There are a lot of articles, blogs and magazines warning people to kick the sugar addiction. Unfortunately, not many of them actually tell you how to do it.
In a previous article, I shared my own struggle with sugar addiction. I know it’s not an easy thing to turn off those cravings, make lifestyle changes and avoid constant temptation. I would have loved a definitive, actionable plan, but I didn’t have one.
Fortunately, I was able to change my appetite for sugar and I’ve never been healthier, happier or more comfortable in my own body. I want to help you experience that victory as well so I’m going to give you the actionable plan that I didn’t have.
First Things First
First, let me assure you that you cannot break an addiction if you don’t recognize it as one. In the article Sex, Drugs and Sugar we listed the American Psychiatric Association’s criteria for addiction. Let me restate them here, with some additional notes on how they apply to sugar.
- A need for increased amounts to achieve desired effect. More sugar in your coffee, two donuts instead of one, twice the number of Cokes to stay alert.
- Deprivation results in physical or behavioral symptoms or both. Withdrawal symptoms include headaches, fatigue, mood swings, serious cravings, trouble focusing and disturbed sleep.
- Efforts to cut down are unsuccessful. You’ve tried many times to cut out sweets and just haven’t been able to do it long term.
- The substance is often taken in large amounts. Bingeing on a dozen donuts, a whole bag of cookies, three candy bars, especially after a period of trying to quit sugar or when you’re especially stressed or upset.
- The substance is used despite knowledge of physical or psychological problems. You know it makes you gain weight, you know it leads to Type 2 diabetes, you know it’s even bad for your brain, but you want it anyway.
Does any of this sound familiar? Sugar is in fact addicting, very addicting, and what you are battling isn’t a sweet tooth or a habit, it is an addiction. Thankfully, it’s an addiction that you can break. Here is a four week plan that will make that happen for you, and more easily than you might believe.
You only have two things to do this week:
Step 1: Cut out *one* sugary staple in your diet.
You don’t have to cut out all sugar this week. I’m willing to bet that’s how you’ve tried to do it before. I’m also willing to bet that you quickly panicked, became agitated and basically freaked out. And then the first thing you did, was grab your favorite sugary food or beverage.
This week, I simply want you to eliminate one favorite sugary food. Make it an important one. Don’t say you’ll give up cookies if cookies really aren’t your thing. If your favorite binge is a few bowls of kids’ cereal, choose that. If you depend on three sodas to get you through the day, choose them. You can have other sugary foods so no need to panic. You won’t get the headaches or fatigue, because you’ll still have other sugary foods, minus one.
What you’re doing with this is showing yourself that you can break a dependency on a food or type of food, even if it’s something you eat or drink every single day.
Step 2: Start using my visualization exercise.
Visualization is a very powerful tool for breaking addiction. This was my main weapon in my own battle. You can read more about the power of visualization here.
I’ve shared my visualization script here and want you to print it out and record it in your own voice. If you don’t want to go through the trouble or don’t want to listen to your own voice, I’ve also recorded it on CD, which you can get here.
This exercise will help you to fully relax, which is going to help with the agitation and cravings. It’s also going to help you believe and act on the premise that you can and will break your addiction and have the body and the life that you deserve. It’s incredibly powerful and works best if you listen to it at least once a day.
Step 1: Create a vision board.
A vision board isn’t just something for people who want to redecorate their living rooms. You can use a vision board to inspire and motivate you to break your sugar addiction.
You can make a digital vision board on your computer, tablet or iPad, or make it the old fashioned way with some glue or pins and a corkboard.
Look in magazines, look at Pinterest, look on different websites and collect pictures that represent the way you want to look and feel, that show people doing the things you’d like to do when you’re healthy and fit. Whatever represents and reminds you of the reasons you want to change, that’s what you visualize.
Step 2: Keep using the visualization exercise.
Continue listening to the visualization exercise at least once per day.
Step 3: Cut out all processed, sugary foods.
Now is when you get rid of all of the sugar. You can do this. You have your exercise. You have your vision board and you already gave up one of your biggest sugary addictions.
Get all of it out of the house, out of your desk, and out of your sight. If there are others in your home who aren’t ready to give up sugar, at least have it a cupboard that’s not easily accessible, tucked in a drawer of the fridge and so on.
Now stock up on all kinds of great food, but pay particular attention to high-glycemic fruits. These include grapes, mangoes, pineapple, cherries, and oranges and so on. Go crazy. Yes, I know everyone says you should focus on low-glycemic fruits, but not you. Not this week. You want to minimize withdrawal symptoms and give yourself a mental hug by enjoying as much high-glycemic fruit as you want.
Weeks Three and Four
In the final two weeks, you’ll continue to use the visualization exercise and your vision board to keep you motivated and strong. You will also make two additions to your program:
Step 1: Cut the high-glycemic fruits and switch to low-glycemic choices.
You’ve already adjusted to not having those refined sugars. Now you’re going to break the last physical remnants of your addiction by lowering the natural sugars in your diet. This means choosing fruits like apples, pears, plums and watermelon. You can have as much as you want, but it does help to take them with a high-fiber or high-protein snack, like nuts and seeds, a piece of chicken or some Greek yogurt, to slow the absorption of these sugars into your system.
By the end of the fourth week, those cravings will be gone. You’ll be sleeping better, have better mental focus and a ton of energy. You’ll most likely have lost a good bit of weight as well.
Step 2: Exercise when the cravings hit.
In these last two weeks, you’re going to be eating the least amount of natural sugars and your body is going to be going through the final and much less noticeable stages of withdrawal. The cravings may come, but they’ll be less frequent, shorter and less severe.
When the cravings do come, I want you to do five minutes of any kind of exercise. Dance to your favorite song. Play catch with the dog. Throw a ball with the kids. Walk around the park by your office.
Do anything that gets you physically moving and increases the amount of natural dopamine your brain releases.
That’s it. Four weeks to freedom. Four weeks to a healthier, more fit, more energetic body. Four weeks to a more engaged, more active and fuller life. If I can do it, so can you.
For a complete solution to weight loss nutrition, the next step is our IdealPlan. I created it with Lindsey Mathews to help people not only reduce calories, but to manage all the temptations and traps that cause other diets to fail. The products and recipes in this package are designed to help you 1) reduce hunger between meals, 2) satisfy your sweet tooth and “munchies” with something healthy, 3) have more energy, and 4) be prepared with convenient foods so you’re never stranded at the vending machine or drive-thru.