4 Phases for Navigating Sugar Addiction
Updated: Jul 2, 2020
It's been a long day. You impulsively stop at the store for ice cream and cookies, start digging into the cookies in the car, and proceed to finish the job once home just as you collapse on the couch.
Yep, sugar addiction is real, and I've been there in that exact place, melded into the couch ready for Ben & Jerry's round two.
Over the years, I've learned how to respond to the addictive behavior around sugar cravings so that I don't get sucked into the vicious and draining cycle. It's been a long journey with many different phases, including (some years ago) 2 months off sugar and processed foods to address candida and heal my gut.
I began to notice some key phases that I would go through that felt incredibly supportive to the process of healing sugar addiction. Over time, I've refined my 4 phases for navigating sugar addiction (read on for elaboration):
Bring mindfulness, presence, awareness, curiosity, and compassion to the moment of craving, thinking about binging, and binging itself. Take a pause moment. Become present through statements like, "I'm noticing that I am craving sugar right now. I'm thinking about going to the store on the way home to get ice cream/cookies/etc." Then compassion, "That's okay that this is happening. This is not a behavior I want to continue my entire life, but it's okay that it is happening right now. How can I support myself? How could I invite more balance?"
Healthy Alternative: Level up the usual vices. Pick the organic brand instead of the generic brand. Choose the coconut milk ice cream over the dairy. These items may (or may not!) cost more, and so I have to be willing to spend the money if I want to enjoy something sweet. This makes me less likely to frequently buy sweets for binging. It also says something about where I put my dollar - the healthier alternative is not just for me. It is also about supporting ethical & eco-friendly companies.
Healthy Alternative: Make sweet treats at home! A bonus for this step is to keep with the principles of Phase 2, and bake with healthy, organic ingredients. This has meant lots of experimenting with gluten free flours, vegan desserts, and picking sugars wisely (using honey, dates, maple syrup, panela, agave etc). I love vegan tarts with nut crusts & coconut/cashew filling, chocolates (homemade of course!), and bliss balls! Lots of cookie & pancake experiments too.
Healthy Alternative: Take a period of time to let the body detox sugar, enjoying things like fruit and tea, that help satiate the oral & sweet fix. Maybe it's just in the moment, a few days, or longer. Homemade/dark chocolates are often still a part of this phase for me, so long as they are not triggering the binge pattern.
I move through these phases in a fluid way, applying them as needed based on what is most helpful in that moment. They may also be followed like steps, in a more linear structure.
Over time, I have made peace with sugar cravings, to the point where they are far & few in between, subdued, and in support of an overall healthy relationship to food. And I actually really enjoy the pleasure of sweet treats (yes, chocolate is a gift from the heavens!), so consider Phase 5 as landing in a healthy and balanced relationship with sugar (whatever that means for you!).