I wrote last week about my Trim Healthy Mama story and why I am kinda obsessed with it. Part of that journey led me to freedom from my sugar addiction that has been more than just a temporary thing. Here is the rest of the story…
I love sugar. Give me any homemade goodness – cookies, cake, homemade frosting and that sugar-sweet high and all the problems of the world seem to melt away! For years I medicated any problem with baking. It was therapeudic and there is nothing like a warm cookie (or two dozen) right out of the oven. I baked for friends when they were down, for any special occasion, even just to celebrate a good day. When I was a teenager and in college, this baking and sugar addiction did not affect my weight, but once I started birth control when I married at 22, that all changed.
In 2011, I gave up sugar for long periods of time and just did not bake to avoid temptation. I denied I had an addiction to sweets, though. In June 2014, I found Trim Healthy Mama and along with it learned how to bake some amazing sugar-free treats. However, I still could not admit my addiction to sugar. The word addiction was just too much for this good Christian girl to admit – “I wasn’t an addict to anything serious – sugar is perfectly acceptable and I could totally live without it or not – it didn’t make a difference…” I allowed myself sugar on special occasions. I lied to myself for years that I could have “just one treat”. “All in moderation.” I know many people who can do this, but they don’t have a sugar addiction. I have no moderation when sugar is involved. One bite makes me crave more… and more… and more…
After a special occasion splurge on sweets, if I was very disciplined, I could get back on my sugar-free track in a few days. However, usually I was not so good. Often weeks, or months, would go by before I would finally wrench myself away from sugar again. I started to feel that gentle pull of the Holy Spirit to give sugar up for good. I knew what He was asking me, being ever so gentle about it, but I tried to ignore it. I continued to lie to myself and live in this cycle of defeat. I tried to control my craving for sugar, to have power over it, but it continued to drag me down, again and again…
Last summer, in June of 2015, I was doing a Bible study and the author spoke about her addiction (not to sugar) and the cycle of defeat that she lived in for years. After reading her testimony, I thought to myself, “I am so thankful I don’t have that problem.” No sooner had the thought crossed my mind, then that still small voice whispered to my heart, “But you do, Amy.” I knew God was again asking me to give up sugar and He was offering me the freedom to walk away from it for good. I was so tired of lying to myself and living in a cycle of defeat – I was finally ready to make a lasting change.
I had to admit I had a problem and I had to come to a point where I was sick and tired of living in a cycle of defeat. It took me years of denial and lying to myself, but I was finally ready to admit my weakness. “Hello, my name is Amy and I am a sugarholic.”
“It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.”
It is for freedom that Christ has set me free – if I am still living in captivity in any part of my life, I am not embracing the true freedom He has given me! I was finally at a place where I wanted to give my sugar addiction over to Him – totally and completely. I was scared – terrified that I could not do it and would be embarrassed as I once again fell into that cycle of defeat. I knew I did not personally have the strength to do what I knew God was asking me to do – I would have to step out in faith. So I chose to believe God – that He had convicted me and asked me to give my addiction over to Him. I chose to believe that His all surpassing power was within me and that I could do all things through Christ – even give up sugar for good. (The book Made to Crave by Lysa TerKeurst was very helpful in this journey.)
These are the steps I took to make sure that this change was a lasting change. If this is something you struggle with as well, I hope that these will help you to find lasting freedom from sugar-addiction.
1. Be completely ready for a lasting change – you must be FED UP with living in a cycle of defeat.
I tried to give up sugar so many times before. However, I always failed because I lied to myself that “just a little bit” or “just for such-and-such occasion” was fine. Every time I let myself eat “just a little”, I always struggled so hard to go back to my sugar-free ways. It took me almost 4 years of living in a cycle of lying to myself about sugar, and my relationship with sugar, to finally wake up and realize that I could not keep living in defeat. I was sick and tired of it and ready for a lasting change. If you are not at this place yet, it is unlikely that you will be able to truly give up sugar – at least that was the case for me…
2. Confess your addiction to sugar – out loud and to a person or group of people that you trust and that love you
For me, this was my Bible study girlfriends, my husband, and my sister. All of these people loved me and I trusted them completely with my confession. Even so, this was not easy. I was terrified to admit my sugar addiction out loud and afraid that I would be judged, or laughed at, or even shunned. I knew logically that this was not the case, but my insecurity and pride, and even the enemy wanting to keep me in captivity, made me “feel” otherwise. Thankfully, this time, I did not listen to that negative voice.
3. Commit to God, your trusted friends, and yourself that you will not eat sugar
Confessing to the problem is only the first step. The next thing I needed to do was commit to a lasting change and ask for accountability. Doing this before God and before man is important. I knew there would be plenty of times I could hide my eating sugar from people, but I could never hide it from God or myself. So I prayed for the strength to give up sugar for good. I also asked my friends to hold me accountable and I promised myself that I would not fall back into my old patterns.
4. Know your trigger foods – the foods that will cause you to go back into the cycle of defeat.
For me, my trigger foods are what we call “treats” in our house. For me, these were sugar laden cookies, cakes, frosting, soda, sugar filled drinks, ice cream, pastries, and candy – all of those things were no longer on the menu (at least not sugar filled versions – check out my THM Pinterest page for many great sugar-free healthy alternatives). I still have some sugar, in small amounts, in foods that are not triggers for me. For example, I still have ketchup occasionally, or I might have barbecue chicken that has been cooked with sugar-filled barbecue sauce. These things are not triggers for me and do not make me crave sugar.
I don’t want my sugar issues to become everyone else’s problem – I don’t want to inconvenience a host who has made barbecue chicken, or something with some sugar, by refusing to eat the main course. But, I find, a dessert is usually easier to pass up without offending the chef. I believe that relationships come before my eating hangups, however. In my over 8 months of sugar freedom, I have had one occasion where I was not comfortable refusing the gift of some lovingly made homemade ice cream. I prayed about it, had a few bites, and shared the rest with my toddler. Thankfully, God gave me the strength to not be triggered by that treat and continue on my path of sugar freedom.
5. Be prepared. Determine before hand what you will eat and will not eat (whenever possible)
Eating well at home was not the biggest challenge. For the most part, I keep the trigger foods out of the house. The biggest issues come when I am at special events where I do not control the food choices. However, if I come prepared, either physically with a treat to share that I can eat, or mentally prepared to not have a treat, I am fine.
At holiday events, I always bring my own sugar-free treat to share. I still love to bake and there are endless healthy sugar-free options. (THM’s Gentle Sweet has been a game changer for me – if you have a hard time finding a natural sweetener you like, I highly recommend it. You can buy it here.) I also find, at most events, there are usually many good non-sugary options – like a yummy fruit, veggie, or a cheese tray – I choose those instead of my trigger foods.
If I know I will be surrounded by only sugar, like the gingerbread house decorating party I went to in December, I make sure I come prepared with a drink I enjoy and I keep sipping on it the entire time. My current favorite is “Cuddle Family Hot Chocolate” from the THM Cookbook.
7. Don’t feel sorry for yourself – nothing tastes as good as freedom.
What I had learned from my many failed attempts to give up sugar was that the battle was mostly in my mind. I found that if I determined before an event that I was not going to eat sugar, I just didn’t. I wasn’t upset about it. I did not feel deprived. I had determined before the event that I wouldn’t do it and I didn’t. However, if I went to an event thinking maybe I would be good and not eat the dessert, I failed every time. Attitude is everything on this journey. I have determined to NOT eat sugary treats anymore. Period. So I don’t. Since I no longer give myself the option to eat sugar, it is no longer an option.
However, if I let doubt sink in, that would be a different story. If I went to a party with the attitude that “It’s not fair that they all get to eat that cake and I don’t. Why do I have to struggle with sugar addiction? Life’s not fair.” Even if I came away from the party without eating the cake, I would have failed. This is not “a fair or not fair” issue. This is a personal choice to live in freedom from the cycle of defeat I lived in for years. Thank you, Lord! I am no longer in bondage to the control of sugar.
If you struggle with sugar addiction, I hope that this is a freedom that you will find as well. The freedom that I have found tastes sweeter than any piece of cake.