How to quit sugar
photo: Corbis

I've been addicted to sugar all my life. Actually, even longer than that, as my mom had insane sugar cravings that she couldn't help but satisfy when she was pregnant with me. She claims this sugar obsession had never been as strong as when I was in her womb, making this a clear chicken/egg situation: Did I make her crave the sugar because I was addicted even then, or did I become addicted because she fed me sugar from such an early stage?

I guess I'll never know the answer. But that's okay. All I know is that I was seriously addicted to the sweet white powder for 32 years of my life, and that I was strong enough to quit. This is even more of a remarkable feat when you consider that I ran a cookie business for three years —that's how much I loved sugar!

I used to stand in line for hours to try the latest cronut. I became criminally dangerous each time I asked my boyfriend to get me some chocolate cake on his way home from the office and he arrived a few minutes late. At one point, I lived half a block from my favorite bakery, and my roommate and I went so many times a day that we started taking turns because we were embarrassed to be seen by the people who worked there. 

Sugar was my Achilles heel, and I thought quitting would be absolutely impossible. But as it turns out, it was in fact possible. So as I tell all my friends and family, if I could overcome this, I can overcome anything. And it's doable for you, too.

So you wanna know how I did it?

I Made Quitting About Other People and Things

First of all, to finally quit sugar I had to really want it and stop talking and thinking in terms of “maybes." Before I really wanted it, the temptations were always too big. Sugar, after all, is virtually everywhere, especially when you live in a place like New York City, where there's an amazing cupcake shop in every corner. When I finally quit sugar, I was ready for it. I realized my favorite food group was giving me daily anxiety and panic attacks, among other annoying symptoms, so I tried to quit sugar every single day for years until I finally built enough momentum to do it. The real tipping point came when I stopped thinking only about myself and I made it about other people. I realized that if I continued being addicted to sugar I would never feel my best and do the work in the world that I wanted to do. How could I be an effective health coach and inspire others to live healthier lives if I wasn't walking my talk? I needed this bigger purpose to motivate me to do something as grand as quitting a lifelong addiction. If you're struggling with this, maybe you need to find a bigger purpose too.

I Realized I Didn't Need to Quit Dessert Too

The best realization ever! Most people think that eating healthy in general means missing out on the foods they love. But what if eating healthy meant discovering new foods that you love as much or even more? When I finally decided to quit sugar for good, I made sure I was always well stocked on healthy sweets and desserts. Baked apples with honey sweetened granola and plain yogurt became my best friend. So did unsweetened chocolate with dates and peanut butter (the kind that's not loaded with sugar, of course). If you're planning on quitting sugar and you're as addicted as I was, I find this to be the most important thing you can do. Do not expect your cravings to go away magically, because they won't. Instead, make sure you're always prepared for moments of weakness. Most of the healthier sweets will satisfy you as much as the real thing, and you may even enjoy them more.

I Prayed

When I reached the point where every cell of my body told me to quit sugar but I still couldn't resist it, I stopped relying on my own power and started asking the universe for help. Translation: I prayed. No, I'm not joking, and I'm not about to turn this article into a religious manifesto either, so chill out and let me explain. Throughout the years, trying to quit sugar each day was a battle between me and my addiction. Lab experiments with rats show that sugar can in fact be many times more addictive than cocaine and other drugs, so imagine trying to overcome that addiction on my own, and with all kinds of sweet treats being offered to me wherever I went. This situation called for a greater force to intervene. When I stopped putting all the pressure on my poor little will power and started using my spiritual connection to ask forces that are stronger than me for help is when I started seeing results. Why not try it? You have nothing to lose and lots to win.

I Figured Out What Was Making Me Want It

I could write this article forever and give a thousand and one more practical suggestions to help you quit sugar. After all, I did try a thousand and one things, and never get bored of learning new tricks that help me stay on this sugar free path. But there's one thing that I believe is crucial if you want to overcome your cravings and that I would like to mention here. I'm talking about the fact that if you eat dessert like a junkie, chances are there's something inside of you that you're trying to avoid feeling. If you don't think you do this, remember all the times you've reached for that extra cookie, pint of ice cream, or creamy cupcake simply because you weren't feeling so hot inside. Perhaps you were anxious about a work presentation or an upcoming family reunion, or maybe you had a fight with your boyfriend? Whatever it is that triggers you and that needs your attention, quitting sugar is the perfect opportunity to figure it out. My suggestions? Keep a diary, seek the help of a therapist, meditate, go to yoga class, or dance it out.

And that's how I purged sugar from my life. Have you been successful at quitting?