Happy Valentine’s Weekend!
Did you know that sugar was called “Crack” when it became a rare and coveted delicacy in 16th century France? Even back then, sugar was thought of as a drug, known for its powerful addictive potential.
As Valentine’s Day turns the world outside into a big candy dish full of chocolates and sweets, how can you walk through the week of love and sugar without becoming a sugar pining fool? Let’s do a little pre-Valentine’s weekend sugar addiction intervention session shall we?
CANDY SWEETHEARTS…VERY BITTER
Back in my un-Shifted days, when I yo-yoed up and down the scale 40 pounds, my “crack” during Valentine’s Day was not chocolate but those sugary sweet “sweet hearts candy” that came in the little box. I never stopped at one box though—I powered through multiple boxes in one hedonistic sitting.
Sugar then was not my sweet heart but my enemy—taking my power and leaving me feeling like a cheap, easy date. I’d feel guilty, but at the same time craved more sugar. This was the impact it had on both my brain and my body after the initial sugar high. Valentine’s Day was never a day time of love but a time of self defeatist loathing.
When I made my own SHIFT 20 years ago, I began by creating a powerful boundary around the sweet heart candy. Those sweet hearts can say “Be Mine” and “So Cute!” all they want but they do not seduce this wise and Shifted mama into letting one pass over her lips.
I may treat myself to other Valentine’s Day treats—such as chocolate—which does not hook me—but I stay clear of my danger zone. And for me, Valentine’s Day now is not about the candy (as it always used to be) but for being grateful for all the fabulous people I have in my life—including you!
How about you—do you worry about going down that dark alley of Valentine’s Day treats?
For you to SHIFT your relationship to sugar, you need to understand that it isn’t about being “good” or “bad”. Your addictive relationship with sugar is divided into three sub relationships—physical, mental and emotional.
PHYSICALLY: Our relationship with sugar is physical because excessive use can create addictive neural patterns in the brain similar to heroin addiction. Over time, eating too much sugar literally blows out our brains drive for homeostasis and our reward center gets triggered. That leads to what Dr. David Kessler calls “hypereating”—eating when we aren’t even hungry, eating excessively, because the reward center of our brain just says “More! More! More!” People who struggle with their weight tend to be more sensitive and become “hooked” more easily to sugary foods.
MENTALLY: Our relationship with sugar is mental because if we habitually eat certain sugars at certain places and at certain times of the day, the brain comes to expect the sugary food and becomes agitated when it doesn’t get it. We typically call this need to do the same thing at the same time place “habit”.
When we expect something habitually we become agitated until we get it and when we get it –it creates a sense of relief. Even though it seems like it, it’s actually not the sugar, but the satisfying of the expectation that feels good. But our unconscious brain is hooked and is going to make sure we get that cookie at the same time tomorrow.
So you can see why habits form quickly and die slowly.You can also see why we feel addicted—we feel agitated like a junkie does when he expects his next fix. That cookie at 3pm becomes the fix and 3pm is our fix time.
EMOTIONALLY: Our relationship with sugar is emotional because from an unconscious level, comfort food isn’t the food, but what the food represents to us symbolically from an unconscious perspective.
Our unconscious mind speaks to us in symbols more than language and when we are young we become imprinted with our own food symbol language. For me, brownies symbolized nurturing. I noticed during my own Shift that when I craved brownies and I took the moment to dig deeper—I didn’t really need the brownie, I needed nurturing. Baked sugary goods equaled my mother’s love.
The good news is that your Inner Coach can use key strategies to keep you out of that addiction cycle and change your relationship to sugar.
1- Eat More Fiber, Whole Foods and Protein: In order to physically “unhook” addictive eating, it will serve you to create a food plan that is low in sugar, salt, fat and refined floury foods and high in fiber, fruits and vegetables and lean protein.
2-Know And Honor Your Sugar Ceiling: Every “body” is different and can tolerate a certain level of starchy or refined sugars and carbohydrates before they start feeling “hooked”. It will be your mission to discover how much “sets you off” to make sure that you stay under that point on a daily basis. For many this is about 2-3 servings a day.
3-Tune Into Your Body: Check out how you feel after eating refined foods and sugar. Some foods have a worse impact than others (think “gateway food”) and for many the rule of thumb is to avoid eating Valentine’s Candy on an empty stomach. This quickly raises blood sugar levels and creates a bigger impact on the brain causing it to start looking around for more sugar. It is best to eat sugar (if and when you do) with other food.
Note: Starchy Carbohydrates can range from whole grain bread to the most refined sugary candy and alcohol. Even though starchy carbohydrates from whole foods give you more nourishment than candy and donuts and more refined carbs, some people have a low tolerance level and can overeat even these “healthier” foods
4-Think of Refined Starches and Sugar Like Cocktails: The earlier in the day we eat refined food the earlier we begin wanting more!!! Save the sweets for after 5pm!
5-Learn Your Triggers: Recognize your trigger times and emotional triggers for compulsive eating and use your Inner Coach to come up with other ways of comforting yourself other than food.
6-Find Healthier Alternatives: Find a replacement for those times that you have gotten used to reaching for the more “addictive” foods.
7-Sugar and Valentine Candy Addiction Intervention:
Remember long term permanent weight release is not about being perfect. It is about embracing imperfection and consistently finding solves and strategies that allow us to stay connected to ourselves and moving forward –“showing up for ourselves” rather than hitting the “eject” button on ourselves and our weight release when we get off course.
If you find yourself eating a sugary “gateway” food or candy and getting “hooked”, take action as quickly as possible. Use the following strategies and you will become unhooked in no time:
-Take a break from all starchy and refined carbohydrates for three days (or limit to one).
-Up your protein intake. This will stabilize your blood sugar and stunt the false hunger that is being caused by your out of whack blood sugar levels.
-Up your intake of vegetables and whole food. The more healthfully you eat, the less your body craves the junk.
-Drink water which flushes it all from your system
-Move your body and exercise.
Just remember this holiday that your biggest Valentine is showing up for yourself in a loving and respectful way. There is really no one who can nurture you as much as you can really nurture yourself. Don’t give up on yourself—you are worth the fight against sugar slavery!