Looking to stop your sugar cravings or try a sugar-free diet? Hypnotist Paul McKenna shows you how to reduce your sweet addiction and eventually quit refined sugar the natural way

How much sugar is healthy to eat every day?

Guidelines on sugar consumption have changed, and it’s now recommended that sugar should make up 10 per cent or less of our daily calorie intake – about six teaspoons for women, nine for men.

While that might sound like quite a lot, you’d be surprised by the amount hiding in every day foods such as ready meals, pasta sauces and soft drinks/

What’s wrong with sugar?

Eating too much sugar can have a range of unpleasant side effects, the most obvious being weight gain, but it’s also been linked to:

  • High blood pressure
  • High levels of bad cholesterol
  • Increased risk of heart attack
  • Increased risk of Alzheimer’s and dementia
  • Increased risk of depression
  • Dull skin and wrinkles
  • Acne
  • Increased risk of diabetes
  • Bad breath
  • Low energy levels

Why am I craving sugar?

There are lots of possible reasons behind a sugar addiction. It may be that you’re tired, hormonal or not eating enough nourishing food. If you find yourself eating or drinking a lot of products with artificial sweeteners in, that could also be causing your body to expect, and therefore crave, sugar.

How to stop a sugar addiction

When it comes to cutting down on sugar, it all begins in your head. After all, you can know what to eat and not eat, but sticking to it is easier once you have the right mind-set…

‘All decisions about food are made in your mind,’ says hypnotist Paul McKenna. ‘Losing weight or making the decision to be healthier comes from your brain, that’s what determines what you eat.’

Going on a sugar free diet makes you want it more

It’s all well and good saying you’re going to cut out chocolate cake, but we all know as soon we deny ourselves something, it’s all we can think about. ‘I want to give people the tools to cut back successfully and gradually and strike the right balance,’ says Paul.

Paul says we can all reduce sugar by training our brains to think differently

His exercises are designed to enable you to decide if you want to eat sugar or not, so you can enjoy a couple of squares of chocolate without demolishing the whole bar, or enjoy a cup of tea without three spoons of sugar.

‘If everyone could just cut back their sugar intake by 20 per cent, that would be a huge achievement and lead to a happier, healthier nation,’ says Paul.

How to cut sugar and chocolate cravings

So, we need to understand sugar and why it’s so addictive. ‘When you eat sugar, it stimulates dopamine or ‘pleasure’ receptors in your brain,’ Paul explains.

‘The more sugar you eat, the more resistant these receptors become, meaning the desire to keep eating it in larger quantities is heightened as you seek that sweet high. Essentially your brain chemistry is changed and conditioned to want sugar.’

But, don’t worry, it’s not necessary to completely stop consuming sugar – after all, it’d be a sad world if we couldn’t dunk a biscuit in our tea once in a while. Paul believes you can reach a point where you can enjoy it in safe amounts but also feel completely satisfied without it. Hurrah! And the best part is, it’s not about going cold turkey – it’s just about harnessing your natural willpower with some simple mind games.

Try Paul McKenna’s exercise to stop sugar cravings and get back control

This exercise uses conditioning and the power of your imagination to help give you the choice as to whether you really do want to eat that chocolate bar…

  1. To start off, when faced with a delicious sweet treat, rate how much you want that treat and your desire for it on a scale of 1-10 – 10 being ‘I have to have this now!’
  2. Now, before reaching for that food, think instead of a food that revolts you. Something that means even the mere sight of it makes you feel nauseous. This feeling is stronger than a dislike. Imagine a plate of that food in front of you.
  3. Now, as vividly as possible, imagine eating that food. Taste it, smell it, feel the texture in your mouth and as you swallow it.
  4. Keep on imagining it until you feel really revolted.
  5. Imagine the sugary food that you’re craving and add it to the food you feel revolted by. Mix the taste and texture as you chew and taste them together.
  6. Now imagine adding the hair from the floor of a hairdressers to the food mixture. Again, imagining the taste and texture.
  7. Once you’ve really imagined it, then think about that sugary treat you wanted and felt out of control around and rate your desire for it on a scale of 1-10. Your desire should be significantly lower now.
  8. As soon as you can think about the food you were craving and feel as if you can take it or leave it, you’re back in control.

Paul’s book Get Control of Sugar Now: Great Choices for your Healthy Future (Bantam) is out now.