Banish Sugar Cravings with a New Ritual

Written by Christine Kane

iStock_000002173279XSmallOur local organic grocery store has a pastry chef who has won all kinds of awards for her tasty treats.  I am partial to her cookies.  They’re big. They’re cakey. And they’re organic, made with all-natural ingredients. I give her awards every time I eat one!

One winter a few years ago, I got hooked on these cookies. They became my drug of choice on winter nights when I was fighting the winter blues. One problem, though. Within about a month of practicing my nightly cookie ritual, I gained about 5 pounds!

During one of my regular acupuncture appointments, my acupuncturist felt my pulses and expressed concern over what she was noticing.  I broke down. I told her about my cookie fetish.

She remarked that the excess sugar was apparently doing some wonky stuff to my spleen, as well as a few other unhealthy things.

[Note: I’ve since learned that eating carbs late at night drives up your insulin.  Insulin blocks the all-important fat-burning "human growth hormone" – which is naturally released in large quantities about one hour after you fall asleep.   When you eat carbs at night, the insulin boost interferes with your natural metabolism process, causing you to gain weight and messing with healthy sleep patterns. For more about this, read Jillian Michaels' most excellent book: Master Your Metabolism.]

My acupuncturist smiled at my tale of my sugar addiction, and she told me quite simply:

“It’s just ritual. That’s what we all crave, really.  Create a new ritual!”

And on the spot, she prescribed a new ritual that I absolutely love. (It doesn’t mean I no longer eat cookies. It’s just that I’m not addicted anymore!)

The Apple and Cinnamon and Tea Ritual

Brew some boiling water for your favorite herbal tea. (I love Good Earth Decaf Tea in the winter.)

Then slice an apple into thin even slices and lay them out on your favorite dish or appetizer tray. (Presentation is important. It makes the ritual a special occasion.  Cookies, on the other hand, are easy to chomp down with little awareness.)

Sprinkle the apples with cinnamon.

Sit down and mindfully enjoy your tea and cinnamon-sprinkled apples.   (Light a candle for added shininess.)

—–

If you’re anything like me, upon reading this your first reaction will be something like:

Huh?

(Actually, my reaction was more like: “You think this is going to make me not want my big cakey chocolate chip cookie?  Exactly what land of new age Zen fantasy are you from?”)

But I tried it anyway.

And while it didn’t provide the same addictive bliss of the cookie habit, it replaced it with a more peaceful moment of ritual. I stayed present with the apple and enjoyed each bite.  Slowly, it became my new ritual, and I left behind my cookie fetish. (And lost the extra pounds in the process!)

Sometimes we make it much more complicated than it has to be.

It really is just about creating new rituals and habits.

——
P.S. Want more rituals that will help you thrive this winter? Then be sure to get my LiveCreative eZine this Wednesday! The feature article is “7 Happy Rituals for the Short Days of Winter.” Click here to subscribe!

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{27 comments ... read them below or add one}

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{27 comments ... read them below or add one}

Marissa November 2, 2009 at 12:31 am

Thank you for this extremely relevant article! I’ve recently started to try to eat healthier to lose a bit of excess weight, but one of the hardest things to give up has my coffee and pumpkin bread at my favorite cafe, a ritual I’ve always looked forward to. Not sure what to replace the ritual with but recognizing it as such is so helpful already!

[Reply]

Mindful Mimi November 2, 2009 at 3:51 am

Christine,
I feel caught… :-) I eat cookies every night – there I admitted it – with my tea. Rigth now I am an absolute addict to Oreo’s banadas in white chocolate. I could kill for them. i hide them from my kids so I can have them for me alone :-)
My reaction to the apple and tea ritual was exactly that ‘Huh – what the hell are you talking about? That’s never gonna work.’
But knowing you – a little – I will try it. I seriously will.
Once I have finished off the Oreo’s (which will most likely be tonight :-)
Thanks for the tip. You are a mind reader.
Enjoy the wide awake weekend. Elaine’s on her way now :-)
Miranda

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Laura November 2, 2009 at 7:52 am

Like Mimi, I feel caught. I don’t think I’m addicted to sugar, unless I think about NOT eating it, then I want tons of cookies and chocolate. I appreciate the information about eating carbs at night – that would be an easy habit for me to adapt and I’m gonna be more mindful about eating sugar….after the Halloween candy is gone. Happy Monday!

[Reply]

Christine Kane November 2, 2009 at 9:38 am

marissa – at first it’ll be a drag to do the “ritual switch” – but it gets pretty simple. i’ve come to believe that all food habits are just that: habits. I used to think the ONLY breakfast I could ever have was eggs and toast. when i went vegan, i switched the habit to smoothies. now i try all different stuff just to keep my body from getting curmudgeonly into its own habits!

mm – see if it helps. after reading jillian’s book i want to jump through the computer and say “anything but packaged oreo crap!!!” :-) I will miss you this week at the wide awake weekend! too bad you couldn’t hop on the plane with elaine!

laura – yep. TOTALLY get that. as soon as something is “taken away” you want it. i try to lighten up by making it a game, instead of a rule!

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Nancy November 2, 2009 at 10:16 am

Thank you. You wrote just what I was needing to hear right now. I appreciate your blog.
Nancy

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Jenny November 2, 2009 at 12:59 pm

I hadn’t considered that small addictions are like rituals. The change of language makes them seem so much easier to change. I love the idea of making a new ritual to replace the old one–just feels so do-able.
Your suggestion to Marissa of trying different things is also a good one, as I know I can substitute something new, get bored, and slip back into the old habit.
I’m not sure if apples in the evening will do it for me, but I’ll give it a shot tonight. Thank you for sharing this!

[Reply]

Sam November 2, 2009 at 2:23 pm

Thank you Christine for another great post!! My addiction to peanut butter happens during the day rather than at night, but I’m sure it’s equally harmful.
I just have not found anything that quite makes it as a aubstitute

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Missy November 2, 2009 at 8:27 pm

What perfect timing as I am surrounded by Halloween candy from my four children! Though I know better, I have fully succumbed to the evening carb fest in the last six months. Habit, addiction, ritual, stress relief, call it what you will, it is clearly time for a change! Thank you for the kick in the pants :)

p.s. can’t wait til Sat night!

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Meredith November 2, 2009 at 11:04 pm

What a wonderful idea! I don’t have a cookie (or even a sugar) ritual — but I can definitely apply this to an eating habit I’m trying to change. And in general I would like to put more mindful ritual into my life.

Thank you :)

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Nancy H November 3, 2009 at 9:55 am

This blog is so relevant for me right now! Since turning vegan I have developed an “addiction” to a particular brand of yummy vegan cookies. My thought process? “Oh-they’re vegan…they’re good for me…” lol

Great idea with the apple, cinnamon, and tea ritual. I’m going to try that tonight instead of hunting for my cookies! (Last night I was craving a cookie so bad, I drove to our co-op only to find the store closed…)

[Reply]

Kathleen Krucoff November 3, 2009 at 11:09 am

Great idea! And my favorite part is the advice about creating new rituals and habits! Thanks!

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Shishi November 3, 2009 at 2:57 pm

This post was the perfect info for me today. I have just pledged to start working out on a new pilates machine that I splurged on….and the sugar has to go! Time for a new ritual. Thanks, and have a fabulous weekend. I wish I could make it. Next time.

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Jodi at Joy Discovered November 3, 2009 at 5:47 pm

Hi Christine!
I like the idea of having an evening ritual. This is a great one. I will give it a try!

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Jan Scott Nelson November 4, 2009 at 2:02 am

Thank you for this, Christine, and for the book suggestion. The word ‘ritual’ keeps popping up around me at the moment and in this particlar context offers a real alternative to the chaotic eating which can kick in without it. More helpful than you can imagine. I’m enormously grateful to you. :)

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Giulietta Nardone November 4, 2009 at 10:58 am

Hi Christine,

I try to eat sweets sparingly to save my pancreas. Yet, I love chocolate chip cookies so it’s hard. I love sauteed brussels sprouts in garlic and olive oil too. Just takes longer to whip up and clean up. Fun article! Giulietta

[Reply]

Bonnie November 8, 2009 at 1:31 pm

Christine, that fact about carb-eating at night blocking HGH is a missing link I’ve never read before.

An apple and Indian Spice tea is my late snack of choice WHEN I am feeling good and in control. And I’ve read that the cinnamon (in my tea, and on your apple) helps insulin resistance; it prevents your system from being flooded with insulin.

[Reply]

Mindful Mimi November 10, 2009 at 4:01 pm

On the plane with Elaine – good title for a new song. But I guess I’d have to literally do it and come over again for the song to materialize.
I have been bad I have to admit. I finished the oreo (yes I know they are bad) but then some other cookies mysteriously materialized in the cupboard :-) and we ran out of apples.
The worst enemy of habits are excuses :-)
I need to read Jillian’s book. Or have something extreme happen to me. Like wanting a baby in order to stop smoking :-)
Hope you are not on a low after such a high last weekend.
Take good care of yourself.
M

[Reply]

Wendi Kelly-Life's Little Inspirations November 11, 2009 at 1:03 am

I’m reading this while having tea. At night after my nice warm shower. So nice.

I want more good rituals. I am thinking a few undesirable ones have slipped in. Hmm. I shall adjust. Thanks…

It reminds me that when I wanted to quit smoking many decades ago, I was unsuccesful until I discovered that I used smoking to take five minute breaks to stand stil and take slow deep breaths while the rest of the time I ran around like a headless chicken. As soon as I gave myself permission to stand still for five minutes through out the day and breath slow deep breaths, I didn’t need the cigarette anymore.

Yes, more good rituals on the way. :)

[Reply]

Eileen Keane November 11, 2009 at 12:41 pm

So what you’re telling me is that I shouldn’t have my daily bowl of ice cream or frozen yogurt? I don’t know if my husband will go for it.
Plus, we have flavored decaf coffee with milk and Sweet&Low. Do I have to give that up too?
Dang!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

[Reply]

Ellen November 11, 2009 at 2:44 pm

I loved this article! What a lovely reframing of a treat AND I know it can be hard. I’ve been on a Candida diet (zero sugar and very low carb)for about three months. I tried coming off of it and found very quickly I was starting to crave sugar again. Diet is a funny thing. Thanks for offering a nurturing and healthy alternative.

[Reply]

Wendy November 11, 2010 at 8:44 am

Christine,

I really enjoy your articles and newsletter. Your suggestions have relevance to who I am and in my life and I suspect the lives of many women and men.

I’m implementing two of your suggestions. . . I’m going to start a winter ritual of lighting candles when I get home in the evening and instead of chowing down on chocolate during the afternoon at work, an apple with cinnamon and a cup of tea will be my new “addiction.” I did, however, let go of my addiction to Mars bars when I learned how unethical they are in the treatment of animals in their research. That made that addiction easy to let go of.

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Ana June 13, 2011 at 12:48 pm

mm you give an idea for a new ritual. Half walnuts with a drop of yogurt on top sided by a herbal tea…

[Reply]

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