Three years ago, I broke up with sugar.
As with any breakup, there was a period of mourning. My first week off sugar, I felt severe withdrawal. The detox symptoms reminded me of when I got sober 11 years ago — I felt sick, tired, and even depressed. As a spiritual teacher and self-help book author, I knew there was a way through this discomfort, so I looked in my spiritual toolbox for help.
Breaking up is hard to do, but worth it!
Like any addiction, sugar is not an easy one to change. Sugar has become so ingrained in American diets that we are often not even aware of how much we’re consuming. Consider this sobering statistic: “The average American consumes about 20 teaspoons, or 80 grams, of sugar a day.” And it’s not just about loving the taste: “The link between sugar and addictive behavior is tied to the fact that, when we eat sugar, opioids and dopamine are released. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that is a key part of the ‘reward circuit’ associated with addictive behavior. When a certain behavior causes an excess release of dopamine, you feel a pleasurable ‘high’ that you are inclined to re-experience, and so repeat the behavior.”
But as good as that short-lived high may be, it’s nothing compared to how good you feel when you kick your sugar addiction. Through my daily spiritual practice, my commitment to health, and my desire to feel awesome, I kicked sugar and changed my life forever. Quitting sugar was the best health decision I’ve ever made. I noticed instant results. My skin cleared up, I felt less bloated, my PMS symptoms subsided, and I had more energy.
As the days, months, and years went on, sugar became a distant afterthought. I no longer even crave dessert! The addiction faded away and I never turned back.
But the benefits of quitting sugar went beyond the obvious physical and mental health changes. What was most exciting was that I felt more inspired. Sugar was blocking me from creativity and flow. Once I cleared it out of my life, I had greater mental clarity and I even deepened my intuition.
How to kick the sugar habit, the Spirit Junkie way
People often tell me they want to quit sugar, but they say it seems too hard to even contemplate. I’m so passionate about this topic that I want to make it really easy for you to heal your sugar addiction once and for all. Mental clarity, physical health, and inspiration are available to you too! You’ll notice a shift instantly and you’ll be blown away by the results.
To help you on your own journey to kissing sugar goodbye, I’ve outlined five spiritual steps to support you.
Step 1: You gotta want it
Here’s the hardcore truth: In order to break up with sugar (and stick to it), you have to really want it. Quitting sugar isn’t for dabblers. To truly kick the addiction, you must sincerely want to let it go.
The addiction will tell you that it’s too hard to let go, or that you’ll be depriving yourself if you quit. To help you combat these limiting beliefs, follow this simple exercise.
Write a list of all the ways sugar makes you sick mentally and physically. For instance: sugar makes me break out, sugar gives me anxiety, sugar makes me feel bloated, once I start I can’t stop, etc.
Get super specific about all the negative ways that sugar affects you.
Then review the list.
When you look at the list, you’ll realize how awful the addiction is, and you’ll feel inspired to change. Use this inspiration to help you commit to a new mantra. Shift your thoughts from “I can’t quit sugar” to “I want to break up with sugar so I can ____________.” Fill in the blank. Give yourself a powerful reason to let it go once and for all.
Then recite this mantra daily as a gentle reminder that you want to break up with sugar.
Step 2: Clear permission-giving thoughts
I believe in abstinence. I’ve been sober from drugs and alcohol for 11 years. The way I stayed sober is that I stopped giving myself permission to drink or use drugs. Following a path of abstinence greatly supported me physically, emotionally, and spiritually.
I followed the same practice when it came to quitting sugar. I took away all permission-giving thoughts like, “I’ll eat sugar on my birthday” or “I’ll eat sugar only on the weekends.” By taking away the permission to dabble, I made a commitment to myself.
Create some bottom lines for yourself and clear all permission-giving thoughts.
Make a list of all the ways you may possibly relapse with sugar. For example: at a birthday party, at the movies, in your coffee.
Then set the intention to release these options. By no longer giving yourself permission to dabble, you create a clear path for abstinence.
Step 3: Get creative and inspired
Many spiritual teachers say that when we’re inspired, we’re in-spirit. Inspiration moves an invisible force of energy through us that keeps us consistent on our path toward healing. So let’s get inspired by the process of releasing sugar!
I’ve learned that while it’s really important to be abstinent, you don’t want to feel like you’re depriving yourself. That’s why it’s important to get creative in the kitchen and have fun with new natural sweeteners and treats.
Over the past few years, I’ve experimented with some wild recipes and healthy sugar substitutes to curb my cravings and give myself something sweet.
There are three baking ingredients that have saved me.
First is stevia. Unlike other sugar substitutes, stevia is derived from a plant. While stevia is very sweet, it doesn't add calories. You'll want to use stevia sparingly because just a good pinch can sweeten a cup of tea.
There’s also a really cool new sugar-free sweetener that I'm obsessed with called Lakanto. This product is derived from monk fruit and is great for baking! Unlike stevia, you can use Lakanto in the same proportions that you'd use sugar. It also has a much better flavor than stevia.
And finally, there’s good old banana. Within a month of kicking sugar, you’ll come to notice that even a banana is super sweet! Bananas are great to bake with because they have a creamy consistency that makes baked goods soft and yummy.
Now don’t get freaked out by this, but I also don’t eat any honey or maple syrup. Both of these ingredients act just like sugar in your body.
It’s time to get inspired in the kitchen. Let that cooking creativity help you stay committed to your path. The more fun you have with this process, the more empowered you will feel to stay consistent.
Step 4: Pray and meditate
The #1 reason I’ve been able to stay off sugar for the past three years is that I have a dedicated prayer and meditation practice. Prayer helps me turn over my addictive thoughts to a power greater than me. And meditation helps me stay centered and consistent in my life.
A prayer I used often during my sugar detox was a prayer for healing:
I surrender sugar today.
I choose vitality, inspiration, and health.
I welcome guidance on my path.
This simple prayer will help you surrender your addictive thoughts and patterns and reconnect you with the voice of your higher self. Whenever you notice yourself craving sugar, recite this prayer and expect relief.
A daily meditation practice will greatly support you as you give up sugar. Meditation doesn’t have to be complicated — it can be as simple as feeling your pulse. I have a foolproof tool that is very easy for meditation newbies. I call it “Peace is in your pulse” because it helps you stay consistent with your goals and can calm you down when you want to pick up sugar.
You can do this meditation anytime, anywhere, and you can experience great benefits in just one minute. Practice it daily to help you stay clear and committed.
The final spiritual step in breaking up with sugar is to keep it in the day. Addiction recovery rooms all over the world repeat this mantra daily: “One day at a time.” This is the most valuable message on your healing path.
Simply keep it in the day. Try not to future trip about the birthday cake you think you deserve on your 40th birthday. Stay in the moment with your practice. One day at a time you can stick to your bottom line, shift your perceptions, pray, and meditate. One day at a time, you will curb the cravings, kick the addiction, and break up with sugar once and for all.
Following these five steps will give you the structure and support you need when you decide to quit sugar. Choose to see this journey as an adventure. Instead of losing sugar, you’re actually gaining better physical health, a clearer mind, and freedom from an insidious addiction. You’ll be amazed by the changes. Three years in, I can tell you confidently that it’s worth every bit of effort.
Check out Gabby's recent Facebook Live chat about how she broke up with sugar!
Gabby Bernstein, aka The Spirit Junkie, is a #1 New York Times best-selling author, international speaker, and certified Kundalini yoga and meditation teacher. She is also sugar-free!