• How I Beat My Sugar Addiction

    June 27, 2012

    I’ve been meaning to write this post for awhile now since I finally feel in control of my sugar cravings. I guess you could say it’s been a long journey to kick my sugar habit once and for all. It definitely didn’t happen overnight. In fact, it took me a solid year and a half to truly overcome it.

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    If you look back at my old posts, the first time I shared my sugar “problem” was in December 2010. I had a rough few days of bingeing on desserts around the holidays, so I vowed right then and there to get it together. As I said in that post, if you don’t like something about yourself, change it, and that’s exactly what I did. I was sick of being controlled by sugar, so I set out to kick my habit for good.

    Since then, I’ve slowly made changes to my diet—ones that I knew I could sustain for the long-term. Just like losing weight, conquering my sugar cravings was something I saw as a permanent lifestyle change, so I needed to figure out how to incorporate sweets into my life without overdoing it every time I ate them. I knew going cold turkey would never work because I love dessert so much and wouldn’t want to live without it. (Dessert brings me great joy!) Plus, I knew if I tried giving up sugar all together, I’d only crave it more and go nuts the next time I was faced with a plate of cookies.

    I started my journey to conquer my sugar cravings by trying all of the tips you’ve probably heard before:

    • Drink water.
    • Get more sleep.
    • Exercise.
    • Brush your teeth.
    • Reduce caffeine.
    • Eliminate artificial sweeteners.
    • Slow down and find “sweetness” in non-food ways.

    All of these are great tips and many of them work well for others, but even after I tried most of these things, I still had a killer sweet tooth. I love to eat, and I love eating sweets even more, so my goal was to figure out what worked best for me. I had many ups and downs over the past 18 months, but, ultimately, here’s what worked for me:

    Eating more “real” food.

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    I can’t stress this one enough. It was so important in helping me overcome my sugar addiction. It also encouraged me take a good, hard, honest look at the way I was eating and, ultimately, it helped me clean up my diet.

    I realized that when I overdid it on sweets, I hadn’t eaten much “real” food. For me, this means something with substance—like meat, fish, eggs, beans, Greek yogurt, avocado, cheese, nut butter, etc. I also realized I was eating a ton of carbs and not enough protein and healthy fats. Sure, I was eating plenty of whole grains, fruits, veggies, and other nutritious foods, but I always wanted something more to eat, which meant I wasn’t fully satisfied and I’d go straight for the sweet stuff. When I started to increase the amount of “real” food in my diet, it was much easier to control my cravings.

    If I craved something sweet after I finished eating a meal, I’d go back for a second (or even third) serving. Usually, it was just a small portion, but I figured if I was craving something more to eat, it should be something nutritious and not sugar. Once I felt full from the second serving, I rarely wanted dessert. And if I did, a bite or two (a piece of chocolate or a small handful of butterscotch chips) usually did the trick. I felt satisfied and in control of my cravings, so it wasn’t difficult to stop eating sweets once I started.

    Getting the sweet stuff out of the house.

    Surprisingly, getting the sweet stuff out of the house was kind of difficult for me. I mean, I love dessert. You’d think, it would be as simple as just don’t buy it, but I found myself buying bags of butterscotch chips and baking cookies randomly whenever the craving struck. Then, during a grocery shopping trip one week, I forgot to buy butterscotch chips.

    Initially, I was bummed that I forgot to buy butterscotch chips, and I worried I wouldn’t able to make it through the week without something sweet in the house. I considered going back to the grocery store to buy some, but then it didn’t seem worth it to me. I was trying to kick my sugar habit, so why the heck would I make an effort to go buy sugar? I guess it finally clicked, and I stopped buying sweet treats for the house.

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    Not having this type of food in the house makes it so much easier to fill my diet with more nutritious foods, which brings me to what really helped me kick my sugar habit once and for all.

    Filling my kitchen with my favorite healthy-sweet foods.

    And I’m not just talking about bananas!

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    I fill my kitchen with raspberries, blueberries, blackberries, mangos… you know, all of the expensive fruit that I love so much. I figure if I’m spending the money on these pricey fruits, I won’t let them go to waste and they’ll be the first thing I go for when a craving for something sweet strikes. (Sweet potatoes also fall into this same healthy-sweet category for me.)

    Ok, you’re probably thinking: Fruit is not dessert. I totally agree, and I won’t tell you eating a bunch of strawberries is better than eating a Funfetti cake pop. Clearly, you can’t compare these two things within the same dessert category. But, I discovered if I paired fruit (or sweet potatoes) with a more “substantial” food, it often satisfied my sweet craving. My favorite combos: sliced banana with almond butter, fresh berries with Greek yogurt, Adora disks dipped into peanut butter, or fruit smoothies with protein powder mixed it. Additionally, sweet potato wedges + peanut butter is an amazingly satisfying sweet snack. For added sweetness, I’ll sometimes add cinnamon, shredded coconut, and/or raisins.

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    I still enjoy sweets—almost everyday, in fact—but the difference is I don’t need to have them. I can consciously make a decision whether I want to eat a sweet treat or not. Back in the day, I had zero control of my cravings and felt totally helpless around desserts— there was more than one occasion that I ate too many desserts and physically felt ill afterward. Once I started eating something sweet, I wanted more and more of it. Nowadays, I can enjoy one or two cookies and not eat the whole batch. There’s even been times that I’ve forgotten about baked goods or other delicious things in the house, which would have never happened 18 months ago. Let’s just say I’ve made great strides since December 2010!

    If you’re trying to kick a sugar addiction, I hope you found this post helpful. Of course, I’m not a doctor or Registered Dietitian, but these things worked for me, so they might work for you, too!

    Do you struggle with sugar cravings? What makes you crave sugar? What are your tips for controlling your sugar cravings?

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    { 200 comments… read them below or add one }

    JRSweet July 4, 2013 at 1:30 am

    I am going to begin reading these posts so that I don’t feel so alone and ashamed. I know my triggers, but have no power against them. One is that the new guy at work placed a jar of candy bars on his cabinet so that they are right at my eye level when I walk to & from my desk. Not nice!! I’m sure that I am eating more than half of the volume going in and out of that jar ;-(

    Next, I am a rebellious sort. It stems from growing up with a really controlling mother. So my husband, bless his heart, tries to help me make good choices with my eating. I do appreciate it, but at the same time get angry and want to show him who’s boss. When his shift changes and he isn’t around for dinner time, to DQ I go (for as many days in a row that I can). I do the healthy grilled chicken wrap and a medium blizzard ;-) Try the new smores blizzard, but ask them to make it with chocolate ice cream – yum!!

    Seriously! I need to stop. I’m getting too old to keep abusing my body. It is time to save the rest of my life from the addiction and childish rebellion! Help!!

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    Dausuul December 20, 2013 at 1:21 pm

    @JRSweet: Yeah, work can be a real challenge. I have co-workers bombarding me with Christmas treats right now. I don’t want to seem ungrateful, and I hate to throw out stuff they went to such an effort to make, but I’m getting really tired of coming back to my desk to find another red and green package of candy or cookies. The most insidious thing about sugar is how we use it to signify affection and friendship.

    Like the author, I find that fruit helps. (Not juice, but actual whole fruit.) It’s like methadone for sugar cravings; it’s not a substitute for the real thing, but it takes the edge off. Unlike the author, I’ve also found caffeine beneficial. A big cup of black coffee can kill my appetite and more or less shut down any food-related cravings. It does require that you get used to drinking the stuff black, though!

    And of course, not keeping sugary stuff in the home is key. I’ve learned through long experience that if I keep sweets in my apartment, I will eat them. That’s just how it is. So I don’t.

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    Chelle A August 2, 2013 at 12:05 pm

    Here is a product that helped me tremendously…Hope it helps :)

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    MegsFitness August 30, 2013 at 8:44 am

    found this through a google search for how to beat a sugar addiction, because I’m where you were at 18 months ago…. feeling out of control :(

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    Kammie @ Sensual Appeal October 8, 2013 at 10:58 pm

    I know this is an old post but I hope you see it. I just wanted to say this is extremely helpful. I am trying to beat my sugar addiction too and I am just where you were before you figured out you need to lose weight (I read your weight loss story). I can’t count calories because that got me in trouble before and I am doing the intuitive eating approach (or trying to anyway) but I know sugar is the thing that I really holding me back. These tips are great! Thanks so much!

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    cynthia October 22, 2013 at 12:56 pm

    I too am enjoying this website and blog. It’s nice to know that I am not the only person out there with a sugar addiction. And it is not easy to conquer. Every little bit of non-judgement advice helps. Thanks!

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    Serahe October 23, 2013 at 2:07 pm

    Thank you so much for writing this! Since that article came out last week about how oreos are more addictive than crack, I’ve decided to once and for all defeat my sugar cravings. That article made me realize that this is a SERIOUS addiction, look at how it was making me feel: ashamed, I would try to hide how much sweets I ate, inability to stop eating sweets until they were gone, weight spiraling…I can’t even stop when they make me feel sick or give me headaches. Something is seriously wrong with that, right?? I’ve started looking at it as an addiction because, ultimately, it WILL lead to sickness and death–scary.
    I’ve decided that whenever I feel a sugar craving, I will instead eat yogurt or fruit. This as been working and for the first time in my life, I was able to turn away from the bowl of Halloween candy (I swear, this almost killed me). I agree with Tina that staying away from junk food helps. I feel fuller for longer and it helps make the craving go away. The best thing I’ve learned so far is that the craving WILL go away. I felt SO good about myself for resisting the candy instead of disgusted and ashamed by giving into the craving. Good luck everyone!! <3

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    Linda November 1, 2013 at 10:55 am

    I also find that in the mornings, I have more self control and energy to cook, so I pack them with nutrient dense foods like a wide variety of vegetables, mixed with rice or protein, mixing veggies with everything I eat. This makes me feel more satisfied throughout the day.

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    Linda November 1, 2013 at 11:06 am

    I’m glad you had something different and helpful to say. You would think that clicking onto several websites would give you different answers instead of copy and paste ones. Thanks!

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    cgHipp November 12, 2013 at 11:56 am

    I have found that reducing my salt intake dramatically reduced my cravings for sugar – and it only took about a day to start noticing the difference. (I have hereditary high blood pressure, so I needed to cut the salt down anyway.) I try to maximize the taste of the salt I do use by using a lot less in my cooking, and adding it to my food when I eat it. You use less salt that way but you taste it more, because it’s not dissolved and diluted. When eating something like steak or chicken, I’ll even put the salt on my plate and pick up a few crystals with each bite.

    The same thing works for me with sugary foods as well. When I’m eating yogurt, for example, I keep the fruit and the yogurt separate in the container, and with each bite I get a taste of full-sweetness fruit. I have also found that many of the preserves I buy are actually a good bit less sweet than the fruit filling that is included with yogurt, so I’ll buy plain yogurt and eat it with my own preserves.

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    Mark November 22, 2013 at 2:51 pm

    Thank you thats really helps….. Love it

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    Effie November 23, 2013 at 9:53 pm

    Hi Tina! I’m new here and I found this post reinforced the new take I have on my journey to healthy eating. After struggling with dieting (paleo) and binge eating for close to a year, I became fed up with it and realized I don’t want to live a life without sugar. From what I can see so far from your blog, it’s clear you believe in moderation and living life to its fullest without excluding whole food groups! I love this mentality and think it’s such a great pointer to make sure we’re eating enough REAL food– of course we’re going to overdo it on sugar if we’re starving! It’s also encouraging to recognize that even people with a healthy lifestyle who are fit struggle with overeating and controlling their sugar intake. Thanks for the tips!

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    Lottie December 1, 2013 at 1:43 am

    Hi,
    First of all Tina I know the post is from a while back but thank you so much for it!
    Just to say to anyone who’s trying to crack down on their sugar addiction I too have been there and it IS possible. I used to eat a bag of cookies for breakfast, snack and lunch, usually finish off “lunch” with some kind of desert and maybe eat something savoury in the evening. Needless to say I didn’t feel good about it one bit. But I realised that what was leading to it was a sort of binge-restrict cycle where I’d eat too much sugar then tell myself “never again” and eat carrot sticks for the next 12 hours until my body was desperate for energy and I’d cave in to the cookies. So I can’t stress enough how important it was for me to eat more real food and as much as I needed. It took a lot of being honest with myself, but gradually I began to feel much better. Now I still have some days where I eat a lot of sugar, but usually the next day all I crave is savoury foods so I don’t worry about it.
    xxx

    Reply

    Prepared December 7, 2013 at 8:09 pm

    I just stopped eating the shit.
    It’s called making a decision.

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    k February 17, 2014 at 8:47 am

    @Prepared:
    This is a great post for sugar addicts! So why are you here then, if sugar is a none issue for you? It is for the rest of us who found this post! And yes, that would admittedly be nice – if we all could just do that. Decide. Once. But there´s a lot of battles. A lot of triggers and the amount of excuses to wriggle out the last promise to oneself are many. Most of us came here to get support and new advice how to make it this time, get a new fresh angle. Should i give up cause I´ve failed so many times before? Feel guilty and let it have the best of me? Cause I havn´t been abel to make that promise to mysef on numrous of occations -and keep it. No- back up on the horse!
    Guilt is the most useless emotion. Your post is shit. It don´t help no one. Try in the future to post stuff online that is constructive. Here´s a motto for you: IF YOU CAN`T HELP SOMEONE: that´s okay, just DON`T HURT THEM. Also – I have given a false email, so ill never see your reply – have a feeling it won´t be nice and yes – english is my third language and i´m dyslexic so I´m sorry for the spelling.

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    ChaseA December 11, 2013 at 8:58 pm

    This is a really great post! Some of your tips are classic while others are very interesting and I can’t wait to put them to good use! If anyone would like to follow my journey or join me in losing weight, check out my blog. I would appreciate it a lot. :) http://fatandaddicted.blogspot.com/

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    Lacey December 29, 2013 at 4:06 pm

    Is shit sweet? I imagine it was pretty easy to make that decision.

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    Jessica January 16, 2014 at 2:30 pm

    @Prepared: @Lacey: Someone had to say it. Thanks…

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    Jennifer January 4, 2014 at 12:36 am

    I am glad that I stumbled across this website. It make me feel like Im not alone with my addiction to not only sugar, but simply food in general. I gave up smoking 2 months ago, and Im honestly having an easier time with that.

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    fae January 6, 2014 at 12:44 am

    I am diabetic who abuses sugar dramatically. I had no idea others had the same problem. I have felt so guilty, that I haven’t wanted to face this addiction. I know it is killing me and I need to stop. This is the first time I have even admitted out loud that it is a problem. Hopefully admitting it is the first step. The other sad thing is I am a retired nurse and addiction counselor. I should know better.

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    Gina January 8, 2014 at 10:24 am

    So very glad I found this post. I have been struggling with this most of my life and like you the traditional methods do not work over a long period of time. ( When I was younger I was so active that it didn’t seem to be a problem) However, I am in peri-menopause and was recently diagnosed with anemia, which is adding to the hell. I often threaten to remove my own ovaries with a spoon. I am a teacher and I know that my job contributes greatly. We all self-medicate with sugar and the fact that I put chocolate as one of my favorites on my all about me form does not help. I received about 10 lbs of chocolate for Christmas from my students. (can’t blame them) Bottom line is that I will be 46 on Sunday and really feel much older. I don’t exercise and really by the time I get home at night I am just exhausted. It is a vicious cycle. I need to be kidnapped and removed from my life. I really need hope or I fear that my life will be cut short by my consistent poor health choices. I have never openly admitted this because that would be admitting weakness. However, I really need help!! Thanks for the inspiration. This is the year that I focus on fitness and family. My job is important and I love my sweet students but my methods for coping with the stress in my job is killing me. I can only blame me.

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    mandy February 4, 2014 at 3:23 pm

    Thank you for posting this, especially your suggestion regarding “real food.” I am often guilty of not including enough protein and fat in my meals, which gives me the illusion that I am eating superhuman lean and healthy but in the end only sets me up for crippling sugar cravings.

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    Amber C February 4, 2014 at 6:10 pm

    Hello…my name is Amber and I am addicted to sugar.
    I can skip cake, pie, cookies, and even brownies, but I cannot live without Moosetracks Ice Cream. I daydream about it, I sneak it, and I even dream about it at night. My goal is to just enjoy it twice a week for a while (down from 4 times) then down to once. I’m doing better already…I no longer drown it in Magic Shell first. Yay for small victories!

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    Kelly February 5, 2014 at 6:55 pm

    Gina and Amber,
    Oh I can so relate. Ice cream is my high lite in life. I am so addicted. I got on here tonight wanting help. I too Amber think about ice cream all day and can’t wait for my next fix. Gina, I too am a teacher and love what I do but when I eat ice cream and the other sweets, I feel like I deserve this I worked hard all day. I am hoping to get a better mind set this year about all the sweets. Thanks for not making me feel so alone!

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    Amber February 10, 2014 at 8:55 am

    Thanks for sharing! You don’t realize how addicting sugar is until you try to stop eating so much of it. And I don’t mean just dessert or Holiday candy. I too am trying to stop!!So, instead of eating ‘dessert’ after dinner I would make a cup of tea and put spoon fulls of sugar in it. Or eat bread with loads of jam on it. I am not one to fall for fad diets. I also don’t believe that a no sugar diet is healthy. But like you said to replace it with real food! Another good tip I heard from my nutritionist at work is when ever you feel like snaking on candy drink water instead. She said you might just be thirsty! It works for me sometimes. Either way drinking tons of water all day isn’t bad for you. Also, another thing I just started doing is when I am the grocery store counter (with only real food in my cart) and have to wait in line surrounded by all that dreaded candy, I grab a magazine instead of a candy bar. And @Prepared, you have obviously never been at the check out lane with two screaming kids, while on your period! And starving because you didn’t have time to eat lunch.

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    Trish February 13, 2014 at 1:59 pm

    To say that one “wouldn’t want to live a life without sugar in it” is kind of like when I smoked, I thought ” I wouldn’t want to live a life without nicotine”. it’s a sick thought, and I don’t expect that sugar addiction is quite the same as nicotine addiction; If i touch a cigarette, I will relapse. However if I detox from sugar I’m quite certan that I can have small amounts after a while and be fine. We’ll see. What I do know is that sugar is not a food group and going without added sugar (not all fruit) is certainly a very healthy thing to do. For now, my mantra is the law of addiction: One is too many, a thousand never enough.

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    CC February 15, 2014 at 1:16 pm

    I feel like an addict, the way I feel about sweets. I wake up on a morning and I think about which shop I will go to in order to buy my sweets. I feel totally helpless sometimes like I have an angel and devil on my shoulder. I liked what you said about real foods and finding what works for you. Mine I believe is sleep, I work nights and my cravings are terrible, I must beat this because I serious feel like I have a ball and chain around my neck…

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    Joanna Schapelle March 8, 2014 at 4:20 am

    I started reading Carrots N Cake about a year and a half ago – like many others in a state of desperation about struggles with food and especially sugar.
    . Tina’s calm, sensible, forgiving approach helped me so much and I’ve made real progress since then – I eat much more healthily and feel less panicked about food. But another thing that has helped me a lot since I discovered it last October is a website (and the profound wisdom and generosity in sharing it) of Gillian Riley and her website http://www.eatingless.com. I can’t recommend it highly enough and, knowing how dehabilitating food issues can be, would really like to get the word out there. A month ago, having read her book EATING LESS, I did her weekend seminar and have made further progress with the way I deal with food. Gillian does talk about food addiction, but with regard to the way we behave not really saying that food per se is addictive – although she certainly believes that sugar is and that eating healthily is part of the way through this issue. But importantly she doesn’t advocate giving sugar up (it was such a relief to me to hear this, because even though I’ve managed it short term in the past, i know it’s not sustainable int he long term for me and i don’t want to live a life forever deprived of all delights! But it is possible to eat a lot less of it (and other foods that any particular person feels ‘addicted’ to) and what’s more, to do it without feeling one is a) denied it and b) still really controlled by it. it is possible to find peace with food. As anyone knows who has struggles with it, that is such a huge blessing and frees you to use all that emotional energy on other, more rewarding things in life. Do hope that pointing even a few people towards Gillian’s website, book and wise common sense, will be of help.

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    Sweet Tooth March 10, 2014 at 10:56 am

    If I want cake, pie, or chocolate, there is no fruit or smoothie that’s going to satisfy that craving. I will only wind up eating what I want anyway. I prefer allowing myself 200 calories a day of anything I crave. That 200 calories is part of my total daily calorie allowance of course. 200 calories is enough for a few cookies, a small piece of pie, half of a slice of pizza, or half of a small chocolate bar, etc-just enough to alleviate my cravings without wreaking havoc or destroying my weight loss goals. This keeps me feeling deprived and missing out on my favorite treats. It keeps me on my diet the rest of the day because I look forward to my treat at night, although sometimes I often forego it because I just feel I really need it or feel like going out for it if it’s not in the house. If a diet is no sustainable, it will never work. And if I diet too strictly I will only wind up eating Brooklyn after a few weeks or so of deprivation.

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    Sweet Tooth March 10, 2014 at 11:01 am

    Revised—–

    If I want cake, pie, or chocolate, there is no fruit or smoothie that’s going to satisfy that craving. I will only wind up eating what I want anyway. I prefer allowing myself 200 calories a day of anything I crave. That 200 calories is part of my total daily calorie allowance, of course. 200 calories is enough for a few cookies, a small piece of pie, half a slice of pizza, or half of a small chocolate bar, etc. —just enough to alleviate my cravings without wreaking havoc or destroying my weight loss goals. This keeps me from feeling deprived and keeps me on my diet the rest of the day because I look forward to my treat at night. Sometimes I forego my treat because I just feel like I don’t really need it, or I don’t feel like going out for it if it’s not in the house.

    If a diet is not sustainable, it will never work for me. If I diet too strictly, I will only wind up eating Brooklyn after a few weeks or so of deprivation.

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    Sarah March 18, 2014 at 11:41 pm

    Hi, I would just like to say thanks. I no longer feel alone in my fight to overcome addiction to sugar. Its so helpful to see that others have gone through this and you have successfully taken back control. I am 22, normal body weight, and feel so helpless when it comes to candy. Health is really important to me so its crazy that I cannot say no to sugar. I eat a super healthy diet (not a lot of carbs, lots of veggies and protein) otherwise but just cant fight the cravings. I try not to buy the stuff and keep it at my place but every so often I have a weak moment usually when I am tired after a long day. Its great at first but then I really hate myself afterwards. I really like your ideas of substitute foods and think adding more fruit to my diet will be beneficial. I guess we will see. THANKS!!

    Reply

    Kelly March 20, 2014 at 5:36 pm

    Thank you for sharing the processes of beating sugar addiction and that it took time! This post was very encouraging and had helpful tips. I started my “beat sugar addiction” journey in January 2014. It has not been perfect, but I am learning a lot and my mind toward sugar is being changed :-). So thankful!

    Reply

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