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Can A Recovering Sugar Addict Eat Intuitively?

Carol Lee July 2023

Holistic Healing Thought Leader: Carol Lee

From my experience, the answer is yes and no, depending on how you approach it.

Feeling Addicted To Sugar And Processed Carbohydrates:

As someone interested in natural whole food eating, seasonal eating and a naturopathic approach, intuitive eating was always the panacea. Something to aspire to. I could do it to a degree but my sugar and processed carbohydrate addiction and cravings always got the better of me.

But let’s start with what intuitive eating means… this is how I see it.

I believe that our body has an innate wisdom that is separate from our brain that if allowed will guide us to eat what our body needs. We will naturally want to eat seasonal food and will find our own balance of nutrients.

Feeling addicted to sugar and processed carbohydrates, indeed any ultra-processed food, is the antithesis of this. It completely switches us off from any messages from our body, our body wisdom.

On my journey towards eating more intuitively and sugar-free this is what I discovered…

“Once sugar-free, hunger felt more like an invitation, a question, a gentle prompt.”

Re-Wiring Is Required:

Those river beds (neural pathways) of addiction in your brain can dry out but they don’t disappear.

As my river beds started to dry out I started to hear the ‘voice’ of my body’s wisdom. I also realised just how loudly sugar’s voice had been, it drowned out everything. My natural intuitive voice is much softer and kinder.

Re-setting, Finding A New Normal:

As my tastebuds returned to ‘factory settings’ and I could taste food as it it really was, this felt like a direct line had been opened to what I wanted to eat, particularly seasonal delights

Re-Balancing Was A Revelation:

As my hormones rebalanced and those pesky sugar sugar highs and lows evened out I found my natural hunger and the rhythm of how I ate changed. When I previously ate sugar, hunger felt like an emergency call as I could quickly feel wobbly and nauseous because of a sugar crash, I needed to eat often and it seemed like I grazed my way through the day. Once sugar-free, hunger felt more like an invitation, a question, a gentle prompt. I started eating more regular meals and stopped snacking, there was NO emergency!

So you’re all re-wired, re-set and re-balanced and you are living in sugar-freedom so does this mean you can now eat anything you like, you are ‘cured’?

In my experience ‘No’, simply because those neural pathways in your brain, those river beds, have not disappeared, they have just dried out meaning they can be reactivated any time.

Many intuitive eater devotees will say eat what you like and you will find your own balance. For someone who feels, or has felt, addicted to sugar, eating whatever you like can lead to a tsunami of flooding through your brain, kicking off cravings and bouts of binging.

How To Intuitively Eat And Be Sugar-Free:

I discovered that I can eat anything I want within my own sugar and processed carbohydrate-free boundaries. This part of the journey to sugar-freedom is about finding your ‘edges’, I called these three ‘edges’ the ‘No-never’ food, the ‘High days and Holidays’ food and finally the ‘Everyday Eating’ food.

“‘Everyday Eating’ is everything else and is where my intuitive eating begins and ends.”

‘No-never’ food is food I avoid at all costs because they create cravings, binging and food chatter. For me these include, chocolate, cookies/biscuits, cake, dried fruit, crisps, ice-cream, muesli with dried food, pastries, and crackers.

‘High days and Holidays’ food is food that I can tolerate occasionally without creating cravings, binging, and food chatter. For me these include wheat bread, scones, white rice, fries, and medhool dates

‘Everyday Eating’ is everything else and is where my intuitive eating begins and ends. This is my land of plenty where I can explore and taste and enjoy and for someone who has been obsessed with food all their lives this is freedom.

Could You Do It Too?

If I can, you can… but if you have been eating sugar and processed carbohydrates for many years and feel addicted to food and sugar in particular, it can be hard to tune back into intuitive eating and start to find your ‘edges’.

Here’s how to start…

  • Keep a food and feelings diary to start discovering where the sugar is in your food
  • Keep this up as your start to cut out sugar and processed carbohydrates
  • Notice what you crave and notice how you feel when you try not to eat it
  • Notice how you eat your food (for example fast, slow, cut-off)
  • Notice how you feel after an hour; food chatter, cravings, body sensations, bloating, tiredness

Here are some questions you could also ask yourself:

  • Am I hungry?
  • Am I thirsty rather than hungry?
  • Do I feel ‘safe’ feeling hungry?
  • What would I love to eat?
  • How does my body feel when it needs food?
  • How does my body feel once I’ve eaten?
  • What ‘story’ am I telling myself about food and eating?

Finally just to say this is a lot, the journey to sugar-freedom is certainly a voyage of discovery, there will be highs and there will be lows. Embrace this all with huge self love and compassion, you can do it!

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Carol Lee

About the Author:

Carol Lee is a Naturopathic Nutritional Therapist, Sugar-freedom coach, Creative Kinesiologist, Teacher and Author from the U.K. She has been working in Complementary Health for over 25 years. Her holistic approach to healing and transformation is about listening to, witnessing and working with the body’s ‘knowing’. Carol believes this is where we hold our wisdom, experience and capacity for change, especially as mid-life women.

She works with women wanting to kick the sugar habit, those who are navigating health challenges, or who are wanting to up-level their life in some way; helping them to clear the blocks to success and wellbeing. She is currently enjoying her empty nest, and the freedom it brings, with her partner Jon. Carol loves the coast and walking the wild landscape of South West UK, snuggling her sweet rescue cat Stevie, gardening and eating delicious, nutritious food.