Today I was in a counseling session and it dawned on me (thanks to my kind counselor) that I have come a long way in harmonizing my relationship with sugar and carbs. Looking back on the past few years, I feel like I’m in a pretty grounded place to offer some advice on what helped me personally win the fight against the urge to O.D. on sugar and carbs. Keep in mind this is not professional advise, per se, but rather the kind of insight that comes from the familiarity of going through something and knowing it intimately.
#1. Get support. I always do best when I have a good friend to share my feelings with or am seeking professional support (counseling for me). Groups like Over-eaters anonymous can be a great support network and there is no charge for joining. Support that is non-familial has been key for me. As much as I love my family and husband, sometimes the issues that drive me to crave sugar involve them and I have found that having a safe, non-biased place to express myself helps me trust my feelings and explore the core issues behind my sugar addiction.
2. Eat a balanced diet. Okay, maybe this is the nutritionist in me, but it’s also just the experience talking. When I eat protein at every meal, have veggies at least 2 meals/day, eat 2-3 fruits/day, and up to 3 servings of grains, I am good to go and don’t physically crave sugar. I have to eat pretty substantial meals because I don’t like to snack (Snacking = trouble for me). Also, include plenty of healthy fats like olive oil, some nuts/seeds, avocados, goat cheese or other cheeses that are strong enough in flavor that you don’t want over eat them. Even butter has its place in my diet. Milk is out for me, so I use almond milk and drink about a cup/day. Protein really is my anti-sugar antidote, so I try to reach for protein instead of carbs first when I’m hungry.
3. Don’t eat trigger foods alone. I have no business eating cake and frosting, ice cream, frozen yogurt, or cookies by myself. It’s not that having these alone is inherently bad, it’s just bad for me. When I eat binge food alone, even if it’s gluten-free or wheat-free, I’m way more likely to over eat. Also, I have to ask myself why I’m eating alone in the first place? Am I sneak eating or hiding something? Big red flag for me! If I’m not willing to eat treats out in the open, I’m not eating them for the right reasons. On the flip side, when I do want to enjoy a treat and I’m with others I rarely want to eat in excess because my motivation is simply to enjoy a delicious something, not curb an emotion or numb out.
4. Get out of the house. I spend a lot of time at home during all hours of the day now that I’m back in school. That kitchen calls pretty loudly sometimes, If I’m not careful. I find that getting away to study helps me feel less isolated and more confident. I’m not sure why, but it does. If you find that you binge or eat mindlessly when you have too much unstructured time at home, it’s time to get out! Structured time has also helped me stay away from derailing my flow with food. If I have time goals or placed to be I’m much less likely to waste time eating mindlessly.
5. The pleasure principle. “All work and no play” makes me cranky and hankering for something to ‘sweeten’ my life…such as a donut or cookie. When I make the pleasures of life a priority, I’m usually good. I’ve learned that the emotional craving for sugar is often a calling for a break from the work or from the expectations I place on myself to always be doing something productive. I like to hang with friends, cook with other people, go for a walk with my husband at night, chat on the phone, watch movies or do whatever to give myself a break.
I’d love to hear from you about what helps you avoid the pitfalls of sugar binges.