Do you crave certain foods when you stop using your substance of choice? Your cravings and your addiction are likely linked – and sugar could be holding you back from making a full recovery.
This may surprise you: the food you eat can have a dramatic impact on your efforts to stay sober. Aside from getting yourself into a solid addiction treatment program, eating well may be the most powerful thing you can do to avoid relapse.
Between 30 and 50 per cent of people who struggle with addiction suffer from co-occurring eating disorders, from binge eating to anorexia. This is no coincidence: addiction and food are inextricably linked, both physically and physiologically. Because of this, dropping your addiction can lead to shifts in your relationship with food.
As you embark on the path to sobriety, one of the biggest shifts you might experience is an intense uptick in sugar cravings.
The Dangers of Sugar in Recovery
Have you ever noticed that newly sober people often revert to eating like a kid might, preferring things like candy, juice, cereal or ice cream to a balanced meal?
When you stop consuming your drug of choice, the high your brain relies upon to feel ‘okay’ is gone – and you’re left with a void. In early recovery, you’re at risk of developing other addictions to fill that void. Getting hooked on sugar after quitting alcohol is especially likely.
Here’s how it plays out:
After you quit using drugs, your brain needs a fix – and because it has learned to rely on substances to get a high, it’ll latch on to the first satisfying thing you consume. Often, that’s sugar. Sugar acts on the brain in the same way drugs do, and is usually readily available and relatively socially acceptable – making it the perfect candidate for a crutch. Every time you consume it, your addiction deepens and the cycle of craving restarts.
Sugar may provide short-term relief and reward, but eating it – even occasionally – is hurting you rather than helping you. You’re risking your sobriety with every bite, by keeping your addiction alive in a different form. When you take sugar (and other addictive substances, e.g. cigarettes) out of the equation entirely, your brain has the chance to heal and disconnect from addictive tendencies, giving you a better chance of long-term sobriety.
If you’re about to make the leap to early recovery, prepare for your tastes to change – and know how to beat the cravings.
10 Tips to Help You Quit Sugar
Not sure how to quit sugar? Read on for our top ten tips to help you give up the sweet stuff and take back control of your brain, so you can stay clean with minimal cravings.
1. Just give it up.
Ultimately, quitting sugar cold turkey is generally the best way to go. Moderation is actually more difficult than abstinence – if you don’t consume it, you won’t crave it.
2. Find whole-food replacements.
Replace your sugar-laden favourites with whole foods that won’t spike your blood sugar and lead to cravings. Try sweet potatoes with butter and cinnamon or a few pieces of fresh fruit.
3. Read the label.
There’s hidden sugar in everything these days, and sugar goes by many names. Learn to read labels critically so that you can avoid processed sugars completely.
4. Put it on your calendar.
Put up a calendar and cross off your sugar-free days as you go, to keep the momentum going. If you can stick it out for two weeks, you’ll be over the worst of your initial cravings.
5. Plan ahead.
Planning your meals for your entire detox can help you stick to your guns. There are sugar-free meal plans readily available on the internet. Here’s a three-day sugar detox guide to get you started.
6. Clean up your environment.
If it’s not in your house, it’s a lot less likely that you’ll eat it. Cravings shut down your ability to make well-reasoned decisions – so don’t rely on willpower to get you through this.
7. Seek balance.
Sugar isn’t the only thing that will give your brain its ‘fix’. Get outside, express yourself and move. Learn to meet your needs in healthier ways so you’re not seeking an external high.
Ultimately, this practice protects you against getting sucked back into your old way of life – or into a new addiction.
Tennie McCarty, an expert on the relationship between addiction and food, puts it best:
‘If people are searching for something to medicate the feelings, they will continue to do that until they look at what they are using over. It’s about quality of life. Not everyone needs to use something. People live their lives, they deal with the issues, and they can recover…from all of their addictions.’
Get Top-notch Support for Your Addiction Recovery at The Cabin Melbourne
If you’re noticing yourself struggling to limit other substances as you try to break free of your addiction – whether that substance is sugar or something more illicit – we’re here to support you. Contact The Cabin Melbourne today to find out how we can help you get sober for good