What could be better for your heart than living the sweet life? Not much. Studies show that a happy person with a positive attitude and a rich, rewarding life will have better heart health than someone with the opposite personality traits—even if the happy, positive person eats a poor diet or has some unhealthy lifestyle habits. Why? Because the happy person is continuously producing high levels of a gas called nitric oxide from her blood vessel walls—the uber neurotransmitter produced by everything from pleasurable thoughts to eating green vegetables. High nitric oxide levels, in turn, result not only in much better circulation, but also in high levels of serotonin and beta-endorphins—the feel good hormones that are so satisfying you won’t turn to sugar.
Sugar—whether in white foods, candy, or alcohol—acts like an opiate in the body. Eating foods that quickly turn to sugar quite literally medicates pain—both emotional and physical. But beware. Sugar is eight times more addictive than heroin in susceptible individuals. If you use sugar to boost your mood, to hold at bay feelings of longing or loneliness, or to improve your tolerance for physical pain, you’ll find yourself in a vicious cycle that makes it very difficult to stop eating sugar. This is not about willpower or your being “bad.” It’s about understanding the chemistry that fuels cravings and then doing something about it.
To recover from sugar addiction, you need to eat a low glycemic diet which doesn’t spike your blood sugar. But in order to make this sustainable, you also need to engage in alternative activities that raise your nitric oxide levels and create “happy” neurotransmitter levels in your brain and body. Think about the last time you were madly and deeply in love. Were you craving sugar or other illicit means to boost your self-esteem? No. You felt high on life—emotionally full—and probably thought very little about food, unless it was to plan a romantic dinner.
4 Good Habits to Stop Sugar Cravings
Bad habits are hard to break. You have to replace the habits with something you enjoy even more. This keeps you from craving sugar or whatever other addiction is undermining your low glycemic diet and your health.
There are four activities that will help you break your sugar addiction, and if you ask me, these are much more enjoyable then even the gooiest chocolate brownie. They are sex, exercise, meditation, and engaging in regular, pleasurable activities.
‘Nough said! If you don’t have a partner, be your own partner! Set the stage for self-pleasuring starting with a luxuriating activity like stretching followed by a bubble bath, reading a steamy novel, or creating a sexy playlist.
Exercising 30-45 minutes a day, 4-5 days per week is not only great for your heart, studies show it can decrease depression by 50%. This can be as simple as taking a walk!
A stressful lifestyle in which you are working too hard, worrying too much, and sleeping too little results in high levels of the stress hormones cortisol and epinephrine. And these stress hormones cause us to crave sugar and put on weight. Like exercise, meditation is an excellent way to lower stress hormones.
Engaging in Regular, Pleasurable Activities
Have lots of contact with humans or pets. Dancing, potluck suppers, celebrations, or going to the theater are some ideas. Or do something you’ve always wanted to do—and find a new social group to do it with. (Meet up groups are happening all over the place and are easy to find on the internet or Facebook.) This is one of the best ways to increase nitric oxide levels.
One of the most pleasurable things I do is either go out to eat in a nice restaurant with good friends and family, or cook with others here at home. Who you eat with and how you eat matters! Those who regularly sit down to eat dinner with others are far healthier than those who eat standing up or in the car. I know that I just don’t feel as satisfied when I eat alone—even if I eat the exact same food! And if the food isn’t particularly healthy, pray over it before eating it. It will help elevate the entire experience.
One More Way to Stop Sugar Addiction – Reach for The Fat!
Now, I am not suggesting that you use these activities as a way to ignore your body’s signals. Hunger is an important feedback message, and you want to honor your body by giving it what it needs. So, while I recommend you start adding regular, pleasurable activities to bring sweetness to your life, I also want you to feed your body with a healthy low carb diet.
Recently I read Always Hungry: Conquer Cravings, Retrain Your Fat Cells, and Lose Weight Permanently, by renowned Harvard Medical school endocrinologist David Ludwig, M.D. and Dawn Ludwig. The research is compelling. Ludwig has found that your fat cells actually determine how much weight you gain or lose. When you eat a low-fat diet, you are actually triggering your fat cells to hoard more calories for themselves, leaving too few for the rest of your body. When this happens, you remain hungry and often overeat. But, even if you reduce calories to stave off weight gain, your fat cells will continue to hoard more calories and you will get fatter.
Does this sound familiar? I have said for years that the main reason many women are hungry is that most of the “healthy” low-fat diets we have been sold, are in fact, laden with sugar in the form of highly processed carbohydrates, including pasta, grains, bread, cereal, white potatoes, even “health” bars! These foods trigger a rapid increase in insulin and cause weight gain.
Replacing sugar-laden foods with low carb foods and healthy fats such as olive oil, nuts and dark chocolate, can help you recover from sugar addiction and lose weight by keeping you feeling full. And you don’t have to count calories!
Eating healthy fats turns off your body’s starvation response, so you are able eat whenever you’re hungry and until you are fully satisfied. In addition, these fats help to lower your insulin levels and decrease inflammation so you can more fully enjoy the activities you love, get better sleep and quell that sugar addiction once and for all. Now that’s sweet!
When you deliberately pursue healthy and sustainable pleasure, you can savor the real sweet life! And if you’re not ready to give up sweets entirely—or if you’re someone who is satisfied with just one bite—here is a happy compromise: Eat sweets only with others—in celebration. Look at your calendar in advance, then choose the one day of the week or month when you can eat whatever you want. Savor sweets slowly, like you were dancing in the moonlight with a lover. Eat sensually and joyously.
You have the power to create a sweet life—while also keeping your blood sugar stable and losing weight. GET FULL OF THE JOY OF LIFE.
Have you struggled to eliminate sugar from YOUR diet? Have you tried substituting “the sweet life” to help curb your cravings? Please leave me a comment. I love your suggestions. And if you liked this blog or know someone who could benefit from reading it, please Share it on Facebook.
Dr Northrup, about 10 uears ago I bought your amazing book The Wisdom of Menopause and followed your advice in using the Reset program from Usana. I have used this program once a year in order to reset my sugar levels and metabolism and it always did the trick for me to stop the sugar cravings. This would work well until the next Christams season where I found I was indulging quite a bit then I would choose the following spring to follow the Reset program again. Unfortunately, Usana does not sell this product anymore and what the now offer is completely different.
Would you be able to tell me if this new product is as effective and if not, is there another product on the market (like a 5-day cleansing) that you would recommend?
Carol, the Reset has been re-launched and is better than before with the addition of probiotics! Yay!
Where can I find info on the Reset program? Thank you!
when you mean sugar does that include fruit?
Just yesterday I got test results back from my doctor regarding food allergies. WOW! Found the foods I have been eating over the past 53years are working against me not for me. I was diagnosed with fibromyalgia 6 years ago and other doctors treated me to say the least as a nut case! Only wanting to treat the outside symptoms with pain med not look internally why this is happening what is actually causing my severe Inflamation, Weight Gain, Severe Pain Everywhere, the list goes on. I started listening to my body about 8 months ago and it was telling me Run don’t walk…Quit with all of the sugar as well as other foods that seem to cause my body and mind problems. Lowering my sugar intake has helped but I have a bit of a road ahead in conquering what is good for “my” body. There is also a lot of stress that I do not know how to manage. One being with my son who is diagnosed bipolar/ borderline personality disorder. Two I have 4 step children (adults) who are self centered, users and just more drama than I want . I surely don’t need. HELP!
Deborah – I’m brand new to this blog, just came upon it in my own search for information. But I read your email and feel compelled to ask you to consider what you want to fill your life with – and then take the steps to do that. If you don’t do that, be prepared to consider that by NOT taking those steps – you are making a choice – to let stress and drama into your life. My wish for you is that you choose otherwise.
Eliminating sugar, grains, dairy (unless raw), gluten, junk food (high fructose corn syrup) alcohol, soda pop (diet & regular), etc. has changed my and my husbands lives. I used to be addicted to sugar and then I educated myself through reading Dr. Northrups articles and others (Dr. David Perlmutter’s Grain Brain). Once I educated myself on all the damage the food I listed caused it was easy to give them up. Inner inflammation is the precursor to any and all disease. We both have dropped all of our excess weight and do not need to lose anymore. No counting calories…we eat organic veggies, grass fed meat, salmon, greens, and especially avocado’s, organic cold compressed extra virgin coconut oil & olive oil……the healthy fats are so important. We also drink plenty of good water. We do not crave anything. Thank you for educating me years ago Dr. Northrup on the dangers of all the crappy food in this country, especially sugar. The more people wise up and quit buying all that bad stuff the sooner there will be many more producers of good healthy organic foods.
Although I’ve never been overweight, I have a sweet tooth and have to control it for a variety of serious health concerns. I have not been as disciplned this year but always eat avacados and nuts and use coconut milk in my cereal every day and often use olive oil, olives and coconut oil. These healthy fats do keep me slim and trim and decrease my desire for carbs but not sugar. I also exercise or take long walks, use 5 htp, green coffee extract or a natural blood sugar control supplement. My fasting glucose and A1c are good. I’m 64 and a size 2. I’m trying to work on reducing the sugar cravings and use stevia when possible. As far as the comment on progesterone cream, I’ve been using bioidentical progesterone/ phytoestrogen for 20 years and won’t be without it. I don’t know if it as helped my weight but I feel so much better on it.
Thank you Dr. Christiane Northrup !! My intention is to find a way to share this with my Sweetheart Tom & assist him to choose a healthier lifestyle………protect his heart, get blood pressure under control , relieve pain from injuries & recent surgeries . Bless you !
I love hot chocolate as a daily treat. But in order to make it low sugar, I use 3 teaspoons of organic unsweetened cocoa powder and one small teaspoon of high quality organic sugar cocoa for about 4 grams of sugar. Add to skim milk and it is a great treat.
Thank you for the above suggestions. One other item I have eliminated is sugar cough drops. I looked them up online and discovered my favorite brand had 4 grams of sugar per piece. Less sugar is a great way to feel better overall.
You might want to substitute the skimmed milk for something like coconut cream. Better than the milk. It’s richer, tasty and healthier. I get mine in Whole Foods. Not many places carry it!
Check out brightlineeatimg.com for those seriously need help fighting sugar and flour addictions. if Dr Northrup doesn’t know about Dr. Susan Peirce Thompson’s work, she will soon. This woman is Doing more for this segment of the population that struggles with the addictive nature of sugar, more than anyone else I’ve encountered.
Hi Dr. Northrup,
I have recently been diagnosed with osteoarthritis. Do you have any advice for me?
Thanks and keep up the great work to re-educate all of us!
I’m 65 and developed the middle age belly 8 years ago once menopause hit with all its accompanying horrors. When I go too low carb I develop diarrhea. I have laryngopharyngeal reflux (I stopped taking the medication since it wasn’t helping and actually causing me side effects.) and other digestive/intestinal issues. Too many vegetables and I’m in the bathroom for hours and the reflux is aggravated. I can stay away from sugar and have never been a sweet eater. But, put a plate of white potatoes lathered in butter and I’m stuffing my face with those babies…lol Anyway, eating a small amount of bread, rice or potatoes helps keep the diarrhea at bay but that defeats the purpose of trying to get rid of sugar causing foods. I’m getting a bit frustrated because no matter what I do or eat, I’m causing something to go haywire in my body. Low carb/low sugar helps me lose weight but my body seems to require more carbs so I end up keeping this big belly. Ugh!
Recently started using natural progesterone cream and BAM my sugar cravings stopped!!! Crazy eh? Well its been 3 months and I swear its ” magic” lol no more headaches and no more sugar cravings… Soooo strange for me to pass on a cookie lol but I am loving this! Lost my belly fat and almost feel guilty for NOT having to work to have lost it LOL … Oh well -loving my cream!!!
Which cream do you use?
Sounds wonderful. Please tell us which cream you used. Thanks.
Been doing 60% good fats, 20% protein, 20% carbs for 8 weeks. (no sugar, only stevia and xyla in my coffee) Lost 4 pounds, more energy, no heart burn, less gas, less puffy around eyes, skin nicer, less inflammation. It wasn’t that hard. Craving sugar waaaay less now. Craving for veggies had increased tenfold. And it’s true that the healthy fats make you feel satisfied. And side note: Goddesses Never Age was fabulous. Helped change my life!
I did this 6 months ago and have lost 17.6 pounds. No more craving carbs. I feel great and have more energy.
I recently went low carb and lost 12 pounds in two weeks. Aside from that, all digestive issues and food allergies…gone. As someone with hypothyroidism, it is the only thing that works for me.
Have you seen this. http://thedailylove.com/we-need-to-talk/
It’s definitely an addiction, when I’ve been the most successful at keeping this addiction at bay I definitely have followed these suggestions and if I get a really bad craving I feed it with fruit instead of processed sugar. It really makes all the difference! Like anything it takes work. Some days I do better some days I don’t but overall I feel healthier.
I believe the phrase I’ve heard recently, “Sugar is the new Tobacco.” Food is purposely made addictive and those who have the right genetics or something end up like me, unable to control the amount of sugar I eat. I’ve recently discovered FAA (Food Addicts Anonymous) and FA (Food Addicts in Recovery.) This is helping me tremendously. I am so angry about the how the food industry has just gone too far, but I can only save myself and share with those who are interested. For me, food (sugar, flour and wheat) is truly an addiction and I am learning how to cope with sugary foods being everywhere, all around me at work, social gatherings, grocery stores and birthday parties. Thank you for your continued work and education on this topic.
I keep a bag of chocolate chips in the cupboard for personal daily consumption. Way too many times, I have packed my cheeks so full of chips I actually look like a chipmunk. Sometimes it is actually hard to chew because my mouth is so full of chips. Do you think this might be a problem???? In case you are wondering, I have a little stress in my life!
I have many health concerns, diabetes and heart health being the most important. I too am a sugar addict,I need help kicking this. I will try all you have recommended. I think because of the sugar and I’m sure other things, I am full of inflammation and candidiasis . I know you wrote a book on this but I can’t find it to buy PLEASE HELP.
Dr. Northrup what are your thoughts about using stevia to sweeten rather than sugar?
Stay tuned in my e-letter for my upcoming interview with my friend and colleague Dr. Mark Hyman who has a new 10 Day Sugar Detox book I want you all to know about. A great way to get started on the sweet life! Love your comments. And yes– 16 grams of sugar/day is about right. BUT– there is a wide range that will work. Depends on how sensitive you are. For some, sweet potatoes which as low glycemic, have too much sugar. For others– just fine.
Hi Dr. Northrup, I am a 46 y/o, type I diabetic, and I am addicted to sugar. I have been feeling like such a fraud because, not only do I own a nutritional supplement (a green food supplement that I retail to health food stores), but I am studying to be a certified holistic health coach and I want to help diabetics and women going through perimenopause. Meditation has been recommended to me and I have yet to try it. THANKS again, this was very helpful Kelly M. – Pittsburgh, PA
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Thanks for sharing your thoughts. I really appreciate your efforts and I am waiting for your next write ups thanks once again.
Dr. Northrup this article has confirmed to me once again that my choice of not eating sugar has been a true step in the right direction for better health. It took many years for me to see that sugar (which I thought was my “go to feel good friend” was actually a false support). Since eliminating sugar I have seen a dramatic change in how much more energy I have to get me through the day. Thank you for caring about all of us!
Peace to you and your family.
I really like the way many of you have NAMED sugar as the addiction it really is. Especially when combined with other chemicals like MSG ( in all its many guises– common in chips, etc.). Lisa– you are correct– we tend to continue the tastes we developed in childhood. Lori– I also love the “release” instead of “lose” word. Great affirmation.
It’s about what you are used to since childhood. I didn’t have sugar in my up bring so it has never been a problem to cut it out. I brought up my children the same way. They don’t like sugary stuff as well (in their 20s). I do understand that it must be difficult for many who had been brought up with sugary stuff as a reward. It’s the culture, a deadly culture of sugar and quick pleasure. Sad.
I consider myself a Sugar addict. Once, I have sugar I want more. I can not stop, like you say a drug addict, worse than heroin with some people. I can go about 30 days with out sugar and than I crash . I binge and off to the races can not get enough. I am like the lady above said, alcoholic. I have sugar and down hill it goes. I am not sure WHY I fail? But, I do know when I am clean of sugar I feel amazing!! The clarity in my mind and mood is Great !
Thank you for this article. I remember when I went on a trip to Rome–a friend sent with me 2 chocolate muffins that I usually love. I was so happy, content and full of joy on that trip that those 2 muffins sat in my hotel room and held no appeal whatsover. I actually enjoyed the trip so much I ate very well and weighed less when I came home! Definitely an emotional tie to our desire for food. And being happy and content released weight for me.
Loved this article – we don’t need sugar or empty carbs……
Once I eliminated sugar – not just white sugar but also those carb laden junk foods that convert to sugar in the body – cravings of all kinds stopped. It was EASY to eat high quality proteins, healthy fats and above ground vegetables and not feel deprived of anything. I hope anyone struggling with a sugar addiction receives the grace to kick the habit. (A useful and related read: Dr. David Perlmutter’s “Grain Brain”. Dr. N interviewed him on her HayHouse Rdaio program in DEC 2013.)
First I would like to thank you – I just love your newsletters & so look forward to them. You are so uplifting & such an inspiration!! I don’t have a problem staying away from sugary treats except for Ghirardelli dark chocolate – so addictive – Just one little square & I have to have more. What I find is that if I stay away from it for just a few days – then I don’t crave it anymore!!
I have read that a woman should limit herself to 16 g of sugar per day. Is that correct?
You are the best! Thank you for your advice and for caring enough about all of us to share your incredible wisdom. My Higher Self has been prompting me to eliminate refined sugars from my menu. Thank you also for your course, Attracting the Love of Your Life. Your friend from Minnesota. P.s. Originally from Massachusetts
As always…Sound advice. It is easier than one thinks.
I just love you and all you stand for.
You inspire me to be a better person.
Been a sugar junkie most of my life. The only way I can curb it is to eat a blood sugar stabalizing diet. Years ago a chiropractor gave me 40 30 30. Fat burning nutrition. 40% complex carbs, 30% lean protein and 30% good fats. Takes the cravings way down.
I always knew sugar was addictive to me. I’ve never been able to control my cravings except, you are right, when madly in love. After life gets comfortable and less passionate, it’s now time to find a new non-human passion to pursue. Thank you for the helpful advice. I know what I need to do now.
I remember my mom telling me years ago that if I considered my life “sweet” I would not desire as many sweets. So this article surely resonates with me! Recently I decided to eliminate refined white sugar one or two days per week. . . found that after I did it a few times it wasn’t so difficult. This has also made me desire sugar less on the other days, so my total intake has been cut down quite a bit. And it feels like quite an accomplishment! I dropped a few pounds so far too! 🙂
Thank you……these suggestions are the perfect compliment to the 21 Day Sugar Detox that I am starting with Diane Sanfilippo’s book 🙂
This was for me. Great advice.
As always your information is a Godsend. Last year I learned that beet sugar in the USA, is a GMO food which means it is probably sprayed to high heavens and toxic because of that alone. I switched to organic dehydrated cane juice for baking and wine making, the two times I use sugar. Although it is still a source of “sugar”, it is cleaner than GMO white sugar and from my research, had a bit of nutrition.
Thanks & Peace-out 😉
LOVE the article! lol… I have been trying very hard to incorporate these into my life since it has been filled with high levels of stress on many levels. Being 50 lbs overweight (oops! make that 49 (I “ELIMINATED” 1lb. this morning – I say ELIMINATE cause ‘losing’ means I’ll find it eventually! Your articles always bring a MOTIVATING twist!
I have struggled with sugar addiction for years. For me the term “moderation” doesn’t hold true. I know myself very well. One piece of chocolate, a few potato chips and I’m done for. I can’t even have those things in my house for company because just knowing it’s there gets me crazy and I “have ” to eat it until it’s gone !! So my only way to control it is not to have any at all. I liken it to the alcoholic……one drink leads to a slippery slope of all out bingeing.