How to End Addiction to Refined Carbohydrates

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How to End Addiction to Refined Carbohydrates


We have all been there, haven't we? That spoon full of the most heavenly pasta drenched in alfredo sauce daring us to turn our mouth way.  That wretched temptress that laughs at us with her nefarious plans to wreck havoc on our body, and still beckoning us with her seductive dripping sauces.  That spoon full that we always call the "second to last" spoon :-)

Did you know that addiction to refined carbs and sugar is considered to be at the same severity level as heroin and other hard drugs?  There are several studies like this one that successfully conclude the overlap of addictive behavior between refined carbs/sugar and drugs.

So are you gonna fold?  Hell no! Actually, if you take baby steps, this problem is easy to fix.  Remember, that we were born not addicted to refined and processed carbs because that is how nature made our bodies.  We are just going back to who we are really!

Here are 3 phases to take your journey in, to end your addiction once and for all:


refined carbs
The above pic is not the motivation! I used to be super addicted to refined carbs like the ones shown above. One morning in early spring on the steps of a museum in Philadelphia, I screamed "Enough", did a dance, went cold turkey, tracked myself, logged into Moleskine journals, shed tons of pounds, celebrated with all the hot people in the town, and became a celebrity endorsing cardboard tasting energy drinks. Ok...I am exaggerating :-)  It didn’t happen exactly that way. Actually, I went to a lab and ran full tests. Looking at my test results, I was a bit stunned.  Nothing gives you motivation like a kick in your rear.  So you could do two things:
  1. Do a full lab test - full metabolic panel test and tests for vitamin deficiencies.
  2. Try this exercise on paper. Seriously. It will take only couple of minutes. Answer this question “What would I be like and what would my life be like 10 years from now if I continued binging on refined carbs?”

One of these two will give you a jolt of motivation! Or you could try going to Philadelphia :-)

Systems and Alternatives:

Now that you know you need to definitely get off the refined carbs, try this system:

    1. Take one week at a time. Don’t think beyond a week. Try out a more balanced diet for that one week. I will not pontificate on a more balanced diet here. You can find that out from several good sources online in case you don't have access to a good nutritionist. Here is a quick rule of thumb.  Think of your balanced diet as a spelling bee contest. If you can't spell an ingredient easily, and it reminds you of those dreadful high school chemistry classes, chuck it.
      healthy food veggies
    2. The reason why most of us love eating refined carbs could be because of any of these reasons - we are bored, we are depressed, we are programmed since our childhood, our bodies don’t utilize the insulin from pancreas properly, or we simply don’t know how tasty natural food can be. Let us assume for a second that you don’t suffer from more serious conditions like diabetes or metabolic syndrome. Then another baby step before you get rid of your addiction forever is to create diversions! Diversions can be one of many:
      1. Drink water more often, but not too much at one time. Often times, our craving can curb by satiating our thirst hiding in plain sight.
      2. Seek out tasty alternatives in less processed foods. Examples include brown rice chips with avocado or hot salsa, rolled oats with a dash of honey, natural nutrition bars with low sugar but taste good, low sugar chocolates (Oorja anyone? :-)). Also, check this out: If vegetables are so healthy why don't they taste better?
      3. Dabble in cooking. Once you get into cooking, you may really enjoy it. But more importantly, you become super aware of what you are eating. Not to mention that more of your food will come from your cooking, so hopefully, there is more control on reducing refined carbs. I recommend starting with something very simple like in the link I provided above.
      4. Go for a run. Seriously. You would think that you would get even hungrier after running. But running does some biochemical magic to your body that would require a whole different post. The short answer is you start feeling better about your body, and you become more conscious and controlling of what you gobble down. If you haven’t run in a while, just walk or run for just a few blocks and then gradually increase. You don’t have to run marathons or half marathons to get the above benefits from running.
      5. Watch a movie! Without the popcorn. Just sneak in a small bag of healthier snacks in your backpack or purse, sprinkle some nice seasoning to it, and watch the movie. Few hours will go by just like that.
      6. Put your creative hat on. Think of more interesting diversions and do them!
    3. Do resistance training or high-intensity interval training. These are proven to increase insulin sensitivity that reduces craving to refined carbs.

      woman doing ropes high intensity
  1. Eat when you are slightly hungry and in moderation. No need to follow frequent meals or 3 meals a day. It is a little controversial but try it. You have nothing to lose.
Check in:
Go back and do your lab tests. I don’t like how we spend so much money on post-diagnosis care or reactive care, and not so much on preventive care. Lab tests come under preventive care. I would say, take frequent lab tests. It keeps you motivated. Yes, you would spend a little more money. But it is worth it.

dogs funny lab results

Image courtesy:



Word of caution: Sometimes serious medical issues like metabolic syndrome, pre-diabetes, chronic fatigue, etc may cause craving towards refined carbs. So it is important to get yourself checked (the tests mentioned above would help) and consult a doctor.

Finally, try doing this in a buddy system. Place a bet with your friend. Or use motivation apps like on your phone where a community can hold you accountable. You will have to set a goal, which is great and will help you further.

Good luck on your journey!  I would love to hear from you.  What has worked for you? What hasn't worked for you?

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  • Thomas on

    Awesome article. Thank you for sharing

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