It’s 4:00 pm, and you start to hear that little voice calling your name. You can’t concentrate on work. All you can think about is sugar. Maybe you’re the person who can’t walk by those office donuts without giving in. Or you can’t make it through the afternoon without hitting the vending machine. Or every time you’re stressed, the first thing you do is go straight for the sugar.
If any of these sound like you, then you might have a sugar addiction. While the occasional indulgence is fine, it’s when it gets to the point where sugar has a serious hold on you that you may want to consider making a change.
Is Sugar Truly Addictive?
Scientists have found that sugar does have addictive properties. It stimulates the pleasure centers of the brain, and getting off of sugar can lead to withdrawals and cravings. Sugar fuels the brain, and your brain sees sugar as a reward, which makes you crave more of it and reinforces it as a reward again and again. That can make sugar a hard habit to break!
You can also be hooked on the taste of sugar. In one study where participants were asked to cut sugar out for two weeks, those participants reported their taste buds changing over that time. Many expressed that their tolerance for sweet tastes completely changed and they didn’t need as much. This leads me to believe that you can in fact train your taste buds to enjoy things that aren’t as sweet.
While some dietitians and doctors recommend cutting back on added sugar, others recommend cutting it out completely. No matter which method you choose, you will need some tips to help you get through the detox process.
Balance Your Blood Sugar
Eating at regular times throughout the day will help you avoid getting trapped on the blood sugar roller coaster. Also, make sure each of your meals and snacks contain a protein and a healthy fat source. This will help your blood sugar stay stable through the day and help you prevent cravings.
Eliminate Artificial Sweeteners
Honestly, artificial sweeteners are bad news. They can go by many names: sucralose, saccharine, and aspartame are some common ones, and they can be found in things like:
fancy coffee drinks
and much more
If you’re trying to get off added sugars, artificial sweeteners can sabotage your effort and wreck your diet. Studies have shown they can harm your gut bacteria, alter or inhibit your metabolism, and can even interfere with the body’s absorption of certain medications and nutrients.
Get Enough Sleep
Sleep is the key to overall health, and it’s definitely important when trying to avoid sugar. Since sugar and simple carbs are quick sources of energy when we’re tired and/or stressed, we tend to reach for sugary items during those times. They give us the energy burst we’re looking for and satisfy the reward center of our brains.
But you also get a serotonin boost from enough rest, so getting the right amount of sleep will help reduce your cravings for sweets and will give you an edge when trying to kick the sugar habit.
Get Rid of Temptation
If you’re really serious about trying to get off sugar, one of my biggest recommendations is to do a kitchen purge. Seriously, just get rid of the temptation. Donate, give away, or throw out any sources of sugars in your home. It won’t be nearly so hard to resist if it’s out of sight. If you open your cupboard and see a box of brownie mix, I promise no matter how much willpower you have, at some point you’ll most likely give in and eat it.
Drink Plenty of Water
A lot of the time when we think we’re hungry, we’re actually dehydrated. Dehydration can lead to cravings, and often those cravings are for sweets. So keep yourself hydrated to give yourself the edge against sweets temptation.
Satisfy Your Sweet Tooth Naturally
I’m sure you’ve all heard the “switch out sweets for natural sugars like fruit” tip before, and maybe you thought it wasn’t realistic. And I will admit that it does seem that way at first. But once your body detoxes from all of the added sugar, your taste buds DO change and fruit will actually start to taste like a sweet treat. Or if fruit really doesn’t do it for you, you can consider a natural sweetener like stevia. Just make sure you buy a pure version and not one that’s been processed, bleached, and had preservatives added to it.
Learn all of the many names for sugar, and then start reading labels. Seriously. Read. Everything. Even things you wouldn’t think have sugar in them do:
and even a lot of frozen food
Yep, it’s in there. Sugar can go by the names agave nectar, brown rice syrup, sucrose, lactose, glucose, dextrose, high fructose corn syrup, evaporated cane juice and a whole other host of tricky names.
Reduce Simple Carbs
One fact people often miss is that simple carbs turn to sugar in the bloodstream. Just because you’re not eating something sweet, it doesn’t mean it won't turn to sugar. Bread, pasta, potato chips — they all turn to sugar after you eat them, so watching your simple carb intake can be your best friend when trying to break a sugar habit.
Kicking sugar is not an easy thing to do, but it is doable. If you slip up, don’t beat yourself up. Be gentle with yourself. You are changing your life one step at a time, and this is a marathon, not a sprint. But I can tell you, if you do the tips above for two weeks, you will be well on your way to easily living a low-sugar lifestyle.