Reduce sugar cravings in a week? Seriously? Sugar addiction is a real struggle for many of us. It tastes great, causes a temporary high and helps to numb emotional pain. It’s been said that sugar cravings are actually a form of chemical dependency. For me, it’s been an ongoing problem since childhood.
The initial phase of my health journey was through the Trim Healthy Mama program which I began in late 2016. I lost about 40 lbs but then developed ulcerative colitis in 2018 and had to switch gears with the Specific Carbohydrate diet, a very strict protocol for people with serious digestive health issues. I’ve often wondered if years of disordered eating habits and stress got me to that point, but I’ll never know for sure.
Why You’ve Got to Ditch the Sugar Habit
We’re all familiar with the evils of sugar consumption. Sugar is hidden in all sorts of foods including bread and salad dressing. Add to that our love for treats like cookies and ice cream and it’s no wonder national sugar consumption is skyrocketing. Unfortunately, all this added sugar is doing a lot of damage to our health and it’s making us gain weight in record numbers despite the increased focus on health and fitness
It’s time get serious about getting rid of added sugar from your diet. Here’s are five reasons why you should do a sugar detox and do what you can to avoid consuming sugar as much as possible.
Consuming Sugar Causes Insulin Resistance
As soon as your body starts to digest sugar, your insulin spikes. Insulin is the hormone that is in charge of keeping blood sugar levels from rising too high and converting extra sugar into fat for storage.
It’s a delicate process and consuming sugar in large quantities will cause your insulin to spike and deal with more than it is designed to handle. Over time it becomes less and less effective this is when things start to negatively affect your health.
Sugar Makes You Fat
Sugar is a carbohydrate which turns into fat in your body. We all know that too many carbs cause unhealthy weight gain, especially unhealthy belly fat. Since the late seventies, when health authorities advised consumers to watch and lower their fat intake, the food industry has provided us with loads of low fat and fat free food options. But to make these low fat foods taste ok, they had to add a lot of sugar. (That’s why it’s essential to read labels!)
Too Much Sugar Increases Your Risk for Diabetes and Metabolic Syndrome
When you consume too much sugar and the weight gain that goes along with it, you’re at a higher risk for diabetes and a condition called metabolic syndrome. Metabolic Syndrome is a group of symptoms and behaviors that put you at a much higher risk of developing heart disease and Type II diabetes.
Both conditions can be managed successfully with a healthier lifestyle.
Sugar Makes You Hungrier!
Sure, sugar gives you a nice shot of energy but it’s only temporary. If you have a sweet tooth, you’re much better off grabbing a piece of fruit than a cookie. At least with a piece of fruit you’re getting some vitamins and fiber with your sugar fix.
What Do Sugar and Cocaine Have in Common?
Something to think about…a recent study indicated that sugar lights up the same pleasure centers of the brain as cocaine. While I’m not a scientist, my own experience has shown me that sugar is a trigger food for food binges, and once I’ve activated the craving cycle it can takes weeks of abstinence to get rid of it.
I’ve come to believe that sugar is a form of chemical dependency. Sugar can alter your brain chemistry and as I just mentioned, causes you to crave even more sugar. The urges for your next fix start to come faster and faster, and you may find yourself consuming more than you intended, possibly resulting in a binge that you’ll regret afterwards.
Not only does sugar cause unwanted weight gain, but you’ll also increase your risk for conditions such as Type II Diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure and with it, an increased risk of stroke. Also consider the stress the added weight gain puts on your joints and tendons and increasing inflammation throughout your body…no wonder gaining weight is so miserable!
If you’ve developed a bad sugar habit, you can definitely overcome it. It’s going to take time, persistance and some biting the bullet. And like any other addictive drug, there’s going to be yucky withdrawal symptoms as you begin the process.
That sounds a lot like the withdrawal symptoms of a more “serious” drug addiction doesn’t it? That’s because sugar addiction is just that…a serious addiction.
How Long Does It Take to Stop Craving Sugar?
I don’t have a pretty answer for this. For me, I had to go cold turkey, ride it out and within a couple of weeks I was feeling better.
Whether you go cold turkey or do it gradually, believe that you can do this. You are going to feel so much better when you’ve gotten the sugar out of your system and are eating clean, whole foods. You’ll lose weight and your skin will look amazing.
A Simple 7 Day Plan to Reduce Sugar Cravings
Begin by cutting out added sugar from your diet. That means no more sugar in your coffee creamer, candy, donuts, cookies, and all the rest. And you’re just getting started! Start reading labels on EVERYTHING. Sugar is in everything – ketchup, salad dressings, bread..packaged food is riddled with it.
If you’re going to experience sugar withdrawal, it will start with a little headache and then possibly get worse. Then the serious sweet cravings will start. Next, that little headache will blossom into a full blown pounding head along with joint aches. You might start feeling nauseous and having mood swings. Some people also report having flu like symptoms and can even start to shake a day into their sugar detox process!.
Day One: Create a Plan
You’ll probably want to spent a few
days weeks beforehand researching food plans. I loved Trim Healthy Mama when I was able to do it. I got to enjoy enjoy foods like oatmeal, lentils, low carb wraps and desserts that kept me from craving the sugar. Though honestly, I did become a little too dependent on sugar alcohols.
There’s lots of different plans out there and you’ll have to determine what works best for you. You might want to take a look at Whole 30, Paleo, Keto and Mediterranean diet plans. (I personally follow the Specific Carbohydrate Diet to manage my IBD diagnosis.) Vegan is becoming very popular as well though for me, I still need animal protein sources to keep my blood sugar stable.
Day Two: Get All the Junk Food Out of the House
Remove all forms of sugar and processed foods from the house. Added sugars are lurking in many prepared food products. Start getting into the habit of reading labels and avoiding things like low fat salad dressing and ketchup because those things have a loads sugar. Words like glucose, fructose, and high fructose corn syrup – pretty much anything ending in -ose will alert you to added sugar sources. Cook what you can from scratch to have control over what goes into your food. Follow this advice and you’ll be free of that sugar habit in less than a week.
(Note..if you have uncooperative family members, try moving the treats to an out of the way spot or ask your spouse to hide them. Ask me how I know!)
Day Three: Begin to Increase Protein at Every Meal
Instead of grabbing a bowl of sugary cereal, breakfast bars or donuts, choose a high protein option. My go to these days is 3-4 oz of protein, a fermented veggie or small salad and a cup of bone broth.
Day Four: Eat Every Three Hours
Plunging blood sugar can easily lead to a cheat or even an all out food binge that you’ll feel awful about afterwards. If you’re out and about, this will take some planning. Carry snacks like fruit, jerky, almonds or approved yogurt with you.
Get to know a few local places where you can get a low carb meal option. Bunless burgers have become more available at places like Hardees and Red Robin, and you can get grilled chicken tenders or chicken salad at Chick-Fil-A. You can also find low carb friendly offerings at Chipotle.
Day Five: Watch for Emotional Triggers
Learn to expect the unexpected and roll with them as they come. When you get upset about something, redirect to another activity instead of binging. Focus on not taking the first compulsive bite which leads to a food binge. Practice mindful living and you’ll be better prepared to handle life’s stresses in a positive way instead of stuffing your aggravation.
Day Six: Find Healthy Replacements For Your Favorite Treats
There are a lot of great keto dessert options these days. If you’re craving chocolate, grab a bar of 85% dark chocolate or a Lily’s stevia sweetened chocolate bar and allow yourself one or two squares a day. Remember, moderation is key with these healthy sweet treats. If you’re still struggling with sweet cravings, you may have to eliminate them completely for a season.
Day 7: Treat Yourself and Keep on Trucking!
You’ve made it this far and the worst of the cravings have probably subsided. Keep putting one foot in front of the other. Always have a plan for your day. Stay with it and take it one day at a time and you’ll continue to feel better as well as watching the pounds and inches drop off.
And if you goof up? Kick the dirt off your shoes and keep walking. The folks at Trim Healthy Mama encourage us that our next healthy meal is only three hours away!
It’s a long journey, but so worth it.
My Own Journey Back From Sugar Addiction
Since I started the journey 3 years ago, I’ve lost a lot of weight and look younger than I did when I started. I’ve been grain free for a year now. The only sweetener I use is honey. It’s been a dramatic lifestyle change for me but has reaped big results. I no longer crave potato chips and junk food. My skin is clear and pain levels are reduced. IBD is stable…I can’t say I’m in remission but I’m not getting worse. My weight has stayed about the same – which is discouraging because I’d still like to lose 20 lbs but I am in menopause so it’s slow going.
Do I get tempted? Sure I do. It’s hard being the only one at the party who can never eat anything. I’ve learned to keep honey sweetened treats in the freezer to bring along when I need something. Sometimes I can still overdo it, but it’s in no way as bad as it was when I was eating sugar, flour and processed foods to excess.
Resources to Ditch the Sugar and Conquer Emotional Eating