British Columbia

'It was, I call, a drug addiction': How a Vancouver nutritionist curbed her sugar fix

In her mid-20s, Sherry Strong started each morning by downing a half litre of Sarah Lee Ultra Chocolate ice cream.

Sherry Strong had to root out the emotional issues in her life before conquering her sugar addiction

Vancouver-based nutritionist and chef Sherry Strong says curbing a sugar addiction takes small, incremental steps. (jmalov/Getty Images)

In her mid-20s, Sherry Strong started each morning by downing a half litre of Sarah Lee Ultra Chocolate ice cream.

She continued feeding her sugar craving until bedtime. Twenty years later, Strong says she can fit into one leg of the pants that she used to wear.

"It was, I call, a drug addiction," she told North by Northwest host Sheryl MacKay.

"There's no difference between that and any other drug. It's just that it's socially acceptable. It's cheap, it's everywhere and it's hard to avoid."

Sugar has launched to the forefront of a global public health debate, with the Canadian government weighing a soda tax

Strong, a Vancouver-based nutritionist and chef, has seen the consequences firsthand, and is calling on people to curb their sugar fixes. 

Listen to the full interview with Sherry Strong.

'I felt miserable'

It's one of the tougher New Year's resolutions, and Strong says it involves small, incremental steps.

Her own awakening came one morning when she rolled over in bed.

"My stomach followed," she said. "I felt miserable in that body. I knew that we all have this amazing body and I wasn't treating it well."

The first step she took was moving her body. Not staying sedentary — even if it meant just walking — started to boost Strong's self-esteem.

She then tackled the emotional and mental issues fuelling her sugar addiction.

"When I started removing toxicity mentally, emotionally, spiritually, and I started to nourish myself in those areas, change really did happen."

She applies the same principles to her clients, which include high-profile names such as television personality Brett Wilson and former hockey player Theo Fleury.

Striking a balance

After rooting out the emotional issues, Strong asks clients to assess their sugar consumption.

That can often be surprising for those without a sweet tooth. Processed foods such as chips are equally dangerous culprits.

Once she prescribes healthier alternatives, Strong says the client's sugar craving typically stops between three to seven days.

That doesn't mean the impulse is gone. Strong admits to still consuming sweets, but she's much more conscious about her decisions.

She swapped her cheap ice cream with an organic, natural option. The higher cost helped limit her consumption.

Similarly, Strong traded big-brand chocolate bars with a higher-quality dark chocolate, paired with dehydrated cane juice.

"You just need one or two and you're completely satiated," she said.

"The balance I'm trying to strike is in enjoying the heedless things with the least amount of impact on my body so that I can really enjoy life."

With files from CBC's North by Northwest