea of not having drinks after work or wine with dinner or night caps before bed?
But we did. We did that. We decided that our health—our very lives—were worth saving. So, in the same way that complete abstinence from alcohol allows for us to think with a clear mind and begin to mend our lives, many people find that complete abstinence from sugar, even just for a time, is the best way to tackle this beast. Because while I don’t want you to have to imagine an entire life without chocolate, trying to moderate is just too tricky for most of us. At least in the beginning. It didn’t work for me. I would try to measure out how much ice cream I could have and yet, after that first taste, I’d find myself obsessing over it or else caving altogether and telling myself I’d just try again tomorrow.
So I got to work. I pushed myself to understand what I was really hungry for. And I worked through the emotions that were keeping me stuck. This can look like therapy. Or yoga. Or a diary. Or meditation. Or, in my case, a combination of all of these. And I also used fitness as a way to heal myself, challenge myself, and develop a new and profound respect for my body. If you are someone who never exercises, I encourage you to start here. Learning to connect to your body is a powerful step towards healing. Plus, exercise releases feel-good endorphins that our brains need. Any kind of movement will do. Just find something you like and that you will stick with. I promise, it’s the most beautiful gift you can give to yourself. Because your body is built to move.
From there, I developed a system that helped me rid my body of all processed food and sugar, and it was a game-changer for me and for the people who also used my program. It showed me that if I want to make a change, I have to change things! I couldn’t will myself to look and feel better if I was unwilling to do anything about it. I couldn’t continue to numb on the couch if I wanted to love my life.
So, here are 5 more strategies (exercise was the first) that I continue to use in order to reduce my sugar cravings, change my feelings about food, and improve my relationship with my body. I hope they serve you.
#2. Cut the junk.
As we discussed, refined carbohydrates are addictive. Instead of moderating, I cut out all processed foods and sugar for several weeks (for the entire protocol, check out my book, KTSC28.com) and prepared my own easy, healthy meals. It helped me to recalibrate my taste buds and has allowed me to enjoy more freedom around food. Test Drive It In Your Own Life: If you are eating something in a package, check out the ingredients label. If sugar (in any form) is listed in the first few ingredients, realize that this product is sugar and your body will treat it as such.
I don’t skip meals because maintaining stable blood sugar levels helps me avoid cravings. I eat breakfast, lunch, dinner and I eat snacks in between. Test Drive It In Your Own Life: Carry nuts in a baggie and an apple or some chopped veggies. When you’re hungry between meals, eat your healthy snack and see how you feel. Once you’re satisfied, you are less likely to crave (and binge) on junk food.
#4. Eat Protein.
The meals and snacks I eat always contain protein. I make sure that when I look at my plate, I see protein there. Protein doesn’t contain any carbohydrates. It helps ward off sugar cravings by digesting slowly and keeps us feeling fuller for longer. Test Drive It In Your Own Life: At each meal, enjoy various types of meat, fish, organic dairy, eggs, beans, legumes, quinoa, nuts and seeds and track how you feel.
I make sleep a priority because I understand the relationship between sleep and carbohydrate cravings. When we are tired, our bodies just want sleep. But when we don’t let them rest, they say, “Ok, if you are making me stay awake, then feed me sugar because it is the fastest source of energy.” I focus on getting 7-9 hours a night and I take 20-minute naps during the day, if I need to. Test Drive It In Your Own Life: Track your sleep to see firsthand the correlation between sleep and sugar cravings.
#6. I drink water.
Did you know that the brain can mistake the feeling of hunger for the feeling of thirst? Next time you get a food craving, try drinking a glass of water and see how you feel in a few minutes. Most of us are walking around dehydrated despite slurping soda, coffee and tea all day. Choose water more often and watch your entire health improve. Test Drive It In Your Own Life: Aim for at least 8 glasses a day and build from there. Do not leave the house without water, and try setting an alarm on your phone to remind you to drink. If you have a soda addiction, try sparkling water with lots of ice, the juice of ¼ of a lemon and ½ a lime. It tastes like healthy 7Up!
I hope you give some of these strategies a try as you embark on your journey towards your best health. Because once you know, you can’t un-know. And life is too short not to feel good.
About the Author
Sarah Roberts got sober from alcohol at the age of 29 and went on a personal journey towards wellness. She now shares what she’s learned with others in order to help them create a lifestyle they love.
Sarah is a wellness entrepreneur and the author of The 28 Day Kick The Sugar Challenge as well as the founder of the popular blog SarahTalksFood.com and the creator of The 6 Week Sugar Freedom eCourse, a 6 week program designed to help people uncomplicated their relationship with food in order to experience greater freedom in their lives.