Sugar is a fascinating substance, isn’t it? If you’re anything like me, it may even have a power over you that you can’t seem to control.
I was talking with a client the other day who had been really successful eliminating sugar from her diet. She had gone months without any added sugar in her diet and she hadn’t missed it. In fact, she felt better than ever. Her husband had gotten Diet pills just for men, and had started losing weight which made her feel like she should be losing weight as well.
And, for the first time in her life, she really felt like she was finished with sugar for good.
Then…she was at an event where she ate a sugary dessert.
Innocent enough. One piece of cake. No big deal, right? She had been ‘good’. She ‘deserved’ it.
But, what happened for her was for the rest of the week, she found herself craving sugar again. Foods that she hadn’t even thought of for months started creeping back into her thoughts.
She was amazed that just this one serving would put her back to what felt like square one.
Have you ever felt like that? I certainly have. Once in a while the girls and I will bake cookies. And, while I don’t think having a cookie once in a blue moon is a bad thing, what I’ve found is that I can’t have ‘a cookie’. I can’t walk past them while they are in the house without eating one…even if the last one I ate was just 5 minutes ago. 🙂
Now, I’m not saying you have to completely avoid sugar for the rest of your life. What I’m saying is that you can escape the grips of it. And, that’s where the battle ends – when you’re no longer struggling against it.
So, how do you get out of the grips of sugar?
Know your Limits
Start paying attention to how much sugar is going into your body right now and start bringing that down into a safer zone. In 2009, the American Heart Association came out with ‘not to exceed numbers’ for added sugar: 24 grams for women and 32 for men. (That’s just if you’re trying to reduce your risk of heart disease, cancer, diabetes, etc. If weight loss is your goal, you have to get that number as close to zero as possible.) If you’re struggling with a sugar addiction, chances are you are taking in more than the ‘not to exceed’ amount.
Pay Attention to your Triggers
When you find yourself craving sugar, ask yourself why? What are you really craving? Chances are it’s not sugar at all, but rather the feeling you get from the sugar. Maybe it’s a feeling of comfort, love, safety. What is the feeling you think you’ll get from that sugar fix? Once you identify that, you’ll be able to think of other routes you can take to get the same feeling without the negative effect.
Learn From your Mistakes
I hate to say it, but sometimes the best way to break the sugar habit is to have some sugar. When you cave, when you give in, notice how you feel as that sugar hits your body. Chances are in those first few minutes, you’ll be thinking you feel pretty darn good, but keep watching. Take note of how you feel 20 minutes later. What kind of self talk is going on in your head? How does your body feel? How is your energy level? Pay attention and listen.
Fill Your Brain Bowl
It helps to fill your brain with information about the effects of sugar – to truly understand its connection to our most common chronic diseases. There are things in your life that are easy to avoid because you truly believe them to be hazardous to your health (cigarettes, drugs, chemicals). When you really understand the effects of sugar on your body, it becomes much easier to let it go. Here’s a great series to get you started: The Skinny
The Easiest Way to Break the Habit
The easiest way to break the sugar habit is to not want the sugar in the first place. And, no, it’s not going to happen overnight, but it works a lot better than willpower. (Hey, I said this would be the easiest way – not the fastest.)
Today, when someone sees me turn down dessert, they often think I’m demonstrating some extreme level of self control. But, the truth is, there’s not one spec of self control involved in that decision for me.
What has happened for me is that over time, I’ve developed more negative associations with certain desserts than positive ones. By practicing these techniques I just shared, over and over and over and over, I have learned that certain foods make me feel crummy. They drain my energy and make me feel bad. And, since I’m human and I’d rather feel good than feel bad…turning down that dessert is easy.
The same will happen for you if you just keep paying attention.
Tricks for eliminating added sugar?
- Read your labels – especially the labels on those ‘healthy’ foods like protein bars, yogurts, sports drinks
- Have fresh fruit on hand – while you don’t want to have a high level of natural sugars either, fruit makes a nice transition food as you start putting these strategies to practice
- Avoid processed foods – the more whole foods you eat, the less added sugar you’ll have in your diet just by default
- Be good to yourself – sugar is often the fall back way we reward ourselves after a long day or after hard work, but there are lots of ways to be good to ourselves: extra rest, time out to ourselves, a walk outside, time with a friend
What do you think? Are you ready to kick the habit? Leave your comments & questions below.