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PHOTO:  "Breaking Up With Sugar" author Molly Carmel says sugar played a role in her own 20-year struggle with disordered eating.
Molly Carmel | ABC
"Breaking Up With Sugar" author Molly Carmel says sugar played a role in her own 20-year struggle with disordered eating.

Sugar! It's seemingly everywhere -- in every food label you read and on every "do not eat in 2020" list you read, too.

Sugar is also addicting, research shows, which can make decreasing your sugar intake or quitting it altogether very difficult.

It can be done though, according to Molly Carmel, a New York City-based eating disorder therapist who quit sugar after seeing the role it played in her own 20-year struggle with disordered eating.

Carmel reveals how she did it in her new book, "Breaking Up with Sugar." She shares the tips that helped her in the following essay.

If you’d told me over a decade ago that I would be celebrating breaking up with sugar as the solution to the nearly three decades of pain and anguish I suffered with my food and weight issues, I would have told you that you were crazy.

At that time, and for the 30 years leading up to that point, I was unknowingly doing everything I could to protect my sweetest love -- and I do mean everything. Through every diet, exercise program, inpatient clinic, medical and homeopathic doctor, ashram and every trick in the book -- including bariatric surgery -- I kept eating sugar.

I even became an eating disorder therapist to try and solve my problems with food and weight.

Sugar was my everything -- it soothed me, numbed me, helped me to feel included, excited me, nurtured me; you get the idea. My love of sugar had me packing on the pounds and worrying the adults in my life at a very early age. By the time I was 7 years old, I was on the first of many diets in a history replete with them.

My story is like so many others: I went on a diet. I (sometimes) lost some weight. I (inevitably) failed at the diet. I gained (more) weight, felt ashamed, overwhelmed and hopeless. I turned to sugar. Eventually, I would feel enough mortification or pressure to try another desperate attempt to heal, and I'd be right back in the diet drama and trauma: diet, fail, weight gain, depression, sugar -- over and over again to the tune of 325 pounds and very serious wear and tear on my spirit.

My professional and personal lives always ran parallel when it came to food and weight, and after creating and running a boarding school focused on helping overweight adolescents, I used the skill set I was taught there to establish a clinic with a focus on low-fat eating and calorie restriction.

Both are ideas I know today don’t work long term.

I found that with this focus, many of my clients were struggling to find freedom, and despite the best of intentions, they were going home and bingeing on low-fat cookies and fat-free frozen yogurt. And worse than that, so was I.

Once again, sugar had me in its grip. I was gaining weight, and felt sluggish and foggy. It was hijacking my life and my career.

Something had to be done and I was determined to find a sustainable solution. At the same time, the research in my field was starting to suggest sugar as the culprit, and my brother had given it up with amazing results.

So I gave it a try, with no actual intention of ever living life without sugar.

But here’s the thing -- the results were undeniable and incredible. Over 10 years later, my breakup is still intact and stronger than ever. I can safely say it’s the best decision I’ve ever made.

The physical benefits are obviously great. I never worry about gaining weight, I sleep soundly and I have no brain fog -- and that’s the short list.

But the emotional and spiritual benefits are even better. I’m honestly excited about life, I push myself out of my comfort zone, I crave connection, and the self-hate, blame and shame I lived with for so many years has been exorcised.

And if I can break up with sugar, so can you.

Here are three quick tips to get you started.

1. Get smart! Sugar is everywhere -- not just in cookies, candy and soda. It’s in our yogurt, bread, bacon, cereal, tomato sauce -- really everywhere. Start being mindful of how much sugar you’re eating by checking labels -- especially ingredients. My rule of thumb? The fifth ingredient rule. If sugar (under that name or any of its at least 61 aliases) is the fifth ingredient or later, you’re good to go.

2. Get it out! To make this process as easy as it can be for you, get as much sugar as possible out of your life. Raid your kitchen cabinets, the glove compartment of your car and your candy jar on your desk at work. Find all your stash spots, and dump it all. Of course, you can go and buy more, but making your sugar fix less convenient can give you a little extra time to decide if you really want to get back together -- and that moment can make all the difference. And if you think you can’t get rid of sugar because of spouses or children, consider replacing the sugar you love with foods that won’t seduce you in the middle of the night.

3. Get connected! Research is clear that when you’re making a change, connection helps outcomes significantly. You don’t have to do this alone -- and you shouldn’t! So let a supportive friend or family member know about your breakup, and make sure you have other outlets in your life you can turn to for support -- a church group, book club or online community, for instance, to reinforce your goals and give you some extra strength when you really need it.

Listen, this is a breakup with sugar -- emphasis on break up. In that, you’ll likely have some stormy feelings, but after every storm comes a rainbow. This I promise you.

You will begin to feel hope, excitement, joy, relief and, soon enough, true freedom -- making all the stormy moments worth it. Don’t let the thoughts of "I can’t do this" or "This isn’t worth it" deter you from finding this freedom. You do this and you are worth it. Pinkie swear.

Editor's note: This was originally published on Jan. 10, 2020.