The holidays are over and intentions are fresh…but then there’s that small matter of those last few gold wrapped chocolates hanging out in your cupboard. And the fact that two weeks of family feasts, office treats, and an endless train of sweet comestible gifts have trained you to become dependent on a steady supply of sugar.
You’re addicted to sugar, and you don’t know how to stop.
Don’t feel so bad…rats behave in the same way!
Although I’m sure being compared to a rat instantly made you feel better, hear me out. Several studies have shown that sweetness is more preferable and pleasurable than cocaine or opioid drugs, and is highly addictive.
The late Bart Hoebel at Princeton University who devoted much of his career to studying food addiction found that rats exposed to sugar exhibited evidence of craving, bingeing, withdrawal, and relapse, all hallmark stages of classic drug addiction, completing the picture of sugar as a highly addictive substance. One study showed that rats favoured sweet flavoured water over cocaine. Even the rats already addicted to cocaine switched over to sweetened water when given the choice! Another study showed that pleasure centres in rats’ brains were activated more intensely when consuming Oreo cookies (which contains the devastatingly addictive combo of sugar and fat) than when given cocaine or morphine (which is chemically nearly identical to heroine). And guess what? Oreo cookies are a heck of a lot more accessible than cocaine, so guess what humans are more likely to be addicted to?
BUT, lucky for you, you are smarter and sneakier than a rat, and can employ strategies to help you break up with your sugar addiction.
The question is: Do you go cold turkey or wean yourself off slowly? The answer is largely personal, and I’ve got solutions that work for both.
Tips for Breaking a Sugar Addiction
1. Either way, do a kitchen purge.
Clear out your cupboards and refrigerator and THROW THAT JUNK OUT. That’s right, throw it out. You may protest that wasting food is bad, but when that food does nothing but promote poor health, then you have to ask yourself what the better option is: Throw it in or throw it out? Don’t treat your body like a compost bin! Those sugary cookies, chocolates, and candy canes will do less damage in the garbage can than in your body. For more on this concept, read this article! A kitchen free of temptations makes it that much harder to give in to a craving, so even if your goal is to wean yourself off of sugar by having occasional sweets (ideally with high quality, whole food ingredients), don’t keep them in the house.
2. Eat a breakfast rich in protein and fat.
The typical breakfast foods (think toast & jam, cereal, breakfast bars, etc) are high in carbohydrates and often high in sugar. This means they will not satisfy your appetite for long, and they will only feed the sugar beast that gets stronger with more sugar. Like begets like, right? Instead, try a breakfast smoothie with berries, full fat organic yogurt or coconut milk, some ground flax seed and a good quality protein powder. For a savoury option, try a bit of cooked quinoa with some steamed greens & poached eggs, with a generous spoon of organic butter or coconut oil on top. Don’t let yourself get to starving point during the day- snack lightly throughout the day if needed. Remember: Really hungry people make bad food choices.
3. Take some probiotics.
In my opinion, probiotics as a supplement for the average person are absolutely necessary in only two occasions: during/after a course of antiobiotics, and during/after a sugar overdose. Sugar is easy food for greedy pathogenic bad bacteria in your gut. You can bet that once they have a taste they will have you craving more to feed them and grow their bad bacteria babies. Probiotics, or good bacteria, will prevent these bad bacteria from growing out of control. Probiotics will also strengthen your immune system after being depleted by too much sugar. Unpasteurized fermented foods like saurkraut, kimchi, and miso are food sources of probiotics and can be helpful to quell sugar cravings.
Lastly, if you must have some treats in your house while you overcome this seasonal addiction, try my coconut chocolate truffles, because they’re pretty guilt-free at about 2.5 g sugar per ball. They also contain a good amount of appetite-satisfying coconut oil, a wonderful healthy fat.
Chocolate Coconut Truffles
1 cup unsweetened shredded coconut
½ cup coconut oil
¼ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
2 Tbsp honey
-Add all ingredients a bowl and mix until well combined. Spoon small dollops of mixture onto a parchment-lined baking sheet. Place sheet in freezer and let set for about 20 minutes. Store covered in a container in the fridge or freezer. Makes about 16 bliss balls.