Here are 6 secrets I’m using to quit sugar for good.
Why quit sugar?
Just check out this article (a great reference) for pic that illustrates “sugar face.” I have had a huge sweet tooth all my life and unfortunately it’s starting to show – my skin on my face is definitely not as plump or as elastic as I would like. :/
But better late than never. Quitting sugar is a good move for soooo many reasons. Here are some of the ways it f*cks you up – pardon my french:
- Glycation, ie collagen damage in the skin, ie early aging
- Heightened adrenal stress and adrenal exhaustion (strong ties to acne)
- Addiction and addictive behaviors
- Gut health compromise and candida overgrowth (these are a direct cause of acne)
- Insulin resistance and increased IGF-1 hormone (these are a direct cause of hormonal acne)
- Low energy
- Systemic inflammation (this is a direct cause of acne)
- Not to mention the obvious – tooth decay and compromised oral health
The article I mentioned earlier has more details and also discusses “wine face,” “gluten face,” and “dairy face.” Yikes.
Quitting sugar can be hard. It is important to respect that, not beat yourself up if you slip, and understand how insidious and difficult it is, so you can bring your A-game from the get-go. Here are some reasons why quitting sugar can be a challenge – by familiarizing yourself with the obstacles, you can be better prepared to overcome them:
- Sugar is truly, absolutely addictive – like drugs. Studies have shown that the way the brain reacts to sugar is startlingly similar to how it reacts to drugs like coke and heroin. If you eat it regularly, you might be (probably are) addicted.
- In Ayurveda, sugar is a food that is understood to soothe and comfort. If you are eating/craving a lot of sugar, check in with your emotions, with your levels of peace and joy. There might be self-comforting that needs to be cultivated and or emotional work that needs to happen otherwise you will keep giving in to sugar cravings.
- Cravings can be emotional, physical or they can be caused by the bacteria in our body. No joke. If you have high levels of candida, it is literally telling your brain to crave sugar because it loves sugar. The ONLY way to get rid of these cravings is to get your candida levels in balance. But, don’t despair, thinking your cravings will never go away – it is possible to wean yourself off of sugar and then literally stop wanting it.
- Sugar is everywhere and in everything. The Standard American Diet and the offerings at a typical grocery store will be super frustrating. Sorry.
Ok, well, there were the hard truths – sorry to be a downer, but I fully believe that you have to know your enemy or you’re just setting yourself up to fail.
Hopefully, you’re more on board than ever now with wanting to quit. You are? You’re ready to quit? 🙂 Sweet! (Yikes – no pun intended!) Here are my secrets to doing it successfully and sustainably. Note – these are not all intended to be used together. in fact, you may find some contradictions between some of them. The idea is to take what works for you and leave the rest:
6 Very Helpful Actions To Quit Sugar
ONE – Hide the existing sugar – or better yet, empty the house.
If you have a significant other, or other people in the house that aren’t interested in quitting sugar, ask them to do you a solid and hide their sugary things where you can’t find them. Then they can still enjoy their sugar, but you can operate as though the house was effectively sugar free. And really – they need to hide it and promise not to tell you and promise not to accidentally reveal their stash. They may still eat their sugary things around you – be prepared with a self-soothing technique such as an alternative to sugar you can indulge in (this can be anything from a healthier snack to a special magazine that it feels good to browse to a mantra that helps you stay strong and positive).
An even better option is to get all of the sugar out of the house. Do it. And DON’T do it by eating it!!! In an upcoming post, I’ll share my ideas for elegant “sugar purification rituals” – these will help you let go of the sugar and sugar-y things if, like me, you feel super guilty about throwing food out and/or you’re pretty sure if you force yourself to throw out the chocolate, you’ll just buy more in an hour.
I’m sorry, but if you think you can quit sugar with temptation surrounding you, you’re not the brightest crayon. That’s like an alcoholic resolving to quit whilst working as a bartender. Not happening. Don’t kid yourself. Your willpower is not that strong, and even if it was, why not use it for more profound means than staring at a pantry full of cookies and refusing to give in?
TWO – Make sugar the enemy.
When getting rid of the sugar, be ruthless and thorough. If you are able, toss it in the trash like the worthless garbage it is. Don’t kid yourself – sugar is not food, so you are not wasting food if you toss it. You are also not wasting money. In fact, you are SAVING money by getting rid of the substance that would have cost you more dentists and doctors visits and also cost you a lot of unhappiness and frustration with your skin, your health and your self-worth. That’s one option for tossing sugar by the way – to literally reframe it in your mind as something worthless and dangerous.
Usually, I discourage the tendency humans have towards black/white thinking since it causes pointless dogmatic conflict and I haven’t ONCE met a situation that didn’t have exceptions and shades of gray. I believe that one of the beautiful and profound things about humans is that we can hold two opposing contradictions as both true and valuable in their own way and not spontaneously combust.
HOWEVER. In certain cases, you can use this tendency to your advantage. With a little bit of self-convincing, you can make sugar into an absolute monster with no room for ambiguity. Your friends may begin to hate you when you shriek as they bring a donut to their mouth and begin to mutter about how they’re killing themselves and their skin and end your mini-performance with a dramatic shudder. BUT – this mindset is good for helping you literally draw the line in no uncertain terms.
This is a powerful technique and not for everyone, but just imagine training yourself to say the “mantra,” “sugar is a poison and it will harm me if I eat it” when you’re confronted with a cupcake at work or what have you. Now imagine saying that out loud with conviction to the person offering you the cupcake. YIKES. They’ll think you’re INSANE but the barrier you’ve set up to protect yourself will be pretty effective. The reason I say this technique is not for everyone, is because you have to be able to undo this self-hypnosis at the end of it all.
When you’re done weaning yourself off sugar, you have to come into balance and acceptance of its presence. Because you can’t keep scaring your co-workers like that and because sugar every once in a while is a harmless treat. Everything in moderation.
I want to offer one last justification for this pretty intense technique. Sometimes, when things are really out of balance (like our addiction to sugar) we have to purposefully go out of balance in the opposite direction (like with these highly charged mantras). It is the same as the candida diet – because the Candida has overgrown our body so much, to fix it we have to eat this incredibly restrictive (and in the long term) unhealthy diet. But in the short term, we MUST go out of balance to fix what is out of balance. Kind of along the lines of “fight fire with fire” and “desperate times call for desperate measures.”
OK, back to sugar.
If you MUST, give the sugar away, but don’t be surprised if no one wants your old cookies! I don’t recommend this route, even though it may SEEM like the most level headed and least wasteful. What ends up happening here is that you lose steam fast and just end up holding onto or eating all your sugary things. You also end up forcing stuff onto your friends and neighbors that they don’t really want and are just taking to be polite to you. Do you really want to be that person?
Seriously, toss the sugar and don’t look back.
THREE – Trade one addiction for another less harmful but similarly satisfying one – work your way clean step by step
It is VERY hard to create new habits and even harder to break bad habits. You need to go about it cleverly. One of the best ways to do it, is to “addiction up” which means to slowly swap one harmful habit/behavior/food for a slightly less harmful BUT STILL SATISFYING habit/behavior/food little by little. This trick really works for me. I have a hard time quitting coffee cold turkey, but if I slowly water the coffee down, week by week and introduce more and more coffee substitute little by little, eventually I am just drinking herbal coffee.
The key is to not over-task yourself or you fail. It’s the same kind of thing as: if you were to decide to run a marathon, then try it the next day, you would fail and fail super hard. But if you trained for one by setting realistic goals that progressively got harder but not impossible, then you would eventually succeed. Same thing with sugar – we have to be realistic in what we expect for ourselves and transition away from it as gently as possible, maximizing all chances for success.
Trading one thing for another is NOT the same thing as eating less and less of the same thing. If you decide you’re going to eat less chocolate day by day, it is NOT nearly as effective/success-prone as swapping out a healthier sweet for the chocolate but eating it just as often. When we try to restrict, it drives our brain CRAZY and then all we want is to binge on the thing we’re trying to move away from. That’s why REPLACE NOT REDUCE is the key strategy – at least at first.
Once you’ve successfully swapped the initial sugar-y food out with something less addictive/triggering, then you can play with reducing quantity without such a high risk of restriction rebound.
I do tend to eat lots of chocolate and I therefore crave it after every savory meal and also a ton at night. I got in the habit of eating chocolate while watching TV – it became a very emotionally satisfying bed-time ritual. To try to simply quit or eat less chocolate doesn’t work for me. What happens is that I eventually go back to how much chocolate I was eating, or even eat MORE because I feel restricted.
So I swap out the chocolate for foods that feel very similar to me – comforting and sweet. And foods that I can eat a (relatively) large amount of so I don’t feel restricted. In fact, in terms of QUANTITY my brain thinks it’s now getting a better deal! These foods include apple slices with almond butter, goji berries, tortilla chips, nachos, salty nuts, popcorn, chai tea with honey and cream and probably something else I’m forgetting. Are they super healthy? Not all of them, nope. Do they have less sugar than chocolate and do they still satisfy my cravings to a large degree? Yes! Then, ok!
Once I wean myself off chocolate completely, I can start working with these foods, replacing the least healthy with the most healthy, and or reducing quantity. You would be surprised at how many foods there are that can be just as satisfying as sweets but way better for you – experiment with dates and nuts – maybe even look for recipes to make healthier cookies. But eventually, replace the healthier cookies with fruit or nuts. You can keep swapping, as long as mentally you convince yourself nothing’s getting taken away, it’s just getting traded out and the trade feels pretty fair to your mind. Eventually, you can swap the food for inedible objects or rituals.
The key is to go at your own pace, without getting caught up in mental narratives of restriction or guilt or shame or being too attached to some outcome/goal that needs to occur by a certain time. Slow and steady truly wins the race. Make sure that the trades feel relatively fair, so you don’t feel gypped or restricted. This may require some creativity or exploration on your part. It may also require you to really key into WHY you love this food so much, so you can begin to see other solutions that will satisfy that need/trigger.
Here’s an example of a swap chain:
3 squares of chocolate = Plate of nachos = Bowl of popcorn = Smaller bowl of popcorn = Cup of fancy tea (these trades may happen over the course of months, but in the end, you’re as satisfied with a special tea as you were with chocolate – winning!)
Here’s an example of a swap chain that ends is something inedible:
Chocolate = apple + peanut butter = 1/2 serving of apple/peanut butter = 1/4 serving apple/butter + 10 minutes to browse Vogue (normally a non-existant luxury) = luxurious me-time browsing Vogue
I know this may be a controversial (or convoluted) idea to some, so like I said earlier, if it seems like you might benefit, awesome. If you think I’m cuckoo, then you’re not obligated to do this by any means.
It is true that some people do better with quitting cold-turkey, while some people have more success with slow and steady swaps. You do you.
Four – use your ability to imagine strategically
The brain – more importantly, our imagination is one of our most powerful tools here. Earlier, I offered a strategy where you purposely vilify sugar to such an extent that you actually believe it.
Another great technique is to create WHY and WHERE statements. These are really powerful and I’ll share prompts for each in an upcoming post.
The Why Statement
But essentially the “why” statement should include an emotionally charged, really strong argument AGAINST sugar, so when you read it you’re reminded of all the reasons you want to quit, all the harmful things it does to you, etc.
The more compelling/raw/scary these statements are the better. What is really helpful is to remember specific times/memories when your addiction to sugar really hurt you. Like that time at work you took the last cupcake even though you hated yourself for being that person, or how much you had to pay to get a crown for your teeth and how inconvenient and painful the procedure was, or that feeling of utter frustration/helplessness/self-judgement you feel when you really do want to not eat the cookie, but you end up eating half the box, or looking into the mirror on one of your worse skin days and feeling trapped and unhappy and unable to live fully – yeah – it’s gonna be raw. And that’s good.
You can also include reminders of the cold hard facts – how bad it is for you, how it negatively affects your body (it ages your skin 10x faster!) and so on.
Write all that stuff down.
The more deeply and painfully you feel it/write it, the more helpful it will be when you read it to keep you resolved to finally quit sugar.
So in no uncertain terms, remind yourself WHY you are quitting sugar. That’s the WHY Statement.
The Where Statement
If the Why statement is the “stick,” then the Where statement is the carrot. It involves you allowing yourself to fully indulge in dreams of who you – as your highest potential self – really are. You’re fearless, brave, beautiful and confident. You’re living life to the fullest. There’s joy and peace in every moment. You’re not only feeding your body with nourishing and healthy food, but it’s not a struggle – it’s an effortless and deeply satisfying act of love.
Create a crystal clear and detailed positive scenario. Maybe it’s really concrete – maybe it’s a step by step granular description of your perfect day. The Where statement can include encouraging and edifying mantras or affirmations as well. Sometimes, we lose motivation or forget why we’re doing something or where we want to be. If you keep your “Why/Where” with you at all times, it is easy to resist a small temptation when you are sure of your path, sure of your motives and sure of the positive changes you are seeking.
So an example of a where statement would be maybe a scenario where you get complimented on your skin, or a day where you can go bare-faced confidently, or walking through the grocery store full of energy and conviction and sweeping right past the bad stuff to lovingly select vibrant veggies humming with life and nourishment, or getting a promotion at work because your focus AND energy AND confidence are all through the roof. The more details you add and the more love you infuse the better. It’s the difference between this:
I want to have clear skin and then I’ll be happy
You are so beautiful on the inside and deserve to have clear skin to reflect that. I know how much your skin bums you out and I love you enough to do the work to create a lifestyle that will support both your skin and your soul. You are already so confident and beautiful, imagine how much better you will feel when your actions align with, as opposed to sabotage, this truth. Imagine when an old friend you haven’t seen in a while is so blown away by your skin that they comment on it, saying – wow! your skin looks so good! Imagine how delicious and satisfying it will be to hear those words.
I also personally LOVE mantras/affirmations – they are SO powerful for me, that any misgivings I ever had about them being too woo-woo or only for sad/broken people are so far gone.
Here are some of my favorites for coming out of a tough habit/place into more light, but make sure you find/create one that actually RESONATES with you. When you say/think it, you should feel a little surge of power or hope or conviction or peace or whatever it is. And the more you repeat your mantra, with feeling (not by rote) the more powerful it gets energetically.
- I believe in the good things coming
- There is a success story inside of me
- I invite my Highest Self to make this decision
- I am powerful enough to choose my long term goal over short term satisfaction
- Good things are worth waiting for
- I am beauty and truth, so my actions also are beauty and truth
- I choose to walk in alignment with my Highest potential Self
- I CAN change my story, I am the author of my life
- It is safe to try and fail. It is ALSO safe to try and succeed.
- I am open to success and to miracles.
- I have the power to do this already inside me
- Everything supports me and I am worthy of success and joy
- I trust myself and ALLOW myself to help myself and care for myself
- I choose actions that align with my truth
If you guys have some good ones, I would love for you to share!
Write the WHERE down and read your WHERE and WHY daily – or more than once a day! In fact, best of all, carry them with you so you can pull them out when a craving starts to tempt you.
And have your mantras ready!
Five – make it about love
Don’t make it about restriction – make it about love. You have to reframe how you see this. If all you see is that sugar, your favorite thing is going away, this will be super tough. Try not to tell yourself all the woe-is-me narratives. Tell yourself empowering, compassionate narratives instead. For example, YOU are in control, not sugar. No matter how strong that craving is, you always have a choice. Empower yourself, surprise and delight yourself by choosing the actions that your highest self, and not the craving, wants to take.
Ultimately, giving up sugar is a GOOD thing – it’s better for you to no longer be bound and dependent on a harmful food. It’s better for you to find more sophisticated and independent ways to soothe cravings and emotions, be they physical, mental or spiritual. Ultimately, the less dependent you are on anything or anyone, the less prone you are to getting caught in a negative or powerless place.
Take back your power. Begin to get comfortable with being slightly uncomfortable as you start to do this hard but insanely rewarding and powerful work of letting go and rising up. First we conquer sugar – but then bigger things!
When you write this success with sugar into the book of your life, it will be powerful motivation and inspiration for anything else you want to succeed at that appears tough. One success fuels another – let’s get your momentum going!
I talk a little bit more about changing your language and your mindset in this post about giving up the foods you love the most. (password is heart).
Six – baby steps
It’s easy to get overwhelmed when you see a life without sugar stretching before your eyes – when you look up at the mountain peak and it’s so far away it’s shrouded in clouds. So – don’t do that. Instead pick a tree about 50 paces away up the mountain and focus on the tree. When you get there, pick a rock just a little further up the path. And little by little, rock by rock, tree by tree, creating these bite-size micro-challenges, you’ll get up to the peak before you know it.
With sugar, first see if you can go JUST ONE MEAL without dessert. Then see if you can do a whole day. Soon you’ll have a streak built up that you will feel really proud about and it will be the desire to not break that streak (and in one instant NEGATE all your past hard work and commitment) that will help keep you going. And one day you’ll look down and the distance to the base of the mountain will be greater than when you look up and see the peak not too far away.
And then you’ll pick another tree just 50 paces away and make your only goal to reach that tree.
Little by little, meal by meal, day by day, hour by hour, minute by minute. Make that one big goal a string of teeny, easy to accomplish goals.
Tell me – which one of these ideas are you most curious to try?