30 July 2013

(4) Strategies for Kicking a Sugar Addiction


OK, let's continue the conversation on food...
(and by the way, I just LOVE that so many of you are still trying to do a food diary!!  I know it can be SO hard and humbling to do...but I also know how revealing it can be.  I'm so, so excited to hear of any positive changes that it might inspire.)

So one of the hardest things for me to change was giving up sugar.  Oh man.  That stuff is one of the most addicting substances on earth.  In fact, researchers have literally found that it's more addictive than cocaine!!  Yes, they've found that sugar can act on the brain like drugs. (Read this:  The Rats Who Preferred Sugar Over Cocaine and this article from The NY Times about sugar being sickly t-o-x-i-c.)

I used to think it didn't really have a huge effect on me...(hahhaha)  It took me nearly hitting rock bottom and then by a MIRACLE experiencing a rebound to realize that the sugar WAS affecting my body and my brain so, so much.

Here are my (4) Main Strategies for Kicking a Sugar Addiction:

1.  No Gluten or Dairy.
Ok, I know I keep talking about this.  But one amazing side effect of not eating gluten and dairy is you can't eat 99% of desserts.  Think about it...Sugar is EVERYWHERE you turn and at EVERY event it seems, and I can't eat it in almost all it's forms: cupcakes, slices of cake, cookies, pies, shakes, frosting, brownies, ice cream, most chocolate, rice crispy treats with butter, most candy, whipped cream, cheesecake, apple crisp, cream puffs, crepes, mousse, etc., etc., ETC.  Um, passing on all these sugary desserts can help you shake an addiction pretty quickly, actually.  (Not to mention, dairy and refined grains themselves are also just forms of sugar.)

What this looks like for me in daily life:

-At a party, I eat plenty of the non-dessert part of a meal or buffet spread, so that I'm not "hungry" and feeling deprived when people cut the cake.
-I bring a bag of nuts, dried fruit, coconut or jerky with me to parties or events so that I don't feel so deprived while people are eating dessert.  I almost always have one of Steve's Paleo Packs in my bag.
-Danny and I almost never order dessert when we're out (luckily he gladly stays away from sugar as well.)  Again, just about every menu would not even have a dessert that I could eat.  So it really isn't even an option.
-I have plenty of healthy snacks in the house (post coming!)
-I have found a few "treats" that don't have refined sugar (post coming!).

The result:

-Sugar craving is hardly ever noticeable, so I don't feel deprived.
-I eat much healthier food in the place of sugar.
-I can usually sit and watch people eat dessert at a party without even flinching, because the craving isn't there.
-No PMS, no headaches, no skin problems, no infections, no bloated gut, no fatigue, greater energy, no anxiety, no sleep problems...and very, very few sore throats, coughs, sickness, etc. (Danny and I have found that every time we get "sick", it's because we had too much sugar.)

2.  No Soda.
This one is pretty easy for me as I did not grow up with soda and never developed the habit (I can thank my Mom for this!!) Though pretty much everyone I know drinks soda regularly - even multiple times a day.  It's sad to me that soda (I'm talking to you, Diet Coke) has almost become the "popular" thing to drink.  And it's also sad that people actually say, "but it's 'Diet'" as if it's a health drink.  Oh dearie. Anyway, eating less sugar or kicking a sugar addiction would need to include eliminating soda. Yes, my friends. But this will have soooo many positive effects!!  It's so, so worth it!!

What this looks like for me in daily life:

-I order water.
-I drink seltzer, if I'm feeling fancy - I love it with a bit of unsweetened fruit juice or fruit nectar.  This used to be what I would regularly serve at dinner parties.
-I loooove adding lemon to my water and buy lemons each time I go to the grocery store.  I add the juice from 1/2 lemon.  It's tart, but I still love it...and it's supposed to be very cleansing.  I also love the seltzer water at Trader Joe's flavored with just lemon juice (no sugar).
-I also LOVE sliced cucumbers, oranges, grapefruit, pineapple or watermelon added to water as a flavoring.
-My favorite "treat" drink on earth:  Fresh watermelon juice every summer from the Red Hook Ball Fields.

The result:

-No additional sugar creating a never ending sugar addiction.
-The elimination of caffeine, as well.



3.  No Recipes With Refined Sugar.
I have my old sugar bin in the back of my cupboard and I haven't touched it in ages.  I really need to just get rid of it and clear up some cupboard space.  It's crazy to me that I used to bake constantly using that flour and sugar bin...we're talking the recipes that call for 1 cup of white sugar and 1 cup of brown sugar.  Oh man, I don't even consider making something like that now.  I prefer making "treats" that I don't have to avoid because they are full of health benefits.

What this looks like for me in daily life:

-I rarely bake and if I do, I use honey or agave.  I've also made some recipes with mashed bananas and I love it.  Forever I've been thinking of making some of those recipes that call for dates..I even bought some dates last fall.  But they're still in my fridge.  That's just how rarely we make dessert.
-I don't even "pin" desserts that I know I can't eat.  If something slips through, it's because I have a substitution in mind.  I think Pinterest is just one hell hole for sugar addicts.  (Maybe send your Pinterest boards through sugar rehab? :)
-I follow healthy food blogs that don't use refined sugar in their recipes.  I avoid cookbooks and blogs that use unhealthy ingredients.

The result:

-We just don't have a habit of eating desserts.
-We don't get addicted to the "desserts" we do make as they aren't made with loads of refined sugar.

4.  No Buying Sweets.
Whether or not you are going to feed your sugar addiction is normally decided while you're in the grocery store. There are certainly many gluten-free, dairy-free sweets that I coooould come up with if I wanted. Gummies, sorbets, candies, GF/DF baked goods and baking mixes full of starches and sugar, etc.  The GF lifestyle has become necessary for so many because they have been so sick...but the result has been that food companies have followed with their processed GF junk food on the shelves. So...my strategy is to basically not buy that stuff.  I really don't buy GF "replacement" foods for cake mixes, cookies, etc.  I just try to avoid that stuff all together.  Same with the bins of chocolate treats at Trader Joe's. That place is a mine field of junk food, but somehow it feels healthier to buy it at Trader Joe's. Ha.  So I've gotten pretty dang good at making it out the door with no sweets in my cart.  It takes some determination.  But it's so possible.  And as a last resort, clear the stuff out of your cart while you're waiting in line to check-out.  :)

What this looks like for me in daily life:

-I buy other things that excite me...like granola, nut mixes, dried fruit, coconut chips, seltzer, almond butter.
-I try to just walk straight by sugary sweets.  Yes, I want to peruse them.  But if I just don't even look at them, it helps.

The result:

-Our home isn't full of treats.  (I would totally eat them if they were here.)
-When I get hungry, I'm reaching for healthy snacks because that's all there is.

**********************************************

ALSO....
*If we do have something sugary on a rare occasion, it's not the end of the world.  I find that the sugar addiction doesn't automatically kick in again.  I can carry on the next day without a craving.  But if I have sugar a few times a day or several days in a row, you can bet that addiction will kick in FAST. So it's just a matter of protecting that balance.  The minute I feel a craving, I know it's time to avoid sugar completely for a few days.

*Living this way is not meant to feel depriving.  Maybe it will in the beginning, as you're weaning yourself off (remember...sugar is more addicting than cocaine so you WILL feel the withdrawal!!)  But I PROMISE you that once it's cleared out of your system, avoiding sugar will no longer feel like torture and you really, really, REALLY can feel happy and satisfied with a no sugar lifestyle.

Disclaimer:  We eat way too many chips.  Danny's salsa-making is our demise.  :)  :)

And here's a list of what you could look forward to by kicking a sugar addiction (from Connie Bennett, author of Sugar Shock):

  • Your weight could easily peel off
  • You could become more cheerful
  • You may concentrate better
  • You may say bye bye to severe PMS, infertility or a horrible menopause.
  • You could get along better with loved ones.
  • You could have a revved-up libido.
  • You may have lots of energy -- more so than you've had in years.
:)

Now, since sugar addiction affects us all (and our children) and I think managing it is a lifetime pursuit- - - let's swap ideas!  What are some ways you and your family have been able to cut back on sugar?  Also, PLEASE SHARE any links to recipes or blogs or foods that you love that might be helpful in reducing sugar.  



71 comments:

  1. I have a great desire to be healthier but I have to walk a fine balance. When I start focusing on my food and what I am eating it has triggered panic attacks for me and any benefits of the physical is lost in the emotional spiral. Balance really has become a big touchstone in my life.

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    1. Dear Kristelle, I hear you. In my early twenties I had gained some weight from being on the bc pill. I compensated by trying to be healthy in every way and it felt like an obsession. But back then, I was in it more to boost my self image or to get back to the weight I was used to...and really the motivation was more about just being thin and "beautiful" and desirable instead of nourishing my body. Not sure if it's similar to what you're experiencing. Maybe not. But for me, I learned that self worth doesn't come from the way you look or the size of your butt/thighs/stomach/jeans. I think as women it is SOOO easy to fall into that trap and so it feels like our identity or ego is on the line if we aren't our ideal weight or have the ideal amount of toning. So, the key is to not eat healthy to GAIN more self worth, but to eat healthy and nourish your body out of respect because you ALREADY HAVE WORTH- just as you are. Doing it this way, it feels like a joy and a pleasure to take care of yourself.

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  2. oh man, I wish I had the courage to do this! Maybe for Lent... (because the busiest/most stressful time of my year will SO be the easiset to kick an addiction (NOT)) I know I am way too dependent on baked goods, and every excuse I think of to not get rid of them, I can call up a comment/encouragement that you've already written (in this post or elsewhere) to kick the habit.
    Should probably think a bit about why I don't even WANT to start/try giving it up!

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  3. Oh man, this all sounds so wonderful, promising, desirable, and, quite simply put, easy, but where does one start?! I live in a small town in New Hampshire where you have to drive a good distance to get not only quality, healthy food, but OPTIONS. On the other side, the local, healthy, organic availability is astronomical in cost. Plus, we are bombarded with sugar, dairy, and gluten in our daily lives. I would love to kick all three of those from my diet and see the undeniably positive benefits from that change, but I feel that it is so overwhelming and that I would be spending my entire day, every day, simply looking for alternatives to what's available, avoiding the many places I frequent now, and finding difficulty in making this a change that doesn't seem troublesome both personally as well as socially. Any suggestions? PS - I know I sound very Debbie-downer about this, but I am honestly searching for a way to do this and to make this a part of my life, I just don't know where to start.

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    1. look at mara's food journals in prior comments. it's not expensive or complicated to eat like this. mara's foods are mainly in-season produce, some eggs, some nuts. i find it's cheaper to eat healthy - most of my food comes from the produce section (in-season or on-sale stuff, which are about affordable) and the bulk aisle (beans, lentils, quinoa, oats, nuts, etc). it's way cheaper than paying for products that have been packaged and marketed to me with expensive commercials. it's way cheaper than meat.

      the hardest part is just making the decision and sticking to it. and then mostly eat real, whole foods that are in just about any grocery store.

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    2. Dear Lisa (Hi!!) - My heart does go out to people who don't have stores with healthier foods. That does pose a problem, for sure - and to be honest, I think about that quite often because I worry if I ever left NY, that I wouldn't have so many options with stores, farmer's markets, and restaurants. One idea we've had for the future is just growing and preserving our own food. But I know that's such a lifestyle/time commitment and not everyone has that time to devote. One thing you can do is order in quite a few goods online...try VitaCost, Vine.com, iHerb, and Amazon. You could stock up on pantry staples and then focus on supplementing with lots of produce and eggs (ideally from local farmers, if that could be arranged). Organic meat is SO dang expensive that my strategy is to just not eat it as much. I get organic chicken thighs and ground beef from Costco. And for the rest, try to make as many foods from scratch as you can. These days I'm trying to be more old fashioned that way and little by little I want to make everything we eat from scratch...even crackers, hummus, fruit leather, almond milk, almond butter, etc. This way you are certain you are free of preservatives, chemicals, and additives. So far, we make our own pesto, salsa, pasta sauce (for zucchini noodles), bread, cookies (occasionally). But we have a long way to go. One thing I want to maybe start up is a Food Swap. You could gather a few friends or family members and each person makes a huge batch of a food that is normally processed...then everybody swaps the foods.

      Also, it can be hard socially to change your eating style as certain foods or ways of eating are such a part of our social lives. I think the key is to get behind your healthy lifestyle emotionally. If it's done out of respect and gratitude for your body - and done as an expression of love for the world (because you'll be able to do more and offer more by being well) - then the experience of being healthy is not depriving - - but it can seriously be something you prefer. I think the beginning is the hardest...but as soon as you start feeling better, it will motivate you to live that way forever. You can go from "I can't have that" to "I don't even WANT that."

      Sending you lots of love from Brooklyn!! I wish we could go to the Farmer's Market together and then make it big meal. xo

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    3. Dear Lisa, You can do this!
      If you're like me you can't make the big change all at once. Here's the way that worked for me:
      For the first week, you just change a tiny thing in your habits - For example exchange the daily soda drink with a bottle of water.
      The second week you switch the sweet snack with an apple, ... and so on. This way you won't feel this huge resistance and you can smoothly change your habits LONG term.

      Another thing that helped me a lot is doing a quick and easy morning Yoga routine. It's puts me into the right positive mindset, gives me that necessary smile for a potential difficult day. Why don't you check out YouTube, there are many good free yoga videos, or Juli (sugarfreejuli.com/yoga4all) recommends Kris Fondane's beginner Yoga lessons, too.

      All the best,
      Nelly

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  4. Thank you for this post! I am currently trying to get away from sugar completely because I realized I was truly addicted! I am already doing pretty good in the areas that you suggested but what I have the biggest trouble with is the treats that are constantly around my workplace. When I get bored or get in the afternoon lull I find myself wandering over to the treat table. Then once I start I can't seem to stop! Another thing I have trouble with is not wanting to offend people. For instance, my husband and I were at his mother's house on Sunday night and during dinner she says "Oh, I bought the best vanilla ice cream so that I can make some apple crisp tonight!" and she was so excited about it that I had a hard time saying no. It is in those types of situations that I have the hardest time. I think I am just going to need to make it known to everyone that I don't eat sweets anymore and eventually people will get used to it and understand.

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    1. Alison, work place sweets can be the source of the worst addiction ever. Oh man...for years it was cupcakes, donuts, candy, chocolate, etc...daily. If I ever had a good day with that stuff, it was because I had alternative snacks at my desk or requested some healthier snacks to be purchased for the food pantry. So, fill a drawer at your desk with some healthy snacks. Fill up on those. And for a sweet boost, try Lara Bars. Even 1/2 a bar eaten a few hours a part can feel like a filling sweet treat.

      And - love your strategy about telling everyone you just aren't eating sugar. People will catch on. And if they know, they might even love to start offering you alternatives like fruit or something so that they can still feel like a good host. Also, if you go somewhere where you know there will be dessert, take a little healthier snack with you - this way the host won't feel so bad/awkward if they're all eating cake and icecream you're sitting there with nothing.

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  5. My husband and I eat the Whole Foods, Plant Based Diet, so we don't eat much processed sugar either. However, my downfall has been fruit! I've found that candy used to have a hold on me, but doesn't anymore. Occasionally a baked good will grab my attention, but I never bake anything and we never buy any sweets so having something occasionally doesn't hurt me. Fruit sugar has to be balanced for me. For example, summer equals watermelon to me! But my stomach gets upset if I eat too much watermelon. What are your thoughts about natural, non-processed sugars? Have you heard of Sarah Wilson? http://www.sarahwilson.com.au/2011/09/so-ive-written-a-i-quit-sugar-ebook/

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    1. WOW - just checked out Sarah Wilson's blog and it is amazing. I had not heard of her prior, so that's a ton for sharing it. I can't wait to read more.

      And as for natural, non processed sugars...I do think they can pose a problem. Especially if someone has candida/yeast overgrowth, fruit can just make that continue. So sometimes it's necessary to cut fruit out completely for a while - even a few months - to help your body to heal or to cleanse your body of yeast or a sugar addiction. However, I've always had a hard time with the idea of fruit elimination long term. In my experience, anyway, if I'm feeling healthy - fruit in moderation doesn't seem to harm my health. I try to eat fruit seasonally so that perhaps I'm not eating so much all the time (just mostly in the summer.) I wonder if having a "season" for eating certain foods is actually healthy for our bodies. Anyway, I'd certainly love to learn more about this topic...

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    2. I just checked out Sarah's blog, and along with Mara's insight and this community, I have been totally inspired and driven to kick my sugar addiction. I joined the I quit Sugar thingy on Sarah's blog. It doesn't start for another month so I'll be looking here to get a jump start. Btw, I'm 27 weeks pregnant and can't think of a better gift to the baby than a healthy mommy. Fyi - I checked w/ my doc and it's ok (even recommended) to embark on this journey at this point.

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  6. This post...it is a good one.

    I've been trying to go gluten-free for a month now. I get a couple of days in, feel great, see a chocolate cake with ice cream melting on top and wake up from a sugar stupor with cake all over my face and no idea what just happened. It's shameful...I know I need to just commit, but making any lifestyle change has it's trials and tribulations, right? Right?

    I'll start tomorrow...tomorrow is Wednesday and that sounds like a good day to start. Or since I've already ruined this week, maybe it will be next Monday ;)

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  7. Can't wait to read your other posts on healthy snacks! I always love new ideas!

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  8. great post! i totally agree on the soda thing, i feel like it really is one of the worst things you can consume! but oh my goodness, i am so completely addicted to sugar. and i have very little self control if it's in the house. if i can just not let myself buy it at the grocery store, it helps immensely. i really do crave healthy foods, i love vegetables, but sometimes i am just too lazy to make something (or even just wash&cut up some fruits or veggies) so i just reach for an unhealthy snack. i am excited to hear what "treats" you eat! i need ideas!

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  9. also, side note, do you guys get a lot of spam? because the verification thing is a super bugger. it's ok if you leave it on, just throwing that out there :)

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    1. A few months ago it wasn't that bad, but then we started getting 50 spams a day and we had to do something to stop it.

      Sorry about the inconvenience, but we were spending too much time making sure comments were relevant.

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  10. This is SO helpful--especially the what it looks like in daily life.

    Like I said last week, I tried no sugar/gluten/dairy for a month, and saw lots of benefits, but attributed it mostly to the no sugar. I spent the month of January in preparation, clearing my cupboards of bad foods and stocking up with new snacks, and practicing saying no at social events, so I could then go all in starting February 1st. Anyone thinking of trying this--I would recommend that strategy so it's not such an overwhelming task to go cold turkey! It is also helpful if you can have someone close to you make the same goals and/or have someone to be accountable to (I tried it because my boyfriend at the time adhered strictly to that diet... which also helped me to have already found some snacks and recipes and I liked before February hit).

    I have mostly stuck with the no sugar, and it does get easier! I do also immediately feel the (negative) difference when I do indulge, so it makes it easy to remember why it's good for me. I think I may have underestimated how much the no gluten and dairy also contributed, so I'm grateful for new motivation to try it again!

    One question--what are some of the good high calorie foods you eat? By the end of the month, I felt I was not getting enough calories and was losing weight I shouldn't be losing.

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    1. High calorie foods I eat....lots of coconut oil for cooking & smoothies, specialty olives (we're very spoiled in NY with lots of olive bars at grocery shops), peanut butter, almond butter, eggs, tons of olive oil (basically every dish is made with a generous amount), avocados (lots), fish, meat, bacon, nuts (lots).

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  11. One thing that has helped me tremendously has been educating myself on the effects of sugar (and so many other "foods") on the body and brain. I highly recommend this: http://www.amazon.com/Fat-Chance-Beating-Against-Processed/dp/159463100X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1375200616&sr=8-1&keywords=fat+chance

    I'm also reading this: http://www.amazon.com/Wheat-Belly-Lose-Weight-Health/dp/1609611543/ref=sr_1_1_ha?ie=UTF8&qid=1375200687&sr=8-1&keywords=wheat+belly

    My husband and I have been (mostly) gluten, dairy, and sugar free for a year now for health reasons. More recently we have allowed ourselves to "cheat" when eating out or with friends, which actually has helped us feel less deprived, but we stay away from the bad stuff at home.

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  12. I'm totally a sugar addict and have been my entire life. I come from a long line of food/sugar addicts (my diabetic grandfather would go into a grocery store and find a treat, eat it, and hide the evidence all before my grandmother could catch him). I have always been either thinking about food, hating food, loving food and wondering how I could just have a healthy relationship with food since about 5 years old. My weight, either maintaining it or losing it, has always been a focus and a struggle.

    I have four children and can see how some of my bad habits have rubbed off on them, as well as just the constant supply of processed and sugary foods at church, school, and from friends, has taught them to always want treats. My one son in particular asks for something sweet from sun up to sun down and it is such a source of frustration and sometimes anger for me.

    I know I have to give up sugar for me and find a balance for my children and husband (hopefully he'll join me one day). I find excuses before I even begin but I know I will make the change. I appreciate Valerie's comment above to take a month to prepare my house. That sounds doable, especially with kids and needing to find healthy and delicious snacks.

    Thanks for all you do with this blog! It really is changing me for the better and inspiring me to do things that can be really uncomfortable yet will bring me the greatest joy. Might I suggest a link on the side with all of your favorite books and articles to read to help on this spiritual journey? I'm currently reading Man's Search For Meaning per (I think) Danny's suggestion. I just can't thank you both enough! I would love to come to New York one day and take a walk in the park. Have a great day!

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  13. Still going strong with my daily food journal...it's funny. I have dark chocolate every day. the good kind. but this last week, I fell to milk chocolate and lots of SUGAR! I was about to go for another bar (my husband and & I own a chocolate shop-oh the horrible temptations), and saw this post. Decided to give it a read. Now I'll have a cold glass of water and some pecans instead.
    My husband and I both are working towards a Whole Foods-Plant Based diet. we still eat wheat, but only the whole-grain naturally good stuff. We are cutting out all foods in our home that are processed, contain additives, and the like. It's a slow process. Why not just throw it out? We're beyond-poor and on a limited budget. We just can't justify throwing out all that money! But instead of buying more, we're getting creative with our recipes to make each not so good item a little better. Then once it's gone, we never buy it again. We have so many extra shelves in our cabinets now and our fridge is brimming with delicious fruits and veggies!
    We also took the initiative to plant our own garden this year. The double bonus? We get a workout in the sunny sun sun and we get amazing food for pennies to what we would pay in the store. And it's all organic! A hidden bonus!
    It's not always easy for me. I love sugar. But I've stopped drinking soda. I only have one brownie mix left in the house. I make healthy oat cookies. we eat lots of rice. and it gets easier each day.

    thank you, Mara & Danny for always sharing things, even the hard things, in a positive light! It's such a daily motivator to know that there are other people out there, you two and all your readers, that are trying and succeeding each day to be better, happier, stronger people!

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    1. Hailey, I have had more dark chocolate in the last bit than I would want, too. But you know what - I just found a great alternative. Cacao Nibs. They are BITTER dark. But somehow I don't mind them terribly and the taste is growing on me more and more. I want to try to see how they are with a handful of nuts. Anyway, today I didn't have chocolate and instead had cacao nibs. This will be a new regular in my house.

      Also - LOOVE that you guys are gardening!!! It's our dream to grow our own food. If we ever leave NY, we plan to have a greenhouse and learn how to garden.

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  14. i've been loving your food posts lately, i'm on a quest to eat healthier and have cut out all artificial sugars. i've given up soda, and have one small scoop of real sugar in my one cup of coffee daily (baby steps!) sweets are tough for me though, i love ice cream!

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  15. It's so true! I knew I had a gluten intolerance, but I've recently begun eating Paleo (no grains at all), and I just realized the other day that my intense sugar cravings have disappeared!

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  16. For anyone out there that thinks they CANNOT do this...let me be one of the voices you hear because you CAN!! I watched my sister-in-law for a a fews years feeding her boys gluten free dairy free things do to health allergies, I am talking different toasters different pots and pans... And all the while I was thinking i could NEVER do this, until I went to the chiropractor and had blood work done that showed my thyroid numbers where off as well as my autoimmune numbers. At that point he said try NO gluten and dairy-ugh! With the evidence in front of my I knew I had to try so for 6 weeks I did it. It was hard but once the first week went by I didn't crave sweets-i turned to nuts and dried fruit (I love the fruit leather at TJ's). I did get in a rut with recipes so I'd love to get some more of those.

    Now this summer I have been traveling and I have found it very hard to stay with it due to eating at other people's house and not wanting to make them uncomfortable. I've been glad to hear about how you deal with that, Mara. I will be home in 2 weeks to start back to teaching and plan to go back to it.

    I do love my gluten and dairy-mainly sourdough bread and ice cream. But I am willing to give it up if it means a healthier body.

    If you are thinking you are not able to do this- change your thinking about it-you CAN do it :)

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    1. LOVE you!!! This is so awesome!!! Love the encouragement!

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  17. Great post Mara! Since cutting out dairy and gluten about 6+ months ago, I have also cut out refined sugars. Like you, I use manily raw honey and dates for my sugar and fruit, for dessert. It's funny, I think it was just this past week where I think I first noticed how awake I feel. Like all the time. I pop out of bed early and have energy to keep going all day. It's amazing. BUT, it did take a little bit to get to the point where I did not crave sweets anymore. It's really tough, but giving yourself some time to detox from the sugar really does lead to decreased cravings. Now I hardly ever crave sweets, even chocolate I don't crave anymore. And when I do want something sweet- I have my go-to desserts that I love that are gluten/dairy and refined sugar free. Here are a couple of my current favourites:

    http://www.petite-kitchen.com/2013/02/rich-black-bean-fudge.html

    http://www.petite-kitchen.com/2013/03/banana-breakfast-cookies.html

    http://www.petite-kitchen.com/2013/05/raw-salted-chocolate-and-orange-mousse.html

    http://tasty-yummies.com/2012/09/13/coconut-tapioca-pudding-with-toasted-coconut-chips-gluten-free-vegan-refined-sugar-free/

    Katie K

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  18. For me, it's not so much sweets as "hidden" sugars. Pasta, for one. Also, I just checked my "unsweetened" rice milk and found a LOT of sugar in there. So discouraging! It's so tricky when you think you're being healthy and it turns out...not so much.

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    1. I know! It is crazy to realize that sugar is in so many foods. Yogurt, one food we consider "healthy", is usually just full of sugar. Even some rosemary ham at TJ's has the same amount of sugar as their chocolate bars. Same with their hummus. Anyway, it's sooo easy to get tricked. I guess the best thing is to just buy whole foods and make most things from scratch. I've thought recently that perhaps some friends and I could make huge batches of foods (hummus, pesto, salsa, pasta sauce - minus the sugars and preservatives - and just swap the foods with each other. And now I sound like my mom. I think she totally did this. :)

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  19. This is a great post and I really appreciate the tips for healthier eating. It's so true that added sugars, sodas, and processed foods are things we should all eliminate from our diets. I definitely need to work harder on this--especially with my kids, who for sure eat too many graham crackers and goldfish.

    But I just wanted to echo what some other commenters have mentioned in this and previous posts--that it is way easy to get caught up in all this healthy eating stuff to the point of obsession. It's totally happened to me before. It's like my life was consumed with worry about what I was or wasn't eating--it's all I thought or talked about. It was miserable. I think it's so important to have balance.

    I think it's great that Mara feels so much better after giving up gluten, dairy, and sugar completely. But I don't feel that this diet is practical, or even necessary, for everyone. If you have an intolerance or allergy to this stuff, by all means, don't eat it. But dairy in moderation can be healthy for a lot of people. And good, whole wheat bread seems like it would be fine for someone without gluten intolerance. And while we should not be drinking fruit juice and soda every day, I don't think we need to be worried about sugar to the point where we are afraid to eat fresh fruit.

    I think we should be able to enjoy some birthday cake or a cookie every once in a while without feeling guilty and giving ourselves a hard time. But of course the goal is a better diet filled with colorful veggies and lots of healthy stuff. So thanks for putting all your great tips on this blog. It has been motivating me to make better choices for me and my family.

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    1. I agree. I like being social and going out with friends, and it is not practical for me to always turn down food or bring my own, nor would I want to deprive myself of anything. Consuming sugar, alcohol, and caffeine (for me) in moderation are fine, and I fill up on veggies most of the time.

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    2. I'm glad you offered this viewpoint, Crystal and Anonymous. Recently, I've been thinking a lot about what gets forgotten with every new diet craze: different bodies react to different things in different ways ('different' to the third power, haha). Not every dietary or lifestyle change is going to be both doable and beneficial for every person. Just look at comparisons of traditional diets to see how, all over the world, people have thrived for years on whatever food is locally available.

      For various periods of time, I've tried going without dairy (no effects), sugar (many positive effects), and gluten (HUGE positive effects on my physical and mental health). And I'm not even gluten-intolerant... Currently I'm attempting to stay gluten-free and severely limit my sugar intake. Mara, your tips are quite helpful.

      It's been a sacrifice for me to give up these things--I've had my fair share of awkward social situations and, of course, sugar and wheat are just so dang delicious! :) Still, if it works for your body, your health goals, and your life, the sacrifice is worth it. However, if you eat all things in moderation and are content with how you look and feel, then don't jump on the newest '____ food is evil' bandwagon. Avoiding sugar is great for my body, and being gluten-free is mind-blowingly fantastic for my mood, energy levels, and overall health, BUT these things might not do it for you. Just experiment and see.

      It's wonderful to read all the comments here; here's an internet high-five for anybody who's doing something good for their body this summer!

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  20. I've been wearing Invisalign for the past year and a few months and it's crazy how much sugar I turn down daily! Every time I eat, I have to take out my braces, brush my teeth and brush my braces, so it's just not worth it for a mid afternoon snack at the office. With all the practice I've gotten ("oh, no thanks, I've got my braces on") saying no to sugar is getting pretty easy.

    I used to feel guilty about not being much of a baker, but this post totally makes me feel justified! One interesting thing I've noticed about my husband: if we're out, he will totally OD on sugar in the form of cake, ice cream, etc., but if ever we bring any of it home it goes hard and stale in the fridge because neither of us eat it! That makes me feel like we've really both trained ourselves not to eat sweets at home- yay!

    Last thing: I had some houseguests last month, my husband's relatives, who just filled the house with chips, cookies, ice cream etc. and it took me a couple of weeks to recover from that! For me the key is definitely just not to have it in my home at all and stick to nuts and fruit for snacks.

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  21. I am really enjoying your Nutrition and Health posts! I am going to print this post out and hang it up on a wall because kicking sugar is one thing I need to do pronto. I'm 23 and should be a ball of energy, but I am always tired, achy, thirsty and I get upset stomachs all the time, what the heck! I know poor nutrition is what's causing it all, it's a combination of sugar cravings and eating out verrrry frequently. It's funny because I think to myself, well I'm generally pretty healthy...but I did eat fast food for lunch....and yesterday...and the day before...well, shoot.

    Your health journey is SO inspiring and educational, I really look forward to learning more from you! XOXO

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  22. Oh, Mara! I have recently cut out gluten, dairy, sugar, caffeine, and alcohol and I FEEL AMAZING. You know, I used to think your whole gf/df diet was crazy restrictive and wondered how in the world you could do it, but gosh it really does feel so good to fuel the body with really healthy, nutritious stuff. I agree with you 100% on everything you said here. YES, pinterest is a minefield for sugar addicts...I've had to unfollow lots of dessert boards because the visual kicks in a sugar craving. Oh also, I've never experienced acne, but I've had severe eczema my entire life and saw a drastic improvement in my skin when I cut out sugar, gluten and dairy, though I'm pretty sure that the sugar is the worst for my skin considering a reaction I had shortly after a poor dessert decision.

    Thank you so much for posting this! I think sugar addiction is still relatively unknown and it's great to plant the seed in people's minds even if they're not ready to give it up quite yet.

    Also - I posted a tutorial on making your own almond butter, my new favorite treat, here: http://allsortsofpretty.com/how-to-make-almond-butter/

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    1. Katy,

      I am a huge fan of your blog too and LOVE you recipes for almond milk and butter!! It is the best. My husband and I have been eating it by the spoonful dipped in roasted flax seeds from Trader Joe's for a snack. It's pretty awsome tasting! Thanks for all the great recipes! Of and your turkey meatballs are super too!

      KatieK

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  23. The cover story in National Geographic is about how we are addicted to sugar as a nation! Such a coincidence that I just read that and am now reading your post. It has some really great graphs and pictures. The article also goes into the history of processed sugar. It was well done. And it does say that sugar acts like a toxin in our bodies.

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  24. Thanks for sharing, Mara!

    For any type of cutting back, particularly with a sugar addiction, which most of us have. Taking it day by day and a small step at a time helps.

    For example, go from 2 TB of sugar in coffee, to 1.5 to 1 TB. To 2 Tsp, and so on. I've been on a no-sugar coffee kick for years, and love it.

    As a dietitian and nutritionist (PhD in Nutrition), I often get asked advice about this, and the most important thing to think about with regard to sugar is to look at packages and see where there is sugar where there shouldn't be sugar..such as pasta sauce, in low-fat foods (where sugar replaces the fat, and the calories are typically the same), etc etc.

    Finally, here is my mantra: "re-learn your satiety cues" try and pay attention to feeling full, from sugar and everything else, and that will help you cut back.


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  25. Dates are great! I've been trying to eat more "clean" as they say (no gluten, dairy, preservatives, sugar, etc.), but I like to make a treat on Sunday evenings, for sentimental reasons I guess. But I made a mousse the other week that was cocoa, dates, and coconut milk.

    Thanks for the encouragement. These lifestyle changes can be hard, so it's always nice to have reminders and helpful tips.

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  26. I love your blog, thank you for all of your posts. I have read and appreciated them all.

    I have had a nagging feeling that I need to do something about all the sugar consumed in my house, and your words have me very motivated.

    Mara, you mentioned that you have some healthy food blogs you follow. Would you mind sharing the links?

    Thanks again for the great work you do. I love your positive take on life.

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  27. Great ideas! I am looking forward to your post on snack ideas! You mentioned that you use agave as a sweetner; just wondering how much you would use it? I have been on the fence regarding agave for the last year. I bought it and used it for months and then read an article that made me feel I should research it a little further. I stopped using it because I couldn't find anything that convinced me that it was difference then refined sugar or corn syrup. Do you have any info that you have found that would show it is better for you?

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  28. Thank you so much for these posts! I have been feeling really "blah" lately and this is just the thing that I've been looking for to kick start a better path for me. I too would love links to some of the healthy blogs that you look at! Thank you thank you!

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  29. It's so reassuring to hear you say that you're a recovered sugar addict; I've been operating under the premise that you're just a super-disciplined person with unearthly style, heart, and brains PLUS (bad to say benefit?) of a dietary restriction that keeps you reed-slim. I have to say, the healthiest friend I have who also happens to be slim, fit and gorgeous, doesn't eat any dairy or gluten. She can't because while she doesn't have Chron's, she is gluten intolerant. She tells people about her eating very openly and just says "I can't eat gluten or dairy" but I envy her that. I feel like it would be so contrived or trendy if I suddenly announced to my friends and family that I wasn't eating gluten or dairy (while I mostly eat Paleo, that dietary style is much more acceptable and easy to follow in public than to give up the blessed American dessert/treat/diet coke). I'm sure in NY it's much more acceptable and easy to live this way. What advice would you give to those of us just hanging out in the suburbs with other moms and in the workplace who want to embrace this lifestyle but not reek of self-importance or "diet of the week?"

    Wish I had a gluten issue... maybe I do???!!

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  30. Ah, the timing. My kids came home from a social event today hopped-up on candy/sugar from a frozen yogurt bar. They proceeded to act like they were utterly possessed for the rest of the day. (Serious, alarming, manic behavior.) It is SO hard to limit kids' sugar intake without offending other adults. I've been seriously tempted to fake type 1 diabetes just to have a socially acceptable reason to keep other people from giving my kids sugar. They react to it just like I imagine many people respond to hard drugs. It's wild, and ugly. (Tips, anyone, on this conundrum?)

    On the bright side - I have a favorite defense for sugar-withdrawals. I keep a stock of (dried) dates on hand, and I stuff them with walnuts. It's still fairly fructose&calorie-heavy, but it's a world of improvement from a candy-bar or cookie, and it kind of satiates the craving.

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    1. Ha ha! I love it! I've thought of faking diabetes too! It's like we need a really good excuse in order for something to be acceptable.

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    2. From the point of view of a Type 1 diabetic: instead of faking a difficult, serious, and sometimes fatal disease, why don't you simply tell people you're trying hard to limit your (and your kids') sugar intake. If you feel the need to explain further, tell them you're trying to avoid Type 2 diabetes. That way you don't end up in an awkward situation with a true Type 1 diabetic. :)

      Mara's nutrition model wouldn't work for me as a diabetic AND a transplant patient. I've found things that work for me to stay healthy: I don't drink soda or fruit juice (which has far too many carbs for a diabetic), I eat small meals that contain protein during the day (and calcium-rich almonds as a snack), exercise, and limit sweets/desserts/treats to days that start with S. [<-- my sister does this with her kids and it's worked well for her!] You might be surprised at how much you find you don't want dessert even on the weekend when you don't eat it during the week.

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  31. Mara and Danny, again thank you SO much for this series of posts. I am more than tempted to give a DF/GF diet a try especially because I do believe it will help me get rid of my sugar addiction. My boyfriend and I are MAJOR sugar addicts and as much as we try to eat healthy, balanced and mostly organic food we are still super addicted to our sugary treats. I've also been wanting to get healthier and fitter lately as, at the age of 30, I already feel like i'm 65 and my weight makes me uncomfortable everyday. Thank you for not only being spiritual insipration to my soul but also health inspiration to my body (and mind!).

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  32. Hi Mara!
    I´ve read your food/health posts with great interest and think I am on the same page with you on many things: refined sugar, fatty/hormone-laden dairy and empty wheat and other grain products in copious amounts aren´t healthy and good for nourishing body and soul.
    But (provided one does not have an illness linked to these products) I really approach this differently and it seems most people around me do so, too. Here in Europe (vastly generalizing here) it´s more about moderation than avoidance, I think. Have your helping of dessert at a nice restaurant (once a week), eat dairy in small servings (once a day/buy organic), have your (1) glass of wine or (1) cup of coffee if you like it, eat plenty of vegetables, eat meat, fish, healthy grains and fruit regularly.
    The avoidance strategy may do a lot in terms of a healthy lifestyle, but doesn´t every shortcoming feel guilt-inducing?
    When I feed my body well and balanced with healthy foods the whole week, why not feed my tastebuds with that piece of cake or that extra-fatty brie and a crusty chunk of baguette on the weekend (being a reward for doing pretty well in general, rather than a guilty pleasure)?

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  33. Hallo from Greece! (please forgive my bad english)
    Your post is great!!! Just a comment: Honey also has sugar.
    And you haven't mention stevia. I use it for more than a year. It's a natural product but it has to be doped with erythritol and not with another artificial sweetener.
    I am very lucky to be living in Greece because here we have a more healthy way of eating. For example, our yoghurts are real yoghurts without sugar. Only the one's with the fruits have sugar. Of course we have junk food, cookies, sodas etc. but I think we are a little bit more careful in our diet.
    Thanks for reading my comments!

    Tatiana

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  34. I appreciate what you're trying to do with your healthful tips, including this one about sugar. I am a huge advocate for people becoming healthier and eating better, but, I think you're starting to cross the line between what science says and what works for you. A Registered Dietitian is the trained specialist in the area of nutrition, not a spiritual healer, not a blogger, and not random Pinterest pins on false "detox" diets and what not. There is so much misinformation out there about nutrition and I believe these types of posts add to the confusion- especially the constant discussions about dairy and wheat. I think the best recommendation for your readers is to consult a Registered Dietitian and work from there. If one wants to read a great critical look at the nutrition industry, there is a great chapter in the book "Bad Science" by Ben Goldman. He's just a starting point.

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    1. People have found great health by not following the FDA. Usually when you go the route of looking to the internet vs. official statements by groups such as Registered Dietitians is that you are choosing to listen to real people and their stories, and decide what makes sense to you, rather than listen to politically controlled groups, such as the FDA. Obviously you would not agree with this, but one of my pet peeves is when people act like if it's not official, it's worthless. When I see a lot of official stuff as intentionally deceptive.

      I think you'd have a hard time talking Mara back into wheat and dairy when obviously she has found great health taking them out. She is obviously a real person with a kind heart who is just sharing her story. I have my own theories on the wheat and dairy thing (why her body doesn't tolerate it), but my point is, I think the FDA will have to fight harder making regular internet people seem like they don't know anything, because there are so many people putting their voices together saying something is helping them so much, something that is opposed to what they say. "Don't listen to everything you read on the internet." Well, obviously, but also remember most people who were trained in diet were trained under one curriculum: The FDA's.

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    2. First, I'm not trying to convince Mara to change her dietary habits. I am just pointing out that people without the correct credentials are frequently giving advice outside their scope of practice. Just as much as I am not a medical doctor, I cannot give medical advice. It is the same with nutrition, though the general population seems to have become experts on it. Secondly, I was not specifically referring to the FDA. Though the FDA is a government entity and does regulate some food products, the FDA does not regulate all science. There are many independent researchers conducting studies in this area. I'm not trying to minimize people's desire to find and maintain health, I am in 100% support of that. But often we look for truth in wrong ways and cling to people's personal experience as if they are true science. I think that's where we need to be wary- a personal opinion, a blog, a series of individual testimony is not good science.

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    3. The common belief among non-mainstream health believers is that people who have the credentials were taught politically-invested research. And they were also taught, "Can you believe these people who just believe something because someone on the internet said so. We need to help them see the light." So then they come out of school thinking they know all. That is what people believe, whether or not others agree. So people with these beliefs would not point others to Registered Dietitians.

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    4. Look, for example, who the sponsors of Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics: http://www.eatright.org/corporatesponsors/

      The list includes Coca Cola, infant formula companies, Kelloggs, Pepsi. and the National Dairy Counsel.

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  35. I recently cut refined sugars out of my diet for a month and learned a lot. It was both easier and harder than I thought. Now my problem is how to continue on. I'm going more and more towards just cutting it out completely. It totally woke me up to how much sugar my kids are eating and we don't eat too many processed foods. Sugar is everywhere. I would love some links to the blogs you follow as well as recipe suggestions. I definitely use a lot more honey now but it's worth it.

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  36. This post was such a timely one for me as I'm using August as a no treats/candy/avoid sugar month. I've managed to do it before but I'm nervous about trying again! AH!

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  37. I go cold turkey on sugar for a month or so at a time (like Lent, but also recently too). It usually helps me trim up, if nothing else. It is hard, and it's a slippery slope when you start letting it in (like cakes at work). I also like to bake, so that's a slip up. I have set a 'loophole' that lets me eat sugar if I make it.

    Interestingly, there's an Australian author (I'm aussie) who thinks honey too is just as bad, as far as the nutritional value vs addiction and all that. His name is David Gillespie, and he's released a number of books, including Sweet Poison, all about this. That's how I got started on trying to be sugar free...

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  38. Several years ago I went off of sugar completely. No honey, molasses, etc. I never felt better! The constant cravings were gone. Fast forward a few years, and I eat sugar all the time. Thanks, Mara for bringing this conversation to the forefront. It's amazing when we are able to monitor our own bodies & do what's best for them.

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  39. At the beginning of this year I quit eating sugar with a goal to wait to have it when I was in Disneyland in April, if I wanted. (Because while I can live without sugar consistently, I can't live without a Disneyland churro!!) At any rate, setting a goal like this for myself really helped, particularly in the beginning. I did fall off the bandwagon a bit when I went on a cruise (ugh!) & noticed a considerable difference in my stomach bloat, acne & sleepiness. I finally kicked the habit again last thursday and in a week my skin has cleaned up and the stomach bloating has gone down considerably. Next goal: get rid of the gluten/dairy.

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  40. My best get-off sugar advice (I haven't had any sugar in over 2 years and have not missed it at all for about 18 months) is NONE is easier than A LITTLE or ONCE IN A WHILE. I don't mean to be a food Nazi, but it really is true. Cross about the 3rd month, and you won't look back. Up to that point I found myself severely pining for sweets, but I didn't allow it ever, and now I really couldn't care less when people are eating the most divine-looking treats in front of me. My husband says the same thing. We were more of a balanced healthy family for years. You know, having things at a bday party, that sort of thing. But when we'd eat, we'd gorge, just because it's so hard to stop. Now all of us pass up treats without any problems. My DD2 has never had candy. DD4 doesn't remember it. And DD6 does remember it sort of, but never complains. I feel like I have given them a gift: a childhood without this addiction.

    Now, that's not to say that it is so awful to have one thing, just that it's easier to not have any than to have one. For most of the world, we are all addicted to sugar. And the best way to cut an addiction is to go cold turkey.

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  41. And besides, Tumours crave sugar and grow on it!!! Yiiikes!

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  42. Thanks Mara. In January, I went gt and sf. I also limited dairy. Aside from the splitting headaches I had for the first 3 days, I have to say that it benefitted my life greatly. I found that my husband and I improved our relationship greatly. We had been on the verge of separation and divorce and discovered that we really could get along. I also found that pounds came right off and I was much clearer in my thinking as well. My skin was clearer and little skin irritations went away as well.

    I believe, that while many of us don't have a diagnosed allergy or intolerance to sugar or gluten, that many of us do have sensitivities that can affect our brains and our thinking. I also believe that our food is a drug (for better or for worse).

    I also appreciated your post scripts. I find that if I do have something sweet that it is easier to refrain, unless I have sweets several days in a week. I also totally agree with anonymous, however, because it is just so much easier to not ever eat sweets that to occasionally indulge.

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  43. This is a really impressive highlight. The layout is interesting..

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  44. Mara! This is what I help my clients face all the time. I have learned that for may of us, our cravings live in a "tricky three way intersection of of biology, desire and complete insanity". I have personally experienced how cravings can get really messy. But I have also learned how our cravings have things to teach us. Lessons far beyond nutrition that go deep into our soul. A valuable skill to learn is being able to let craving be a sign. A sign that you need to feel things deeper (ie mourn a loss instead of covering it up with food).
    Part of the work I do is about making cravings and emotional eating OK, and seeing the lessons we need to learn from them. For instance, I tend to crave both cashews and dark chocolate (which are rich in magnesium, which helps us to relax). Now I know that when those cravings come, it’s a sign to me from my body to stop what I am doing and take a break, to breathe, go for a walk. To give myself a chance to "think about my thoughts" and pay attention to what will help me most in the moment. One thing I work on with my clients who struggle with any kind of food addiction is to Stop-Challenge-and choose. Asking "why do I want to eat this". Going cold turkey is what seems to work best for me. Once I decide that filling my soul with sugar is not an option it is much easier to pay attention to what my soul really needed. Breaking free of sugar addiction can be done. This is from a girl who needed skittles and diet coke in order to function! Jennifer

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  45. I go back and forth between eating and avoiding sugar all the time. Trying to start up with no sugar again now. A couple of my go-tos that I don't think have been mentioned are sugar-free gum (anyone have any thoughts on this?)and mint herbal tea--so satisfying. Also flossing, brushing, and using mouthwash have been lifesavers when a craving creeps up.

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  46. An interesting new study that connects sugar consumption with reproduction - in mice
    http://www.washingtonpost.com/national/health-science/study-sugar-even-at-moderate-levels-toxic-to-mice-health-reproduction/2013/08/13/95887bee-0443-11e3-a07f-49ddc7417125_story.html

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  47. I don't know who you are but all I can say is wow! --"If we do have something sugary on a rare occasion, it's not the end of the world."--Is this what you would say to a heroin addict? When I used heroin, I couldn't do this. "But I PROMISE you that once it's cleared out of your system, avoiding sugar will no longer feel like torture" --Really? Cuz for me, that's when the fun really starts. Addiction is not a mere craving and I think you not only misrepresent what addiction is but you really don't understand how to resolve it. Addiction doesn't go away just because it's "out of your system." You miss the whole point of it being ingrained in your soul and the psychological "torture" it brings. Why do you think addicts of all types "fall off the wagon." Because they haven't replaced their addictions with "love", or any myriad of other distractions and diversions. It's a very physical and psychological issue and you can't wish it away with simple steps. Way too complicated for that.

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  48. Great post. I would add one more thing. In psychology (and interestingly a book from 2000 years ago), it is best to replace or modify rather than just stop something. One of the things I use with those I treat as a holistic nurse is the water cures protocol.

    Properly hydrated, we will not have cravings. Water alone will act to dehydrate us. We need to have salt, unprocessed sea salt to properly hydrate our bodies. In nursing, dehydration is called fluid and electrolyte imbalance, less than bodies needs.

    Thus, it is not just the water, it is also the salt and minerals we need. This helps the body not crave the sugars and reduces the need as what we get is more effectively metabolized.

    http://www.WaterCures.org/addiction-alcoholism-drug-treatment

    Also, many think that sugar laden soda and drinks hydrate us. They do not. Only water and an appropriate amount of electrolytes help us to hydrate.

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  49. Just wondering if you still use agave? I've read bad things about it but maybe there's something I'm not aware of? Love you coconut oil and dairy free posts. REALLY need to get refined sugar out of our diets! Thanks!

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    1. Hi! I hardly ever use agave (but should still keep up with the research on it.) We make a paleo chocolate chip cookie maybe once every 3-4 months and it calls for agave. Other than that, I use maple syrup for a paleo brownie that we love. Again, we hardly ever make these as I know that maple and agave are still forms of sugar. But at least they're better than cup fulls of straight up white sugar found in most baked goods recipes. I'm with you on the quest to get rid of refined sugar! It's hard at times. Oh yes, stevia is a great option. You can buy stevia choc chips at whole foods. Thx for writing!

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