How I Beat My Sugar Addiction

I’ve been meaning to write this post about how I beat my sugar addiction for awhile now since I finally feel in control of my sugar addiction and crazy cravings. I guess you could say it’s been a long journey to breaking my sugar addiction 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.

Breaking Sugar Addiction: How I Did It

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. I needed to figure out how to incorporate sweets into my life without overdoing it every time I ate them. 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. Over the past 18 months, I had many ups and downs, but, ultimately, here’s what worked for me.

How to beat sugar cravings

Eating more “real” food.

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. This 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. A little tip: Aim to eat at least two different servings of veggies with every meal. It really helps with satiety!

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.

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Overcoming sugar addiction

Instead of paying attention to calories, track macros.

I didn’t realize just how many sugary calories I was consuming until I started tracking them in MyFitnessPal, a free nutrition app. Tracking and having a visual record of what I ate helped make me so much more aware of what I was putting in my mouth. Instead of simply focusing on calories, I paid attention to macronutrients aka “macros” (protein, carb, and fat grams). Macros really keep my diet balanced and in check. When I ate well-rounded meals, I was less likely to reach for the sweet stuff. Tracking macros truly allows me to have my carrots and cake, too! If you’re interested in learning more or want to work together, check out my macro plan options!

Getting the sweet stuff out of the house.

Surprisingly, getting the sweet stuff out of the house was kind of difficult for me. 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. I actually 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? 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. This brings me to what really helped me kick my sugar habit once and for all.

Foods that curb sugar cravings

Filling my kitchen with my favorite healthy-sweet foods.

And I’m not just talking about bananas! 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 . 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.) One of my favorite snacks is microwaving fresh (or frozen) berries with a scoop of nut butter and then mixing it all up into a messy delicious mess! 🙂

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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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How to stop sugar cravings for good

I still enjoy sweets. In fact, I eat them almost everyday, 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. I felt totally helpless around desserts, and there was more than one occasion when 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. This would have never happened 18 months ago. Let’s just say I’ve made great strides!

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. I hope they work for you, too!

Still looking for some tips and motivation? Here’s another blog post that might interest you: Revisiting My Sugar Addiction.

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

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264 Comments

  1. 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!

  2. what a great post..
    i totally agree that protein packed foods help us beat the sugar cravings.
    on days that i only have carbs vegetables and cheese i have to battle my sweet tooth but on days i eat eggs, yogurt, chicken i feel really satisfied and ready to do my workout 🙂

    thank you! and may your baby come to you blessed and healthy!

  3. Hi, Tina. I’m a fairly new reader and found this post to be SO ENCOURAGING! I think I am currently (and always have been) suffering from the sugar addiction you described. I am definitely going to keep your tips in mind. Thanks for re-sharing!

  4. Two years later and this post is still encouraging people. Your post and the comments here have certainly been an enormous blessing to me here today. This morning I woke up knowing that today would be the day I’d try yet again to begin a journey towards freedom from sugar addiction. I had been doing really well just a few years ago. My weight was down. I was working out on a regular basis and paying very careful attention to what I ate. Then in 2011, almost three years ago now, my father passed away. Everything went downhill from there. I have since gotten married and I desperately want to get back down to the size I was when we started dating just over three years ago (7 months before my father died). As you can imagine or may have experienced yourself, this type of loss can send your emotions into a frenzy. My emotions have been out of control and I have known for years that I turn to sugar for comfort. I’m tired. I’ve been reading about how sugar increases inflammation in your body, which can lead to so many other bad things. I believe only God’s mercy has kept me this far. Now it’s time for me to make a change, but it feels like the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do. Just stumbling across your blog has given me some energy and encouragement today. Thank you for sharing so freely. I really, really appreciate it. Reading all the comments helps me to know I’m not alone and that I don’t have to be ashamed. More than that they help me know I can beat this. Thank you.

  5. There is no doubt that I have a powerful sugar addiction. The calories from all the sugar related products added weight and girth to my waistline. It got to the point where I was really unhappy with how I looked and felt. I knew the sugar and increased weight were no good for my health. But perhaps, the biggest problem with the addiction is I felt powerless to change despite my best efforts.

    I would wake up in the morning and make decision to not have sugar that day only to be eating something sweet a few hours later. It got to the point where I had no hope to ever change while all the while gaining weight and harming my health.

    I did keep trying and finally I was able to gain some traction. I believe it started on my birthday where I decided to not eat sugar for one year. I was completely disgusted with myself and I guess finally ready to make some changes in my life.

    When I say no sugar that means no candy, baked goods, sugary drinks and ice cream. Also this would include products where it is obvious that sugar is added like peanut butter or jelly. With the sugar ban I also decided to drink only water for the year as well.

    At the start of the sugar free year my weight was 212 pounds with a 42 inch waist, I am a 6’1″ male. During the 12 months I kept a diary and statistics.

    The first days off sugar were awful and the next few weeks were just as bad. Eventually, the choice to not eat sugar became more of a habit but the stuff was still calling my name. After about 6 months I could walk the isles of a store and the old sugary friends mostly left me alone. The mounting days of success actually became my protector, I didn’t want to break my streak of sugar free days.

    The first few days of the year I was certain I would fall off the wagon and so I really didn’t believe anything would come of it. After a full week I began to have a small amount of hope. After 30 days I was convinced I could do it and I was seeing results. Hope was restored, I felt I could actually control my urges and actions. After just four months my weight dropped to 175 and the waistline to 34″. Eventually the weight hit a low of 168 pounds.

    During the year I removed all fast food, salty snacks and meat from my diet. To top it off I began running eventually doing a number of marathons. At the age of 57 I was in the best shape of my life and in control of my urges.

    There is no doubt that my life is so much better when I am not on sugar, it is a real problem for me.

    On the one year anniversary of being sugar free I decided to continue for another year and what a feeling of accomplishment I had on that day. But even after a year, sugar was still calling my name. I was and am astonished how difficult it is to change habits and establish new ways of living.

    At 14 months my world came crashing down when I gave in to my urges. After a bunch of self talk I decided to have a malt at DQ. That moment of weakness changed everything in my life. Over the next few months everything I worked so hard to achieve began to fade away as sugar took charge once again.

    Hope was again lost, helplessness set in as I attempted to regain traction without success. The weight returned with the bulging waistline. Eventually, my weight hit 220 pounds surpassing my previous high weight. I desparetly wanted to change but I had completely lost my way.

    Now, today, as I write I am few days past six months being sugar free once again. My weight has dropped from 220 to 184 in the six month period. Everything is again so much better. And yes, sugar is calling me everyday.

    I know there is no middle ground for me when it comes to sugar. I can’t have a little bit because just a little leads to lots of sugar. I can’t have any at all. Apprently, I am not able to make lifestyle changes and sugar will always be an issue for me.

    I am hopeful that I will complete the goal of 12 months and I hope to beat 14 months from the previous campaign. I am afraid of the day I will once again give into sugar. I have no confidence that I can remain sugar free the remainder of my days.

    I can’t describe how much better I feel when off sugar yet there is a good possibility I will give in again at some point along the way. Sugar is not my friend.

    1. @Maui Cruiser: Thank you for this comment. I am learning, after a long battle, that true sugar addicts cannot practice moderation. I can’t just have a cookie regardless of my other healthy choices. I too went over a year without any overt sugars like cookies, icecream, cake etc. I one day decided that I could do it and be like everyone else, I could have a little brownie. Like you said, the flood gates were opened. I am now trying to get back on the wagon, but it’s crazy hard. It’s almost unbelievable how deeply sugar is weaved into our culture and lives.

      Studies are showing that sugar addiction is as real as any other addiction. You are not alone Maui. Keep on fighting and take it one day at a time. I am hoping that I can get back on the wagon too and keep remembering that, like you said, sugar is not my friend. And to add, a life without sugar can be happy and fulfilling. Others can practice moderation and I wish them all the best and encourage them. For me though, I know moderation hasn’t and won’t cut it. I too will keep trying and remember that I’m not alone either.

    2. @Maui Cruiser:
      WOW! This was/is me. I was off sugar for just over a year and found myself in a hospital waiting with a good friend while her husband was dying. The stress and the need to be nearby when needed led me to the freaking snack maching and I said to myself ” just this once to get through this terrible night, I need something in my stomach” and BOOM I was back on sugar and gained back all the weight I lost over the course of a few months. My nutritionist assured me that you can’t forbid sugary treats or you will crack and give in to your cravings eventually. He suggests eating in moderation. But I don’t know moderation. I start the bag of cookies and I finish it and that still does not satisfy me. I truly believe now that I cannot eat sugar just as an alcoholic cannot have one drink. It’s the same. I’m reassured to know there are others like me. Thank you for your post.

    3. @Maui Cruiser: I admire your candor. Sugar is indeed highly addictive. I liken it to being addicted to heroin, with the exception being of course that its use is socially acceptable. I know this all too well. I tried to reform for a week and go cold turkey… Soon, I began getting subtle headaches and muscle aches. (I know it was withdrawal from sugar, because once I popped something sugary in my mouth, the ailments disappeared almost immediately). I too am going to resign myself to the fact that sugar will always be my kryptonite.

  6. I can decide while still getting for work that I won’t stop for a donut. Just coffee. While I’m at the gas station (that does not serve donuts), I’m still fighting the urge to stop, but I have 2 donuts shops (yes only 2 in SoCal) that I need to drive by. By the time I’m near, I rationalize. And here I am, digging for the .85 or 1.25 cash I need, depending on what I get. Apple fritters are a favorite, but never two in one week! Well this week only, but never again!

  7. Greetings, I am new to this.. I like your piece about beating you sugar cravings which is one of my weakest points.. and bread too.. I am a bread person and have to give up both. I live in Africa hence the name and I have to lose a lot of weight due to two things, I am obese, very obese, and also I had a knee injury recently, making me immobile, so I have to lose the weight to be able to have the surgery and then get my knees fixed so I can dance again.. I love your blog and hope to be inspired, and loose weight like you and may be also have a blog one day..

  8. This is such a nice post! I agree that sugar and caffeine cravings are one of the most difficult cravings to stop and their withdrawal symptoms is just horrible. Another thing, if you wanted to induce in natural sweeteners I suggest stevia and xylitol. Their good natural sweeteners than sugar 🙂

  9. Tod y is January 4 2015 and I have got to get a handle on my sugar intake!! It is honestly making me sick now…physically and mentally! I am going to take advice from all of the above blogs and see if I can slow down gradually. Cutting out caffeine will be first…taking baby steps as I don’t want to fall back into this unhealthy lifestyle! I tried cutting out all at once and this does Not work..I was eating more sweets. I realize this is the Holiday Season and all and I’m being hard on myself but I am gaining weight (5lbs in 2 weeks)!!!
    Thank you for keeping this blog going!
    Good luck everyone…Deb

  10. I recently did a fast with my church and in my family we fasted from sugar and flour. The Sunday the fast was over we had a jr. frosty and ate ice cream later that evening. Then the next day I had ice cream again. I made up my mind to try to continue with no sugar and no flour. The next night (tonight) I refused to eat ice cream with my family and drank 2 cups of water. I’m feeling really good right now for sticking it out tonight. And I LOVE ICE CREAM!!

  11. None of this has worked for me… I have gone 15 white-knuckled days without sugar. Here are my results: I have gained an additional 6 lbs eating HEALTHY, REAL food in place of sugar, and although my mood and sleep have improved immensely, those lousy *&^% cravings just won’t let up.

    I dunno… maybe it would have taken another 15 days and the cravings would have ceased… but I didn’t make it that far. Personally, I found it easier to quit alcohol and cigarettes. I used to drink gallons of wine and smoke 2 packs a day. Was it tough? You bet! But at some point the cravings quit. I have not experienced that w sugar.

  12. My sweet tooth is my Achilles Heel, hands down. The issue with fresh fruit for me is that it makes me nauseous. Not all fruit all of the time, but most frui most of the time, so I’m limited in relying on it to help with my sweet cravings. However, I can tolerate it (most of the time) in a smoothie so that is one thing I’ve been drinking more of. Eating more protein also seems to help. But it seems to be a never-ending battle for me.

  13. My heart goes out to everyone who posted, as I know the struggle. I am a recovering alcoholic, but I have switched one addiction for another. When I see sweets, or when I start eating them, they take over. Nothing else matters except “how can I get more?”. It’s sick. I am not technically overweight, so people do not understand what a burden this is, to be completely a slave to sugar. It’s never one piece of cake, its the whole cake, the whole container of ice cream, the whole bag of cookies. And I shove it in, I hide and eat it. Everyone may be around the table at Thanksgiving eating the turkey, but I am in the kitchen stealing deserts. It’s not fun or funny. It rules my life. This is hell, this is addiction. I am making the decision today thanks to these posts, that, just like with alcohol for me, sugar is never going to be a substance my body can be friends with. Something in my chemical makeup starts the craving when I see deserts, or at the end of EVERY meal. There is such a parallel between how I craved alcohol when I was drinking, and how I now crave sugar. I believe this is not a question of choice, but the physiological makeup of my body. My mom is alcoholic, and my dad is Type 2 Diabetes from all his sugar consumption. Sugar is white poison to me. It is powerful. I realize from these posts, I can’t touch it or I am in trouble. One is too many, cause one hundred is not enough.

    1. @nanny:

      Your post was like reading my life. I have tried Overeater’s Anonymous (like AA) several different times over the past 30 years. I have always gone back too the sugar. I have heard that sugar reacts in the body in the same way as cocaine. This is what a drug addict must feel like (without the alteration of consciousness). What did you do to stop eating that first bite? I have kids at home so there is always sugar around, as well as an active social life where it is unavoidable! I can’t just hide away from life. Any help you can offer? Thanks!

  14. I hear you all with your struggles with sugar. When I look back at my childhood, I remember clearly eating tons of sweets, from the candy jar at my grandparents’ house to tons of deserts and cinnamon rolls for breakfast.
    It is no wonder that I struggled with sugar addiction well into adulthood.
    What worked for me might not work for you, but I learned that for me, it was all about keeping my blood sugar stable.
    Initially, I did a 5 day sugar detox and since then have focused on not letting my blood sugar get low. While it might seem obsessive to some people, I always make sure and have meals and snacks at hand and stay away from processed carbs as much as I can. That said, with my busy schedule, I do keep bars hand because I would rather not crash my blood sugar, and certain bars really work for me. I hope that this helps.

  15. Hi. So I’m on day # 5 of sugar restriction. I’ve been more irritable, sad, FATIGUED. I’ve noticed difficulty being physically active. My muscles ache and I get light-headed. I’m pounding water. I notice my heart rate up a bit higher than I’ve seen. Has anybody experienced something like this? thanks for any thoughts.

  16. This is definitely my problem. I have always preferred sweets over food, and I have been having the hardest time trying to kick the habit of eating so much sugar. Whenever I decide that I’m going to cut back, I end up binging on so many sweets that I wind up feeling sick. I am going to try your tips. Thanks for sharing.

  17. Thank you! That was the best advice ever! Reading your blog was like looking at something i that I would write about myself. I need to eat more protein. I tend to try to go the vegan way. It has not worked so well for me as well. I still feel like I need something more and there goes the sugar demon! I am going to try the simple tips you have given. Thank you again!!!!!

  18. Thank you for this article. I literally googled “craving sugar even after one week of no dessert” and this article was among the links in the search. I am struggling! Your article made a lot of sense though. I will try to remain strong and not return to binge eating dessert!

  19. I too am addicted. I’m not overweight but I know it’s not healthy. I go to the Dr every year and get blood work done and it always comes back normal but this can’t be good for me. I have tried to stop in the past but have never wanted to bad enough. There has to be a way to eat dessert in moderation. How can we do it? The thought of giving up pastries for the rest of my life is depressing and I’m not sure I want to live in that world. Still though, I should not be eating candy, cake, cookies and pie every day but I do!

  20. This is such a great site for people like me who are struggling with a sugar addiction. It is honestly like a drug addiction and there have been nights when I’ll want to get out of bed and go run to the store for candy. I read a book about how to quit and a lot of it was just about clean eating and focusing your mind on getting the right foods in your body to get rid of the craving for the bad foods. I would definitely recommend anyone struggling to follow this program, I’ve seen the most amazing results from it. Here is a link to the book’s website http://869556b4pq2p2r4zgz2bepcua2.hop.clickbank.net/

  21. Thanks for addressing an overlooked addiction(sugar).
    I had it bad. I wasnt just binging on goodies like cheesecake and cookies, I would buy cans of cake frosting and eat it with a spoon.
    For me, it was a weight loss journey and abstaining from all sweets that helped me.
    I recently had a Birthday and decided to celebrate with 1/4 piece of a serving of cake. Upon my first bite, I found it did not bring me the pleasure it used to. In fact it didnt taste good to me anymore.

    1. @Kristen: I buy cans of frosting, hide sugar candy bars, snicker bars are a weakness just down the hall at my work. 6 month ago went cold turkey from sugars watched the labels even sugar in ketchup. Yogurt accidently grabbed had 38 grams of sugar. Increased the water intake. Did not lose weight but lost belly area. Christmas came and recipes came out and I am back with stress eating, not planning meals, hunger and craves of sugar. Afraid to put something in my mouth for fear it will trigger another unwanted crave. Hot tea can deter, I have used pickled beets when I get a sweet crave, the vinegar seems to halt the crave. If it is white don’t bite is my rule of thumb. Portion control has been mastered, but that sugar is a strong addiction.

  22. Great post! I love the real world application here. I have been a Personal Trainer for 15 years now and am now a Level III Holistic Lifestyle Coach and I work with people everyday with these same struggles. I myself have struggled with sugar addiction and I am thrilled that you brought up these very important points. Keep up the great work Tina!

  23. I have been trying to decide what healthy diet to go on, but it’s like you have to give up your sweets! Which is something I knew I couldn’t do cold turkey. So, after reading this I am going to try a healthy diet and limit my sweets (now I think I can do that)

  24. I am trying to kick my sugar habit now and it is SO DIFFICULT – kudos to you for making it happen! These are really great tips and I definitely needed to read them right now. I have had days where I buy a bag of milk chocolate chips and *eat the entire bag.* The only place I seem to have control is in the grocery store – if I don’t buy it, I’m not going to go out again to get it, so even though I’m sitting here craving it there is nothing sweet in the house buy fruit. A few years ago I kicked my diet soda habit, and that was far easier in comparison. I think part of the problem is that I don’t want to completely give up dessert in my life (as I did with soda, because who needs that?) I just don’t want to be controlled by it… Anyway, thanks for the inspiration. You are helping me to stay strong!

  25. I suffered over 20 years of sugar addiction and recently overcame it. All I can really say is it takes time and patience to overcome this horrible addiction. 2 things really helped me. One was having a fiber 1 bar for breakfast. They fill you up and satisfy your sweets craving. The chocolate and oats flavor was my fave. Second, Bae drinks.(( I used to love a diet coke and 2 Reeses cups.))The Bae drinks are delicious, satisfying and fill you up. They have delicious fruit flavors.

    I will say watch your portions of the fiber 1 bars and Bae drinks. 1 per day of each is best bc we all know excess fiber causes gas and the special sugar in Bae can cause gas/bloating, only if you consume the bars and drinks in excess of course. I never had an issue having one of each daily.

    Be patient with yourselves and love yourselves always! <3

  26. Sugar addiction is a very powerful and rarely talked about illness. It’s used so much that it is scary to talk about it. Just imagine how much the world would change if suddenly one day no one sold any sugar. Think about it. Does it make you feel any different? No sugar at all? What would you do? No sweets, no chocolate, no ice cream, no honey, no sweeteners…

  27. Hi, thanks for posting! I have developed a cake addiction since mid 20s. It is like my crack. Preferably vanilla (chocolate used to be #1). So it’s not chocolate like it should be. It’s the boring vanilla with buttercream. Your article was something I could relate with and eatting real food is something I’ll focus on. That’s how I ate before sugar became dominant. I never even ate desert. It’s such a struggle though, that’s why I’m here and not eating cake. It seems the craving won’t disappear. I have quit smoking and that was hard BUT on once I got through a year the cravings were gone. Cake is different, saying no to it is easier but as time goes on I don’t see this letting up.

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