How I Found the Cure for My Cravings for Sugar




It’s possible to stop sugar cravings. Here’s my story:

A number of years ago I finally made the connection between my chronic depression and the almost hypnotically repetitive negative thoughts and memories that constantly filled my mind. I’m now convinced that this particular form of depression is not the universal way that depression presents in all patients. That may be the reason why it took me so long to realize that the negative thoughts were the cause of my depression, not the other way around as I’d always assumed. In fact, it was a form of addiction, as I’ll explain in a moment.

Ironically, everyone I know thinks I’m always in a good mood, simply because I go out of my way to be polite and “nice,” no matter what. But inside my mind I was replaying every defeat, reliving every past upset, agonizing over every possible insult. This would become so pervasive during times of extreme stress that I could barely function.

The good news is that as soon as I understood (finally!) that my negative thoughts were the cause, and not the result, of my depression, I could begin the process of learning how to control those thoughts.

I read through dozens of books by self-help masters, spiritual healers, and modern-day scientific experts who study the workings of the brain. Very little of the information I read was helpful to my particular situation, but I did finally learn that a simple, easy to follow meditation technique could be used to change my mind, and free myself from the debilitating negative memories.

Here’s the semi-scientific explanation of why I had become addicted to unhappy memories:

There’s an ancient part of the brain, called the amygdala, that performs a primary role in the processing and memory of emotional reactions. This part of the mind is very powerful, but it operates below the level of consciousness.

Unfortunately, the unconscious, ancient portion of our brain has a simple rule: “if it feels good, do it again.” That’s why it’s so easy for people to become addicted to feel-good drugs. And adrenaline is a drug that feels good. In fact, many illegal addictive drugs, such as methamphetamine, are described as having” stimulant properties similar to adrenaline.” Your body is flooded with adrenaline every time you visualize a previously frightening event, or when you remember an event that made you feel angry or deeply unhappy. That means that you can be an adrenaline junkie, without knowing it, like I was. And, as every meth user knows, what goes up must come down. The frequent low-level energy spikes one gets from unrelenting, constantly occurring unhappy or fearful memories can lead to depression.

You could almost say that the ancient part of my brain was “lying” to my conscious mind, causing me to replay negative memories over and over in order to feel the tiny rush of adrenaline. Alcoholics and drug addicts call this type of thought “stinking thinking,”  or “addictive thinking.”

In my case, I had definitely become addicted to the slight bump in energy that I received when I remembered highly emotional events, and it was most damaging during times of extreme stress when the unconscious mind is most in control.

How I overcame my adrenaline addiction:

Fortunately, I finally learned some simple meditation techniques that reduced the stress and put me back in control of my own thoughts. Because of the meditation, the constantly replaying negative memories stopped. Then, once my mind was free of these repetitive thoughts, I could concentrate on things that really mattered – like my job, or relationships, or my hobbies — and I wasn’t depressed any more. It felt like a miracle, but it was really just something that a few people have known how to do for thousands of years. It was new to me, but it certainly wasn’t “new.”

Could this technique put a stop to sugar cravings?

Did I immediately start to use that same meditation technique to rid myself of my sugar cravings? That would have been “reasonable,” since I’d been overweight for as long as I could remember. My cravings for sugar and fat always sabotaged any diet I tried, which means that from somewhere deep inside my brain these thoughts (cravings) were being sent to my conscious mind. When the thoughts occurred to me I immediately acted on them by reaching for a cookie or taking the second or third helping, even though I really didn’t want to. The cravings were in control of my eating choices.

But, unfortunately, I didn’t make the connection between the way I thought and the way I ate. Just as it took many years to make the connection between my negative, repetitive thoughts and my depression. In some ways, you could say I’m a very slow learner. In my defense, however, I can also say that I needed to learn these things entirely on my own, because the connections were never explained to me. I was never taught how to stop my sugar cravings — I just always thought I had some sort of character defect that made it impossible for me to exercise self-control.

How I learned more about addictive thoughts:

A few years after I learned walking meditation to control my depression, I took an opportunity to go back to college. I chose to take the courses that are required to get an addictions counselor’s license. I completed the course, which was fascinating, but then chose not to pursue a career in the field.

I loved going back to school — doing all the homework, reading all the textbooks, talking with other students (all of them much younger than me). But there seemed to be a lot of actual science missing from the regular course of study, so I also dived into the medical and psychological journals to learn more.

Although it was never taught in the classroom, I learned through my outside reading that almost all alcoholics and drug addicts kick their habits all by themselves, without going to AA or addiction counselors. Yes, most people who become addicted to drugs and alcohol find a way to give them up without going to self-help groups or treatment centers. Naturally, I wanted to find out how they did it.

I discovered that “naturally” recovering addicts use the same meditation technique that I used to free myself from chronic depression, although they didn’t call it “walking meditation,” and they didn’t learn the process through books, like I did.

Somehow, most drug and alcohol addicts just naturally discover how to do it on their own, because they can see when a thought or craving comes from their addiction and not their conscious mind. Once they are able to see the addictive thoughts as something that comes from “outside” their conscious mind, they learn how to prevent those addictive thoughts from controlling their decisions. (Unfortunately, I read the study that gives the statistics about the self-recovery of addicts before I had access to the Internet, and I can no longer find it. I believe the study was done in Canada, and it was done before 1997).

Unfortunately, sugar cravings seem so “normal,” and so universal, that we don’t see them as clearly as the source of our problems, and we don’t see the thoughts created by the cravings as “coming from outside” our conscious mind. That’s why we act on our cravings almost automatically.

But even after taking the course in addictions counseling, I still didn’t realize that I could use the meditation technique I used for my depression to free myself from sugar cravings. Like I said – I am sometimes a slow learner…

In my defense, I can say there were some very big things going on during those years, so I did have other things to think about. For instance, there was the diagnosis of breast cancer. I knew by then that negative thinking can affect your immune system, so that was my number-one priority. I safeguarded my thoughts the way others would protect their bodies – and I’m convinced it is one of the reasons that I’m still here, 13 years later. The walking meditation technique I used helped me control my negative thoughts, and prevented me from sinking into depression after my diagnosis and treatment.

Why I finally “got it.”

It was the five-year mark after my cancer diagnosis that actually moved me to do something about my weight. I needed a way to celebrate that important milestone, and I wanted to give myself a gift that no-one else could give me: A thin new body.

Of course, I’d already dieted in the past, like everyone else. And I lost weight on most of those diets. Then, like everyone else, I gained it all back, and more. I wanted this time to be different.

I honestly don’t know what it was that finally made me realize that there was a connection between addictive behavior and my weight problem. Since the only drug I’ve ever been addicted to is caffeine, maybe that’s why it took so long to put two and two together.

Fortunately, that “duh” finally filtered into my brain, and then I suddenly knew that I had all that I needed in order to lose the extra weight, get healthier, and keep the pounds off for good. Finally, I knew I was physically addicted to sugar and other processed carbohydrates, and this addiction was controlling all my decisions about food.

Sugar addiction causes sugar cravings:

Once I understood the connection between sugar cravings and sugar addiction, I knew how to change my body — because I already knew how to change my mind.

As simple as it sounds, after all those years I finally woke up to the fact that I was in possession of a secret that millions of people struggle to find – the means of staying committed to a weight loss plan. And of course I didn’t really invent the technique myself – meditation has been used for mind control for thousands of years. But few people in the Western world are taught how to use it to stay healthy and overcome addictive thoughts.

Once I discovered that I could stop my sugar cravings, I lost 37 pounds in four months by replacing the sugar and refined carbohydrates in my diet with real food. I didn’t go hungry. I just started to give my body what it really needed – nutritious food.

Like all recovering addicts, I still have days and even months when I have to struggle to stay on track. I sometimes backslide, and have to start all over. I’ve noticed that it isn’t easy to remember that I’m a sugar addict, especially during times when life is particularly stressful, or, ironically, during times when I’m happily engaged in creative activities that focus all my attention on an art project or a new garden design. At those times, I sometimes give in to my desire for sugar and other processed foods, which means I then start to gain weight again. Fortunately, I don’t have to stay trapped in that cycle, because I know how to do walking meditation. When I realize that I’ve slipped back into old patterns, I use walking meditation to refocus my mind. Unfortunately, we’re constantly surrounded by unhealthy food, which makes the struggle more difficult. But it’s not impossible.

In future posts on this site I’ll show you the meditation technique I used to stop sugar cravings.

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17 thoughts on “How I Found the Cure for My Cravings for Sugar”

  1. I’ve quit smoking and drinking and found the abstinence easier to conquer than sugar. I don’t understand why I’m having such a hard time because I am normally a strong willed 58 year old man. I need all the advice I can get. Thanks….

    1. Hi Ronald. I’m not a doctor or scientist, but I suspect that sugar is harder to give up because we instinctively search out sweet foods for their calories and nutrition. If we still lived in a world without processed foods, that instinct would serve us well. It may even be needed for our survival. Drugs, on the other hand, just make us feel good. If you think of it that way, it seems natural that sugar would be harder to give up than cigarettes. Also, consider that most of us start getting hooked on sugar when we’re still too young to go to school.

      Dr.Richard Bernstein’s book about diabetes has some suggestions for overcoming sugar cravings when self-help just isn’t enough. He sends his diabetic patients to a clinical hypnotherapist, and if that doesn’t work he gives patients a low-dose prescription of a medication normally prescribed to help heroin addicts. I highly recommend the book, even for people who haven’t been diagnosed with diabetes, just so you can read his opinion about the health dangers of processed carbohydrates, and see that there are options if self-help doesn’t work.

      1. Hi Jonni, I would love to find out the name of the low dose prescription drug Dr. Bernstein uses that helps heroin and sugar addicts.

  2. Hi Jonni~

    Thanks for posting all this wonderful info. I realize that you’ve just started posting, but I’m wondering when you’ll post the meditation technique? I am so intrigued and would love to try it! Thanks again, for sharing your story.

    K.A.

    1. Hi K.A.
      I hope to write at least a few posts every week, and the meditation technique should be coming shortly. I’m always surprised by how long it takes to write each post, but please be patient – it will be coming soon.

  3. Could you please give us some examples of the dialogue that goes through your mind when you confront a craving? I understand that the instinctual thought enters your mind and that you need use your rational mind to overcome it. I understand the meditation technique. Some examples would help. I seem to be stuck in this loop.
    Instinct: You absolutely need to have a frosted brownie right now!
    Rational: You don’t really need a brownie. Think about something else.
    Repeat

    1. I found that arguing about it simply made the craving worse. And being rational has very little to do with it. That’s why I practice the walking meditation when I’m doing things that have nothing whatsoever with food, like when I take the dogs for a walk or while driving to the store. Then I’ll have the skills to see a thought, notice it, and simply move my attention to something else.

      Contrary to what the people who drive, talk on cell phones and drink coffee at the same time obviously believe, the human mind is incapable of paying attention to more than one thing at a time. So when “I want a brownie” pops into the head, I find something else to occupy my mind. It helps greatly if there are no brownies in the house. That’s why one chapter of my book is about the things I did to make my house “safe” for a sugar addict. You wouldn’t set a bottle of Scotch in front of an alcoholic and expect him to leave it alone through sheer will-power.

      1. Thanks. How do you keep the craving thoughts from coming back? I get the idea, but I’m having trouble moving on. The cravings are strong, and I need to figure out how to make them weak.

        1. Sugar cravings are a bit like cravings for alcohol. I’m not sure they ever go away completely. I try to make it easier on myself by eliminating all sugar from the diet, so there’s no blood sugar swings. After the first week of withdrawal symptoms, the cravings do go down, but you do need to make sure you’re eating all real food – since white flour in bread and pasta acts almost exactly like sugar and can give you the same blood sugar swings, it can also keep your sugar cravings at a high level.

          Take care of yourself by eating right, cleaning all the sugar out of your house, and then just accept the fact that sugar cravings will come back – and you need to deal with it. If you find you really can’t overcome the problem on your own, it’s important to see a doctor to see if there may be some underlying problem that’s causing the cravings. Self-help doesn’t always work. Dr. Bernstein, a doctor who specializes in treating diabetes, has found that some patients can’t stay away from sugar even when they know it’s killing them. He uses anti-addiction drugs to help them when self-help isn’t enough.

          1. I think I’m starting to get the idea! It took a while of observing the food related thoughts flow by, like “You have to have a brownie right now.” I was trying to react to them, but I think I would have been better off to just observe them for a few days. Now they’ve changed to, “I’m thinking about food.” It’s not even a specific food anymore. Now I can respond with, “I don’t have to think about food right now. I’m in control of my thoughts, not the other way around.” Plus, I’ve realized that thinking about food and eating food are two unrelated things. They used to be cemented together in my mind, but I’m happy to say that they are moving apart. Thank you so much for starting me down this path, Jonni. I had to read about your path and then find my own.

  4. Hello! I’m alive example (the former user). I use methamphetamine, ecstasy, marijuana, alcohol, cigarette and sugar. Need to walk long way (about 20km by day), if you have time(5km i’ts minimum). When you walk brains make nature drugs(and not one but four). Then don’t need any stimulant or sedative thinks, then need vegetables, fruits, grain, meat and so on…
    I wish you every luck!

  5. Jonni,

    Thank you all for the EXCELLENT information! I am going to release sugar from diet and want to set myself up for success. Please let me prefece my question by explaining that I mean to cast no doubt on the way other people heal. Rather I am reaching out and relating my experiences in order to better understand. I am interested in your comment, “The vast majority of people who are addicted to drugs and alcohol (and sugar) are able to kick their habits all by themselves.” That resonates with me and I would like hearing other’s thoughts and experiences. I tried OA and found the aspect of having to constantly call myself an addict stifling. I am of the school of thought that what you constatnly profess, you become. While I do have addictive tendencies, I am trying to heal them and not just white knuckle getting through each day. Thank you all for your wonderful insights and guidance!

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