My relationship with food was never great. From a young age, I became addicted to sugar and carbs and was dieting by the time I was 11.
When I tell you I was addicted to sugar, that’s not an exaggeration. The cravings were overpowering, unshakable, and they negatively affected my mood and behavior.
Food was all I could think about.
I’d finish bingeing on something only to wonder what I’d be having for dinner.
And what about dessert?
I was imprisoned by my cravings. Food became an obsession that was always on my mind to the point where I thought it was normal. That is until I’d hear someone say, “oh I forgot to eat lunch today,” or “I skipped breakfast this morning because I just wasn’t hungry.”
“How do they do that!?”
This seemed so foreign to me as someone who constantly had food on the brain and planned out the daily menu and packed snacks “just in case.”
I was never satisfied and always hungry.
I wanted to know how I could forget to eat when food seemed to be screaming my name every hour.
How could I find freedom from food?
Escaping Food Prison
I hear this same story all too often. People get crazy insatiable cravings as a result of hypoglycemia, which then turns into pre-diabetes, and that eventually turns into type 2 diabetes.
Diabetes doesn’t just show up one day. Your body develops it over years or decades of feeding it the wrong foods.
But it’s really not your fault.
Our dietary guidelines, in the US at least, actually promote a diet that results in insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes.
And it’s not like you can quit food cold turkey in an effort to break the addictive cycle. I know there are people out there claiming to live on sunlight and air alone but many of them have been found chowing down when they thought no one was watching.
If you’re addicted to drugs or alcohol, you can just cut yourself off completely – not that it’s easy – but eventually, you don’t have to face your addiction all day long.
Food is different.
We all need food if we want to live. We have to think about it, smell it, see it, and plan around it every single day. We can fast, but fasting for extended periods of time always seems to result in deterioration followed by death.
So I was going to have to figure out how to create a healthier relationship with food. But how do you do that while in an addicted state?
How could you possibly make good decisions and prevent yourself from going overboard and falling into another deep dark hole of cravings and bingeing while you’re surrounded by – even nourished and dependent on – the subject of your addiction every day for basic survival?
You have to find the triggers to those cravings and remove them!
And I think you know the macronutrient most responsible for sugar cravings:
Step 1: Remove Sugar
You may think that quitting soda, cookies, and ice cream are enough to remove sugar from your diet.
But this is wrong!
Sugar hides in unexpected places!
If you were to empty out all your cabinets and your refrigerator to actually read the ingredients of all the products you buy, you may be shocked to find just how many items contain sugar (in its many forms).
Salad dressings, soups, chicken broth, and even mayonnaise contain hidden sugars!
All of these foods cause issues with blood sugar spikes and result in insulin resistance – something that seems to be at the heart of so many of our modern chronic health problems.
The dangers of sugar deserve an entire book and I can’t go into it in depth in one article but if you’re having issues with food addiction, sugar is enemy number one.
So start sifting through all of the food in the house and get rid of anything that contains sugar. Be careful about artificial sweeteners as well. These can have the same effect as regular sugar. Stevia used in moderation should be fine to get you through the tough cravings.
And watch for all the different names that sugar comes under such as sucralose, dextrose, fructose – basically, if it ends in an “ose,” it’s sugar. Also cane juice, corn syrup, brown rice syrup, barley malt, etc.
At least for the time being you’ll want to remove fruit that contains a lot of sugar as well. While you are hard at work trying to gain back your freedom from food addiction, stick to berries only. A handful of blueberries, raspberries, and strawberries are great when you need some of nature’s candy. They have fewer carbs but will keep your sweet tooth happy.
Step 2: Remove Grains
What if you’ve been on a whole food plant-based diet and think all of this couldn’t possibly apply to you because you really don’t eat sugary things?
Well, that’s where this gets tricky.
Sugar comes from carbohydrates.
All carbs no matter if it’s a donut, oatmeal, or broccoli will eventually become glucose in the body, so we need to be conscious of what nutrients (or toxins!) we are getting with our carbs.
Meaning that you should be asking yourself: is this particular carb worth it? What effects will it have on my body?
Grains are a close second to sugar when it comes to the insatiable cravings and sugar spikes that you’re experiencing every day. They make us feel full but inevitably keep us hungry and constantly unsatisfied.
It’s really not your fault that you feel this unrelenting hunger and that you experience obsessive thoughts about food all the time. This is simply what sugar and grains do.
Not to mention that these foods are recommended to us as the foundation of a healthy diet! This is pure insanity, in my opinion.
Another problem with grains (along with vegetables) is that they contain antinutrients.
This is the plants’ chemical defense against being eaten. Basically, antinutrients block the absorption of vitamins and minerals in the body.
This means that even though a grain may contain certain minerals, it doesn’t mean that you are actually absorbing them. In fact, it may be leaching minerals out of your tissue and bones and even damaging your gut lining causing leaky gut.
If these antinutrients are blocking the absorption of essential nutrients, your body will keep calling out for more food because it’s not getting the nutrition it needs – no matter how full you feel.
This is why it’s so important that you remove sugar as well as grains and save your carb intake for vegetables and fruits that you enjoy in moderation.
Step 3: Remove Vegetable/Seed Oils
Vegetable oils can affect your cravings in a different way.
They are endocrine disruptors. This means that they seriously mess with your hormones, including insulin.
They contain unstable polyunsaturated fatty acids or PUFAs that build up in your body fat over time just like other toxins.
They actually shut down the mitochondria or powerhouse of the cells of your body. Therefore, the brain feels it’s being starved of energy and commands the liver to release more glucose in the blood for much-needed fuel. Then the poor pancreas has to pump out higher and higher levels of insulin to regulate your blood sugar.
Your organs are fighting against each other trying to keep you healthy!
What a mess!
Your body can’t go on like this forever without developing insulin resistance and other health problems related to it. Your hormones regulate everything that goes on in the body.
Let’s not confuse them by getting rid of any product that contains industrial seed oils also known as “vegetable” oils.
- soybean oil
- sunflower oil
- canola oil
- corn oil
- peanut oil
- sesame seed oil
- cottonseed oil
- grapeseed oil
If you need to cook with fat use coconut oil, butter, ghee, lard, or beef tallow. These contain saturated fat which is a stable fat and are actually much healthier for us despite all we’ve been sold by Proctor & Gamble since the inception of Crisco in 1911 which was made out of hydrogenated cottonseed oil.
Crisco’s original intended use? An industrial lubricant for factory machinery!
Just say no to vegetable oil.
Extra virgin olive oil is okay but should not be used at high temperatures and is best for cold use like in a salad dressing.
If you are insulin resistant or have undeniable cravings for sugar and carbs be warned that you will experience withdrawal symptoms before you experience true food freedom.
Just keep at it and soon you won’t be controlled by your cravings anymore.
Please make sure you are hydrated, get plenty of rest, and eat some more healthy fats like red meat, avocados, fatty fish, and eggs to keep you satiated and on track.
It can be difficult to get over the hump but stick with it for a month at least to see how you feel.
Once you have a handle on removing the addictive, poisonous, and damaging sugars, grains, and vegetable oils give yourself some credit!
Celebrate the accomplishment with something fun!
Sugar, grain, and vegetable oil-free-fun, of course.
But remember there is more work to do. These are just the first 3 steps.
There are more steps to follow in the coming weeks but in the meantime start to take control by weeding out all the foods that cause your cravings. If you fall off, no biggie! Get right back on! We can’t be perfect all the time so no need to wallow in guilt. We’ve built up these cravings our whole lives so it will take longer than a few weeks to really get a hold on things.
Not to mention all the things we’ll be learning by finding out what exactly is in all of the food we eat every day. So be patient with yourself.
Check out some more information on getting prepared for an elimination diet.
And let us know in the comments if you’ve struggled with sugar and carb addiction and the effects it’s had on your life. It helps everyone when we share our own stories and see that we aren’t alone.
Love your guts! <3
Nice article. Good information to share with my family and friends. Sugar is the most addictive substance to kick. Would it be better to replace sugar with honey? You are so right about increasing the intake of fruits more to attack a sugar urge. Thank you for providing some excellent knowledge on food freedom.
Hi Tim, as for honey being a replacement for table sugar, I think it depends on your level of insulin resistance and your addiction to sugar. Honey will still spike your blood sugar and cause cravings if you have those issues so it might be best to steer clear of all forms of sugar until you break the cycle. But I don’t see anything wrong with adding a bit of honey back into your diet once you gain more control of the cravings and heal your metabolism. You can try using stevia which is a sugar substitute extracted from a plant to help with that pesky sweet tooth as you’re detoxing. Some people don’t care for the aftertaste but I use it pretty often and I enjoy it.
Thanks for this useful advice and information. I can totally relate to what you was stating at the start of the post. I too used to struggle with food and now I wouldn’t say I don’t but it’s better than it was.
I was addicted to sugary food, I always craved them and wondered how others stayed away, silently wishing I could be like that too.
I definitely learnt quite a few info from here. I never knew grains can also be a culprit!
Hi Sariyah! Sugar addiction is so common and almost everyone I meet has some issues with it. It’s great that you are aware of it though. And it’s true that grains and other carbohydrates might be something to watch if you have serious blood sugar issues.
Your article has been an eye-opener for sure. I have struggled from time to time with those sugar cravings. I am not overweight per guidelines but carry my weight in the wrong places, like around my belly. The biggest change I made was sodas. I stopped cold turkey, but I’m not sure I recommend stopping altogether but slowly back off sodas. I lost weight by making that one change. Thank you, and best of luck with the blog!
Thanks, Jim! Props to you for quitting soda and taking control of your health! That’s a huge step that most people don’t take. It’s amazing how the weight can fall off with a few small (although possibly challenging) changes. Wishing you the best!
Very well written article,
There are so many ways that people recommend to be able to live not worrying about your eating. Each way works specifically with some and not with others. I have always found that my eating is better when I have all food groups in moderation. It allows me to strike a great balance and still enjoy myself without being guilty about it afterwards. That’s just how I work it and someone else might be different.
Enjoying what you eat is so important! No one wants to live a life of deprivation. Eating is one of the many pleasures we get to experience in life. Stay on your path as long as you aren’t feeling any side effects or experiencing ill health. Moderation and self-awareness are key! Thanks for your comment:)
Thank you for sharing this wonderful article – The First 3 Steps To Food Freedom! Deciding what to eat is not always easy. Your article is very detailed and also a good guide to making the right food choices. Removing sugar, grains and vegetable seed oil is definitely a step in the right direction.
I’m so glad you found the article helpful, Diana!
Thank you for sharing you addiction to food and how you needed to escape from the food prison, as you describe it. With the amount of processed food that most people eat these days, there are many hidden ingredients that most of them are not aware of it. Sugar is one of the biggest culprits, and is added unnecessarily to so many foods.
Anybody wanting to start eating in a healthy way and cut out sugar, grain and unhealthy fats, will benefit from reading this post.
You’re so right about sugar being added unnecessarily to food today. Most people don’t realize there is often a long list of harmful ingredients in prepackaged food and there are various names for different types of sugar and sugar substitutes. Gaining knowledge about what we put into our bodies is so important for us to make healthier choices.
Thanks for sharing this approach to the first 3 steps to food freedom. I have to admit that it sounds like it’s asking a lot, but for anyone who can stick with it, I’m almost positive they will notice results. It’s easy to be drawn to the tasty appeal of sugars, carbs, and oils, but indulging in them too much is a recipe for health disasters.
You’re welcome, Aly! Making changes to your diet is hard but making a few new grocery shopping choices each week or even just trying a new recipe really helps. Going slowly helps us build up permanent healthy habits. We don’t need to be perfect, we just need to practice!