Thanks for coming back for Part II of “The Truth About Sugar Addiction & What You Can Do About It”. In our first post, we explored the evidence behind sugar addiction and why labeling your experience with sugar as an addiction may actually be more harmful than helpful. (If you missed that blog post, please take a few minutes to catch up!)
In Part II, we’ll look at strategies for overcoming your feelings of sugar addiction and how to eat your favorite sweets in a way that feels good for your body. Let’s get started.
So, what do I do if I feel like I am addicted to sugar?
1. Understand WHY you are eating.
The first step in changing a behavior is understanding why we are engaging in that behavior to begin with.
So, in the case of overeating sweet foods, we first need to understand what’s drawing us to those foods. Sure, they taste good, and sometimes that will be the only reason we choose to eat them. But chances are, if we are consistently overeating these foods – there’s something more going on.
Try to explore those experiences a bit more when they happen – Where are you? What are you doing? Who are you with? What time of day is it? How are you feeling physically and emotionally? What’s your hunger level? What’s your energy level? Etc.
As you begin to more fully explore the situation, you may be able to draw connections between physical, emotional, and environmental triggers that are really responsible for your craving. That information allows you the opportunity to begin exploring alternative options.
You can choose to eat, but you can also choose to try something else first, which just might more effectively meet your true needs.
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2. Pay attention to HOW you eat.
Slowing down the eating process and engaging all of our senses as we eat can really help to increase the satisfaction we experience from the foods we choose.
Let’s use chocolate as an example, as this is a food people repeatedly report struggling with. Consider the following scenarios:
Scenario 1: how we eat chocolate
Choose piece of chocolate. Quickly unwrap wrapper. Pop chocolate in mouth. Chew a few times, likely while multitasking. Swallow. Go back for more because, “I just want to experience that flavor again.”
Scenario 2: mindfully eating chocolate
Choose piece of chocolate. Slowly unwrap wrapper, listening to the crinkle of the paper. Take a moment to observe the chocolate, noticing the color and the smooth texture. Place it in your mouth, letting it sit on the tongue and begin to melt. Move it around in the mouth, allowing it to touch all of your taste buds.
Appreciate the complexity of the flavors. Slowly chew. Swallow. Notice the flavor that lingers after the chocolate is gone. Decide if you would like another piece.
Scenario 1 will almost always have us going back for more, in part because we barely tasted it when we ate it. We gave our taste buds teaser and now they are asking for more.
That’s not necessarily the case in scenario 2 because we are fully engaged in the eating process. Slowing down and being present allows us to more fully experience the food as we eat it and to more easily identify that point of satisfaction.
When we eat mindfully, what we often realize is that we can feel more satisfied with less food by simply slowing down and tuning in.
3. Give yourself UNCONDITIONAL PERMISSION to eat.
If you are wondering to yourself, “how is that ever going to work?” you are not alone. For anyone who has struggled with eating, the idea of allowing ourselves to eat the very foods we don’t trust ourselves around seems like a very bad idea.
But, I encourage you to also consider how effective the strategy of restriction has been. Chances are, not very. Because, again, it perpetuates the restrict-binge cycle discussed in Part 1.
Instead, give yourself permission to eat what you want and make the goal to do it in a way that feels good in your body. Learning how to do that might take some practice. You can start by asking yourself the following questions:
Before you choose to eat, ask: Do I really want this food? And, how will eating this food make my body feel?
- As you eat, check in and ask: Am I enjoying this food? And, how is this food making my body feel?
- When you are done eating, ask: Was that a pleasurable experience? And, how does my body feel now?
By asking these questions, you are tuning into the experience beyond just the flavor and remaining engaged throughout the eating experience. This will help you to figure out:
- if you truly enjoy the flavor of this food;
- if this is a food that truly feels good to eat beyond the initial taste on your tongue; and
- just how much you need to feel comfortably satisfied, without the need for rules and restriction.
And, because you know that you can have more later if you decide you want it (that’s the unconditional permission piece), it eliminates those feelings of scarcity and that fear that there will not be enough. This makes it easier to stop once you do reach that point of comfortable satiety
Ultimately – granting yourself permission to eat these foods will help you reclaim the power those foods once had over you allowing you to be your own authority on your food decisions. When you are in charge, the pull of these foods becomes much weaker.
While it’s true that making change isn’t easy, and learning how to trust ourselves again with certains foods doesn’t happen overnight, it’s also true that both are possible. Understanding why you are eating (or wanting to eat), allowing yourself to be fully present as you eat, and giving yourself unconditional permission to eat the foods you want (without guilt or shame) are really good strategies to begin with.
Did you miss our sugar addiction webinar?
Before you vow to avoid all the Halloween candy and skip the cookies this year, take a look at what registered dietitian, and Green Mountain at Fox Run Nutrition Lead, Dana Notte has to say about sugar addiction in this FREE webinar recording. This webinar was recorded on October 25, but you can view it at any time!
You have the power to take charge of your decisions about food – learn how you can harness that power and make lasting changes to your relationship with and decisions about food – without restriction.
- De Jong JW, Vanderschuren LJ, Adan RA. The mesolimbic system and eating addiction: what sugar does and does not do. Current Opinion in Behavioral Sciences. 2016 Jun 30;9:118-25.
- Westwater ML, Fletcher PC, Ziauddeen H. Sugar addiction: the state of the science. European Journal of Nutrition. 2016 Jul 2:1-5.