Going off sugar cold turkey can be hard, especially after the holidays. With treats abound and temptations high, what may have started as a small indulgence has snowballed into a full-scale sugar rollercoaster.
If you’re finding yourself in the midst of sugar addiction, read on. I’ve put together a step by step guide of what to do when your sugar cravings kick in and will set you up to nix the sugar habit with ease.
Sugar Really is Addictive
First things first, let’s get the facts around the white stuff straight. Sugar is addictive. Indulging in sugar triggers the release of dopamine in the same area of the brain as heroin and cocaine and when you consume sugar regularly you develop a tolerance for it. This means you need to consume higher and higher levels of sugar to experience the same “rush”.
This leads to a cycle of craving and indulgence (The sugar rollercoaster)
Cutting sugar out of your diet has tangible withdrawal symptoms such as depression, anxiety, changes in sleep patterns, cravings, fatigue, difficulty concentrating, and light-headedness.
This can make it extremely difficult to break the cycle, but don’t worry; I’ve got you covered.
Level One: Set Yourself Up for Success
There are a lot of things you can do to help make your transition as easy as possible. I can’t stress how far taking these measures will go in minimizing the cravings and withdrawal symptoms.
- Increase Your Protein Intake- Make sure to eat protein with every meal, and consider increasing your total intake for the first few days. This will help you feel satisfied and help regulate your blood sugar.
- Eat More Fat- As with protein, this will help keep your blood sugar levels more stable. Some of my favourites sources of healthy fats are nuts and seeds, avocados, and olive oil.
- Make Sure to Eat Regular Meals- The last thing you want is a blood sugar crash, which will intensify any withdrawal symptoms.
- Get Lots of Rest and Stay Well-Hydrated- Lack of sleep and dehydration can increase sugar cravings and leave you feeling weaker in your resolve to cut sugar.
- Eat More Greens- According to a can decrease your sugar cravings.
- Limit Caffeine and Alcohol - These substances can contribute to blood sugar irregularities that will make the sugar detox experience harder.
- Read Labels- Added sugar is hiding in unexpected places. For example, ketchup has up to 4g of sugar per serving. Common names for sugar in ingredient lists include high-fructose corn syrup, cane sugar or juice, maltose, dextrose, rice syrup, and caramel.
- Don’t Immediately Reach for Sugar Substitutes- Artificial sweeteners have a host of negative effects on your health and also encourage sugar dependent habits. Instead, focus on removing sugar from your diet and then reintroducing healthy and natural alternatives once you’ve reached a stable point.
- Nutrients - Chromium, berberine, cinnamon, and Gymnema are some well researched and effective nutrients to help you curb those cravings and balance blood sugars.
Level Two: What to do When You Get a Craving
Okay, so what happens when you’ve done all of the above and you still find yourself hankering for a mid-afternoon cinnamon roll?
Stop right where you are and follow this checklist.
- Consider Your Motivations- Are you REALLY craving sugar, or are you really just bored or feeling a little down and looking for a pick me up? Are you thirsty, hungry, or tired? We often confuse other cues are body is giving us with food cravings.
- Drink a Glass of Water and Wait 15 mins- Chances are you won’t be craving it anymore.
- Eat Something Bitter- Bitter foods such as cocoa, arugula, and traditional digestive bitters actually put the brakes on the receptors in the brain that triggered the craving in the first place.
Level Three: When Push Comes to Shove (How to Satisfy an Incessant Sweet Tooth)
Can’t get past the craving? Here are some options that will satisfy your sweet tooth without sabotaging your process.
- Fresh Fruit and Berries- Your body processes the natural sugars in fruit differently than refined sugar, plus fruit is packed with nutrients, fibre and also hydrates you. They make a delicious treat and fruits like apples or pears can also be baked and sprinkled with spices for an extra lavish experience.
- Herbal Tea- Herbal teas come in a variety of delicious flavours and blends. Teas like peppermint and licorice root have a natural sweetness that is very satisfying and hydrating. Drinking tea after dinner can help you relax and prepare for sleep as well.
- Dark Chocolate- Chocolate with 70% cocoa or higher is your friend. It is low in sugar and has antioxidant and anti-inflammatory benefits. And well, its... Chocolate.
- Dried Fruit- Fruit becomes much more concentrated and therefore sweeter when it is dried. Having a couple of dried dates, figs, or apricots can be an effective way to satisfy your sugar craving. Just remember to not overindulge as the sugar adds up fast.
- Coconut Sugar- Coconut Sugar has a lower glycemic load and is a good substitute for sugar in baking.
Final Level: Remember, Life is Really all About Balance.
Indulging every once in a while and being a part of the moment that includes sugar is part of the joy of being alive. You can always bookmark this article for future reference.