Sitting in the line at CVS bawling my eyes out over everything in my life was definitely NOT how I imagined my life at 37 years old. I was totally fine (for the moment) as I pulled into the drive-thru.
The things on my mind were:
- pick up the antibiotic for my middle kid,
- get dinner going in the next 2 hours even though I had no clue what we were eating,
- feed the baby in the back seat with the little breast milk I had left,
- oh yeah—and get the five blog posts edited and scheduled that were sitting in my queue.
I had it mostly together that day. Sometimes I even felt proud that I could do everything I was doing trying to raise our 3 kids nearly as a single parent due to the extensive travel my husband’s job required, all while desperately trying to build a business (my one thing, it felt, for myself.)
I patted my leg, giving myself a pep talk as I circled CVS and then stopped in my place in line.
And that’s when I felt it: bumps. Lots of bumps.
I looked down and saw that my legs were covered in welts. And then the panic hit, because that’s what I did—I had anxiety attacks.
I did a mental check to make sure my throat wasn’t closing up even though I’d never had an anaphylactic reaction before. Then I tried to remember if I had any Benadryl with me. It wouldn’t matter anyway, I reasoned, because I was driving and it makes me sleepy.
So I did some deep breathing as the urge to flip the hell out bubbled into my eyes and down my cheeks.
And I sat there crying until it was my turn in line.
Times like this had proven to me that my ability to properly lose my shit and say and do unreasonable things were valid enough to find more healthy outlets for the stress.
Like walking (when I had the time), or journaling (when I had the time).
But now was not the time—forget that I never actually ‘had the time’. Because I was in the process of re-lactating because the baby started developing a rash on her entire body from formula. And ignorance and lack of an ounce of empathy from the doctor’s office had sent me on a journey of my own. A really hard one, on top of everything else life was throwing at me.
When I got home, I covered my legs in cortisone cream and sat down to realize I was pushing having a full-on nervous breakdown. I had zero support, too much on my own, and a severe lack of self besides being a mother.
I grabbed a bag of chocolate-drizzled popcorn and downed the whole thing to make me feel better.
How did other women do it? How were they successful with kids this little? How the hell was I even doing what I was doing all day? I certainly didn’t eat right.
But I knew… Because this little voice in the back of my head that’d always been there was nagging at me again.
It was the voice of the snacks and the cakes and chips and pasta and every other little thing I’d ever turned to my whole life to make me feel better.
In a word: sugar.
The thing was, with my family’s history of type 2 diabetes, I knew I shouldn’t eat this way. And it was only after completing my master’s in nutrition that I got the full-on gravity of eating that way my whole childhood and early adulthood. It was only by luck that I’d always had a fast metabolism.
But my thirties were quickly catching up with me, and the sugar was sending me on a rollercoaster of emotions and energy all day long that not only made me believe I was being productive, but it also damaged relationships I had because of the Jeckyl and Hyde emotions that plagued me all day.
(Not to mention the terrible allergies—hello hives!—and horrible skin that I’d developed through the years.)
But here was the problem: I’d always had sugar, and I’d always craved it. So when I decided to cut it out, it didn’t go nearly as smoothly as I expected. I had severe crashes if I didn’t have any carbs, and my easy answer was to grab something sugary to help ‘balance’ it.
My frustration with quitting sugar was growing as I grappled to manage the rest of my life seemingly alone.
My dad getting diagnosed with prediabetes gave me a really powerful insight though. He said that once he got out of the cravings period of eating low-carb for a few weeks, those crashes went away.
He could feel the difference of balanced blood sugar just by cutting out the sugar and being consistent.
So I finally sat down with myself and created a real action plan to fight the cravings so I could free myself.
Table of Contents
Creating a plan to quit sugar
This wasn’t easy, mind you—I’d spent years hiding in the pantry to inhale as many cupcakes as I could after every kid’s birthday party before somebody caught me. But this time I was determined.
That willpower helped make sugar feel ONLY like a last resort some days, but for the most part I knew it was always sitting on my shoulder trying to tell me it had a hold on me that I’d never be able to shake, like a crack dealer just waiting for things to blow up so I’d come around for another hit.
At first my focus and productivity were about as dialed-in as walking around blindly inside a cloud. I felt angry, irritated, hopeless, and sad all within a matter of minutes some days. And my energy levels were nonexistent.
The only reason I made myself get out of bed is because the kids needed me. But my Dad’s insight reminded me it was a process. And besides, I’d made a plan, and I was sticking to it.
My grand plan involved things like meal planning to make sure there were never any last-minute questions or eating out unexpectedly. I had learned to read food labels in my formal education and understand which wording clued me in that sugar was added to anything packaged. That also helped me get rid of sugary things from the house that might tempt me. And I fully embraced swapping out vegetables to fill me up instead of rice or pasta.
Successes and failures
What I didn’t expect was for it to take as long as it did for me to get past the cravings. Being as stressed out as I was with no support and no breaks meant I had emotional triggers everywhere, and every day.
I also had headaches with severe exhaustion and a few other random side effects that would start to disappear if I could hold it together long enough.
And if I couldn’t take it anymore, I’d try to have ‘just one bite’, and it’d turn into a binge and I was right back at square one.
This part was the most miserable, because every time it would happen, I would berate myself and begin the self-loathing.
My little successes felt like failures every time those slip-ups and binges happened, but the truth was that once I dove into the research of cravings and sugar addiction, it made perfect sense.
That’s when I realized that every little failure while I was PAYING ATTENTION was actually a success. I was becoming more aware and cognizant. I was recognizing what it would take to get past it.
The more I came off sugar and refined carbs, the better I felt.
I started to (finally) notice I was immensely more productive. I started preening my work to-do list to only include things that mattered or made movement in my business.
Another really cool thing was that I was able to take a step back and breathe through the impulse I’d usually let take over to snap at the kids or my husband about things.
This was huge because I’d basically turned into momzilla (and most days thought nobody wanted to be around me.) My husband and I started communicating. Like, really communicating.
And another great part? I started losing the baby weight I couldn’t shake before. (I even got confident enough to get back into a bikini!)
Getting real about being hooked on sugar and carbs
The thing is that most people don’t realize some critical things about sugar:
- It’s addictive—like, legit addictive.
- It creates a ton of inflammation in the body- which is why we cut it out first in an anti-inflammatory diet.
- It makes your body hold onto fat.
- It makes you believe you have energy, only to give you a crazy straight downhill crash.
- It makes your emotions go completely berserk.
- It actually ages you faster. And it shows up on your skin resembling the plague for some.
- And then it does its thing and makes you come back for more like that narcissistic ex-boyfriend, because either you don’t know any better, or because you crave it so badly you can’t help yourself.
I’ve been on the addiction side of it. I actually call myself a ‘recovered sugar addict’ because I’ve been through the severe cravings, complete lack of control around it, tolerance of it (needing more and more to get the same effect), and physical withdrawals.
But I made the conscious decision to live as intentionally as possible by getting off of it. Sugar controlled nearly all aspects of my life and made me think I had to have it to function.
The truth I found was that sugar was wrecking nearly everything in my life whether directly or indirectly. That’s the power of food.
Thankfully I had some moments of complete clarity combined with nutrition education and deep dives into current research to be able to, firstly, recognize I had a problem, and secondly, create a plan of action to get off it for good.
I knew that just a 7-day sugar detox wasn’t going to do the trick, because I’d done a sugar detox about 57 times already.
4 Strategies to help you quit sugar
✨ There were 4 major things that helped me to truly cut the sugar out of my life (ultimately what I lovingly call ‘Sugar Deprogramming’:
- Shifting my mindset around what addiction actually is and how even food can be the thing you can’t let go of. All my past beliefs were challenged and flipped on their head. Especially the one about how it was my fault that I couldn’t quit it.
- Shifting my metabolism by being prepared and giving my body enough time to get through the withdrawals, side effects, and dependence on sugar.
- Shifting my stubbornness about any emotional ties I had with sugar and carbs. This involved understanding the crazy huge emotional connection and learning to deal with it, and then improving the other areas in my health that would help support my stress levels to stay off sugar.
- And lastly, Shifting my confidence. I was completely exhausted and spent from years of dieting and trying to avoid sugar and carbs through sheer ‘willpower’ (which is a myth, by the way). I truly thought I couldn’t make it happen, especially long-term. I realized every time I went into the next ‘this is the week’, I didn’t actually think it was gonna work. I was wrong. I cracked the code, and I want to help others do the same.
Even now I struggle when my emotions are especially turbulent. A funny(ish) thing my husband and I do is yell, “Intervention!” to each other if either of us feels we’re spiraling into a binge.
I also do daily mental and emotional check-ins to manage stress and responsibilities. This helps me keep ahead of any potential feelings and impulses to bury my emotions in sugary foods and refined carbs again.
These days my life is lived with an intention of goodness and love, productivity and ambition. And I know the way to keep at that is to keep my diet clean. That’s when my journey into an anti-inflammatory diet and lifestyle began, and ultimately changed my life.
Some people don’t think food has the power to do that, but I do now. And I choose to keep mine clean and anti-inflammatory because it’s my fuel for this beautiful ride that I don’t want to miss.
If this resonates with you and you’d like to start your journey in truly getting off sugar and refined carbs, I invite you to check out the other articles in the Cut the Sugar category of TRUEWELL.
If you know you need more help than just those things, TRUEWELL has a course for getting off sugar, and we’ll be doing some challenges throughout the year. (I announce those to subscribers, so join the newsletter over in the right sidebar if you’re not on the list! 💖)
Feel free to send me an email at email@example.com or DM me @truewell.co if you have any questions or need some guidance on this.
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