Finding added hidden sugars and making sugar free foods easy to find
Sugar Free For Life. It sounds like a beautiful phrase, like an idea goal and at the same time, like something that seems impossible to achieve. Given my level of sugar dependence and how much I crave foods filled with sugar and simple carbohydrates, there are some days when living a sugar free life just feels too much.
I think that is part of the issue. I some days only focus on the big, end goal, forgetting that my journey to being sugar free for the rest of my life must be taken on step at a time. Even more importantly, I can’t take this journey alone. I have been pretty open about the fact that I go to therapy and Overeaters Anonymous. This is about 10-16 hours a month talking about my food behaviors with people who understand. There’s more time spent on my own thinking about what I’ve learned in these meetings. Also, I’m lucky to have this blog where I can share my thoughts and connect with new people.
What I wanted to talk about today are some key ideas that I know people who have overcome sugar addiction for decades use to take it one step at a time. I think incorporating just one of these at a time could help immensely. I haven’t gotten all of these perfect, but I’m working on them a little bit at a time.
There is a huge difference between making a diet plan and making an eating plan. A diet is a temporary change, and in my experience, is a sudden jolt into a much different lifestyle that you know will be over soon. There are tons of 30, 60 and 90 day “diet challenges”. People often diet getting ready for summer, for an event like a wedding or to drop some weight before a food-heavy vacation.
This kind of approach is not good for sugar addicts because it only results in a temporary change. With sugar and food addiction, a healthy recovery is not just temporary. We seek a change that will last a lifetime. To do this, we need to eat like we can eat for a lifetime. I personally know that I can lose weight eating 1,000 calories a day, but I will feel weak, unable to work out and emotionally upset.
I want to eat healthy, whole foods that don’t have added sugar. I want to eat foods that don’t have simple carbohydrates. I like looking at recipe books for inspiration and talk with a nutritionist to understand how much of protein, starches and healthy fats I need to consume for my weight.
I like the two books here because one focuses on eating seasonal food (even though, honestly, I do not like the name at all), and Whole 30 focuses on nutritous, complete, unprocessed foods.
Though I am still learning this new lifestyle, I would not have made nearly as much progress if I hadn’t found a community of people who understand what I’m going through. Many of the tips I have learned from the people I met at Overeaters Anonymous. (Click here to learn more and find a meeting near you, online, or over the phone). OA requires no membership dues or fees.
I was briefly involved with Weight Watchers. At the time, the program wasn’t the right fit for me, but I know people who love being involved. It does require payments though and is not free.
Journaling is an incredibly helpful tool. In my journal, I can record what and when I’ve eaten, how I felt while eating and how I felt throughout the day. It has become easy to see when my emotions are guiding how often I eat and what I eat. I can review my day in full, noting if I let a stressful day at work become an unhealthy meal or snack.
While I’m focusing on changing, it can become easy to see all the things that I am doing incorrectly. So, it is also important to take note of things that you are doing well and have done well throughout the day. No one is able to change overnight, and there are so many things you do well every day. It is important to acknowledge this as you look to change your future.
I personally find that when I occupy my mind and feel useful, my urge to give into sugar cravings go down. I often eat the wrong foods when I am bored or when my self-esteem is low. When I put my time into communities and causes that mean a lot to me, I am reminded of how I can be a tool for good in the world, my self-esteem goes up, and I’m too busy to sit around and give into food cravings.
The reasons for sugar and food addiction are complex and varied, but hopefully some of these steps can help you figure out the root of your addiction and start to slowly, but surely, make steps to overcoming the cravings while making sure you fuel your body with the food it needs to function and keep healthy.
What tips do you have to share on going and staying sugar free for life? Let me know in the comments please. I’d love to have some more ideas!