Addicted to sugar?
September 20, 2005 9:41 AM   Subscribe

How can I wean myself off of sugar? It seems the more sweets I eat, the more I crave. I don't think that I can do it cold turkey.
posted by sandra194 to Food & Drink (41 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Are you hyper active?
posted by spooksie at 9:50 AM on September 20, 2005

The last time I weaned myself off of sugar*, I limited myself to refined sugar one day a week (say, Friday). It's suprisingly hard, working up to that one day, and I got cravings that surprised me. But it wound up that I had my treat, and lost the addiction to sweets.

*and then promptly got a job at a pastry shop, thus killing that little experiment.
posted by kalimac at 9:55 AM on September 20, 2005

Can you replace at least some of the sugary snacks with something else? An apple, maybe, or even tea? You need some sort of crutch.

I actually gave up ice cream for two weeks -- I had been eating it every night -- and after the first few days, stopped craving it at all. I haven't really had it since. But if I had thought "I'm giving up ice cream forever," I couldn't have done it; two weeks seemed long enough to change the behavior but short enough to be do-able.
posted by occhiblu at 9:56 AM on September 20, 2005

Previously asked - hope this helps.
posted by teleskiving at 9:57 AM on September 20, 2005

It takes a lot of willpower to ditch your addiction to sugar. Headaches, cravings for weeks, lethargy, and mild depression were all common side effects over a few different attempts I made.

I used to drink about a gallon and a half of sweetened ice tea made with over a cup of sugar per gallon every day. 900-1200 empty calories every day. What I wound up doing - and this sounds crazy but it worked - was supplant the tea with water and, well, candy. Skittles, cherry lifesavers, that kind of thing. When I wanted tea, I ate a couple lifesavers and drank water instead. Took about three weeks of desperately wanting tea before the need to drink it went away.

Then I simply cut back on the candy in the following weeks. Dropped 25lbs. back to my high school weight without doing a single other thing over the next four months. I still eat an incredible amount of junk food (cheetos, etc.), but my sugar intake is now very low.

My theory was basically that I had a physical and/or psychological addiction to the tea, and I needed to replace it with something that, while equally unhealthy, I had no addiction to. You might get results from a similar substitution method. Find something you like, but less so than your current problem food, supplant the problem food with it, and then wean yourself off the replacement. It's worth a shot.
posted by Ryvar at 10:00 AM on September 20, 2005 [1 favorite]

Sweet fruits like peaches, nectarines, bing cherries. You need to make the transition to natural sweets after acclimating yourself to the processed sweets (sugar).
Give the grocery fruits a day or two to ripen; they are not ripe yet as they sit in the store.
posted by buzzman at 10:04 AM on September 20, 2005

Quite a few products are available without sugar - they're sweetened with Splenda. Start buying low-/no sugar added products and it will make the switch much easier.
posted by Serena at 10:18 AM on September 20, 2005

I read a diet book once that suggested you eat a baked potato every night (plain), whether you felt like it or not.

This was supposed to fulfill your craving for carbohydrates. Maybe it was aversion therapy by making you eat one regardless of whether you want one.

Also, there was an article in the NY Times recently where someone discussed their discovery that they could control their appetite by taking a few teaspoons of fructose syrup a few times a day.

So maybe displacing the desire might work better than trying to eliminate it.
posted by GuyZero at 10:19 AM on September 20, 2005

replace it slowly, with fruit and other foods that don't have refined sugar in them. and eat more fiber.
posted by matteo at 10:24 AM on September 20, 2005

I found that when I was doing Atkins (I am not endorsing it) and severly limiting my carb intake, after a few days, I did not crave sugar the way I had. It might take going cold turkey for a week or two, then slowly allowing a more moderate amount back into your diet.
posted by clh at 10:27 AM on September 20, 2005

I did this by cutting out high-fructose corn syrup, which kept me away from much of the super-processed stuff and reminded me how easy it is to make my own cookies and brownies that rock. I still like sweet things, but I have much less tolerance for commercial products, which now taste sickeningly oversweetened to me. If I want to be lazy and buy sweets, I have to go to Whole Paycheck to get an acceptably non-HFCS version, making the sweets an conscious indulgence.

It's not cold turkey, but it eliminated the problem (mindless noshing, cravings) without triggering side effects (energy weirdness, headaches.)

Also see previous advice on cutting out sugary drinks.
posted by desuetude at 10:32 AM on September 20, 2005

I switched to dark chocolate. Less sugar, still sweet, and apparently beneficial (if you believe what you read). The proliferation of gourmet chocolate brands in recent years makes them easy to find; and now that Hershey owns Scharffen Berger, I imagine it'll get easier. They make an 82% cacao bar. Lindt makes a 99% bar, which I've been told you can't buy in the States -- but you can probably find it somewhere, maybe shelved beside Mexican Coke.
posted by cribcage at 10:47 AM on September 20, 2005

Having recently received less-than-perfect blood-glucose numbers, I found myself sufficiently motivated to ditch sugar.

The problem with sugar and other carbohydrates is they perpetuate a cycle of craving. I went cold-turkey, and made sure I got a lot of protein at every meal--"every meal" being a snack about every two hours (I ate a lot of sugar, and the caloric reduction was quite extreme). Amazingly, no cravings. In fact, I enjoy my food a lot more now--I eat a much greater variety of better food now that I don't automatically reach for a Snickers.

No need to go all Atkins, but make sure there's a good chunk of protein in everything you eat, and it will help immensely with the cravings.
posted by frykitty at 10:47 AM on September 20, 2005

Apropos of Atkins, consider trying South Beach. The first two weeks, in particular, are hardcore, but it's a really educational experience- you become very aware of all the sugar you typically consume in the midst of training your body to eat healthily without it.
posted by mkultra at 10:48 AM on September 20, 2005

Grapes are your friend, or at least, they are my friend when I try to wean myself from sugar. Good luck!
posted by Lynsey at 10:48 AM on September 20, 2005

Lindt makes a 99% bar

Not to derail, but isn't this just unsweetened baker's chocolate?
posted by mkultra at 10:49 AM on September 20, 2005

Artificial sweetners. Or, in my case, Splenda, in particular. Splenda tastes much like sugar and gets you over the whole taste aspect in things like porridge, tea, canned fruit, home baking, etc. I've even put Splenda in Diet Coke :)

There's more to sugar addiction than taste, but you can trick yourself if you can retain the taste but lose the rest of it.
posted by wackybrit at 10:53 AM on September 20, 2005

one way of doing this, is to take a trip somewhere where your addiction cannot be satisfied, but where there are sufficient distractions around you to minimize cravings.

I spent a week away from coffee twice this summer. The first few days I was a bit more tired and a bit crankier than usual, but the unusual locations (Tantalus Range, and later Ross Lake), as well as the sports activities I was engaging in, ensured that I didn't think too much about coffee.

Going away can be a great way to kick-start healthy living.
posted by seawallrunner at 11:09 AM on September 20, 2005

Um, Fruits do have refined sugar in them. They call it "Fructose" for a reason, people.
posted by delmoi at 11:24 AM on September 20, 2005

Yeah, but I'm guessing fruit doesn't qualify as one of the "sweets" that the poster is trying to give up.

You know, I actually gave up coffee and ice cream at the same time. RIDICULOUS withdrawal symptoms, but because I couldn't actually tell what I was most craving, I'd end up paralyzed with indecision and managed to stay off both of them.
posted by occhiblu at 11:28 AM on September 20, 2005

By the way, why do you want to cut out sugars? Do youw ant to lose weight, or some other reason? If you're trying to get rid of sugar-rushes and drowsyness, I don't think switching to sweet fruits won't help, because sweet fruits contain simple sugars (in particular, fructose). Not-sweet fruits also contain fructose, but not as much (obviously).

If you just want to lose weight/get in shape, you can still eat sweets, just not as much. Mix in some excersize and you should feel pretty good.
posted by delmoi at 11:32 AM on September 20, 2005

You know, I actually gave up coffee and ice cream at the same time. RIDICULOUS withdrawal symptoms, but because I couldn't actually tell what I was most craving, I'd end up paralyzed with indecision and managed to stay off both of them.

I'm guessing this wasn't available at the time?
posted by delmoi at 11:33 AM on September 20, 2005

Fruits have sugar in them, but definitely not refined. They call it "refining" for a reason, people.
posted by arcticwoman at 11:39 AM on September 20, 2005

You can do it cold turkey, or close to it, and it's the only smart way to do it. Gradually going off sugar almost always leads to gradually going back on it.

1. Learn to like sugary things without sugar. If you are putting sugar in your tea or coffee, just stop the sugar. I used to put lots of sugar in tea and coffee, and accidentally having them without sugar was blechh. Now that I'm used to having them sugarless, even just a little accidental sugar in either revolts me.

2. If you can't live without something sweet, buy lots of naturally sweet fruit (grapes, berries, apples, anything without added sugar), wash it, and put it in a bowl where you would normally stash the sweets. Every time you crave something sweet, you'll reach for the fruit. Even if you ate a heap of fruit and your total sugar consumption stayed the same, your body would be a lot better off for having had all that fruit.

3. Have control when you are out shopping so you don't have to have control when you're home and no one is watching you pig out. Buy no sweets. Keep no sugar in the house. None. No "light" stuff and no artificially sweetened snacks. No raw sugar and no sugary products. Unless you're a baker (and I bet you aren't), you don't need any sugar in the house. Keep a little artificial stuff (or some stolen fast-food packets) around if you get visitors who need sweet tea or coffee. I love sugary pastries and cookies and chocolate and so on, so I just don't buy them at all because I know I would just gobble them all down in one evening.
posted by pracowity at 11:52 AM on September 20, 2005

Look seriously at your routine, along with your diet of course. Do you skip breakfast? Do you eat most of your food once a day rather than spacing it out? Do you binge at night? The point of controlled carbohydrate diets is to break the cycle of insulin resistance -- as a result, when you eat can be as important as what you eat.
posted by gnomeloaf at 12:44 PM on September 20, 2005

delmoi: Um, Fruits do have refined sugar in them. They call it "Fructose" for a reason, people.

How many fruit factories have you come upon? Are they now manufacturing apples and I just don't know about it. Refined sugar is called refined sugar because it has been processed.

I wrestle with the same problem, by the way. I just finished eating two fricking candy bars for lunch. Why? Because I was craving sugar, just as always. It sucks. I want to break the habit (and sometimes succeed), but it's hard.

I recently bought a book called something like "The Three Apple a Day Weight Loss Plan" in which the author says that eating an apple before every meal can help curb sugar cravings while adding fiber to the diet. Sounds like a gimmick, but at this stage in my life, I'm willing to try gimmics.
posted by jdroth at 12:50 PM on September 20, 2005

How many fruit factories have you come upon? Are they now manufacturing apples and I just don't know about it. Refined sugar is called refined sugar because it has been processed.

They have little factories inside each cell.

The chemical is exactly the same, and it will have the same effect on the body. Fructose is fructose in an apple or in a can of coke.
posted by delmoi at 1:06 PM on September 20, 2005

Refined sugar lacks the additional nutrients your body would otherwise use to metabolize it. So, it has to use up the nutrients already in your cells to do it. Unfortunately, if these nutrients are breaking down sugar (especially complex sugars like HFCS, as opposed to "simple" sugars like fructose), they're not breaking down fat.

Naturally occurring fructose is not the same as HFCS, which is engineered by converting corn starch to fructose (no, I have no idea what this involves).
posted by mkultra at 1:35 PM on September 20, 2005

Wow you guys are great! Such good advice and so quick! Ok, here's the thing--a bit more about my situation:
--I do not add sugar to foods or beverages but I love foods that contain sugar, i.e. deserts-cookies, cakes, ice cream
--I don't buy it that often but my hubby likes to have at least one thing sweet in the house
--I took my daughter off of juices and she dropped weight--she also plays a lot of sports, she's 13
--I will add splenda if I must add sugar to something
--I do have increased glucose levels
--I do exercise (step class, walking)
--I do need to lose weight, and I am short (5'2")
--I do buy "no sugar added" ice cream (hubby & daughter won't eat it) more for me!
--I drink water for every meal, I do drink coffee in the morning
--I adore chocolate
--I do like fruit
--I am also addicted to carbs--but one thing at a time here
posted by sandra194 at 1:55 PM on September 20, 2005

OK, I'm no food chemist, but perhaps people don't realize that there is more than one kind of sugar out there. Fructose, sucrose, glucose are all sugar, but are absorbed differently (as they have different molecular structures, which is where I start to get lost)


Sucrose: GI 58-110
Fructose: GI 11-25
Glucose: GI 85-111

A lower GI rating indicates that the food raises blood sugar level more slowly. So fructose causes less of a "sugar high" versus sucrose or glucose, both of which are much more common in processed foods. Refined sugar, that you buy in a bag at the grocery store, is sucrose.

Anyway, the idea is to eat foods with lower GI ratings. I think there are a number of diets based on this principle.
posted by GuyZero at 2:31 PM on September 20, 2005

Check out Katherine DesMaisons' The Sugar Addict's Total Recovery Program. It's all about precisely what you're going through. (This is her second book. It renders the first one redundant. Haven't looked at the subsequent ones.)
posted by Zed_Lopez at 3:05 PM on September 20, 2005

I do not add sugar to foods or beverages but I love foods that contain sugar, i.e. deserts-cookies, cakes, ice cream

You have to stop keeping that stuff in the house.

I don't buy it that often but my hubby likes to have at least one thing sweet in the house

Convince him that you want to cut the sweets and lose weight, and that he needs to help by cutting back or eliminating his sweets.
posted by pracowity at 3:08 PM on September 20, 2005

I used to have a real Dr. Pepper problem, one that I thought I could never beat. Then I discovered that they were owned by a corporation that made political contributions to groups I don't like. Suddenly it seemed like every Dr. Pepper I drank was a contribution to causes I despise. I haven't had a Dr. Pepper in almost a year now. Maybe you should research the sugar lobby? Are they giving to people you don't like? Probably this can't be a primary influence in your giving up sugar, but a device to reinforce your decision.
Good luck!
posted by Sara Anne at 3:18 PM on September 20, 2005

Your hubby needs to help you out by NOT having sweet things in the house. If he must have them, let him keep them in a secret cache. Having sweet shit on tap is a recipe for disaster. I grew up without any, and never had any problem with sweets/cakes/biscuits until I started living with women who believed that sweets/cakes/biscuits were normal grocery items. They are not. They are treats for special occasions, not staples.

As I understand it, part of the craving for sweet things is the blood sugar crash in the aftermath of the last big dose of sweet things. Therefore it makes sense to have something high in protein, and something high in fibre with every meal, to prevent that crash. Once you can start cushioning the crash it will reduce the craving for the next lot of sweet shit that sets you up for another crash.

Another implication is that you can keep eating this stuff BUT you must reserve it for dessert. You must not eat it on its own or as a meal in its own right.

Portion control. Have some, but have a little bit. Buy the small packages, even if they are poor value for money. Buy just enough for one serving. Learn what size a serving is.

The notion of addiction to sugar or addiction to carbs is a bit stupid anyway. You are an upright ape and designed to obtain a substantial chunk of your daily energy needs from carbohydrates, and in that sense are no more addicted to carbs than you are to water or oxygen. However, I fully believe you can be conditioned to depend on the high from a flood of glucose into the bloodstream. Change your eating patterns accordingly.
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 3:52 PM on September 20, 2005

Grapes are your friend, or at least, they are my friend when I try to wean myself from sugar

Ooh you know what's REALLY good, people? Put some fresh, seedless grapes in a bag in the freezer, and once they're frozen, snack on them. So smoooth and cool and sweet and mouthwateringly juicy but in a fresh, watery, clean tasting way, not sticky. Kind of like pure fruit sweets/candy but less intensely sweet and - grapes don't go at all mushy like most fruits would in the freezer.

Agggh now I really want some and I have none. Try them, though, they're good.
posted by penguin pie at 5:46 PM on September 20, 2005

Yes! Frozen grapes rule! I totally want them now, too :(

Be careful with juice- it still has a lot of sugar in it.

Surprisingly "not awful" dessert- Tofutti Cuties (chocolate).

--I am also addicted to carbs--but one thing at a time here

OK, but understand that carbs and sugar are inherently related because carbs are just very complex sugars. Also, if you haven't heard it a million times here before, here it is again- any prepared or frozen foods you buy are full of sugar (and salt). It's the same as what you crave in "junk" food. Those snacking urges? Sugar.

Tackle one, you may find it easy to tackle the other.
posted by mkultra at 6:25 PM on September 20, 2005

One of the better things to do when you are on a sugar purging campaign is to look at the sugar that is in a lot of the tasty things you like and see if you can push some of that to the side. This can be easier if you have a bit of time to cook. A few things I do

- no more fruit juice, replace with unsweetened ice tea [chai and mint flavors seem more like drinks]. If you can't go cold turkey consider fruit juice ice cubes in unsweetened iced tea.
- watch for secret sugar in stuff like spaghetti sauce, applesauce, most processed foods & drinks. Check the label, look at numbers. Often you may be surpised that two things that you think of as fundamentally equivalent [for me it's fruity yogurt compared to add-my-own-fruit yogurt] can have a huge difference in sugars.
- fruit and sweet vegetables can help with cravings. Keeping grapes, cut up melons, and berries in the freezer to go into smoothies [add yogurt, add vanilla, add coffee, just don't add more sugar] is a really tasty way to handle cravings. I was always partial to raw carrots and peppers.
- re: carbs. Start thinking about whole grain substitutes for your white flour foods including cakes, brownies, english mffins, breads. A lot of this stuff can be made with whole wheat flour or grains, or bought in a whole grain/wheat variety without much of a taste difference.

I agree with what others have said, if your hubby needs sweets [I am a plump short gal with a lean crazed cyclist for a partner, we compromise on food in many ways] make sure they are not mixed in with the general food population, but try to not villify anyone's food choices since that just drives them underground. Keeping everyone sane about food as you try to alter your diets should be one of the goals of a new eating regimen and it sounds like you're on the right track.
posted by jessamyn at 6:49 PM on September 20, 2005

Start exercising more. You may begin to crave more protein instead of sweets.
posted by ikkyu2 at 7:36 PM on September 20, 2005

A final, minor thing you can do: switch to toothpaste that doesn't contain saccharine -- something like Tom's of Maine. After a few weeks, regular toothpaste will taste disgustingly sweet. I'm convinced that not having that sweet taste in your mouth twice a day helps decrease your interest in sugar -- I think it helped me unintentionally cut my sugar intake a few years ago.
posted by climalene at 8:33 PM on September 20, 2005

I second mkultra's suggestion of the South Beach diet. The first two weeks are strange but not bad like you'd expect. They're suppsed to get your body used to living on a healthy diet and nuking all of those cravings.
posted by deanj at 7:35 AM on September 21, 2005

Oh, and the notion of sugar addiction is not stupid.
posted by Zed_Lopez at 6:16 AM on September 26, 2005

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