Have you ever reached for a cookie for an afternoon pick-me-up, only to accidentally eat the entire box? Or, worse, hidden or lied to your loved ones about how much sugar you eat? If so, this article is for you.
We will give you a new set of skills for practicing abstinence in a sugar-filled world. You’ll create a new relationship with food, and you’ll be able to enjoy life without wondering when sugar is going to take charge again.
You might not even realize that you’re addicted to sugar
Comfort wasn’t always immediately available, but sugar was always there for us.
But as we began to rely on sugar for emotional support more and more, our weight began increasing.
For a long time, you might be thinking that fat, or genetics, or leptin, or whatever the latest pseudoscience said, was your problem. Anything but sugar. you even thought you were the problem.
What you might not realise is that our relationship with sugar might be influenced by emotional factors. What’s more, this dependence might be years in the making.
Our relationship with sugar has been complicated since childhood. We celebrate life’s big moments with sugar – birthdays, for example, and weddings – and little ones too, like ice cream on a hot summer day. It’s not going to be an easy relationship to get out of.
But the truth is, sugar isn’t only making you miserable – it’s killing you. Sugar impacts your brain in the same way alcohol, cocaine, and opiates do. On sugar, your brain gets flooded with the feel-good chemical dopamine, which then leaves you wanting more.
When rats go through sugar withdrawal, they experience symptoms like teeth chattering, tremors, and depression. Even worse, when dropped into a body of water, rats which are going through sugar withdrawal are less likely to try and climb out. They’ve lost their will to survive.
To make matters worse, it’s not just sugar that does this. It’s also grain flour, which your body reacts to in the same way as it does to sugar. This is probably hard to hear. But facing hard truths is the first step to recovery.
Examining your relationship with sugar honestly will reveal some surprising insights
Chances are, you’ve tried to take charge of your dependence on sugar. Maybe you’ve tried many times, only to fail repeatedly. That isn’t your fault, however – it’s the diets you’ve tried, which were set up for people who don’t have relationship problems with food. It’s like taking Advil for a case of strep throat.
So let’s look closely at your relationship with food, to try and understand it properly. The first step is an honest examination of your history with food. Write down every attempt you’ve ever made to get your relationship with food and weight under control – every doctor, diet, new workout, quick fix – and why it ended.
If the goal is to examine your relationship with sugar, you’ll first need to understand whether you’re an addict. For starters, take the Yale Food Addiction Scale quiz by thinking about the following topics in an honest way. While answering, remember that addicts instinctively protect their substance. Be mindful as to whether you’re protecting yours.
Ask yourself whether you frequently lose control of how much you’re eating, or eat more than you planned to. This meant nipping to the kitchen for an after-dinner cookie, then realizing, all of a sudden, that you’d eaten the entire package.
It might also mean vowing over and over again that you won’t eat bread while waiting for your appetizer at a restaurant, but giving up and doing it anyway. Then, you might feel overwhelming guilt for having let yourself down.
Emotional reactions to eating are another hallmark of food addiction. If you’ve felt so much guilt and shame at your eating that you’ve skipped life events – weddings, for example – you might want to examine your relationship with food. Similarly, if you feel emotional pain when you cut back on your favorite foods, that’s a sign of a larger issue.
There are other telltale signs of food addiction in the questionnaire – if you’re concerned, it’s worth looking up the complete quiz online.
Change doesn’t come easily, especially for those in an addictive, problematic relationship. You might be thinking, I can’t lose weight, or maybe, I can’t live without sugar. What would you advise a friend who said something like that? Odds are, you’d tell him to open his mind up to the possibility of change.
So now it’s your turn: next, you’ll learn how to put into practice the actions that will eventually change your life for the better.
By taking seven vows at the beginning of your relationship, you will set yourself up for success
So you’re ready to kick your old relationship with sugar to the curb and start a new one. That’s great news! But you’ll need to change your habits first. To prepare yourself to do that, you need to set some ground rules by taking seven vows, which you’ll then stick to for the next 66 days.
Now, 66 isn’t a random number. Research shows that it takes 66 days for something to become a habit. You don’t need to comply with all the vows all the time, but to reestablish a healthy relationship with food, you do need to try.
Your first vow is to keep an open mind. You have to unlearn a lot of things about food – and yourself. Go easy on yourself. Insults like I’m a failure or I can’t lose weight aren’t helpful. Keeping an open mind means engaging with the possibility of a new you.
Your second vow might be obvious by now: to be sugar-free. That means sugar and all its aliases, sugar substitutes, and sugary drinks. Sugar is everywhere, from hot sauce to fruit juice to salad dressing and even dried fruit. Just say no.
Your third vow is to also be grain flour-free. You’ve learned that your body reacts to grain flour just as it does to sugar. Leave it out.
Your fourth vow is to be mindful of your volume. To make things easier, at least for the first 66 days, weigh your food. Sure, you might hate it. But it might simplify your choices in a way that works for you.
Your fifth vow is to eat every three to four and a half hours. Getting too hungry makes it difficult to make good decisions about your new relationship.
Your sixth vow is to be a planner. Meal planning is associated with a healthier diet and a lower body weight. Plan out exactly when you’re going to the grocery store, what you’ll buy there, what you’ll prepare for the week – heck, even plan when you’re going to do your planning!
Your seventh and final vow is to weigh yourself in a loving and accountable way. You have to figure out what is a healthy relationship between you and the scale. For some people, daily weigh-ins work. For others, staying away from the scale altogether has been successful. You need to find the balance between obsessing about and ignoring your weight.
This 66-day reset will lay the foundation for a new relationship with food
So you’ve taken your vows and committed to your new relationship with food and eating. Congratulations! The next 66 days will be a complete reset. There’s no expectation that you’ll live this way for the rest of your life, but if you can do it for 66 days, your relationship with food will be changed forever.
Your eating plan for this period consists of five major food groups: protein, carbohydrates, fat, fruit, and vegetables. Obviously, flour and sugar aren’t on the list, but let’s be realistic – you can’t expect yourself not to eat a single trace of either for the rest of your life. The rule of thumb is that if sugar or flour comes fifth or later on a food’s ingredient list, you can eat it.
Now let’s get into the nuts and bolts of your 66-day reset plan. Every day, you’ll be eating three meals and a snack. The details are up to you, but do make sure to eat every four and a half hours. One tip, though: if you’re prone to nighttime binges, avoid having your snack after dinner. A nighttime snack can start you down a slippery slope to a night of eating and a morning of shame.
When it comes to portion size, get out your measuring cup and scales – it’s time to retrain your eyes and stomach to recognize a healthy portion. This might not sound fun, but remember, you’re carefully measuring just for now, not forever.
Next, lay the groundwork for your 66-day reset. Begin by going back and taking your vows again. Then plan out at least three days of meals, making a list of the ingredients you’ll need and where you’ll get them. Now it gets harder: throw away any unhealthy ingredients you already have that you know you’ll lie awake thinking about at night. You know yourself, so don’t try to rationalize. Just dump it.
A single day’s meal plan might look something like this:
Breakfast: two eggs, one piece of sprouted bread, ⅓ of an avocado, or ⅔ of a cup of berries.
Lunch: six ounces of water-packed tuna, one tablespoon of mayonnaise, one flour-free wrap, and vegetables.
Snack: one cup of carrot sticks, six tablespoons of guacamole.
Dinner: five ounces of roast chicken, one small sweet potato, one tablespoon of butter, and steamed vegetables.
It’s a solid plan. But there will be cravings, doubts, and missteps along the way – in the next section, you’ll learn how to deal with those.
Making room for a better you by ending your relationship with sugar
Most diets are about food, but breaking up with sugar is about ending a relationship. That means dealing with some big feelings, such as regret and fear, which are part of the grief you’ll naturally go through.
You’ll likely experience the five stages of grief, too – denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance. Allow yourself to experience these. Accept the loss of the relationship, and take time to meditate on the change you’re experiencing. Rituals, such as burning sage in your home, can be a big help with this.
You’ll also need to prepare yourself for the physical fallout that comes with quitting any addictive substance, be it sugar, alcohol, or cigarettes. This can include jitters, sleeplessness, anxiety, and headaches. Have faith that these will pass. Going back to sugar will only extend your detox period.
Another way to mark the end of your relationship is to write a farewell letter to sugar. Think about what you thought the relationship could be like in the beginning – maybe you thought you’d be able to enjoy a single cookie without eating the whole pack, for example. Then go through your painful memories with sugar, and write about them.
Finally, read your letter aloud. This could be to your best friend or simply in the mirror to yourself; the point is just to make it feel real. Afterward, get rid of the letter. Burn it, bury it – it’s up to you. The process is yours.
Next, it’s time to develop skills that’ll help you create a new, stable relationship with food. There are two types of skills: right-now skills and long-lasting skills.
Right-now skills help you deal with boredom and stress without turning to sugar and flour; distracting yourself with YouTube videos, for example, or taking up a hobby.
Long-lasting skills create a support system to safeguard you from your old bad habits. Having a community is crucially important because it connects you with other people and a larger purpose.
According to a study published in the Journal of Clinical Psychology in 2013, practicing gratitude can lead to higher life satisfaction. Meditation is a great tool for feeling more grateful and centered – there are countless free apps out there, too, so it’s easy to start.
You will need to solidify your new habits after your 66-day reset
All this talk about grief is enough to make you forget that there’s an upside to all this: your new life! Sugar and flour may have caused you to believe that you’re weak and lazy, but the truth? You’re not. You have the strength to repair your self-esteem and remember what your values are.
Ask yourself how you want to feel in your new life, what’s important to you, and what you want your relationship with food to be like.
Now, you might feel fabulous after your 66-day reset. But it’s important to remember that no one can be perfect all the time. Part of healthy self-esteem is forgiving yourself for slip-ups, which will happen. When you make a mistake, just take a deep, soothing breath, and go back to the 66-day eating plan for a while. Soon you’ll be right back on track.
So, you’ve reset your relationship with food over 66 days of mindful eating. You might be feeling great, but you might also be pretty bored of sprouted bread. The good news is you don’t have to eat like that forever.
But to really make a change in your life, the motivation has to come from within you, not from outside rules. Once you’re able to make this kind of change, you can practice humble eating. That means knowing your strengths and limitations and acting accordingly. Practicing humble eating means you’ll be able to allow some flexibility in your new relationship with food.
This might mean eating out more often or changing the plan to eat three or five times a day instead of four. Don’t like the results? Kick it back to the plan, and take stock after you’ve regained equilibrium. Some people can reset their relationships with food after 66 days, and others take years. We all heal at our own pace.
This breakup with sugar can be the first day of the rest of your life. It can help you remember who you really are, without the pain and trauma of out-of-control eating and endless dieting. It’s up to you to take the first step – and have faith that you’re brave enough to see it through.
You may have tried two or three diets in the past – or two or three thousand. But those were about food.
Now, you’ve learned how to break the painful cycle of overeating and yo-yo dieting, and reset your relationship with food and eating for good.
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