Healthy Starts Here: Overcoming My Sugar Addiction

I’ll admit it.  I’m addicted to sugar.  It sure does have a hold on me.  I love it.  Love it. LOVE. IT. Now, I don’t just eat white sugar straight out of the container (because that would be ridiculous), but sugary-items are my downfall. Lately, I’ve been working on a serious way to reduce the amount of sugar in my diet. I’m really at the beginning stages of this plan, but here’s what I’ve been doing that has worked for me so far.

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Understanding Sugar Addiction. There for a while I was eating some type of candy, dessert, sugar every day.  Every Day.  That is 365 desserts a year, and that is if my portions were just one serving (and they probably weren’t).  I knew this was a terrible idea, but I loved sugar so much and I felt like I really needed it.  And it turns out, I was in a cycle where I really did need it (look at the picture above). Very soon after I ate the sugary-items, I’d crash. I was grumpy and had trouble thinking. Then I felt like I needed to eat more sugar to get back to good and kept doing this over and over.  I was pretty miserable, but I didn’t know exactly how dangerous this cycle had become.  If you’re in the same cycle right now, I encourage you to start making changes, like I’m currently doing, to help overcome your sugar addiction.

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Understand Dangers of Sugar (and Sugar-like additives). Because I recently found out I have high “bad” cholesterol, I’ve been reading articles about how to reduce this and live a healthier lifestyle.  One of the articles I found said a high-sugar diet makes it harder for your body to transport bad cholesterol out of your body and increases levels of triglycerides, or fatty content, in the blood.  Short answer: Not good.  And sugar is doing this to me.  And looking at the above list, I was also getting regular headaches and I was having trouble concentrating. And don’t think you’re safe if you eliminate only white table sugar.  You need to check your food labels for types of syrups (high fructose corn syrup), sugars and additives (like equal, stevia) and work to limit all of these.

I already knew it, but once I read through all of this information, it confirmed I had to make some changes.

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Drink More Water. I drink a lot of water, but I wasn’t really using this healthy beverage to my advantage.  Now, when I’m getting hungry, I drink 20-24 oz of water first and then walk around for 5-10 minutes.  This has multiple benefits: I’m drinking more water, I’m distracting myself from hunger until I learn if it’s really hunger and I’m getting steps on my pedometer.

Plan Meals In Advance. I’ve always been a frugal meals person, I’d rather spend my money on clothes.  But when I’d pack my own breakfasts and lunches for work, I wasn’t packing enough and I was starving in the afternoon.  Then I’d load up on the sugar and start the daily cycle.  About a month ago, I changed my meal planning and what I was eating on a regular basis and now I make it through most days with no sugar, and even no snacks! (So far 21/21 days with no “work day” sugar and 20/21 days with no “work day” emergency snacks).

My successful healthy eating strategy: Breakfast is a double serving of oatmeal with 1 TBSP brown sugar, lunch is my healthy foods mix (1/2 cup beans, 1/2 cup veggies, 1/2 cup whole grain, 1/3 cup avocado or cheese) and 1-2 planned snacks of apples. Try evaluating your daily meals.  If you’re hungry during the day, you need to make some changes.  I’d suggest looking at recipes from my Healthy Living Pinterest Page.

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Eliminate Hidden Sugar From Your Diet. You’d be surprised how much sugar is hidden in foods.  This was the EASIEST sugar decrease for my healthy eating plan.  By reading nutrition labels, we adjusted many of our purchases to include healthier items (lower salt, lower sugar, more “real” ingredients) and we haven’t been able to tell a difference with the foods we’re eating. I promise you don’t need sugar in your pasta sauce, your canned fruit (buy 100% juice NOT “no sugar added”) or your pizza crust.  Read the nutrition labels to figure out which foods are healthier and have less sugar to save your health and reduce your calorie intake.

You can also start making some of the foods yourself.  We’ve been making great use of our slow cooker with oatmeal, dry beans and brown rice.  Our bread machine has helped us with pizza dough, Hawaiian rolls and Italian bread (homemade is the lower-sugar, healthier, time-saver!)

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Eat Healthy Foods First. With my new healthy-eating breakfast & lunch plan, I’ve made it easy to follow this tip, because that is the only option that I give myself.  But for dinner each night, I have to remember this strategy.  Since we eat meals together, I could really choose whatever I wanted.  So I plan a variety for dinner each night and eat the healthiest items first. Then I make myself wait an hour before eating again.  If I’m still hungry then, I’ll let myself have a snack.  But, I’m usually not hungry, because my food just needed time to settle–so far this plan has worked great.

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Don’t keep Sugary-Foods Easily Accessible. When I have sugary-foods that I like easily accessible, then that is what I want to eat.  I’ve found it’s easier to keep them away from me, it’s much easier to stay on track.  I’ve also found it’s easier for me to not have anything than to try to have a small amount.  So when I’m faced with the opportunity to eat sugar (like birthday party cake or a staff meeting muffins). I just say no, and then sit where I can’t see the food or wait until everyone else has eaten it all, so I’m not tempted.

I’m not saying it’s been easy.  I love sugar and I don’t really want to change, but I know that I must make changes and that is exactly what I’ve been doing.  Most days, I’m able to control my sugar-cravings and it’s getting easier with time and as I continue to reduce the sugar (both hidden and dessert-based) in my diet.  There are days where I go a little overboard (at a recent work event I had four cupcakes and last night I ate two pieces of wedding cake), but I’m happy to say those days are fewer and much farther in-between. I’m making progress, slow and steady, toward my healthy lifestyle goals.

You can do it too.  Take one day at a time, with whatever your addiction is, and you can make the progress you need to reach your goal.

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8 thoughts on “Healthy Starts Here: Overcoming My Sugar Addiction

  1. It might help your journey to know what sugar and other hyperpalatable foods (foods that layer salt, fat, and sweet flavors, proven to increase consumption) do to your brain as well.

    Substance abuse researchers say that the brain adaptions that result from regularly eating highly processed foods are likely to be more difficult to change than those from cocaine or alcohol because they involve many more neural pathways. Almost 90 percent of the dopamine receptors in the reward center vental tegmental area (VTA) of the brain are activated in response to food cues.

    Brand-new research also shows direct evidence of lasting and fundamental injuries to a part of the brain that helps us regulate our food intake, the hypothalamic arcuate nucleus. Within three days of being placed on a high-fat diet, a rat’s hypothalamus (the area of the brain that responds to the hormones that signal hunger and satiety, pair and maternal bonding and certain social behavior) shows increased inflammation; within a week, researchers see evidence of permanent scarring and neuron injury in an area of the brain crucial for weight control. Brain scans of obese men and women show this exact pattern as well.

    The good news — and there IS good news — is that a program of foods high in dopamine- and serotonin-boosting chemicals, along with numerous brain-amping activities (from simple exercise to listening to music to meditation) can regrow those receptors and bring the confidence of fulfillment and health.

    Good luck with such a sensible start and food plan!

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