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5 Steps to Cure Sugar Addiction
Take the first baby steps on the path to a healthy you.
With all of the knowledge we have about the health dangers of too much sugar, why do we keep eating it? It may be time to recognize that we’re beyond just eating a few too many sugary treats and that we’ve become a sugar-addicted nation.
“Addiction is a chemical thing,” says Kathleen DesMaisons, PhD, author of The Sugar Addict’s Total Recovery Program and founder of Radiant Recovery. “If you have a brain that responds to it in a particular way, then you’re addicted. Its more than just liking it, you actually need it in order to feel OK, and if you stop having it then you have withdrawal.”
With 20 years of experience healing people of their sugar addictions, DesMaisons says the number one thing to avoid is giving up the white stuff cold turkey because sugar is like a drug. “You’ll just feel terrible,” she says. “You’ll go into withdrawal, and it’s actually the same brain chemistry as going off of heroin.”
Instead, do a sugar detox the right way with these DesMaisons baby steps to ensure that your healthy changes will stick.
Step 1: Understand the Reality of Sugar Addiction
“The first thing is to acknowledge there’s a problem with a sense of compassion towards yourself,” DesMaisons says. “It’s not willpower. Most people think, ‘Oh it’s just that I’m weak-willed,’ but they don’t realize that willpower doesn’t work because of the biochemistry.” Relying on willpower alone sets you up for failure.
Step 2: “Put Things in Before You Take Things Out”
“A lot of times people are just eating a lot of sugar and they’re not eating food, so then they try to take the sugar out and there’s no safety net,” DesMaisons explains. If you take out the sugar before you add in healthy foods, you’ll just end up confused and hungry—two things that can send you right back to old, sugary bad habits. She says that a great place to start building a safety net is with a healthy breakfast that includes protein.
Step 3: Take Out the Obvious Offenders and Sinister Alternatives
Sodas and “sexy coffee drinks,” as DesMaisons calls them, are obvious places to start cutting out sugars, but don’t try to cheat the system by using sugar alternatives. Not only are fake sweeteners bad for your health, but also, using them as a crutch means that you’re not changing your taste. She says, “If you cut back, then what you’re doing is reducing your physical reaction to withdrawal, so when you start doing that, your tastes change.”
Step 4: Track Your Cravings
“Craving is always withdrawal,” says DesMaisons. “If you’re sitting at your desk and at 3:00 in the afternoon an image of something sweet comes to you, that means that your body is expecting something sweet because yesterday at 3:00, you had something sweet. It’s not magical.” Understanding your cravings can help you track your sugary bad habits.
For instance, alcohol is liquid sugar, she says. If you cut out your nightly glass of wine, you’ll notice that around dinnertime you start craving sugar.
Step 5: Recognize Corporate Marketing
You may think you’ve chosen something healthy, when in fact, you’ve picked up a sugar bomb. DesMaisons says that even she’s fallen pray to the marketing trap. “I was drinking a green tea latte because I thought ‘Oh, green tea is good for you.’ Then I went and looked at how much sugar was in it, and there was something like 60 grams. That’s like 15 teaspoons of sugar in something that I thought was healthy.”
In addition to being aware of marketing traps, she also let her cravings cue her into the fact that she had fallen for a sneaky sugar. “I thought I was getting something with no sweetener added, but then I started noticing that I was thinking about a green tea latte with a sense of urgency. So I could tell from the craving that they had stuck sugar in there,” she explains.