Is your diet stuck between two extremes: following a 30-day Detox one week and stuffing down Oreos the next? It’s a tricky cycle: you try the detox to beat your sugar addiction, but you crave the cookies after a stressful (and hangry) day. Well, what if one day you woke up and your out of control cravings were gone?
That’s what it was like for me when I realized that, for what seemed like no reason at all, I no longer felt addicted to sugar.
Just a few years before this realization, my relationship with sugary foods was pretty different. An average day ended with driving to the gas station across the street to buy a bag of sour gummy worms and then eating them in bed. Sometimes I’d buy a box of cookies, eat half in one sitting, and then throw away the rest to rid my home of sweet temptation.
One of my favorite routines was measuring out exactly one serving of dark chocolate chips, eating them, and then heading right back to the fridge for another serving, then another, then another…
Like so many women, I knew that I just couldn’t be trusted around sugary treats. And with the media having just declared sugar the new food villain, it made perfect sense. Clearly, I was in the throes of sugar addiction.
My Failed Attempts
Once I understood that sugar was the issue, I was determined to face my problem head-on.
First, I tried going cold turkey. Because hey, why not go from consuming a movie-sized box of Nerds and a roll of Sweet Tarts every night straight to “bananas have too much sugar, pass me some beef jerky”?
That didn’t work, but everything I read suggested that having even a little sugar would leave me craving more. I decided to stock my pantry with some safer options, like sugar-free alternatives to the snacks I actually enjoyed. So instead of buying ice cream, I bought sugar-free pudding cups and froze them…and ate 2-3 each night.
The store-bought snacks weren’t working though, so I thought maybe a homemade approach would be best. I enjoy baking, but what with my self-diagnosed sugar addiction, I had given it up. Luckily, because I spent all of my time reading weight-loss forums, it was easy to find Healthy Cookie recipes. Maybe I could bake a batch of those instead? I did and ate most of them in one go (plus shaking the crumbs out of the Tupperware into my mouth). I marched right back to the message board and declared the recipe a Fail: Too Delicious.
I could bore you with hundreds of other things I tried (fasting, carb cycling, high-fat diets, meal plans and more), but none of it matters because none of it worked.
It was clear that my addiction was too hopeless. That my complete lack of willpower doomed me to a life of outwardly choosing “Eat This Not That” substitutes while secretly hitting the drive-through for real-deal milkshakes.
What Actually Worked
Now I already told you that I no longer spend my nights eating candy out of the bag, so you probably want to know the secret to my success:
I stopped restricting.
Sure, that’s boring. Yes, that can be scary. No, this “Craving-Busting-Secret” won’t land me a featured column in Women’s Health magazine.
But this one (big!) change was what finally “cured” me: I allowed myself to eat what I wanted when I wanted.
Once I embraced that permission, it became clear that what I usually wanted wasn’t a whole pint of ice cream. Because sometimes I want a salad and sometimes I want a brownie, and both are equally ok. And where once upon a time a half-eaten box of Pink & White Cookies would have ended up in the trash, I now keep them around and grab a couple when I feel like it.
Looking back, my entire “sugar addiction” was a product of calorie counting and food morality (the belief that some foods are Good and others Bad). I wasn’t addicted to sugar when I was a kid when I had free access to baked goods, candy, and even soda. But once the need to diet consumed me as an adult, I became fixated on the forbidden food group.
In an attempt to control my size, I temporarily lost control around food. When I finally fully stopped dieting, my food sanity returned rapidly.
I am not a weight-loss success story (just like 95% of all dieters), so don’t think that this is a secret way to lose weight. For me, reclaiming a natural relationship with sugar was as much a mental health victory as it was a physical one.
If you’re feeling out of control around desserts, chips, or any other food, consider a more gentle approach to eating. You might be surprised to see your food anxieties disappear.
Up for a challenge? Eat a food from your “forbidden foods” list. Enjoy it and know that you’re allowed to nourish your body in any way you desire. Let me know what it was in the comments and how delicious it tasted! Feel free to brag because you can eat it again at any time!