A few weeks ago I spoke with a client who hadn’t been to my office in a while. She told me she’d fallen off GAPS™ several months ago due to her insatiable sugar cravings. She mentioned that when she was in the midst of the cravings she looked online for stories of other people going through similar things and couldn’t find any.

I realized that I’d let down both her, and other GAPS followers who are battling sugar cravings, by not sharing my story. This is a problem that I struggled with all my life, including after beginning the GAPS Diet, and I feel like I’ve overcome it now.

Most of my life people didn’t know that I was a sugar addict because:

  1. I was also an over-exerciser and I stayed thin.
  2. I’d eat sweets in secret a lot of the time (I always had a stash of candy in a drawer, in my pocket, or next to me on the couch, hidden by a blanket).
  3. Eating sweets every day is so normal in our culture that most people don’t think it’s a problem.

It’s been over 2 years since I first began the GAPS Diet. It’s been about 6 months since I officially came off it and added back starchy veggies and occasional grains. The more time passes, the more amazed I am that sugar no longer has a hold on me.

I like to talk about successes and things that helped me, because I think that’s most helpful to people, but today I’d like to share my struggles with sugar cravings on my GAPS journey. There were two particular times in the past 2 years that my sugar addiction was in full-force while I was trying to follow the GAPS Diet.

The first was around the time of my wedding, and I wrote a post about that, which you can read here. The gist of it was that I felt like I was going to die of stress if I didn’t eat a package of cookies every day and I didn’t dare find out what might happen if I didn’t do it.

The second time I really struggled with my sugar addiction on the GAPS Diet was in the summer of 2012. That’s when I first combined the GAPS Diet with Mineral Balancing, a program that supports the detoxification of heavy metals. Mineral balancing supplements really put me in touch with how depleted my body was, and I felt extremely fatigued. I think ongoing fatigue was the main reason that I craved sugar my whole life and sugar kept me on the energy roller coaster.

I spent over a month that summer eating about 80% GAPS foods and 20% junk food. I took special trips to the store nearly every single day, buying doughnuts, candy, and chips. These weren’t gluten-free sugar-free things that I could rationalize as “not so bad” treats. I stopped reading the ingredients because even seeing it in writing didn’t stop me from buying sweets with partially hydrogenated oils, corn syrup, colorings, and other additives.

I honestly felt like I could not control myself from this behavior. As soon as I would get out of the store, I’d be opening the box of doughnuts in my grocery bag on the sly and breaking off pieces to eat on the walk home. I only took bites when no one was passing by, of course. I felt comforted by my good old friend sugar, but also more fatigued. At home I was hiding this food in my desk and in my nightstand. Even though my husband has never said a word of judgment about my sugar-loving ways, I felt an incredible amount of shame.

In my practice I felt like a fraud and jealous of my clients success. Here I was helping other people regain their vitality with the GAPS Diet and encouraging their healthy choices, yet I was out of control. I always say that I teach what I need to learn and this was a prime lesson.

Looking back on how I tamed my sugar addiction…

The first step for me was breaking the cycle of shame that I felt. I decided to be honest about it at home. If I buy junk food I keep it out and eat it in front of other people. Occasionally I still battle myself on this point so I don’t have to share.

Next, I cut back on my supplements in the detoxification program that I was following. If it was making me feel so terrible it was clearly too much for me at that time.

The third part was acceptance of my exhaustion and a commitment to honor what my body truly needed, which was rest. I started going to bed at about 9:30 most nights. Sleep was the only thing that made me feel really good and prevented massive sugar cravings. I had to come to terms with the fact that I needed sleep and rest and that meant that I had to give up other things like watching movies and staying out late with friends. I did the bare minimum at work that would keep things afloat, instead of my usual (at the time) working all hours of the day and night (and weekends).

I continued eating nutritious foods, taking my probiotics, and eating fermented foods every day. I forced myself to do some low-key exercise and made a sincere effort to reorganize my life to reduce stress and get plenty of sleep. The longer that went on the more the benefits added up.

There wasn’t one magic thing that relieved my sugar cravings. It was really just a matter of doing the best I could every single day and having faith that I was headed in the right direction. When I made a mistake I didn’t give up GAPS or blame the diet for not saving me from myself.

As of today, it’s been almost a year and a half since I felt out of control. I still consider myself a sugar addict and I’m mindful that sugar can be a slippery slope for me. But now a treat here and there, or even a week’s vacation with relaxed rules about food, doesn’t take me back to that place. Like I said, I’m continually amazed that this can actually be the case, because it’s never been before. The only way I could ever avoid sugar in my past was through willpower. Now I have a “take it or leave it” attitude. I can think through why I want it – is it a special occasion, a true desire, or am I fatigued?

If you’ve overcome your own sugar addiction I’d love to hear how you did it in the comments below! If you know someone who struggles with breaking their own sugar addiction, please forward this article to them so that they know they’re not alone and there are steps they can take to free themselves.

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