Original email for context: I have a serious eating problem. I’m an emotional eater. I have a sugar addiction, and I believe that I have some level of eating disorder. I can go without eating but when just take one little bite, it turns to a huge bingeing issue. Then once I eat, my mind says well you already ate like a cow might as well finish what you want. And this episode repeats itself. Then I feel so sad, then I stop eating for a while and go to the gym be super good for couple weeks. Then repeat.
I TOTALLY GET YOU. EACH AND EVERY WORD.
I will share my tips and process for how I broke free from this – and this is coming from a gal who has been sugar-binge-free for over 6 years now. October 2012 was last and final binge. You can also see my hCG before and after story here.
Click any topic to go right there!
- My history with sugar addiction
- How the hCG Protocol Can Help Beat Sugar Addiction
- The 6 Step Process for Change
- Step 1: The Pre-hCG Diet
- Step 2: Loading for hCG Differently
- Step 3: A Lower Carb Version of P2 on hCG
- Step 4: A Change to Phase 3
- Step 5: Following a Structured Plan for P3
- Step 6: Changing Your Mental View of Food and Eating
- How Not to do hCG When You Have Sugar Addiction
- Advice You May Have Heard About Beating Sugar Addiction That Doesn’t Work
- Can You Ever Have “Normal” Food Again?
- How Long Till You Can Eat Regular Food Again?
First a little history of myself so you understand to what degree I KNOW where you are coming from – this is the ice-cream store I used to go to every single day in order to buy at first – a pint of ice-cream. But then it turned into a half-gallon eventually. There were also donut shops I frequented where I would get 6-8 donuts and eat those in a day. I became so addicted to sugar that I had to have something like this every single day. I would feel antsy and distracted at home if I hadn’t yet had my sugar fix and I would have to figure out how to find a reason to drive each day for errands to have my private sugar binge.
I’ve purchased whole boxes of Chips Ahoy chewy chocolate chips cookies, eaten half the box and felt sick to my stomach, thrown the rest in the large garbage can in front of my house, only to go back a couple hours later after I’d digested a little to retrieve the rest of the box and eat the rest of the cookies. I’d be too embarrassed to share this publicly on a blog except that I’ve shared enough here and gotten enough “me toos!” to know that I can’t be the only one who has has this problem.
I used to buy a bunch of sugary foods, eat them in the car with my infant son, and then go hiking with him in my backpack for a few hours, hoping it would somehow cancel out. One the left below was one of those times……
This is the restaurant I used to drive to JUST to buy a large slice of this chocolate cake to go and eat it in my car before going home. Did I mention I drove her not to eat dinner out, but purely to buy this cake? It was about a 10 minute drive from my house. I snapped this photo years later when visiting the area again after I’d moved, once I’d broken free from my sugar addiction, just so that I could have this memory – of being free. And that night I ate dinner there with my family instead of cake by myself! 🙂
So I share all this so you know – my problem was real like yours. This wasn’t a case of just eating 3 extra cookies on occasion. This was a real, daily, addiction that led to so much sugar consumption that my blood sugar would rise to 140 afterward. That my lab tests showed elevated liver enzymes. The following is exactly what I did to get over my sugar addiction (except for following P3tolife in P3 since that didn’t exist then!). And again, I have been binge-free since October 2012. I’d say that I’m sugar-addiction free except that while I no longer eat sugar, I think I’m technically stilled “addicted” to it in the sense of if I have certain sugary foods it does still trigger a desire to binge on it. For me, the answer for some things is simply to not eat them anymore. Surprisingly, this is actually MUCH easier than trying to eat just little bits.
I do not grapple with daily food cravings or have to try to inhibit myself from eating too much anymore. I am able to eat normally for my size, and be content with it.
I do think the hCG diet can be and has been, abused, or misunderstood, and this has led to some negative feedback of hCG actually causing binge eating disorders or other disordered eating. I completely believe this to be true. But I think the cause is both doing the diet improperly and/or abusing it.
So how can the hCG Diet be used to HELP us overcome a sugar-addiction or binge eating disorder? I start with a story.
My son has this non-permanent glue for his lego creations- called Leglue. It’s designed to cement your lego creations together securely but impermanently so you can walk them across the room to show your adoring parents your latest creation without it breaking into a million toe-endangering pieces on the kitchen floor. Later you may want to make a new creation with those legos so the glue releases with warm water.
hCG is our Leglue guys. It’s the non-permanent solution we are using to carry ourselves across time to a life where we have new long term habits in place.
For me, the hCG diet was the way that I was able to stay motivated to eat truly clean, without sugar, for a 3 month period, long enough to fully change and see the benefits.
I have hashimotos thyroiditis. I had read that it was wise to give up gluten for 3 months before re-introducing it to see if it got rid of inflammation and symptoms related to Hashi’s. But I could never get past 1-2 weeks in my attempts to be gluten free. And that wasn’t even trying to be sugar free mind you! That was ONLY eliminating one type of grain. My willpower would give in at some point and I’d back to loaves of french bread with everyone else.
When I had my sugar addiction, I just couldn’t find a strong enough reason to break away from sugar initially to make it doable for me. I’d always end up quitting 1-2 weeks in, like usual. hCG gave me the little boost I needed to make this monstrous overwhelming change because of being able to experience rapid weight loss. The scale changes and seeing myself shrink and get into new clothes so quickly kept me motivated during this transition phase. That really can’t be replicated elsewhere. I had tried eating low carb and lost 5-7 lbs initially only to stall out indefinitely after that…so, why not sugar again right? HCG is truly a springboard to LASTING change if use properly.
Some people feel that using instant gratification – a method that doesn’t address the root cause of a problem as a poor way to make change – one that will eventually fail. And I do agree that it’s important to address root causes or to have real concrete long term reasons for living a certain way. But I have found over time that a short-term eye-candy type reward can be a very effective step on your path to internalizing the long term reason you’ll continue with that way of life.
There is an excellent book I highly recommend, Atomic Habits, by James Clear – in Chapter 15 The Cardinal Rule of Behavior Change, he mentions under the subheading, “How to Turn Instant Gratification to Your Advantage”: “In the beginning, you need a reason to say on track. That is why immediate rewards are essential. They keep you excited while the delayed rewards accumulate in the background.” He also mentions that, “It is important to select short-term rewards that reinforce your identity (aka the person you want to become).”
This advice comes from medical research that has been done on how when something is satisfying, it will be habit forming – and utilizing this to our advantage to jumpstart a life change.
THIS is why hCG is so helpful for us – we have that instant gratification, in line with the person/identity we are trying to become, because we are:
- Eating super healthy and clean on hCG
- Losing weight rapidly
- Changing our body shape quickly
- Getting into smaller clothes fast
These rewards, which would only be short-term if we didn’t truly change our life long term, are the impetus we need to keep at these new changes in our life during the period when it’s not a habit yet and thus super super hard.
James Clear’s last words on this topic I’d like to mention, “Eventually, as intrinsic rewards like a better mood, more energy, and reduce stress kick in, you’ll become less concerned with chase the secondary reward….the more a habit becomes a part of your life, the less you need outside encouragement to follow through.”
This is exactly what I have found to be true. I started hCG and was able to stay motivated enough to continue eating clean for 3 months because of the weight loss. But this was a sufficient period of time for my new way of life and eating to have become a habit, so that it no longer felt hard to eat and live that way. So that when hCG and P3 were over, it now felt like the natural thing to just keep eating healthy and not having sugar. I had crested the very steep hill of ingrained behavior patterns with the help of hCG. In the long term – the 6+ years of weight maintenance I now have under my belt – it’s very true that I continue making my eating choices and exercise choices based on the many diverse positive benefits I get out of living this way. And one is no longer having to think about dieting all the time to fix becoming overweight over and over!
Depending on where you are at in your weight loss journey will alter a bit how you go at this – IDEALLY you want to start this process before you are actually on P2 of the hCG Diet – this is the best way if at all possible- and if you are really really struggling with cravings and cheating while on P2 right now, it may be worth quitting this round, taking a short break and doing this 6 step process from Step 1 – this made SUCH a difference for me.
If you are already on hCG and really want to try to make it work, please see Step 3 and give that a try. If you find it’s not working for you to get rid of cravings, then again my suggestion is to go back to Step 1.
Doing the Pre-hCG diet for 1 week is what gets rid of your sugar cravings and urge to binge – an important element to this pre-diet is that it’s high fat – thus why you can’t really accomplish this during Phase 2. High fat during this time helps you get past the sugar and carb withdrawals that you will experience the quickest and most painlessly. For me this took about 3 days before that feeling went away and the remainder of the week I felt really good and in control.
Loading is often what people look to as a time to have a logical reason to eat really poorly in high quantities. I too used to think of it this way. Until my 2nd round when after 3 months of clean eating, I had chocolate cake and donuts again and it completely re-triggered my bingeing tendencies- this made round 2 feel absolutely impossible! I was craving CONSTANTLY because of the brain pattern change that those 2 loading days caused me. Thus I resolved to clean load my 3rd round. This again maintains the craving-free feeling to start P2 with.
This involves removing not only the melba/grissini from the diet, which many already do, but the fruits as well. Don’t worry we replace these calories with something else! Please see lower carb P2 post to get the details on how to do it. But what this accomplishes is it maintains that craving-free state. Typically because the carbs are so low when done this way, your body gets into ketosis which is known for producing of feeling of complete lack of cravings or desire to eat – this makes it very very easy to follow the low calorie diet because you literally care a LOT less about food. I know this is hard to imagine if you are still “give me all the ice-cream” mode (been there, done that) but it IS possible to change that feeling in your body, I promise.
One thing that you MUST know when do Phase 2 of the hCG Diet in the manner described above, is that this process causes you to lose what are called “glycogen stores” in your body – this is basically water weight that is stored in your muscles and liver. Carbs are what fill these stores up- they are not fat, and as soon as you eat any carbs, you cannot prevent your body from refilling these stores- it’s actually a good thing and what makes your muscles plump and firm and rounded. But that said, when you lose EXTRA water like this than normal on the diet because of not having the fruits, you will gain it back in P3 – and this means you often cannot follow the 2 lb rule – you MUST give yourself a larger range for weight stabilization. To give you an example, I ended up stabilizing 7 lbs higher than my LIW when I followed this method. Please don’t let this discourage you – none of this has anything to do with fat you lost and then gained back- this is all just fluids – you will have an artificially low LIW in P2, so you need to allow room for a larger gain for stabilization in P3. So PLEASE read this article about that: Doing P3 Right When You Didn’t Eat Fruits in P2
I’m not embarrassed nor do I feel pushy to mention my structured P3 program here because now after thousands of members have joined, we have seen just how reliable P3tolife is for stabilizing your weight loss. When ladies follow the meal plan, they don’t gain weight! Once your weight is more set in stone, you will have more freedom with your eating choices.
P3toLife is a huge step forward for the hCG world because what women have been lacking after P2 is simply structure! We just didn’t know exactly what and how much to eat in P3 – low carb is so vague! This fixes that problem so that if you follow it, you are very very likely to succeed and have things go very very smoothly.
If you are fresh off the sugar addiction boat when you enter P3toLife, it may be a good idea to watch carefully your gut response to the P3tolief dessert smoothies – for some this could cause cravings. While the amount of fruit used in those smoothies is very very small, it’s still good to just gauge your reaction- if you feel at all like these trigger cravings for you, leave them out until a later time. They are very low calorie so they do not contribute a lot to the program outside of enjoyment.
Or, it’s possible that the non-fruit P3 dessert smoothies may be fine for you, so you may use these in all places where one with fruit is listed. Just try to match the calories up when swapping things out like this.
Lastly, you may be just fine- I personally never had stevia induce cravings for me, even while I was still breaking away from my sugar addiction, but everyone is different- one woman who wrote me said that the stevia-sweetened desserts were making her have cravings- so if that happens to you, definitely remove them.
This is a more difficult one I think, but I try my best to share what has helped me change – this is one of those things that you must consciously work at adjusting how you talk to yourself internally in order to see a gradual change in your thought patterns. More on this in my article: Dealing with Emotional Issues with Food
I too use to eat something I regretted and then allow that disappointed feeling in myself cause me to do just as you said – “well I already ate like a cow, might as well continue!” I have been in that thought pattern so many times. I have gradually been able to work my way away from this thought pattern and instead when I overeat or eat in a way I regret, I see the next hour as an opportunity to go back to eating the way I believe in now – and that it’s not too late, you can always start fixing something right away. But I know it’s easier said than done to think this way.
I have also learned that there is never a good enough reason to binge or eat in a way that is “overdoing it”. I used to have all sorts of reasons and occasions that I justified why it was okay to just totally overeat. Now I have learned to not trust myself when I start telling myself some story like this. I have seen the evidence enough times to remember that it never felt worth it after the fact. So whenever I hear that familiar story in my head, like “Oh just this one time I’m going to just eat whatever I want in any amount I want because of such and such logical reason” – I right away tell myself- NO. That is a lie. Do not believe yourself. The evidence is clear. It has never been worth it, and one time always leads to another time, and it’s also very difficult to fix even that one time.
I fell for my own lies to myself a few times during this learning process, but only helped to reinforce the fact that I shouldn’t trust my own thoughts on this. That helped me to learn to trust what I had decided, no matter what I told myself.
It might sound crazy but this really works for me. And this doesn’t mean I don’t eat french fries and stuff! Now that my bingeing is gone, while I don’t eat sugary items anymore because it is still a trigger for me, I do have simple carbs and enjoy food like that. I was not able to do this at first. But after a time of eating really clean and changing the thought pattern in my head, eventually I was able to incorporate more fun foods in moderation. But I am sure to still stay away from ANY food that is a trigger that causes a desire to binge- for me that’s any baked good or ice-cream- even the ones made with sugar substitutes- it just tastes too much like the real thing to me, so I still avoid them. Things like french fries and gluten free bread on a sandwich I find are okay for me personally. You may be different.
I feel I can speak on this topic because I learned this the hard way. I found that doing hCG when you have a sugar addiction or a tendency for being addicted to sugar and or binge-eating disorder requires you do the protocol differently than many others.
Doing the Loading Phase with Sugar
Many ladies like to load for the hCG diet on whatever suits their fancy- cake, huge thanksgiving dinner with tons of dessert, lots of greasy fried foods, whatever. For someone without a binge-disorder or sugar addiction, this may be fine. But for ladies like us, this is a bad idea.
My 2nd round of hCG, after 3 months of super clean eating, feel totally free of my sugar addiction, I made the mistaken assumption that I could binge on sugary food for 2 days for my 2nd road loading phase. Big mistake. This set of a strong urge to binge my entire round and horrible sugar cravings, such that I cheated frequently on the diet that round and was just super miserable all the time.
Allowing Yourself to Be Hungry on hCG Thinking It’s Part of the Package
It is UNWISE to let yourself feel starving on this protocol. The solution for feeling very hungry on this diet is almost always dosage adjustment – please see my guide: hCG + Hunger & Dosage.
If you are very hungry on the hCG diet, you NEED to fix it – if the dosage adjustment does not help, you may need to increase your calories- many people do protocols of up to 800 calories and still lose weight – it is MUCH better to lose weight a little more slowly, than to be starving and grin and bear it for a time – this is a sure way for setting of disordered eating patterns and bingeing. I discuss everything related to hunger on hCG in that dosage post.
Consistent Cheating on the Diet – You Keep Trying to Start Fresh Too Many Times
If you find yourself consistently cheating, I think in this case it’s better to quit that round and go back to Step 1 of this protocol to get over sugar addiction. Please see my Reasons We Cheat on the hCG Diet which can help you get in the right head space for your next attempt.
You shouldn’t have to spend every day doing is all sorts of things to distract yourself from eating. This is okay for the a few days during the initial withdrawals. But if you continue to be in a state where you are craving all day and trying to distract yourself for weeks on end, your method for getting over sugar addiction isn’t working.
Getting over sugar addiction isn’t about continuing to deal with the same feelings and cravings and just exhibiting more willpower.
It’s about the actual urges to overeat and the sugar cravings being GONE.
That should be what your method accomplishes.
I read some blogposts on sugar addiction and many of them were like, “go somewhere different” or “reduce stress levels. ” Really? I’m sorry, but I feel like these are NOT concrete helpful suggestions for truly eliminating the constant need for sugar you feel and I’m fairly certain people with NO experience dealing with sugar addiction must have written these articles. That’s like telling someone in a wheelchair if they stretch a bit more often they can probably walk again.
In all the blogposts I came across when googling to see if anyone else had anything helpful to say, I did not find once post, hcg related or not, that addresses the way that was successful for me to truly get rid of my binge eating disorder and sugar addiction. All of their suggestions are things that would not have worked.
Example: Some advice I read early on suggesting removing all refined sugars, and eating things like whole fruits in order to change my eating habits.
I tried this.
I ate no cake or ice-cream and regular food + lots of fruit for 2 weeks straight and the entire time I was absolutely miserable, just wishing I could go back to my cake the entire time. So I finally did. The cravings never got any better. Contrast that with my 1 Week Pre-hCG Diet method (which could be done anytime to kick sugar addiction btw, doesn’t have to be just before starting hCG), and I experienced withdrawals for only 3 days and the feelings were not nearly as intense during those 3 days either. After that I felt homefree when it comes to desire to binge.
This is I think the main question we have in the back of our heads when we are considering trying to overcome our problems. I’m sure everyone is different but my personal experience has been that I’ve been able to reincorporate quite a variety of foods, once I’d eaten super clean and low carb for long enough, but there are some foods to this day, 6 years post-binge that trigger strong cravings and urges to binge. So I do avoid some foods 100% still.
I have found that, no surprise, my trigger foods are my previous binge foods. Even in an elevated “healthier” version – like cookies made with almond flour and eythritol sugar-free sweetener, it still just tastes too much like my previous binge foods and I will want to consume the entire batch.
However, I found I CAN have a lot of foods that possibly other people might have trouble with, in moderation, very easily – things like french fries, and chips, and tortillas, and fruit. So more of the savory “junk” foods. I am able to eat these pretty consistently without having it trigger a strong urge to overeat them or binge on them or cravings for more or other food.
For you, it will be about experimenting but it does stand to reason as I experienced above that the foods you had trouble overeating in the past may be the same foods that prove to still be triggers for you in the future. So it’s about finding other foods you really like and love the taste of, that you don’t have a history of bingeing on – these may someday be fine.
I can’t be certain but for me it was definitely several months of not even eating fruit before I found I could safely add back in some carby items like chips or fruit and feel like I was crave-stable. For you it maybe be different. I’m not sure exactly what the time off is accomplishing but I feel like I see the body get set in new ways, creating new normals and patterns and forgetting old ones and stabilizing your hormones in the process of eating so well, so that, in time, your system will not go into overdrive craving mode from a simple apple.
I really hope this helps- while in the end, you must do the work and figure out your own journey with sugar addiction, I hope my example shows that it can be done and that it doesn’t matter how extreme your binges have been, recovery is possible.
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