Freedom from Sugar
I was raised consuming milk from our goats, eggs from our chickens, vegetables from our garden, honey from our bees and wild Alaskan game and fish courtesy of my outdoorsman dad. It sounds idyllic to me now, but at the time I remember being extremely jealous of the Twinkies, Cheetos and Capri Suns that filled my schoolmates’ lunch boxes. I recall hiding salmon salad sandwiches on homemade bread, carrot sticks, and carob nut balls, while ogling my friends’ plastic wrapped goods and daydreaming that when I was grown up I would get to eat whatever I wanted. My parents were skeptical about processed food and sugar, which naturally gave me a keen interest in and desire for sweets. I loved to visit the homes of my friends so that I could suggest that we raid the kitchen and feast on the junk food that filled the cupboards. Suffice it to say, I developed a pretty wicked sweet tooth, leading to a life-long battle between restriction (I knew that sugar was bad for me) and intense cravings.
When I discovered primal eating I finally found a way to end the pull of the sugar monster. I never thought that I could actually obliterate sugar cravings, but it actually happened! Here is how I did it.
Aligning with a primal eating plan, I vowed not to eat any form of sweetener- even the “healthier” alternatives (honey, stevia) for a month long trial period. The first week was difficult, but then I found my cravings lessening to the point that I didn’t even want fruit.
I upped my healthy fats. I started the day with coffee frothed up with MCT oil and ghee. I put avocados and a drizzle of olive oil in my green smoothies. I snacked on macadamia nuts and Mary Shenouda’s phat fudge (I omit the honey). My dinner always included a salad topped with a fatty dressing and veggies roasted in coconut oil. Increasing the fat in my diet made me feel so satiated and happy that I rarely thought about sugar.
I became a fat burner instead of a sugar burner. After about a month of no sugar I felt so amazing that I couldn’t imagine going back to my old ways. The transition had occurred: I was now using fat as my primary source of fuel. I quickly determined that my body prefers burning fat over glucose. I started eating according to the Primal Blueprint principle of WHEN (when hunger ensues naturally), instead of at set mealtimes. Really waiting for hunger signals helps me differentiate between emotional eating and true hunger.
Yes, about once a month I do get cravings. But I stop and ask myself questions: Am I truly hungry? Am I actually experiencing a different emotion (stress, anxiety) that I am trying to soothe by eating something sweet? I’ve found that I’m now pretty good at identifying hormonal or anxiety related cravings, which I can usually diffuse by taking a walk, reading a book, listening to a favorite podcast, or doing yoga. If the craving is a true craving, I have something delicious but low sugar: a packet of almond or Aritsana coconut butter (these are amazing when frozen) and I delight in each bite. In the past I would occasionally give in intense sugar cravings without analyzing the emotion behind them. I would eat something sweet, and not be satisfied with just a little. Trying to cure those cravings with sugar rarely worked, and I would catapult into a routine of overeating and eventual stomach ache and guilt. Having just a little sugar didn’t seem to work for me.
I know we are all different, with varying gut biomes and hormonal response systems, but if my story resonates with you- if you feel like you suffer from a sugar addiction- I urge you to consider a trial period of abstinence and emotional evaluation. Up your healthy fats, engage in activities that make you feel good, and question those cravings. What do you have to lose? If you are anything like me you have EVERYTHING to gain!