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If you are trying to break free from your sugar addiction as part of your 2012 self-improvement plan, you are not alone. There are 27,100 global monthly searches for the keywords “addiction to sugar” according to Google. If so many people are looking for information about sugar addiction, why is it so hard to break the addiction in real life? I think the answer boils down to this: people don’t know the appropriate steps to take to create a positive feedback loop.
A positive feedback loop is an effective tool for changing behavior. According to an article in Wired magazine, a feedback loop involves four distinct stages: data collection, information relay, consequence, and action.
“There must be a clear moment when the individual can recalibrate a behavior, make a choice, and act. Then that action is measured, and the feedback loop can run once more, every action stimulating new behaviors that inch us closer to our goals.”
I’ve created 5 steps will help you create a positive feedback loops in the real world to change your behavior around sugar. If you practice these steps on an ongoing basis, you’ll break your sugar addiction for good:
- Clear all foods that contain sugar from your pantry and refrigerator.
If you are going to stand firm against the allure of sweet foods, you’ll have to get all of temptations out of your household. It’s not enough to get all of the obvious sweets like bags of sugar, candy, and cookies out of the house. You also have to get rid of common foods that contain hidden sugar. Foods with hidden sugar are typically acidic or bitter foods that food companies have pumped sugar into. This makes the food desirable to the typical American palate. Pay special attention to pasta sauce, condiments, and snacks like energy bars and beef jerky. For more foods to watch out for, check out this list: 6 Common Foods Packed With Hidden Sugar. Pay attention to the following words on nutrition labels: high fructose corn syrup, evaporated cane juice, brown rice syrup, and fructose. These are code words for sugar that the food industry uses to confuse you. For a complete list of code words for sugar, check out this article by The Consumerist: 30 Code Words For Sugar. You will probably find more items than you expected that contain sugar in your household. Throwing away your favorite salad dressing is going to hurt. It’s going to hurt badly. Dig deep down into your heart for inner strength, and then chuck that sucker into the trash.
- Eliminate all foods that contain sugar from your daily diet for 3 weeks to start.
Now that you aren’t digging into sugar at home, now you have the big bad world to contend with. You’ll start to notice that temptations are everywhere now that you are starting to become mindful of your food intake. Have you ever noticed the strategic placement and lighting of the cake pops and scones while you are waiting in line at Starbucks? It’s like that for a reason. Sugary foods are a tempting add-on to many grocery store and food establishment purchases. If you have a hard time fending off the temptation to eat sugary foods out in the real world, try some of the steps outlined in this blog post from the blog Yoga Body Nutrition: eliminate low-fat and fat-free foods, drink water, and watch your fruit intake. Eating low-fat and fat-free foods can decrease satiety and leave you craving simple carbs. Try carrying around a water bottle and a sandwich bag of almonds in your backpack or purse to eat when you have a craving while running errands.
- Find non-sugar flavor enhancers to cook with.
Sugar is great to cook and bake with because it makes everything taste better. One you take a few weeks off from eating sugar, you’ll start to notice that foods like milk, almonds, and carrots taste unbearably sweet. Use this recalibration of your taste buds as a way to explore new ways to enjoy sweet tastes. For example, sprinkle cinnamon and nutmeg in your morning latte for a gingerbread latte effect. If you are in the mood for a sweet and creamy dessert, try this 3 Ingredient Sweet Potato Pie recipe from the Life as a Dreger blog.
- Practice not indulging in sweets using “The Flinch” method.
The Flinch is a free eBook written by Julien Smith. You can download it here. In his book, Julien describes the flinch : “It’s a reaction that brings up old memories and haunts you with them. It tightens your chest and makes you want to run. It does whatever it must do to prevent you from moving forward. … Whatever form it takes, the flinch is there to support the status quo.” In an interview with Robb Wolf, Julien talks about how exposing yourself to difficult situations over and over again can help you beat this flinch mechanism that prevents you from making changes in your life. In his interview with Robb, Julien notes:
“Really, it is an emotional problem. So the only way to solve that is through understanding that emotion that you are going through which is essentially, which have named “The Flinch” in going by exposing yourself to The Flinch over and over and over again through doing things that are difficult in various spheres, you learn to be able to react appropriately to emotional resistance to change.”
In terms of beating your sugar addiction, you can apply the flinch method by exposing yourself to sugar repeatedly and choosing to not eat the sugar over and over again. The flinch that you have to master is the impulse to eat the sugar.
Here a few common situations that will help you practice overcoming the flinch:
- Ask to see the dessert menu at a restaurant, then don’t order the dessert.
- Got to the ice cream aisle in the grocery, store, pick out your favorite flavor, but don’t put it in your cart.
- Look at the pastry case in your favorite coffee shop while you are waiting in line, but don’t order a pastry.
Basically, instead of ignoring temptations, the flinch method allows you to practice flexing your new found willpower.
- If you slip up and eat sugar once, don’t go on a sugar binge.
When it comes to you vs. sugar, breaking free from your sugar addiction is not a zero-sum game. If you slip up by eating a piece of birthday cake, don’t admit total defeat. Simply acknowledge that you lost one battle, then continue on your merry sugar-free way.
Are your working on beating your sugar addiction? How is it going so far? What are the top challenges that you face?
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