How To Break A Sugar Addiction And Why I Can't Stop Eating Chocolate Bars
As I sit writing this post, I’m experience an intense craving for something sweet. I’ve been thinking a lot about it a lot, and you know what…?A rice crispy square or peanut butter cup would really hit the spot!
Now, normally, I’m the guy who helps other people break a sugar addiction. I usually keep my diet pretty well on point and I can’t remember the last time I found myself constantly lusting after sweet treats. So how did I get here? And how am I going to break this sugar addiction so I can get back to feeling my blood sugar is balanced throughout the day?
How My Sugar Addiction Started
I know exactly how I got here, and it involved a lot of chocolate bars! You see, I just got back from an incredible hiking trip on the John Muir Trail through California’s Sierra Mountain Range. The scenery was truly epic. Awe inspiring at times. The food was… not.
On this hiking trip, my diet consisted mainly of oatmeal, low-carb protein bars, beef jerky and other cured meats, nuts and nut butter, and various freeze-dried camping meals that only require the addition of boiling water to reconstitute. Oh, and a multi-vitamin.
Because my wife and I were often hiking for 10-hrs a day up and down mountain passes, I was trying to eat around 3500-cals a day. I don’t usually count calories, but I’d estimate that’s about 1000-cals more than normal. It wasn’t easy to eat that much, especially because so much the food we’d packed didn’t taste all that good.
For all my hard-gainer clients who are trying to add muscle and need to eat their faces off, I truly sympathise with the force feeding you endeavour to do.
By day three I was already sick of the food and beginning to experience the most terrible farts I’ve ever had in my life from all the protein bars. I was eating three or four per day. I know for certain it was the protein bars because I stopped eating them on day 5 and * poof * the farts immediately disappeared. I was relieved, as was my wife, and probably everyone we passed on the trail.
It was around day five when I really went in on the chocolate bars. I ate at least two per day. Plus chocolate covered almonds and other snacks.
To tell you the truth, this worked out well on the trail. The chocolate bars were fully of energy, digested quickly and they were something that I enjoyed eating, unlike many of the other food options I had available. And I was doing so much physical activity that I still lost weight (unintentionally, I failed to hit my target calories after the first few days). On the trail, I never felt major blood sugar/energy crashes. One lesson is this: In some rare situations like this, processed junk food can actually be the perfect option!
How To Break A Sugar Addiction
But now I’m back and I feel addicted to sugar.
Well, maybe addicted isn’t the right word. This doesn’t meet the standard for true addiction/substance use disorder, i.e. compulsive substance use despite harmful consequence, often associated with, as Gabor Mate puts it “an attempt to escape from pain.” There is an ongoing debate among scientists about how addictive sugar is. Some argue that it’s on par with cocaine. Others put it on the level of nicotine. Others reject the entire argument. You can read more about that here.
Whatever terms we settle on, here’s the point: I now crave something sweet after every meal. And this isn’t normal. As I’ve always told my nutrition coaching clients, if you don’t feel satisfied until you’ve had a sugar hit after breakfast, lunch and dinner, it’s time to seriously re-evaluate your diet and cut the sweet stuff out.
When our bodies are in a sugar addicted state, the physical craving for sugar is real. Sometimes it’s strong. At times, usually in the evening when I’m unoccupied, it’s almost all I can think about.
Years ago, when I first started eating healthier and cut out most sugar, I dealt with something similar. I know that I’m in for a rough one or two weeks, during which time I’ll stick to eating healthily, and then I’ll be in the clear.
if you’re trying to break a sugar addiction, Here are the key lessons
It doesn’t take long to feel the addictive pull of sugar. I added (a lot of) chocolate bars to my diet for a little over a week and now I’m craving sweets more than I have in probably the last decade.
Regardless of what scientists argue, the physical cravings for sugar can be substantial. It’s not an easy thing to ignore and it’s HARD go cold turkey. Without acknowledging this and having a plan in place, you can slip up - or dramatically swan dive back into your old habits - and never really kick the sugar cravings.
It takes most people at least a week without sugar for the cravings to subside. The good news is that and eventually, they will pretty much go away. But I’ve also seen this process take as long as three weeks. During that initial phase it’s common to feel less energetic, for your mood to be affected (you might be more edgy or grumpy than normal), and sometimes to get headaches. Again, being forewarned can help you be forearmed.
When you’re in the midst of a sugar craving attack, here are my six best methods to reduce the urge and stay on track. These are simple, practical and effective, and I’ve used them with countless clients.
Sometimes a little help goes a long way. If you need some accountability and guidance on the best way to kick some bad habits that are holding your health and fitness back, drop me a line. I can help.
If you read the definition of substance abuse above and think it could apply to you, it’s possible you may have a food or sugar addiction problem. I’ve worked with clients who display the common check-list of addict behaviour with food and in those cases I recommend finding a counsellor who specialises food addiction. A simple plan for restructuring habits and upgrading nutrition habits isn’t enough in these situations.