Sorry sugar, you’ve been a toxic friend, so you have got to go! The refined white stuff and its partner in crime, high fructose corn syrup, appear in the most unexpected places. With the help of processed foods, sugar creeps into your body with stealth-like moves. However, change your sugar habit and propel your health to the next level.
It’s easier said than done.
As an integrative health-wellness coach, I notice that before clients can move forward in fostering a new eating life, they need to slay the sugar dragon.
Combating or managing a chronic illness or disease often requires a healthy eating life. Unfortunately, for many, the need to satisfy sugar cravings trumps following a health and wellness program. In short, it’s easier to stay ill than to give up sugar.
A way to conquer excessive sugar consumption or addiction is to execute a well-thought-out plan.
Paving the Way to Change Your Sugar Habit
Refocus Your Energy
Most likely, you feel helplessly shackled to sugar. However, one of the most effective ways to drop kick a bad habit is to find an activity that prevents you from eating sugar.
You must choose an activity that is enjoyable, healthy, and unrelated to sugar. In other words, watching several episodes of the Great British Baking Show will increase your desire for sugar— not helpful.
Instead, join a book club, volunteer, do a crossword puzzle, journal, take a walk, bathe your dog.
Engage in Movement/Exercise
When we hear the word exercise, many of us, including me, associate it with a gym membership. Of course, many people join a gym, and it is the right fit for them. But it’s not the only way to experience movement or exercise.
Exercise serves as one of the most beneficial replacements for problematic behavior. When you experience a trigger for sugar, learn to transform that urge into a cue to go for a walk.
Rather than hit the drive-thru for a large soft drink or frozen coffee (that you probably really don’t want but are doing it out of habit), go for a bike ride.
No one says that you have to bike ten miles to win your battle with sugar. Be kind to yourself. When first starting, count minutes, not miles. If you are new to exercising, twenty minutes every other day is a strong start.
Make it simple (and fun). It helps to add a spark to exercise. Maybe you can buy a new pair of walking shoes. Then download a playlist or podcast episodes just for your exercise time.
Make that time memorable and soulful. Then, you can transform the urges or triggers of problem behaviors into cues for exercise. With that, do what you can to make activity available and difficult to resist.
Sugar triggers will show up at times when exercising is not possible. Relaxation techniques offer versatile ways to counter sugar cravings.
A particular tense day with the kids or at the office stress can trigger your desire for sugar.
You can evoke the parasympathetic nervous system’s relaxation response (PSN) in just ten minutes of relaxation technique.
Writer Scotty Smith often publishes prayers that address specific times of stress— times of devastating loss, periods of social, community crisis, or relational stress (which includes your relationship with food).
Take a deep breath. Breathing techniques and relaxing the body facilitate a greater calm and clear thinking, which could help you say no to sugar.
Use the 4-7-8 method.
- First, let your lips part. Then, make a whooshing sound, exhaling completely through your mouth.
- Next, close your lips, inhaling silently through your nose as you count to four in your head.
- Then, for seven seconds, hold your breath.
- Make another whooshing exhale from your mouth for eight seconds.
- Escape to a quiet space
Look around you. See if you can find a public garden, a walking path, or a quiet corner of the room (with a window). Sit there in silence and solitude.
Journaling is something you can do at your desk, or the kitchen table can serve as your temporary sanctuary (or sanity-uary, sorry it was too good not to add).
I love what writer Madeleine L’Engle suggests about journaling, “Where you just put down what you think about life, what you think about things, what you think is fair, and what you think is unfair.”
Journaling helps you see the big picture; it allows you to see how the day unfolded.
Words matter. We are mindful of how we speak to others, but what about the internal narrative we whisper to ourselves?
What does your internal narrative sound like these days?
It’s too hard to change ___________ (fill in the blank with the problematic habit).
I’ve tried everything, but I can’t quit.
I won’t deprive myself.
That’s just the way I am
Find Your Voice, Then Use It
Dr. James Prochaska asserts that “problem behaviors can be expected, supported, and triggered by other people in your life as well as internal forces.” By finding and using your voice, you can confidently communicate your thoughts, feelings, and plans.
Whenever I know, certain foods are not helpful for health. Therefore, I offer to bring a dish to share whenever I am in a situation. By bringing my recipe, my hostess benefits, as do I.
That way, I am exercising my voice with effective assertiveness.
Modify Your Environment
Willpower isn’t enough. Problematic habits function on autopilot triggered by context.
If you eat ice cream at night while watching television, then change the way you execute your habit.
Eat your ice cream at the kitchen table rather than in front of the television.
Avoidance is another way to alter your environment. Said, don’t buy ice cream. Then reward yourself for that small step toward long-term change. Note: your reward would not be ice cream.
Change Your Sugar Habit for the Long Haul
You can’t look for or bargain for an easy solution to sugar addiction. Unfortunately, there is no magic pill to take (well, I am sure there is, but it’s a fake, so save your money).
Overcoming your sugar habit takes a plan, techniques, support, and loads of hard work. A lasting change incorporates the spiritual, emotional, and physical. Any attempt to ignore all three seldom lasts.