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  • Writer's pictureElise Johnson

Shaking Off Sugar

Updated: 3 days ago

A bolt of white sugar, a wooden spoon of white sugar, and sugar cubes on a gray counter.
Shaking Off Sugar

Long gone are the days when I was unable to stop my body from craving and eating sugar. Hallelujah!

I remember feeling out of control, ashamed, and frustrated. I would berate myself. I would give in, feel great for a second, and then horrible the next. I honestly felt like sugar was my drug and it really was. I knew that this addiction and my inability to lose weight at the time wasn’t due to a lack of willpower. I had done hard things before. Why was shaking off sugar and the pounds so difficult?

Fast forward three years…as an integrative nutrition health coach, one of the questions I am most often asked is how I managed to lose and keep off 65 pounds. What exactly worked? How difficult was it? What do I eat? How often do I exercise? What exercises do I enjoy? And, of course, how do I manage to stay motivated?

Who people now see is the healthy, happy person in front of them, not the person who struggled to keep out of the pantry several times a day, the person who was always uncomfortable in her clothing which too often felt tight, and the numerous times I would try one outfit on after the next to be faced with the dreadful reality that I was growing by the minute and not in a good way. They don’t see the person who would feel so tired after eating that I would sometimes fall asleep after dinner. They don’t see the person who would walk into her pantry several times a day and grab M and M’s by the handful. And they certainly don’t know that I became unable to open those same hands most of the time or the tremendous pain I felt daily. They don’t know that I would awake in the middle of the night due to acid reflux or sleep apnea. I was out of control. I felt “hungry” all of the time. I didn‘t realize that, although I weighed much more than my body required of me, I was actually malnourished.

Once I BEGAN eating sugar, it felt impossible to STOP eating it. And the processed food…although I made most of our meals from scratch, I was not paying attention to all of the ingredients I was purchasing. The white flour and sugars, protein bars, protein powders, condiments, and the list goes on…all contained ingredients that were harmful to my body and my family’s bodies. Once I learned this, my mindset changed. I began to reframe my thinking, and I did a deep dive (and I mean a really, deep dive) into what I was purchasing and eating and how my body processed these ingredients. That is how I found The Institute for Integrative Nutrition. Once I understood just how hard my body works on my behalf every second of every day, how could I not love it or myself?

You may also be under the impression, like I had been, that you lack willpower. Did you know that there are biochemical reasons why sugary and processed foods and drinks are so desirable, and why it can be so difficult to stop eating them even after a small bite or two? We love the sweet stuff, don’t we? Why is this?

Is it because it tastes so good?

Well, it’s actually simpler than you may think.

Over the years, hunter-gatherers stayed away from bitter foods and looked for sugary alternatives in nature because many of the bitter options were poisonous. These foods also provided them the energy (calories) they needed to hunt all day. These sugary options also provided their brains with the glucose needed to function. Interestingly, our brains also need healthy fats like olive oil, avocado, nuts and seeds, etc. to function properly. Did you know that about two-thirds of your brain is made up of fat? Today, sugary, processed foods are very harmful to our health. We are also not hunting and gathering all day like our ancestors did.

While we know that our brains and bodies need both fuel in the form of glucose and fat, processed foods including sugary drinks and foods are not the answer. These foods provide a jolt of dopamine which makes us feel really good for a few minutes after consuming them. When we give our bodies sugar or processed foods, the dopamine activates our brain’s reward system. That feeling I would get from eating sugar (I call it “the panting dog” because I wanted more and more) was actually my body’s way of saying, “Yes! That feels great! Let’s have more, Elise!” I was addicted to sugar. Every time I rewarded my brain, I trained it which led to feeling more and more out of control. That was me. And guess what? I was not alone. This is the number one reason most clients come to me for help. This post is meant to encourage you. Eliminating sugar and processed foods can absolutely be done! I did it and continue to do it and so do my clients. A few of the strategies I use and share with my clients are:

1) Focus on “crowding in” delicious, whole, nutrient-dense foods verses “crowding out” sugar, sweet treats, and processed foods and drinks. I know this can be challenging and that is why I love working with clients. I am not at all simplifying the process or not acknowledging how difficult it can be. If it were easy, we’d all be doing it with ease, right? I am merely educating and trying to provide hope. If I did it, so can you!

I focus on all of the wonderful foods I now enjoy and LOVE, rather than the foods that I eliminated. Those foods were making me very sick. I quickly learned as I felt better with each new bite of nutrient-dense, whole food that I didn’t miss them at all. The new foods help me feel great, look better, and keep me satiated and happy. and also taste one hundred times better.

2) I also began journaling. It was then that I realized that I used these sweet treats to make me feel good. I noticed that patterns such as stress and fatigue played a role in my bad food choices. Being aware of when I craved these foods and why, was very beneficial. It prompted me to pay attention to the amount and quality of sleep I got each evening, for example.

3) I increased my water intake. I wasn’t really hungry. I was actually thirsty.

4) My tastebuds have changed. While I refrain from eating processed sugar and foods, I do allow myself a little honey and maple syrup which are natural sugars that my body can tolerate, enjoy, and benefit from. I introduced them back into my diet slowly. Remember that you are you. I had insulin resistance. I am not implying that you eliminate sugar completely, but I do know that it will be much easier to crowd out these types of foods if you begin to crowd in the good stuff.

5) Give yourself grace. This is not an easy process, but it can be successfully done and the rewards are so very much worth it! You are worth it!

If you need someone to help you through the process of crowding in and out, of understanding why you are unable to shake the sugar habit and walk with you through the process and the areas of your life affected, I’d love to help you become the happiest and healthiest version of yourself!

Be well,


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