Oh sugar. You love to torment us, don’t you!
I know the frustrating feeling. You try your absolute best to eat well and stay in control, yet somehow it still manages to have a hold on you. It haunts you via the cookies in your cupboard, the chocolate at the supermarket checkout and the birthday cake in your office, right?!
You’re doing your damn best to resist but somehow you find yourself giving in way more often than you’d like to.
99% of the clients I see have some sort of complaint around not being able to control their sugary snacking habits. They feel addicted to the stuff. And I get it. In the past my relationship with sugar was complicated, to say the least!
But now, I can peacefully co-exist with it. I can have the cookies in my cupboard or pass on the chocolate at the checkout and not lose my sanity. So I want to share 7 must do’s to help bring you peace, calm and control around sugar too.
Before I dive in, I should let you know, these tips might sound counterintuitive or seem a little unconventional. But stick with me on this and I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised.
1. Don’t banish it.
I took myself off of sugar for a whole year. It was completely off limits. You know what that did? Drove me INSANE! I was miserable. It’s the age old equation: banning something only makes you want it more.
As to be expected, it got to a point where I couldn’t maintain my strict sugar free life anymore.
I was at a New Year’s Eve Party and it was like I was attached at the hip to the party food table, eating anything and everything sweet. I felt like I was in a trance. Not the most empowering way to enter the new year!
When I eventually stopped caring so much about making sugar the devil, its power over me diminished.
Now sugar is allowed in my life, and that takes away any anxiety that I used to feel around it. I no longer brace myself against it. I no longer live in restriction, then binge on sugary foods, trying to convince myself that THIS will be the last time then never again (so I better really go for it).
Knowing that sugar is allowed = bye bye binges, hello sanity.
Sure, I don’t live off sugar now, but I know I can have it if I feel like it. (And that means of course, that I have it significantly less.)
That is freedom.
So consider practising the belief that sugar is allowed. The damage it does to your health is miniscule compared to the stress of trying to restrain from it.
2. Eat more at your meals.
I have heard SO many women complain about not being able to control themselves when it comes needing something sweet. One lovely lady was telling me that everyday by 10am she feels like she needs a sugar hit. A biscuit, or muffin or something!
She felt really ashamed that she couldn’t control herself.
And when I asked her what she had for breakfast, she told me berries sprinkled chia seeds and nuts.
A simple strategy jumped out to me immediately on this one… she needed more food at breakfast! She was hungry and wanting something sugary because she didn’t eat enough.
We are quick to judge ourselves for not being able to resist sugary foods and bang on about how out of control we are, yet a lot of the time is because you’re not eating enough at your meals.
So if you’re constantly finding yourself reaching for something sweet, consider this:
Maybe you are just hungry because you didn’t eat enough.
3. Stop the name calling.
For as long as I can remember, I would describe most food as either good or bad. That’s pretty normal right? So I thought…
I think it’s pretty obvious that sugar was on my bad list. (I’m going to take a wild guess it’s on your bad list too! I’m really intuitive…)
Here’s what happens when you label certain foods as ‘bad’:
You eat said ‘bad’ food and it immediately translates in your subconscious to “I am bad”.
All that does is cause stress and self loathing. You’ll think “Screw it! I’ve eaten something bad, since I’m not normally allowed this, I’m just going to for it and make the most of it.”
The truth is, your food choices will never determine whether you are a good or bad person.
Food is not good or bad. Kale isn’t morally good and a cupcake isn’t morally bad. I know it’s obvious that a cupcake isn’t going to give you the same (if any!) nutritional value as kale would. But if you eat a cupcake every now and again is it still classified as bad?
Now here’s where I get really crazy… I’m going to suggest that:
Food is neutral. It’s the judgement we put on it that makes it “good or bad”.
So what can you do? Stop demonising sugar. Stop calling it as bad. Despite what you know about it, stop putting a label on it.
If you’ve been name calling food forever, this one will take some practise. But you can do it. Give it a go. Try going a week without labelling ANY food as good or bad and see what happens.
4. Take your pleasure seriously.
Reaching for sweets is quite often a cry for more pleasure in your life.
When you are pleasure deprived what seems like the quickest and easiest fix? Chocolate, obviously!
Even if you don’t realise you are deprived of pleasure, you are biologically wired to seek it. You’re human after all. And when you don’t get enough of it, sugar is a quick fix. I mean, it’s pretty clever of your body. You need pleasure, you eat chocolate. Solved!
And you know what, that’s OK. But we also want to take care of our health and feel truly nourished. Eating chocolate all the time as a source of pleasure will probably start feeling unpleasurable.
So, it’s time to take a pleasure inventory.
Write down a list of things that bring you pleasure and joy. Anything and everything that makes you feel happy and nourished. It might be walking outside, speaking to your bestie on the phone, dancing around the house, giving yourself a facial, sitting with a tea and your favourite magazine. Whatever brings YOU joy.
Once you have your list, commit to adding more of those things into your life. Do something daily. You will be amazed at how this transforms how you feel.
But don’t worry, it doesn’t mean you can’t ever eat chocolate again for pleasure. We’re just expanding on your sources of pleasure so chocolate isn’t the ONLY one.
5. Feel the feelings.
Now, I’ve always been someone who is pretty comfortable feeling the feelings and being openly emotional. But a lot of people in my life are not. I witness a lot of people stuffing their emotions right down.
And it’s OK! I get it. I know feeling all the feels is scary. I’m still scared by it. It can hurt.
But I understand that when you don’t let yourself feel the feelings and deal with your stuff, pushing them down with anything and everything sweet is only ever a temporary fix.
Emotions are energy in motion. They have to go somewhere. You can try and bury them all you want but eventually they will need to come out.
And let me tell you something about feelings; they are temporary! You are not your feelings. It’s just energy that moves through you.
Practise honouring your feelings and emotions whenever they come up. Acknowledging the fact that something is bubbling up to the surface is the best place to start. (And often all you need to do.)
6. Learn how to eat dessert.
Have you ever found yourself stood at the fridge eating chocolate mousse straight out of the tub with a spoon? Just me?
By day I used to be this perfect, wholesome, healthy eater. By night, I would be stood at the fridge with the kitchen lights off, shovelling ice cream down my gob. All the while panicking I would get caught. (HELLO STRESS OVERLOAD.)
If this is you, lovely, it’s time for a quick lesson on how to eat dessert.
- Take the dessert out of the fridge, freezer, cupboard etc.
- Transfer dessert to a bowl or plate.
- Get cutlery.
- Sit yourself down at the dinner table or couch or your favourite place to sit.
- Slow down, notice the taste, smell and texture as you eat. Allow yourself to really be all there when you eat. Let yourself actually enjoy it.
If you want dessert, eat it. But do it properly. This way will leave you feeling so much more satisfied than eating straight from the fridge ever will. In time, you will likely crave it less, since you gave yourself the full experience.
7. Ask how your body actually feels. (Without judgement!)
Self judgement keeps you small and locked you into the very situation you’re trying to shame yourself out of. If all you are doing during and/or after emotional eating is picking on yourself, there is no opportunity to move through it.
Awareness, without judgement, enables you to see, listen and look deeper. And if you want to overcome emotional eating you have to look deeper into the core of the situation. That’s where the magic happens.
From this point on you’ve got to be kind to yourself. No more picking on you, no more hating yourself and no more judgement. Begin observing your thoughts, triggers and habits instead. What are they telling you? What’s the message?
When you can close the door on all of the self judgement, you can actually make a connection with your body and consider how it actually feels after eating a block of chocolate. Maybe it makes you feel like crap, maybe you feel OK. After that you can assess what you actually want. Cos let’s be honest, we all just want to feel good! (And always diving for sugary foods is likely not making you feel too good.)
It takes practise, so keep flexing your self awareness muscle on a regular basis!
I hope these must do’s have given you lots of new insights and help you find more calm and control around sugar and your sweet tooth. As someone who certainly knows what it’s like to feel stuck in a love hate, chaotic, stressful relationship with the stuff, these tips definitely helped me! Sugar no longer haunts me or makes me feel totally out of control. So hang in there, lovely! Know that it’s possible.
And love, if you want to take this to the next level, grab a copy of my free mini guide 3 Powerful Steps to Crush Binge Eating.
Jessica Silsby helps women overcome their out of control eating habits so they stop stressing and obsessing about food. She is an eating psychology coach and emotional eating expert.
Jess teaches women who are craving normality in their relationship with food exactly how to find food freedom, once and for all.