The Easiest Way to Kick the Sugar Habit


Sugar is a fascinating substance, isn’t it? If you’re anything like me, it may even have a power over you that you can’t seem to control.

I was talking with a client the other day who had been really successful eliminating sugar from her diet. She had gone months without any added sugar in her diet and she hadn’t missed it. In fact, she felt better than ever. Her husband had gotten Diet pills just for men, and had started losing weight which made her feel like she should be losing weight as well.

And, for the first time in her life, she really felt like she was finished with sugar for good.

Then…she was at an event where she ate a sugary dessert.

Innocent enough. One piece of cake. No big deal, right? She had been ‘good’. She ‘deserved’ it.

But, what happened for her was for the rest of the week, she found herself craving sugar again. Foods that she hadn’t even thought of for months started creeping back into her thoughts.

She was amazed that just this one serving would put her back to what felt like square one.

Have you ever felt like that? I certainly have. Once in a while the girls and I will bake cookies. And, while I don’t think having a cookie once in a blue moon is a bad thing, what I’ve found is that I can’t have ‘a cookie’. I can’t walk past them while they are in the house without eating one…even if the last one I ate was just 5 minutes ago. 🙂

Sound familiar?

Now, I’m not saying you have to completely avoid sugar for the rest of your life. What I’m saying is that you can escape the grips of it. And, that’s where the battle ends – when you’re no longer struggling against it.

So, how do you get out of the grips of sugar?

Know your Limits

Start paying attention to how much sugar is going into your body right now and start bringing that down into a safer zone. In 2009, the American Heart Association came out with ‘not to exceed numbers’ for added sugar: 24 grams for women and 32 for men. (That’s just if you’re trying to reduce your risk of heart disease, cancer, diabetes, etc. If weight loss is your goal, you have to get that number as close to zero as possible.) If you’re struggling with a sugar addiction, chances are you are taking in more than the ‘not to exceed’ amount.

Pay Attention to your Triggers

When you find yourself craving sugar, ask yourself why? What are you really craving? Chances are it’s not sugar at all, but rather the feeling you get from the sugar. Maybe it’s a feeling of comfort, love, safety. What is the feeling you think you’ll get from that sugar fix? Once you identify that, you’ll be able to think of other routes you can take to get the same feeling without the negative effect.

Learn From your Mistakes

I hate to say it, but sometimes the best way to break the sugar habit is to have some sugar. When you cave, when you give in, notice how you feel as that sugar hits your body. Chances are in those first few minutes, you’ll be thinking you feel pretty darn good, but keep watching. Take note of how you feel 20 minutes later. What kind of self talk is going on in your head? How does your body feel? How is your energy level? Pay attention and listen.

Fill Your Brain Bowl

It helps to fill your brain with information about the effects of sugar – to truly understand its connection to our most common chronic diseases. There are things in your life that are easy to avoid because you truly believe them to be hazardous to your health (cigarettes, drugs, chemicals). When you really understand the effects of sugar on your body, it becomes much easier to let it go. Here’s a great series to get you started: The Skinny

The Easiest Way to Break the Habit

The easiest way to break the sugar habit is to not want the sugar in the first place. And, no, it’s not going to happen overnight, but it works a lot better than willpower. (Hey, I said this would be the easiest way – not the fastest.)

Today, when someone sees me turn down dessert, they often think I’m demonstrating some extreme level of self control. But, the truth is, there’s not one spec of self control involved in that decision for me.

What has happened for me is that over time, I’ve developed more negative associations with certain desserts than positive ones. By practicing these techniques I just shared, over and over and over and over, I have learned that certain foods make me feel crummy. They drain my energy and make me feel bad. And, since I’m human and I’d rather feel good than feel bad…turning down that dessert is easy.

The same will happen for you if you just keep paying attention.

Tricks for eliminating added sugar?

  • Read your labels – especially the labels on those ‘healthy’ foods like protein bars, yogurts, sports drinks
  • Have fresh fruit on hand – while you don’t want to have a high level of natural sugars either, fruit makes a nice transition food as you start putting these strategies to practice
  • Avoid processed foods – the more whole foods you eat, the less added sugar you’ll have in your diet just by default
  • Be good to yourself – sugar is often the fall back way we reward ourselves after a long day or after hard work, but there are lots of ways to be good to ourselves: extra rest, time out to ourselves, a walk outside, time with a friend

What do you think? Are you ready to kick the habit? Leave your comments & questions below.

Comments 2

  1. June 21, 2013

    Hey Kim – thanks for the kind words and note!

    The AHA (American Heart Associate) not to exceed number is the 24 grams for women and that is “added sugar”, so this does not really include the sugars that are naturally found in your food (like fruit). Really what the AHA is worried about is the fructose. High levels of fructose on the liver is where the problems occur. They are trying to keep you below around 15 grams of fructose per day. Sugar is roughly 50% glucose and 50% fructose.

    You mentioned agave and that is about 80% fructose so you will want to avoid that if you can. The reason nutritionists have recommended agave is because fructose does not raise blood sugar (which is a good thing), but the problem is it higher in fructose which is the problem for heart disease (and other things).

    So if you want to reduce the risk of heart disease you will want to limit the “added sugars” to below around 24 grams (or 32 grams) per day. This would include your agave, honey, maple syrup, sugar, high fructose corn syrup, brown sugar,….

    Now if you are looking to lose weight then you will want to target your “added sugar” as close to 0 grams as possible and just enjoy the natural sugars found in your food like fruits and vegetables. If you do this your “total sugar” will end up being somewhere around 30 grams per day or so. At this level over time you internal systems will rest and you will lose weight.

    Of course there are other factors besides sugar, but sugar is the first key factor to look at.

  2. Kim Packard
    June 21, 2013

    Hi there. Thank you for the informations the videos on another post. They were very informative and easy to understand. We have made a lot of changes in our diet in the last year but this is one place where we struggle. When they speak of sugar are they talking about ALL sugar or only refined sugar? The only sweeteners we use are 100% Grade B maple organic syrup, organic raw honey and sometimes organic agave nectar. Do those all count as well as fruit? It seems almost impossible to keep sugar intake under 24 calories. If you have one medium banana and an apple during the day you already have hit your limit. And like you said this is just to reduce the risk of heart disease. I’m trying to lose weight so I obviously need this to be lower. Any tips or suggestions would be helpful. I appreciate your emails and tips. I wish I could participate in one of the programs but unfortunately budget won’t allow. 😉

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