I used to think I was addicted to sugar. I would do so well with my diet throughout the week, or leading up to a fight, and then I would binge eat like crazy, mainly on sweet foods like ice cream. Then I would feel horrible about myself. I thought I was weak and undisciplined. I felt broken.
At one point I tried a 21 Day Sugar Detox. I white-knuckled my way through the whole thing, and I was so proud I made it! But the whole time I was just daydreaming about all the sugary foods I wanted to eat when it was done, and I went right back to my old habits as soon as day 22 came around. Ugh.
Do either of these situations sound familiar? You’re not alone.
Thankfully I learned how to manage my sugar cravings WITHOUT going on a low carb diet or cutting out sugar completely. Sugar can be healthy in moderate amounts, and treating yourself strategically can help you avoid binge eating. I’ve got 4 strategies for you to practice to improve your relationship with sugar:
1) Start your day with a high protein, high fiber, moderate fat breakfast.
For example, eggs, bacon, and blueberries will keep you feeling full and satisfied longer than a donut will. Avoiding highly processed, sugar filled foods first thing in the morning will help decrease sugar cravings throughout the day. Starting your day off with a donut, or cereal, or Pop Tarts is going to start you off with a blood sugar spike that will start a vicious cycle of crashing and “needing” sugar every few hours.
If you’re in the habit of starting your day off with something sugary, and the thought of completely changing your routine feels overwhelming, you can decrease the effects of that sugar by pairing it with protein. So if you MUST have that donut, try pairing it with some eggs or a protein shake.
2) Don’t allow yourself to get too hungry.
If you wait to eat until you’re starving, you’ll be more likely to reach for something easy and sugar filled for quick energy, but this will lead to a crash, just like the donut at breakfast. Continue eating plenty of protein and fiber throughout the day, and drink plenty of water. And make sure your meals are satisfying, both physically and emotionally! Eating boring meals day after day, no matter how “perfectly balanced” or healthy they are, will lead to a binge at some point if you don’t truly enjoy them.
3) Incorporate small treats into your diet every day.
Allow yourself to eat sugary foods without calling it a “cheat” or feeling bad about it. You can enjoy any food you want in moderation and still have a healthy diet overall. There’s no such thing as a perfect diet, so stop trying. You’ll be better off eating a serving or two of your favorite foods every day instead of trying to resist them and then eating everything in sight once the weekend hits.
I know a lot of people feel like they can’t have certain foods in the house or they’ll overeat them, and I understand. But I want you to practice having small amounts of certain treats in your house, and practice eating one serving per day. Start with a food you enjoy, but don’t go straight for your ultimate trigger food. Single serving packages may be helpful. And this isn’t me encouraging to fill your house with junk food and use all the willpower you can muster. Still buy primarily healthy foods, but keep 1 or 2 treats around and have a little every day. When you start to build up reps of successfully stopping at 1 serving of a treat, you’ll start to feel more confident around other foods.
4) Mindset is everything.
If you keep telling yourself you are a sugar addict, you’ll continue behaving like a sugar addict. Stop thinking of foods as either bad or good. No food is inherently bad all the time, and no food is inherently good for everyone. You CAN control yourself with sweet foods, you just have to PRACTICE and allow yourself to truly enjoy them. Stop beating yourself up for not having enough willpower. No one has that much willpower every single day of their lives. Changing the way you think about eating sugar will make it immensely easier to manage your cravings.
These tips aren’t going to change everything overnight. You’ll have to practice them consistently to see an improvement, and you’re definitely going to mess up here and there and eat too much. That’s okay. You’re not a failure. You just need to look back and try to figure out where things went wrong, and try to do better next time. Keep practicing, and don’t give up. It will be worth it when you’ve broken the cycle of restricting and bingeing.
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