How to Quit Sugar
So you want to quit sugar? Does it seem like a daunting task? I mean sugar is everywhere, and in everything. Not to mention that it is hidden under different names on food labels. So where do you even begin? Trust me, I’ve been there. I can walk you through the steps it takes to successful quit sugar and eliminate the cravings. Along the way I will give you lots of tips to guide you on a path to better health. After all, that is the idea behind why most people want to quit sugar.
Watch Out for Peer Pressure
The first time I quit sugar, I was amazed at how my body changed, and how people reacted. I had just finished high school and wanted to be healthier. I entered that summer break with the thoughts that I needed to get healthy so I didn’t fit into the stereotype of freshman college girls and gain that freshman 15. So I started cutting it out. Looking back, it wasn’t perfect but I cut out the main sugar culprits out of my diet.
First off, I lost 20 pounds without doing anything else. I didn’t count calories, or put in extra effort to eat more veggies. And I wasn’t a soda drinker to begin with so the difference was made by not eating syrup on my pancakes, opting for plan yogurt, and skipping dessert. I may have been slightly more active during summer, I wasn’t stuck at a desk all day after all. But no other changes.
I felt amazing! And felt ready to take on college. So off I went, ready to tackle a big new world and pursue my dreams. I lived in the dorms and had a meal ticket to the cafeteria. I continued to skip the sugars, and never once got dessert from the dessert table. And continued to feel great.
Here’s where people got interesting. Two ladies stood out in particular. The first was a short chubby professor. She was kind and cheerful and gave each of her students a fun sized candy bar after every single class. Every time I would smile and say, “No thanks.” After a few weeks she started bringing fruit for me, which I accepted graciously.
The other woman, was the wife of one of my religious leaders. I attended an event where she had made dessert. There were 30 plus college age single adults in the room. I figured I would have no problem flying under the radar. Boy was I wrong. She spotted that I didn’t have any dessert and wouldn’t accept my, “No thanks.” for an answer and instead made a scene about it.
There is a valuable lesson to be learned about food and society. We bond with food, we celebrate with food, and we recognize food as a token of personal acceptance. I could have taken the candies or the dessert and just not eaten them. Perhaps that would have been the more polite thing to do… I don’t know. I felt it was more polite to not take what I wouldn’t eat. Moral of the story, is that food is complicated… especially sugar. People may have expectations of you and you may have to let them down. In all honesty it isn’t far different from an alcoholic that loses his drinking buddies when he tries to break the addiction. Peer pressure is real and can even come at you when you try to eat healthier. Who’d have thought?!
If you tell yourself you are being deprived you’re going to want it more, and most likely give in. Here is an example of how a diet mindset or limitation mindset works against you:
- “I really want to buy a candy bar, but I told myself I’d eat salad for lunch. This diet sucks.”
- “Ugh, It’s been less than a day and all I can think about is sugar. Oh how I really want to make brownies right now.”
- “I didn’t workout this morning, so now I can’t have that piece of pie leftover from last night.”
- “I ate one bite of cake. I’m a failure. Maybe I’ll just eat the entire pan to drown my sorrows. I’ll never lose weight.”
- “It’s been a hard day. I give up. I’m going to eat caramel popcorn and binge watch Netflix.”
Sound fun and uplifting to make an effort to change? It doesn’t to me, but this is part of why diets fail so often. If your mind isn’t prepared and positive then your body will get no where.
Questions to ask yourself for a positive mindset around food:
- “How do I want to feel today?”
- “What sounds delicious that will also make my body feel amazing.”
- “How can I fuel my body so that I am full of healthy energy.”
- “It’s been a hard day, how can I honor my body for everything it has been through today”
- “I did so good today, I want to celebrate. I’m going to do something I love.”
- “I’m ravished! Time to make myself a quick but hearty meal.”
- “What can I add to the menu today that will stimulate my taste buds and nourish my body. Maybe something I haven’t had in a while?”
- “What meals should I add to the menu to help me thrive this week?”
Ditch the “I Deserve a Treat” Reward System
We’ve been taught from our youth that good behavior and achievement earns us a reward. Most of the time that reward is in the form of a sugary treat. Sit quietly in church you get a candy. Play hard in that soccer game you get a juice box and a doughnut. Go pee in the potty and get a treat. Finish your vegetables and get dessert. Show up at the bank and get a sucker.
When the rewards quit rolling in from others this mantra is already ingrained in our brains. Go to the gym, get a candy bar on the way home. Have a stressful day, eat half a container of Haagen Das. Boyfriend dumps you, eat more ice cream and chocolate and whatever else you can find to feel better.
All this happens because of the line, “You deserve it!” I’m sorry Honey. You don’t deserve diabetes, or to be obese, or the endless roller-coaster of blood sugar highs and crashes. You don’t deserve high blood pressure, or Hashimoto’s, or cancer, or hormonal imbalance. The truth is, you deserve to thrive, to feel young and vibrant. You deserve to be healthy. All you have to do is treat yourself well. So it is time to change that indoctrinated reward system for treats. You up for it?
If you have a hard time breaking away from any kind of reward in situations where you would normally want one, then try finding new ones that don’t include food. Here are some examples:
- Buy a new outfit
- Go to the movie
- Take a detox bath (here’s how to take a detox bath)
- Get a massage
- Plan a date
- Go for a relaxing walk or hike
- Get to bed early
- Participate in your favorite hobby
- Schedule some alone time
- Hire a housekeeper
Manage Stress First
We turn to addictions to help us cope or to manage stress. For some people this may be that can of Mountain Dew, for others it is chocolate, or alcohol. And the list goes on. Coping mechanisms aren’t bad. They help us through trying times. The problems come when we find ourselves in a downward spiral of stress triggering high cortisol and adrenals, triggering the need to cope, triggering us to turn to addictive behaviors to mange the stress. Hello chocolate cake!
We live in a crazy world. The rat race and constant stimuli has us in fight or flight way more often than we should be. How do you stop the cycle? Learn to manage your stress with healthy coping mechanisms and relaxation techniques. Reprogram your thinking patterns and your behaviors to align with a life of peace. When trying to quit sugar, this is important because if we don’t already have healthy stress management techniques in place we are more prone to fail.
Recognize Your Stress Triggers
Take a step back from your life. What causes you stress? Do you say yes too often? Do you lack organization or routine? Do you have a hectic commute? Are you in a toxic relationship? Are there certain times of day that your stress peaks? Write it all down and then see what you can do to change it. If getting up 20 minutes earlier would make your morning less rushed and hectic then do it. Maybe it’s your commute, and taking a quieter route would be more peaceful. Maybe just taking a few minutes to yourself before dealing with kids or planning ahead for meals so they aren’t so cranky and crazy. Some situations may be more desperate. You may find that you need to eliminate a toxic friendship or quit your job and search for one with a more pleasant boss.
Engage in Consistent Self Care
Exercise regularly. Even a couple of five-minute movement breaks can help relieve stress. Take a quick break to dance, do a couple of yoga poses, go on a walk, or take the stairs. If you have time for more, breaking a good sweat does wonders for stress. Bring on the endorphins!
Take a moment each day to slow down. Meditate, pray, journal, read, draw, do yoga, recite affirmations, or practice deep breathing for a few moments.
Epsom Salt Baths are another great way to relax. Epsom salt contains magnesium, which is a necessary mineral for most chemical processes in the body. It is also rapidly used up when we are high stress or when we eat sugar. Jumping in the bath for at least twenty minutes can relax our muscles, give us time to relax our minds, and help us gain better mineral balance as we absorb the magnesium.
Load Up On Fruit
Sometimes sugar cravings are actually your body telling you that you need the nutrients and minerals found in fruit. Make yourself a beautiful fruit salad with lots of variety and enjoy that juicy rainbow. Check in with yourself afterwards and see if the sweet tooth has subsided. Also, if you are trying to lose weight, keep in mind that over eating fruit to manage your sugar cravings can actually make you gain weight. There are still lots of calories in fruit although it is a healthy food choice.
Note: If you continue to struggle to quit sugar after 2 weeks, try cutting high glycemic foods. This includes grains, potatoes, bananas, melons, and grapes.
Clean the Cupboards
It’s easy to have willpower for a few seconds, but hard to have it on going, every second of the day. It only takes a few seconds to say no at the check out. It only takes a few seconds to throw away the leftover Christmas goodies, or gift it to someone else. But if there is a package of donuts in the pantry it will tempt you all day everyday until you either give in or manage to have superpowers and resist until the cravings subside. I’m a big believer in keeping it easy on myself. I don’t need the added stress of temptation, or the stress of failing and having to try again.
Check Nutrition Labels
Sugar hides in everything! To truly kick the cravings to the curb you will need to watch those labels closely. Ketchup, flavored yogurts, breads, peanut butter, and most other processed foods have hidden sugars. Most hot sauces are okay but even that isn’t a guarantee. For me it is easiest to just steer clear of processed foods and stick with homemade meals and sauces.
Avoid Artificial Sweeteners
I’m begging you! Don’t turn to artificial sweeteners. They do more harm than good. You want to nourish your body with healthy foods to guide you on a path of vibrancy. For more info check out this post on the dangers of artificial sweeteners.
Cold Turkey or Not?
This one is tricky. For some people an all at once approach works best. For others, slowly switching out products and recipes works better. Be patient with yourself while you figure out what will work best for you. Either way, I do recommend having some time to prepare for the change, meal plan, and shop for healthy items so you don’t cave when you’re hangry.
It’s Not Just You.
Your gut may very well be filled with little sugar addict candida as well. There is a good chance that your sugar addiction stems from an imbalance of gut bacteria. All that delicious sweet stuff allows candida to thrive, and then they signal your brain to send more. Wanna know if this may be a factor for you? Check out our post on how I killed candida.
Balance Your Blood Sugar
Eating to keep your blood sugar balanced will make or break your ability to quit sugar. Check out our post 8 Tips to Naturally Balance Blood Sugar for more info.
What Should You Eat?
Fill your diet with fruits, vegetables, healthy fats, and pastured organic meats and eggs. Add a variety of colors to your meals and include leafy greens as much as possible. When it comes to grains, it can be helpful to eliminate them for a few days. When you reintroduce, stick with grains in their whole form, like rice and oats. If you need help with meal planning or recipe ideas, check out Real Plans.
Reintroduction of Healthy Sweets
Are you a mostly healthy human being? If so, you are one of the lucky ones. You can reintroduce sweets in moderation but stick with raw honey, real maple syrup, and coconut palm sugar.
If you have an autoimmune condition, Hashimoto’s thyroid, diabetes, or hormone imbalances I recommend vowing to avoid sweets indefinitely or until your condition dramatically improves.
Need More Help?
Check out these two books. They go in-depth as they guide you to better health and out of sugar addiction: