Breaking your sugar addiction – Part 4

By April 27, 2009Uncategorized

Most things in cars are pretty standard. The accelerator is always on the right, the brake on the left. The headlights tend to be at the front and the brake lights at the rear. But the one place that car designers have been let off the leash is in the ‘let’s put the indicator lever somewhere exciting’ department.

I drive an old, old car. The engineers had very cleverly combined all possible controls into just one lever located on the right of the steering column (I’m sure their mother’s are very proud). And I’ve gotten quite used to indicating a turn with a flick of the right hand. The trouble is when I climb into Lizzie’s car, the indicator is on the left and I usually end up putting the windscreen wipers on to turn a corner.
I’ve gotten in the habit of indicating with my right hand. It’s a habit that’s easy to break, but the first few times, my brain runs on auto-pilot and does the wrong thing. I’m not addicted to using my right hand but at first it might look like an addiction rather than a habit.
Before I became sugar free, I was in the habit of rewarding myself with a square or two of chocolate in front of the Telly at the end of a long (or even a short) day. I was addicted to the sugar in the chocolate. The habit of eating it in front of the Telly was not part of the addiction but it did reinforce it.
Relaxing in front of the telly is pleasurable – much like gardening is (for some people). But neither of them is addictive in the chemical sense I explained in Part 2. Habits are easily broken using aversion therapy.  
I’m averse to people thinking I’m a nutcase, so I very quickly get out of the habit of turning on the wipers to turn a corner. If you received an electric shock every time you relaxed in front of the telly, you’d break that habit pretty swiftly too. But all the electric shocks in the world won’t break a chemical addiction. Sure you’d stop eating chocolate, but then you’d want it even more because you felt deprived.
The trouble with addictions is that they frequently attach themselves (like pleasure sucking parasites) to otherwise pleasurable (but not addictive) experiences and it becomes impossible to distinguish the two. You relax in front of the Telly and eat chocolate. The ‘relaxing’ bit is actually the pleasurable experience but I’ll be the chocolate gets the credit because it delivers the ‘just took off the tight pants’ experience I mentioned in Part 3.

Because the habit and the addiction so tightly reinforce each other, the habit becomes a nasty trigger when you are trying to break the addiction. The time you will most want sugar is when you habitually had it before. You will feel you cant relax in front of the Telly without chocolate. You will feel you cant celebrate Easter without it either.
Those habits will really test your resolve because of the association. The only rational way to deal with the problem is to avoid the habitual events associated with consuming sugar until you break the addiction. It’s not too hard an ask for the 3-5 weeks that will take surely? You won’t give up pleasurable habits forever, just until the chemical addiction is removed.  If you need some aversion therapy, flick open your copy of Sweet Poison to the bit about all the nasty diseases sugar inflicts.
So if you are in the habit of relaxing in front of the Telly with a choccy at the end of the day. Stop. Find some other way to relax in the evening for the next month. Make it something that has no association with sugar. Go for a nice walk around the neighbourhood? Read a good book (I think I can suggest an excellent book about fructose)?
You will need to do this for all pleasurable habits associated with sugar consumption. When you break the addiction you can resume the habits safe in the knowledge that you will not even consider sugar to be part of the pleasure. In fact you will look back at yourself and wonder what possessed you to shove poison down your throat while having an otherwise enjoyable time.
Next Week – Substitutes – Do they work?

Join the discussion 4 Comments

  • Lucy says:

    That article makes a lot of sense however my ‘addiction’ cravings usually occur after I eat a meal. There are no other activities that usually trigger a craving other than that I have just finished a healthy satisfying meal and now I feel like I need chocolate. Obviously the trigger is not something I can avoid so can you provide any suggestions to help combat the cravings?

  • ah yes … the desire for dessert! I too suffered from that one. What I did was substitute something less sugary. I started with a banana (chopped with cream and passionfruit for kick). Eventually I tired of that and found I didn’t really hanker after desert any longer.

    I suggest you insert something that you still consider a treat but which doesn’t contain sugar. As the chemical addiction subsides (about 3-5 weeks) so too will the desire for ‘afters’

  • of course, I should say now that Lizzie has mastered dextrose icecream and cheesecake, I’ve got a few more choices for pudding 🙂

  • Lucy says:

    Thanks for that advice David. I suffer from a condition that means I’m allergic to raw fruit though but I guess just suffering through cold turkey is better than eating it!!

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