Breaking up (with sugar) is hard to do. It’s like any relationship that you enjoy so very much in the moment, but that you know is not good for you. And of course once you break up with sugar, human nature is such that you will likely obsessively think about it—because it’s now off limits. Who can blame us—given sugar’s instant gratification? It elevates our mood as it triggers a release of serotonin to the blood, and then ultimately dopamine, the brain’s pleasure reward, making us forget we’ll soon be headed for a crash.
And like some human relationships, sugar can seem even more attractive once it becomes (or rather, we make it) unavailable. We’re suddenly nostalgic for all things sugar. Plus, if you are depressed—including over your break up with sugar—you will, ironically, want that same sugar to comfort you. But sugar is not going to change! You have to move on. I’ve found that three things can help with this.
The first is complete avoidance of ‘sugar on steroids’ during your first months of your new, low-sugar life. By that I mean steer clear of the insane array of readily available sugar lodes that have infiltrated modern day life.
This includes staying away from any situation that is likely to tempt you to fall off the wagon (as I call it) in such a way that you’ll instantly regret (you can do this with intention, precision and zero regret at a later stage). Don’t keep anything sugary around the house, even if “for guests only,” and when you shop, bypass the cookie aisle (where I once almost broke down in tears). Don’t meet for coffee at places where you’ll be surrounded by muffins and pastries, or attend office parties featuring frosted, twenty-ton cakes begging to be eaten (and colleagues urging you to “just take one tiny bite”). Skip eating out if possible, and even cross the street (or turn the channel or page) when you see a storefront (or magazine or TV ad) promoting the latest sugar craze: the ‘desserts inside other desserts’ trend comes to mind. There is no end to the reformulation of sugar delivery systems and the presentation of them in a fun, social and ‘innovative’ light. Turn away!
Next, until you’re able to sit on a pile of freshly cut sugar cane and not bat an eyelash, you may want to reinforce avoidance with a steady diet of sugar’s negative elements (while not feeling guilty for your past dalliances). Constantly reminding ourselves of sugar’s bad sides is helpful because sugar’s impacts—no matter how real—are always going to seem a bit abstract. If useful, carry around a visual image you find effective for this, or search the web in a difficult moment to remind you of the link between that harmless-looking, festive cupcake and your health. I personally found visualization beneficial: I imagined sugar traveling through my veins, causing my blood to crystallize so that it could not flow properly…. if science fiction can get you there, why not use it?
Finally, you may wish to keep a diary during the grieving period, which can serve as both an outlet for expressing yourself and as a record, showing you ‘where and when’ pining kicks in—data that can assist you in effective avoidance.