Confessions of a Sugar Addict (8 weeks to ditch the addiction)
The girls are in bed asleep.
We’ve just finished cleaning up after the onslaught of dinner, bath, bed.
The washing has been put away and the dishes done.
The food scraps swept up.o
We’ve officially clocked off for the day.
We slump down on the couch. Exhausted.
And then the cravings set in.
“Yes, maybe i’ll just have a little nibble.”
Fast forward half an hour and the Cadbury wrapping sits empty and idle on the coffee table.
Guilt sets in.
Negative thoughts overtake my mind.
I promise myself to have more self control tomorrow.
There’s always tomorrow.
I’ll run further and faster.
We set a challenge to restrict ourselves of all treats for at least a month.
We manage to hold out for five days.
And then it happens again.
I was in a vicious cycle of giving into sugar cravings, followed by horrible self loathing and negative thoughts.
It wasn’t until recently that I’ve broken that cycle.
My light bulb moment was driving back from visiting our family in the country.
Carl and I bought a Kit Kat Chunky bar to eat on the drive home.
Did you know that a Kit Kat Chunky bar is supposedly 3 servings …
… well I never?!
Here is a sneak peak at the list of ingredients:
Sugar, Full Cream Milk Powder, Wheat Flour, Cocoa Butter, Vegetable Fat (Antioxidant ), Cocoa Mass, Cocoa, Emulsifiers (Soy Lecithin, 476), Yeast, Raising Agent (Sodium Bicarbonate), Flavours, Salt, Glucose Syrup (derived from Wheat or Corn), Food Acid (330). Contains 70% Milk Chocolate and 30% Wafer Fingers. Chocolate contains minimum 20% Cocoa Solids.
Notice how sugar is the top ingredient (and they’ve thrown in some Glucose Syrup for good measure).
So if you consume the whole bar (like I used to) you’re eating this much sugar:
Anyway, back to the drive home…
We sat the chocolate bars in the centre console between us, waiting for the girls to fall asleep so we could greedily gobble them up.
That was what we did.
We ate this food in private.
Away from the judgmental eyes of society.
Hiding it from our daughters out of guilt.
So on this particular day, the girls didn’t fall asleep and so we didn’t eat the chocolate bars.
I distinctly remember spending those 3 hours willing the girls to sleep.
Thinking that I needed the sugar hit.
I could almost hear it calling me.
And I felt so pathetic that such a small thing could have so much control over me and my behaviour.
That I felt like I had to conceal eating it from others. And then the guilt I felt after eating it.
The reality was that deep down I knew that this food wasn’t good for me, certainly not to the extent that I was consuming it.
Totally void of nutritional value and certainly not something I wanted my daughters eating. Which was why we tried so hard to shield them from it.
But what disappointed me most was why I was not giving my body the same respect.
Why did I make it ok for me to continually consume this food in epic proportions yet at the same time, deny my daughters from even trying it?
Did I really value their bodies more than mine?
Did I not respect myself as much?
It was conjuring the exact same emotions and behaviours I felt and expressed when I was trying to quit smoking cigarettes.
I knew my behaviour had to stop. I shouldn’t be willing my girls to ‘go away’ or ‘go to sleep’ in order for me to eat something.
How wrong is that?
One day I would be caught out as the massive hypocrite that I was being.
But more importantly I had to stop treating myself like that.
So I did.
Overcoming my unhealthy sugar addiction has been such a powerful step in the right direction for me.
It’s been gradual and yes I still eat chocolate most days.
It just comes in a different version nowadays.
I am more satisfied with a mug of hot cocoa and a slice of Lindt chocolate.
I’m also filling up on wholefood and healthy fats during the day, rather than gorging on crap after dinner.
I’ve stopped feeling the pull from the confectionery aisle at the supermarket.
Not out of forced avoidance but because I actually don’t have a need or a want to.
I’m no longer lured into what ‘specials’ they may have on anymore and I no longer feel enticed to try out the latest flavour.
I love experimenting with new ingredients and making treats from scratch.
Ones that have no preservatives or addictive additives, that are free from refined sugar.
And while they are still high in kilojoules, they are at least providing me some nutritional value.
There are no Boost Bars or my old beloved Kit Kat Chunky bars in the lolly jar. No more Cadbury blocks.
I no longer get sucked into the $2 bags of ‘natural’ confectionery sweets at the petrol station.
I can officially say “I no longer crave these foods”.
And boy do I feel better.
Both mentally and physically.
I have a much healthier relationship with food and my body. I’ve stopped beating myself up when I do happen to indulge from time to time.
I acknowledged the impact those negative guilt ridden thoughts had on my mental health.
And I certainly no longer consume the quantity of zero nutritional chocolate bars the way I used to.
I feel so much more informed now. I can cook new things from scratch using so many different wonderful REAL FOOD ingredients.
I can read food labels and understand them (most of the time).
As a result I also noticed all the incidental sugar that had crept into Lilly’s diet, rather unknowingly.
I was disappointed initially but instead of beating myself up and being overcome with Mummy guilt, I just changed it.
I used this new information that I’d gained to start fresh.
No more squeezy yoghurts and custards.
No more teddy bear biscuits.
No more Freddo frogs or ice cream.
It’s true that those foods as an occasional treat won’t hurt, but we had found that they were all becoming far too frequently featured.
So we’ve backed off and let the Grandparents do the spoiling instead!
In truth, Lilly is none the wiser.
She gobbles banana soft serve or frozen yoghurt pops up as quickly and with as much enjoyment as she did the chocolate ice cream of the past.
She gets excited about chocolate bliss balls and is more than happy with a date as a special treat.
If it wasn’t for the grandparents she may well have forgotten about her beloved Freddo Frogs.
But it’s a sad reality if Grandparents don’t get to spoil their grandchildren from time to time right?
I acknowledge that it’s probably a lot easier to change children’s eating habits while they are still young.
And I hope that by getting in early we will have laid some great foundations for us to manage the pestering and demands that no doubt will follow on from their exposure to the perils of clever marketing in the future.
So while it may seem too hard, particularly for those with older children, I certainly don’t think it’s impossible.
If I can do it. So can you!
It is a simple as making a few small changes over a number of months.
Trust me when I say my sugar addiction subsided almost subconsciously.
Our diet is certainly not perfect.
But I wouldn’t want it any other way.
My attitude towards food is much better these days.
For example we didn’t allow Lilly to eat any chocolate until she was nearly two.
She certainly didn’t get to enjoy any of her 1st birthday cake under my watch (because I had made it and I knew exactly how much sugar the recipe called for!).
Fast forward to Georgie’s 1st birthday where I researched whole food cake recipes that contained ingredients I was happy for both the girls to eat and serve to my friend’s children.
It was empowering and I was proud that our guests seemingly enjoyed the food.
So my advice to you, If this is a habit you are wanting to break…
Is as simple as starting small.
One small change each week.
And over time you’ll look back and realise how easy it was and how much better off you feel.
If you’re serious about cutting back on your sugar intake and moving to a more wholefood journey, over the next 8 weeks aim do the following:
Week 1: Fill up on REAL FOOD, particularly healthy fats during the day
Our bodies are designed to crave sweeter food.
As a survival mechanism, our ancestors consumed sweeter food which provided high energy and avoided bitter food which often indicated toxicity.
Eating sweet food releases the hormone chemical dopamine in our brain stimulating the feeling of pleasure, which in turn makes you crave more sugar.
Dopamine is the same chemical that is released by morphine users.
Therefore from a biochemical and physical point of view, there is evidence that humans can become addicted to sugar under certain circumstances.
The issue with sugar is that it leads to a spike in our insulin levels which in turn interferes with the hormone leptin. Leptin is responsible for signally to the brain to stop eating.
And so the vicious cycle continues.
However, by eating healthy fats like avocado, nuts, oily fish, seeds, butter throughout the day your body will feel fuller because these types of fats slow down the release of glucose in your blood.
Week 2: Learn to read food labels
It’s often the incidental sugar that we don’t realise we are consuming.
Added to pasta sauces, curry pastes, bread, salad dressings etc.
It can really add up.
This is why I am a big advocator of cooking from scratch.
Take a week to start reading the labels on your favourite foods. Learn what it all means.
These are some key things to look out for:
- Ingredients are listed from greatest to smallest by weight
- Choose products with the least amount of ingredients listed where possible. Avoid products with ingredients that sound more like laboratory reports than something you would eat!
- Use the per 100g column when comparing products
- Check the recommended serving size
- Be wary of potentially misleading nutritional health claims on packaging. For example “lite” generally refers to the colour not the fat content, “no added sugar” usually implies that the product is pretty full of natural sweeteners, therefore still high in sugar. Always check the sugar content! And “reduced fat” doesn’t necessarily relate to a reduced fat content overall, plus these products often have additional salt and sugar added to them to compensate for the “reduced fat”!
This is a great guide to helping you understand how to interpret some of the information.
Week 3: Learn a few quick easy recipes to replace pre-made sauces and dressings
Now that you’ve started to interpret the murky world of food labeling you can start to make more informed choices at the supermarket.
Or even better find a few quick and easy recipes you can master at home to avoid using those pre-made sauces.
With so many wonderful apps and recipe websites online teaching you how to cook from scratch it really is children’s play!
And trust me, it honestly doesn’t have to take up any more time than boiling some water to cook the pasta or grains that you’d normally be doing anyway.
Pop your favourite ingredients into a search on Pinterest, Yummly or Taste and let your taste buds decide!
Week 4: Stock up your pantry
Out of sight out of mind really does ring true for me.
However, I’m not a fan of food wastage so I’m certainly not going to tell you to do a complete overhaul and throw everything out.
But perhaps if you’re pantry looks more like the confectionery aisle at the supermarket then maybe you could give some of it away!
The best thing you can do is draw a line in the sand and commit to not purchasing anymore of it.
So as it runs out, don’t replace it.
Now onto stocking up on some key ingredients that will make your wholefoods journey much more manageable.
This is a quick snap shot of some of things that I recommend you have on hand:
- Canned tomatoes and jars of passata
- Canned or dried legumes such as chickpeas, kidney beans and lentils
- Canned tuna, salmon or sardines
- Wholegrains such as brown rice, rolled oats, quinoa and cous cous.
- Spices like ginger, garlic, cumin, cinnamon and smoked paprika.
- Extra virgin olive oil and coconut oil
- Tamari or soy sauce
- Balsamic and apple cider vinegar
- Honey or maple syrup
- Nuts and seeds of choice
- Cocoa or cocao
- Desiccated coconut
Week 5: Change your sweeteners
I’m not going to tell you to cut sugar out completely because I personally think that’s difficult to sustain and could lead to unhealthy food obsessions and paranoia.
If you chose to do that though, by all means go right ahead!
What I would recommend is that you make mindful choices with the choice of sweetener you use.
Use natural sweeteners to replace table sugar as much as possible:
- maple syrup,
- apple sauce,
And swap white table sugar for rapadura or coconut sugar.
Week 6: Start swapping those zero nutritional sweets out all together
Replace them with real food.
It’s important that you do swap it out and not just add in more treats!
These recipes are still energy dense and if overeaten will still lead to weight gain.
The difference is they contain nourishing ingredients and will satisfy your hunger rather than just spiking your blood sugar levels and blocking off your appetite suppressant hormones.
Start by swapping lollies for whole fruit.
Next time you find yourself getting sucked into the dirt cheap lolly discount at the petrol station.
Swap chocolate bars for 70% dark chocolate or make some wholesome homemade treats from scratch.
The next time you’re craving ice cream, try the banana soft serve instead.
Week 7: Think about breakfast
It’s crucial that you choose nourishing wholefoods to eat for breakfast.
Prepackaged breakfast cereals contain more refined sugar than you realise.
Sugar spikes your insulin levels which in turn blocks the messages to your brain to tell you to stop eating.
So you’ll no doubt find yourself craving those cookies and cakes by mid morning.
Swap sugary breakfast cereal or refined white toast for muesli, porridge or anything from my top 15 favourite breakfast options.
You can read more about the importance of breakfast and what to choose here.
Week 8: Ditch the sugary drinks
Seriously if there is one thing I could urge you to do to make the biggest impact on reducing your sugar intake it would be to…
- Soft drink
- Fruit drinks
- Viatmin water
- Energy drinks
- Any other sweetened beverage you may consume
They are the worst thing for your health, providing no nutritional value and a stack of sugar.
Swap them for:
- Herbal tea
- Dairy or nut milks
- Soda or mineral water
- Make your own smoothies and juices
Add a slice of fruit or some fresh mint to your water to give it a bit of flavour.
Gradually reduce the amount of sugar you add to your tea and coffee.
Start by halving it.
Until you get to the stage where you don’t add any at all.
You are sweet enough.
And finally remember this:
No one food, food group or nutrient is responsible for the rising rates of obesity and other health problems around the world or here in Australia.
All food groups, if eaten in the right amounts and coupled with regular exercise can fit into a healthy lifestyle.
However, if highly processed and artificially sweetened food is featuring too frequently in your diet and you find that it is replacing nutrient dense whole food, like it was for me.
Your risk of obesity related illnesses and dental decay is certainly going to be elevated.
And so when it comes to this type of food we need to take the advice from the Australian Dietary Guidelines for healthy eating which recommend we:
- limit intake of foods and drinks containing added sugars, such as confectionery, sugar-sweetened soft drinks and cordials, fruit drinks, vitamin waters, energy and sports drinks.
Last of all…
Brigid is The Wholesome Mum to two gorgeous daughters, Lilly and Georgie. And wife to handsome, funny Carl.
She spends a big portion of her days making sure their household doesn't fall apart, that the girls are fed, clothed and everyone is generally happy. This can be tough with a 3 year old!
The rest of her time is spent divided between pottering around in the kitchen concocting up healthy wholesome recipes and running. She loves running!
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