If you clicked on this post thinking it’s just clickbait or an exaggeration, you’re quite mistaken. Even I’m still in awe in how I nearly completely cut processed sugars out of my diet. Let me give you a little backstory:
As a child, my parents kept my diet pretty healthy. I was not allowed to have a lot of sugar, most of the foods in our pantry were labeled organic, gluten-free, non-GMO, or something along those lines, and as I got older, they constantly berated my food choices. Of this criticism was the constant suggestion (to put it nicely) to cut back on my sugar intake.
Even as I got healthier and healthier throughout the years, I was always held back by my sugar addiction. No matter what I did, I could never eliminate my sugar cravings, and trust me–I tried (again and again and again). I even thought about trying those horribly expensive mints that make brownies taste like cardboard (really who would give their hard-earned money for a hellish product like this???).
A couple of months ago, I decided to once again try to cut back on my sugar intake. At this point, I was having at least one soda every week (I just couldn’t resist when I went out to dinner or was feeling extra thirsty), always had at least one bag of candy lying around (and they went quick!!) and could finally admit that my sugar intake was out of control.
This time, instead of just tossing out every sugary item in my kitchen and proclaiming that I would never eat sugar again, I took a different route–I started with research. I found a study that interested me in particular. In the study, they tested sugar addictions in rats. The first thing they found in the study that caught my eye was that the only rats that developed sugar addictions were those with restrictions placed on their diets. This provided me a little bit of insight as to why my sugar addiction could have developed in the first place considering I grew up with so many restrictions on what I ate.
The second thing that caught my eye was that the only rats that experienced sugar cravings were the ones who had limited sugar intake. I thought this was so interesting when I thought about all the times when I’d tried to go cold turkey, but was soon overwhelmed with an influx of constant cravings. Although I surely found this study to be very interesting, I had no idea how to implement it into a plan.
About a week later, I had an idea. When it first came to me, I kind of laughed to myself because I thought it sounded so far-fetched, so type A, and so truly ridiculous. Little did I know how well it would work. Looking back on it, I’m kind of in awe how I actually managed to find something that worked. Although it was completely inspired by the study I read, I highly doubt that those researchers would back up my methods. I have no idea if what they found in the rats is even true in humans and if this is a valid way to combat the psychology behind sugar addictions. All I can say about it is that it worked for me, someone with a seriously horrible sugar addiction.
Here’s how I did it (try not to laugh). There are two tangible things that I did to cut down my sugar intake. The first thing I did was drink more water. Depending on your current water intake, this step may be irrelevant, but for me it was crucial. I used to drink maybe half a liter of water a day. I was super dehydrated, I knew I was super dehydrated, and yet I couldn’t seem to get myself to drink water. As a child, my parents always gave me juice. So when I’m thirsty, my immediate action is to get a glass of juice. And when I’m really thirsty, it’s soda. Considering I rarely ever drank water, I was really thirsty a lot.
To compare, I now drink four liters of water a day. Now, I want to note that I started by drinking two which is a perfect goal if you don’t do hot yoga every morning. Since one Bikram yoga practice uses about 1-2 liters of water, I’ve had to adjust to drinking 3-4 liters per day. The main outcome I see from this is that since I’ve started, I haven’t once wanted a soda. I haven’t even had a glass of juice which for me, is a crazy ass notion (I used to keep bottles of juice stockpiled in my pantry because I went through it so quickly). I’m not sure if it impacts my lack of general sugar cravings, but I have a hunch.
The second step I took is the more *creative* one. Step 1: Buy a bunch of different type of ORGANIC/NATURAL sweets. Try to find products that have less processed ingredients, less sugar, and for bonus points, contain healthy ingredients. I got gluten-free Oreos, Trader Joe’s peanut butter cups, Trader Joe’s jellybeans, Trader Joe’s toffee pretzels, and Black Forest gummy bears. My strategy was to get a good assortment of sweets. You don’t want to just stock up on cookies because what will happen if you have a craving for fruity candy? You go out and buy the junky stuff, that’s what. Step 2: Put serving sizes of each into ziplock bags. You can find this information on the nutritional facts label on every type of store-bought product. Step 3: Put all of these baggies into a box or bag and store it in your pantry.
So what’s the logic behind the madness? Would you believe me if I told you I’ve barely even touched this stockpile? My inspiration for this idea came from the second outcome of the sugar addiction study I’d read about–the part where the rats only craved the sugar when they knew they couldn’t have it. So how do I tell myself I can have it, but stop eating it?? It had everything to do with my goals. I told you I did two tangible things to cut my sugar addiction. Well, I also did one other thing, a non-tangible thing. This is the tricky part. You can’t just stick a bag of sugary treats in your pantry and expect yourself to never eat sugar again. It doesn’t work like that.
Before I tried this method, I was constantly picking up Sprite’s from Chick-fil-A, eating candies like Starburst, Smarties, and Skittles. Not only are these foods pumped with sugar, but they’re horribly processed and filled with chemicals. Aside from these sugary foods, I eat almost zero processed foods. I cook constantly (which I love), and when I do buy pre-made foods and snacks I make sure that they are made with real ingredients and NO chemicals. So why was I letting myself practically inhale all these chemicals just because they were hiding behind a candy shell? Well, to me that was the biggest problem. When I started this, my main goal was to resist going out and getting a soda or a milkshake or a cupcake or a bag of candy.
My goal said “it’s okay to have a serving of natural candy or gluten-free Oreos.” And for the first couple of days, that’s what I did. I had the one serving, and I moved on. I didn’t crave a soda or a bag of candy. I was fulfilled. Then, after those first few days, I started to forget that the treats existed. I went days and days and days without having a single serving of sweets. My goal was to only have one of the bags from my stockpile every day. Since I wasn’t restricting myself to zero servings of sugar, I wasn’t having sugar cravings.
I want to clarify something. This method (by some miracle) worked incredibly for me. I honestly have no idea how exactly this happened. I don’t really understand the psychology behind it and I don’t know how it’s connected to the implications of the study. That being said, I don’t know how it will work for you or your friend or your mom or your cousin’s boyfriend’s sister’s dog’s groomer’s mother-in-law. If you’re like me and you’ve struggled with a sugar addiction, I think it’s worth giving it a try. However, you can’t expect this to work if you don’t have the right mindset.
For this to have an impact on your diet, you have to adjust your goals. If you do all this but your goals are still to eat no sugar, it defeats the whole purpose. In order to reduce your sugar cravings, you have to be okay with eating sugar. Period. It may seem counterintuitive when the result is eating less sugar, but you can’t skip this step or try to trick yourself. This step wasn’t so hard for me because the biggest step for me was switching from processed garbage to the healthier option. You need to first figure out how you can complete this step and be okay with eating sugar.
Since I’ve started this, I barely ever have a single serving of sugar. Yet, I don’t have to constantly deny myself what I want or be miserable in a diet I hate. I wholeheartedly believe in intuitive eating. If I want a cupcake one day or I go out to dinner and want dessert, I get it. I don’t have to stress about it because it’s one treat. My sugar intake used to be the result of an addiction rather than an actual desire to have a certain food. Now, I can have what I want because I know I’m the one who’s actually wanting it.
If you try this out, please let me know what you think! Leave me a note in the comments if you have questions or feedback!