5 Steps to Support Yourself as You Quit an Engrained Habit

This post is not intended to boss you around – as in insist you should quit sugar, wine or anything else you enjoy. If you are healthy and happy then I am delighted for you! However, if you are at a place in your life where a sugar, refined carb, wine, nicotine, caffeine, drug or junk food habit is no longer serving you, then this post of 5 ways to support yourself when you’re doing the hard work to quit “that habit” may very well be of use. It is not a comprehensive list of everything that could possibly support you, of course, but a quick and basic rundown of strategies I use to let go and walk in greater freedom.

I recently did a FB live on the topic which you may enjoy! Let’s jump right in.

1. Get Clear On Your Why and How

  • Write down your clear and compelling WHY. I suggest that if you are quitting to make someone else love you more, think you’re prettier or whatever, that you will rebound. Your why should stem from a place of love and compassion for yourself and an understanding of your great worth.
  • This is about you. WHO and HOW do you want to be in the world? Spend the time to create a vivid mental picture of this – your health, habits, lifestyle, relationships, how you want to bring your gifts to the world, and so on.
  • Don’t try to quit everything at once. As a young adult I quit drugs and alcohol at once. I went off refined sugar and a couple years ago quit gluten, corn, dairy and soy for a year and a half. I have gone extended periods without coffee in the past and recently quit wine. All of these instances were sustainable. When I recently tried an elimination diet that removed all the strong, bitter flavors I most love I was miserable and gave up quickly. Will you go cold turkey or take a slow & simple approach?

2. Break Routine

  • Your daily and weekly routine should be changed up in order to avoid common triggers. That girls’ night where wine is the focus, the path you drive to work every single day that conveniently passes three Starbucks, the evening snuggle with Netflix that inevitably leads to unhealthy night time snacking. You get the idea.
  • Build a healthy support network. You become like the people you hang out with so choose wisely. Will your friends support or sabotage you? Sometimes the people you love simply don’t understand that no, you cannot just enjoy a glass of wine at a wedding and then return to normal (wine-free) life. Moderation doesn’t tend to work while you’re in the throes of deeper addiction.

3. Practice Purposeful Self Care

  • Fill out a Happy-Stress Worksheet (printable) to identify what stresses you out (stress is a huge trigger!) and the small and big things that bring you happiness. Then pencil some happy things into your weekly calendar.
  • Go to bed for goodness sakes. Lack of sleep messes with your decision making and appetite regulation, alters brain activity, induces cravings for fat, sugar and salt, increases risk of obesity and diabetes, impairs glucose metabolism, and more! Go.To.Bed.
  • Stop running and numbing. For true freedom from cravings and addiction you must get comfie with some ugly, dark feelings. You need to give yourself permission to feel what is simmering below the surface (anger, shame, fear, pure delight), to cry, and eventually to use your voice and speak up for what you need.

4. Eat a Gut and Brain Calming Diet

  • You have a fatty brain and it needs to be fed for optimal health. I’m talking good quality fats like wild fish or fish oils, hemp, flax, walnuts, olive oil, avocado, coconut, eggs. These will help with mood, focus, concentration, energy, vision, synthesis and function of neurotransmitters and molecules of the immune system (and please feed your little people plenty of good fat as it supports their brain development).
  • Eat ferments to add in healthy bacteria. An imbalance of gut bacteria can cause intense cravings, it can lead to allergies and autoimmune dysfunction. Sugar, stress, caffeine, medications, fluoride, chlorine and alcohol can all contribute to an unhealthy gut and exacerbate the cycle of cravings for more of the same. Kimchi, sauerkraut (even just the juice), kefir, yogurt and cultured veggies are easy enough to add in to your diet. I do not recommend kombucha if you struggle with sugar, alcohol or carb cravings or yeast allergies. Not everyone would agree.
  • Plan for prebiotics to feed the good gut bacteria. Yup, back to the gut and let me tell you why: gut microbial fermentation of prebiotics promotes satiety, lowers hunger and energy intake in humans and in rodents is associated with appetite regulation and blood sugar balance. They boost immune function, lower stress response, inflammation and autoimmune reactions, lead to better hormonal balance and decrease risk of obesity and weight gain. But even just the fact that a healthy gut is essential for mood balance is reason enough so if you want to quit “that habit” things will go a lot easier if you build a healthy gut. Some great prebiotic foods to consider include greenish bananas/plantains, dandelion greens, onions, leeks and garlic, artichoke, jicama, asparagus and chicory root. Eat some of these raw if possible!

5. Supplement Strategically

  • Add in adaptogens to calm and nourish your adrenal glands. Adrenal imbalance leads to blood sugar issues, brain fog, digestive problems, fatigue, food cravings, frequent illness, hormonal imbalance, inflammation/joint pain, anxiety and depression, and weight gain (especially around your middle). I’ve written about adaptogens I use here and here and I love these adaptogenic mushrooms and cacao drinks as well as this supplement.
  • L-Glutamine is an amino acid that helps with sugar and alcohol cravings, digestive health including restoring a leaky gut (back to gut again), muscle strength and recovery, improved memory, focus and concentration. Multi-purpose!
  • Higher intake of sugar, caffeine, alcohol and chronic stress can cause mineral deficiencies which, in turn, can lead to cravings and fatigue. Consider getting your iron and ferritin tested if you have weird or intense cravings or unexplained fatigue and supplement minerals like zinc, magnesium, selenium and chromium.

I know this is a quick run-down of ideas but I hope that these 5 steps to support yourself as you quit “that habit” will prove useful in your life. Let’s talk – is there anything that you are ready to quit? Which of these steps speaks the loudest to you?

Krista xo

*Some links are affiliate links which means that if you purchase through them I receive a tiny $ amount of compensation at no extra cost to you! Check with your doctor or health care team before taking new supplements/herbs.


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2 comments on “5 Steps to Support Yourself as You Quit an Engrained Habit

  1. Hi Krista,
    Great list! I don’t have any trouble with foods or any of those kinds of habits or cravings, ever. I read the list to see if I could transfer the suggestions over to other bad habits, like chronic worry.

    Also, wondering what your experience with L-glutamine has been. I tried taking it once for all the reasons you describe and darn near had a panic attack the first time I took it. I tend toward chronic worry but not panic attacks. I never took it again, because I assumed it was at least partially responsible. Heard anything about that? I thought I read something about it possibly being hard on folks that already have some anxiety or mental health struggles?!

    • Hi Isabella, this list of suggestions is primarily for cravings, of course, but l-glutamine is often used successfully in individuals with anxiety. Still, it is entirely plausible that this or any other amino acid could cause increased anxiety or excitability and I have heard of that happening though not frequently. In the same way, a particular food or adaptogenic mushroom etc., might work brilliantly for one and not for the next. You highlight the importance of listening to your body and I always suggest starting low and going slow (as learned from a teacher) to allow time to observe reactions and for the body to adjust. I have personally not had any negative issue with l-glutamine. Were there points from this list of suggestions that you feel might serve you re: the habit of worry? I do suggest you look further into adaptogens!

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