Whenever I work with a new client who needs to get off the sugar roller coaster, I see some familiar patterns as the client struggles with her or his sugar addiction.
The pattern may include lapses, relapses, frustration, embarrassment, giving up, moving between compliant and noncompliant behaviors, getting past all of these, and finally moving forward decisively.
As the process goes on, a wide variety of mistakes may occur that could be labeled "predictable" because they're anything but unusual or strange. These are things many clients have done before and conquered. Best of all, they can be modified so things progress as they're supposed to - with the end result of getting off sugar for good.
In this article, I decided first to list the mistakes that are common in trying to quit sugar. On my own journey to becoming sugar-free, I made all of them (if we're accurate, probably a bunch more). I discovered what I had been doing wrong mentally and emotionally - things that had kept me from becoming a successful quitter.
Second, and more importantly, I wanted to list the changes I discovered were key in making quitting sugar possible. Those were the Mindset Shifts I needed to stop resisting - and finally implement - so I could quit sugar successfully.
My Addiction Created This Sugar Quitting Mindset
I'm a good person to talk to about sugar addiction. I have a PhD in psychoactive nutrition (how foods affect brain chemistry), with a specialty in sugar addiction. Before that, I got a master's degree in exercise physiology. I'm also certified by ACE (American Council on Exercise) as a Health Consultant.
For my PhD, I wrote a dissertation on using psychoactive nutrition in the treatment of women with binge-eating disorder. In that dissertation, to the very best of my knowledge, I was the first person to outline the neurochemical pathways of sugar addiction, as well as a neurochemical and hormonal explanation for the sugar/fat seesaw.
So I have papers to prove I know this stuff. But there may be a more compelling reason to listen to what I say on the subject of sugar addiction.
I'm arguably the world's foremost recovered sugar addict. I get it.
I quit sugar more times than I can count. I tell this to all my clients because it's helpful for sugar addicts when they know I'm not just preaching from an academic perspective, or lecturing on something I've read about but don't "really" understand.
In the process of making every mistake in the book - and inventing a few of my own - I discovered a formula that works. To ensure it was effective, I researched that formula for my dissertation.
It turned out to be quite effective.
Mindset Mistakes That Mess Up Quitting Sugar
Let's look at these mistaken notions about quitting sugar that kept me stuck for quite some time - and might be keeping others stuck, as well.
Mistake 1: Expecting quitting to be easy
You'll probably have good days and bad, easy moments and difficult ones. If you expect quitting to be easy, you might be unprepared for bad days or difficult moments that come along.
Instead, expect that it will take effort to quit. If you know that going into the process, you'll be ready to deal with whatever comes up.
It's not that quitting sugar won't bother you at all, but you'll be less reactive. Not only will you be less reactive to external factors - like tempting foods around you - but you'll also be less reactive to internal factors, like sugar cravings.
Eventually, you'll be non-reactive to sugary foods in general, whether you see them, smell them, or even taste a little. It's definitely worth getting to that point!
As for cravings, liquid B-complex is the most effective short-term solution, as explained in a previous article.
Mistake 2: Not having a solid system
It's easy to find questionable "wisdom" on websites, in magazines, in books, on podcasts. But it's not a good idea to cobble your plan from a mishmash of unrelated bits of advice.
Instead, stop jumping from plan to plan, guru to guru, book to book. Find one plan and stick with it.
Because I quit sugar before it was recognized as harmful, I had to piece my plan together from my doctoral research. Not every step was a clear one forward, so there was backsliding, sometimes pretty far. My persistence and continued research eventually led to a real and solid system.
Part of that solid system is to focus on your sugar addiction first until you succeed in quitting sugar and feel ready to move on to the next issue. This isn't the time to focus on weight loss, become a vegan, go raw, or schedule your life makeover.
Whatever your next need might be, conquering sugar addiction gets top billing now.
Mistake 3: Looking for support... in all the wrong places
It's only natural to want support. But telling the wrong people about your decision to quit sugar could be a mistake - and could lead to sabotage that undoes your efforts!
For example, telling everyone at the dinner table that you're turning down dessert because you're addicted to sugar might result in this:
"Have it; you can eat less tomorrow."
"Just work out a little harder tomorrow."
"A little bit can't hurt."
"But I made it myself."
Not one of those comments shows an awareness of the issues you're facing. And if they succeed in getting you to go against your plan, you're the one who suffers and has to start over again.
Why Bother? The Power Of Quitting Sugar
Please don't underestimate the impact of sugar on your life.
It's easy to think that eating - or not eating - sugar is just a nutrition decision. But that decision reaches far.
Sugar can and does change your health, and definitely not for the better. Have you been dealing with diabetes or pre-diabetes? Do you have high blood pressure? What about high cholesterol or persistent overweight? These health issues are typically attributed to fats (or salt), but sugar could be the culprit in all of them.
Do you have mood swings or "low" moods in general? Quitting sugar can help with those. Quitting can also help you control your appetite, eliminate binges and stop out-of-control eating.
How would it be to have even one of these issues under control? What if you could change several of them? How would you feel about your health, about yourself, and about being a role model for your kids?
The 5 Key Mindset Shifts I Discovered
As I developed my plan for quitting sugar, I learned that getting into the right mindset was - is - the first step. Nothing happens without that mindset shift.
Shift 1: Stop looking for a loophole.
If there were a loophole in this sugar addiction thing - some sneaky sugar I could eat without any bad effects - believe me: I would have found it. Nobody looked harder than I did.
Accept that, for us, for you, sugar is not food - even if everyone else you know can eat it with no problems whatsoever. And keep in mind that some of them will eat it despite the problems they have with it. Do what's in your best interest.
Shift 2: Set yourself up for success.
Prepare to win the sugar battle by de-junking your kitchen. Don't keep sugary foods in the cupboard and tell yourself you won't eat them. Just don't.
Buy the things you'll need to stay on track: plenty of protein, liquid B-complex, vegetables. Drink lots of water.
Remember to fight one battle at a time. For now, just get off sugar. Then fix other stuff in your life.
Shift 3: Work out no matter what!
Workouts are key in changing brain chemistry. Actively schedule them into your day and your planner, whichever type you use.
When things get busy, don't skip your workout and vow to start tomorrow. Make your workout as important as any business appointment. Reschedule it in your planner, and keep it.
Shift 4: Follow the most reliable instructions.
Don't use sugar "cures" offered by people who don't understand the brain chem of sugar addiction. Anyone who suggests the following (or any variation) is utterly out of touch with what's really going on for a sugar addict:
• Eat fruit if you crave sugar.
Do not follow that advice. Fruit IS sugar and won't help you quit.
• Eat the sugary food you crave, then have something healthful.
Post-facto broccoli will not help you quit sugar.
• Eat the sugary food you crave slowly and savor it.
Eating sugar slowly and voluptuously will not help you quit.
• Go for a walk. Change the scenery. Think of something else. Talk to a friend.
As previously covered, sugar cravings are neurochemical, therefore physiological. Pretending they're imaginary won't help you quit.
Shift 5: Focus on the big picture.
Quitting sugar is a long-term goal; it's never Over.
At the first fitness job I ever had, a woman joined the gym and said she wanted to lose 10 pounds and quit the gym. We see what's wrong that approach, but she couldn't.
Don't make that kind of mistake with sugar. Staying sugar-free is a long-term commitment to yourself. It takes courage and acceptance. Don't think of it as a "diet" and treat yourself to a brownie when the quitting's over.
Bonus Tip: Put This To Work Now
Sugar addiction is a real problem with real consequences that affect both your physical health and your mental state.
When I was quitting sugar, I wanted help many times but had to do it alone. No one even believed sugar addiction was real, so they never took me seriously. Under those circumstances, how could anyone have good advice for me?
I had to construct my own plan and test it in my doctoral research study. I have now used it successfully for 20 years for thousands (yes!) of clients.
G.K. Chesterton said, "I do not believe in a fate that falls on men [or women] however they act, but I do believe in a fate that falls on them unless they act."
It's one thing to read and talk about conquering sugar addiction. As stated above, the right mindset is essential; nothing moves forward without it. But mindset is only half the process, and it remains in potential form until we do something about it.
Implementation is the true power that makes a sugar-free life happen.
About the Author:
I'm dedicated to helping you conquer sugar addiction so you can transform your health, stay addiction-free, and change your image of you. Access your free copy of "3 Mistakes People Make When Trying To Quit Sugar" (NOT the same mistakes as in the above article!) when you visit http://www.FoodAddictionSolutions.com