What does H.A.L.T mean and why is it a focus of recovery from sugar addiction?
H.A.L.T. stands for Hungry, Angry, Lonely, Tired. These four feelings are common triggers (in any addiction) that could lead to relapse.
Looking specifically at sugar addiction, we need to pay special attention to these four feelings.
Let’s look at each of them.
It may be obvious to most of us why being hungry can be a trigger that leads us to crave and/or binge on sugar, but understanding how to properly nourish our bodies can be a precarious learning curve.
Sugar or carbs they provide us with a quick boost of energy. This can be reflected in a spike in our blood sugar, more so when they are eaten alone, as opposed to paired with fat and/or protein. Unfortunately, this spike will undoubtedly be followed by a dip in blood sugar.
When our blood sugar begins to dip is when we will start to feel hungry and crave more sugar to boost up the energy level again. This is what is being referred to when you hear the term ‘blood sugar rollercoaster’, and is the reason why you may feel hungry in between meals. For the sugar addict, this means facing both a biochemical addiction, as well as a physiological demand to consume more sugar.
Therefore, it’s important that the focus be on ensuring we get enough protein and fat, which both help to keep the blood sugar stable.
I recommend working with a professional to develop a food plan that is going to work best for you. In general, however, focusing on 3 meals a day that focus on protein, natural fats and above ground vegetables is a good place to start.
Looking through another lens, hunger may also be associated with an emotional need. Therefore, it’s extremely important that our recovery process includes a strong support system that can recognize your emotional needs and provide you with love, encouragement and understanding.
Feelings of anger, like what you experience during a fight with your spouse or getting cut off in traffic can lead to sugar cravings because our brains are looking for ways to self sooth. Similar to the frequent Westernized declaration “I need a drink” in response to stressful day, sugar addicts often turn to food, sometimes without even realizing it, in order to calm down and numb out.
So, what can we do instead of using sugar to deal with our feelings of anger?
I think before we talk about solutions, we need to recognize that we are indeed feeling angry. As I mentioned above, some of us are disconnected from our feelings that we might not even recognize what’s happening or what we’re feeling.
Referring to a ‘Feelings Wheel’ can be a simple, practical approach. A feelings wheel is a tool that places basic feelings (Angry, Fearful, Bad, Surprised, Happy etc.) in the center, and then, as you move outwards you find more descriptive words.
Using the wheel can help you identify what you’re feeling with more precision, and can help to de-intensify the situation and help you approach it with a more rational mind. Using it consistently can even help to improve your communication with others.
To use the wheel, you can simply just spend a couple of minutes looking at it each day. Take a few moments pondering what it is you’re really feeling, and what might have led you there. This alone is often enough to help you calm down and re-evaluate the situation.
If this is not enough, then we can add in some additional tools to help address the anger. Journaling can be very helpful in allowing you to express your anger and frustration which can often help you reframe, and move past it. If you don’t know where to start with journaling, you may find journaling prompts helpful.
Talking with a friend in recovery, a trusted family member, or a professional can also be really powerful in helping to work through the feelings of anger.
Moving your body through yoga, dance, walking or other exercise also works well for many people.
Feeling lonely can trigger cravings for sugar for a couple of reasons.
One of them being the reality that sugar addicts have literally developed a relationship with sugar. As I pointed out above, we’ve used it to sooth ourselves and have come to expect that it will be there us during difficult times.
In addition to this, addiction in and of itself is a disease of isolation. The addicted part of our brain actually persuades us to be alone so that we can focus on obtaining and using our drug; in this case, sugar.
You’ve likely heard the phrase ‘feeling alone in a crowded room’. Feeling like you don’t fit in or being uncomfortable in a crowd is a common feeling among those with addiction. Therefore, we can feel alone because we are physically alone, but also because we are mentally and/or spiritually alone.
To compound this, when you first enter recovery, you may feel even more alone because your friends and family (even if they are supportive) may not understand what you’re going through. You may also find you have to distance yourself from certain relationships because they are unsupportive or triggering for you.
To combat this, connection is paramount. It can be hard work to overcome that urge to isolate, but building a strong recovery network is one of the foundational components of recovery. Attending a meeting, texting or calling someone can be extremely powerful in helping you to maintain your abstinence and recovery.
When we’re tired, the body will often crave sugar because it is looking for energy. The best thing we can do to prevent this is to focus on prioritizing not only the quantity, but also the quality of our sleep.
I go into detail regarding both of these in my Sugar Freedom Recovery Program, so I’ll just touch on a couple of effective strategies here.
Creating a bedtime routine can be very helpful in training the body to know that bedtime is coming. In connection to this, going to bed at roughly the same time every night is also very helpful.
You may have heard about the health hazards of blue light that is emitted from our lights and electronic devices. This blue light interferes with our circadian rhythm and can greatly affect our sleep. Wearing blue-light blocking glasses when at your computer, and in the evening can help to limit the overexposure to this blue light, along with limiting the time we spend on our devices.
Another consideration is taking regular breaks throughout the day. This might include doing a meditation, but could also just be sitting in a quiet space for 5-10 minutes in the afternoon. And of course, limiting or avoiding caffeine also helps improve sleep for most people.
If you, or a loved one is struggling with sugar addiction, and would like more information about my Sugar Freedom Recovery Program please feel free to contact me.
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