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How I Beat Sugar and Carb Addiction in 10 Days

I’m happier now that I no longer wake up craving donuts. And I’ll never think about my favorite food truck order the same way again.

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image of brain with sugar cubes moving on conveyor belt
Nick Ferrari
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Ice cream, chips, macaroni salad, bread. Is there a starchy or sugary food you tend to crave? What could you do to enjoy it in moderation? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

Growing up, my dad fed us rice and peas. Mom fed us tortellini. Macaroni and cheese reminds me of grandpa and family gatherings. So many desserts do too! No wonder starchy dishes and sugary sweets—emotionally attached to culture, abundance and love—are my comfort foods. There’s nothing wrong with eating carbohydrates. According to the Cleveland Clinic, we need carbs to survive! Our blood stream absorbs carbs as glucose or blood sugar. The body then releases insulin, which sends the glucose to our cells for energy. Extra glucose is stored in our muscles and liver first before showing up as fat on our bodies elsewhere. Eating too many carbs can raise your blood sugar and put you at risk for diabetes, and obesity, Cleveland Clinic confirms.

My blood sugar wakeup call

The risk versus reward of cutting back on carbs didn’t become real until I participated in a university-led study on diabetes. Look, if the need to change doesn’t seem apparent, I’m just not going to do it. My life changed after I volunteered to wear a continuous glucose monitor, (CGM), an adhesive patch featuring a tiny needle-like sensor wire that pierces the skin. It feels like a rubber band snap going in. I bled during the first attempt to punch it into my side. The nurse removed it and re-applied it to my other side. It bruised a little. The device allowed researchers to monitor my blood sugar levels for 10 days. After, I was able to review my daily A1C or glucose levels which were good, below 5.7%, save a spike on Thursdays around 3PM. What would spike my sugar so high?

I was able to track the spike in my chart to my lifestyle habits. I’m a busy working mom. I believe in celebrating the week’s victories big and small. On Thursdays, I’d treat myself to a trip to my favorite food truck for fried rice. The temporary pleasure from a box of rice just no longer seemed worth it. If I continued this ritual, what could happen to my health?

Eating excess sugar and carbs is a factor in issues such as obesity and diabetes, both named risk factors for Alzheimer’s and dementia. Black women are more likely to experience these health issues, compared to our white counterparts, according to the SIU School of Medicine, at Southern Illinois University. It was time to change my thinking and my lifestyle. Like many health behavior changes, it was going to take some effort. It was about cultivating discipline and learning to say no to meals that used to (at least temporarily) make me feel good.

Was I addicted to carbs?

Well, they were habit forming, at any rate.

Did they provide a reward? Check. Carbs, which your body turns into sugar, trigger the pleasure sensors in your brain. A 2024 study published in the journal Cell Metabolism shows that eating sugar and fat together can have a particularly addictive effect, setting off more dopamine in the brain and activating sub-conscious cravings that may cause people to ignore their dietary restrictions, than when consuming just sugar or fatty foods alone. Made me think twice about that carrot cake muffin cup with cream cheese frosting from the local bakery.

Did I reach for starch foods when tired or stressed? Check. The Cleveland Clinic confirms that there is a hormone in our stomachs called ghrelin that signals to us that we’re hungry. When we don’t get enough sleep, ghrelin spikes, and we tend to reach for quick sugar fixes.

Did a feel a loss of control? Check. It’s documented that people who recover from substance abuse often pick up sugar as a replacement. I did feel like I wasn’t in complete control. Speaking to Anthony Smith, PhD, Psychologist and Executive Director of the Alase Center for Enrichment in Durham, North Carolina, helped me to work through cravings as well as cultural and emotional attachments.

Change happens in small steps

Getting expert help was priceless even if I did feel silly calling a therapist about carbs. Dr. Smith explained that my call was valid. “There is not a cookie cutter approach, but there are so many different things that fall into it because there's an element of addiction that often also comes into play; people are unable to put the sugar down. And so, whether it be drugs, gambling, alcohol, sugar, coffee, whatever there are things that we need to do to help a person stay committed to changing that behavior that is not serving them. So, it can be a combination of a lot of different approaches.” So glad I called!

Saying no fried rice Thursdays was the start. By week two, it became progressively easier. I have less carb cravings now and I snack on berries instead. I know that cravings mean that I need to check-in on mind, body and spirit. Could be call for meditation, talk therapy, or sleep, not necessarily pizza.

I no longer wake up thinking about donuts

I understand that lunch doesn’t have to mean rice, noodles, or fries just because it’s convenient. My focus has turned to preparing life affirming meals at home-lean proteins, whole grains, fresh fruits, and veggies. When out to dinner or brunch, I choose a lean protein and veggies. I feel free from a sense of food urgency.
Taking care of me feels better than stress eating carbs. I feel like I’m in control again. I’m more centered in myself and not being pulled from outside cravings. I can choose to say no to a plate of carbs and honestly, I can say no with ease to all things, not just food, which don’t support my long-term wellness.

Ice cream, chips, macaroni salad, bread. Is there a starchy or sugary food you tend to crave? What could you do to enjoy it in moderation? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

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