If you eat sugar regularly, you’re addicted. There’s really no other way to say it. Sugar affects the brain in the same way opioids do, which means the cravings can be just as strong as they are for cocaine or nicotine. This is why even the suggestion of giving it up turns us into snarling animals ready to bite the arm off anyone who dares to take our chocolate.

DixieBelleCupCakeCafe Flickr/Creative Commons

You don’t have to lock yourself in a room or tie yourself to the bed to stop eating cupcakes. If you stay focused on the fact that the cravings are a chemical dependency, it may be easier for your will/mind/whatever to summon up the strength to push through your body’s cravings for sugar. The good news is that when you stop eating sugar for a month, the cravings go away completely. Those first few weeks aren’t a picnic, but if you get through them, there’s freedom on the other side.

Sugar: what’s so bad about it? 

Azmichelle/Flickr@Creative Commons

So at this point you may be wondering what’s so bad about sugar? It’s a household staple and totally ingrained in our culture. Who hasn’t made cookies with grandma? The thing is, sugar causes a range of problems for the body including inflammation, and inflammation is a precursor to many diseases, including cancer. How can sugar be good for you if these facts true?

A UCLA study found that a diet high in sugar slows brain function and affects memory and learning

When kids stopped eating sugar for 9 days, they had lower blood pressure, cholesterol and blood sugar levels

Eating too much table sugar and high fructose corn syrup may increase the risk of breast cancer

Too much sugar can lead to diabetes, weight gain, and inflammatory disease

Eating too much sugar could contribute to Alzheimer’s disease

Eating too much sugar increases the risk of dying with heart disease

Sugar can overload your liver and cause fatty liver disease

Too much sugar can cause intestinal inflammation, which could lead to thyroid disease and autoimmune issues

If you want to read more about these studies and the negative effects of sugar, check out the “Learn More” section below.

11391655836_794bcb92fb_b

Environmental Illness Network on Flickr @CC

Start slowly
If you decide you want to run a marathon, you wouldn’t go out and run 26 miles on your first day. You’d start slowly. The same is true when you want to wean yourself off sugar. Take baby steps and try not to start before a major holiday when you’re facing a lot of temptation. If your goals are realistic, you set yourself up to succeed.

Keep it out of the unnecessary
Sugar, or some form of sweetener, is in almost everything. Start by reading labels (it’s the only way to know exactly how much sugar is in the food you’re eating). Slowly stop buying food and drinks that have added sweeteners. Keep sugar where you want it for now, in your dessert.

Keep it out of the house
It’s really easy to reach for something sweet when it’s calling you from the cupboard.

Janet Hudson Flickr/Creative Commons

Substitutions
If you eat dessert every night and suddenly stop, it’s jarring to the system and difficult to sustain. If you replace what you’ve given up with something else you like, it will make the transition easier. Take some time before you start to wean yourself off sugar to look for foods that can replace your favorite desserts (and carrots won’t cut it). For example, if you eat ice cream, try a sugar free coconut milk ice cream or sorbet.

Be creative and find substitutions that satisfy you. It takes a little planning, but having substitutions ready to go, can really help. Remember, sugar is a highly addictive substance, cold turkey can backfire.

A few ideas
Baked pears or apples don’t require sugar (you can use honey if you need some sweetness) as are Paleo fruit crumbles. Pop some pineapple juice, frozen strawberries and blackberries and maybe a little fresh ginger into a blender and drink your dessert. Add fresh mint if you’re feeling crazy.

If you need a substitution for your chocolate bar, choose a bar that’s 70% cocoa or higher. Dip it in unsweetened peanut butter (yes, most brand name peanut butters have added sugar) for a bit more decadence.

Be creative when looking for substitutions and reward yourself with healthy food you really like. Try and choose substitutions that keep your hands and mouth occupied and take some time to eat like grapes, watermelon, popcorn, or a whole pomegranate fruit. Distractions are good. Otherwise, you have a lot of time to sit and think about what you’re not eating (that sugary dessert or snack) and that’s when the cravings can get really strong.

Minus 1, then 2, then 3
Once you’ve found the substitutions that work best for you, start replacing your desserts and snacks one by one. Again, don’t rush to beat yourself up because you didn’t run 26 miles today or this week or this month. Start slowly. Giving up (or substituting) one sugary thing is enough to start. Keep your eyes on the prize and don’t give up. Weaning yourself off sugar is no easy task, so be proud of your progress. If you fall off course, right the ship and keep on going.

Desserts
If you eat dessert every night, reduce it down to 6 nights a week, (but have a substitution for the 7th night). As you get accustomed to 6 nights, take another night off, and so on until you’ve eliminated sugar from your diet completely. Remember, this doesn’t have to happen in a month.

The afternoon snack
The same principle applies if you eat sugary snacks during the day. Reduce by one until you’re down to where you want to be. If you tend to eat chocolate in the afternoon, switch it out for a 70% cacao dark chocolate bar.

No sugar for breakfast or lunch
If you can, eliminate sugar from your breakfast and lunch. It will help reduce the blood sugar spike that often leads to that midday crash. The crash then triggers us to want more quick energy in the form of sugar and the cycle never ends.

Eat enough & often
The other issue that can lead to the midday crash and the subsequent chocolate binge in the afternoon is not eating enough. If you’re not a big breakfast person and you have a busy schedule, you may look up and see that it’s 2:00 in the afternoon and you haven’t eaten. Now you’re totally out of fuel and crashing. This is when our bodies tend to crave sugar big time.

Try eating small meals or healthy snacks throughout the day to keep blood sugar levels stable. Make a protein shake or eat fruit and nuts. Hummus with veggies is a great snack to bring to work or take with you in the car, as are apples, plums or whatever fruit is in season. Hard-boiled eggs or deviled eggs are a good, portable option as well (unless you’re vegan). Think about snacks you can eat quickly on the go. If you eat enough throughout the day, you won’t crave sugar to keep you going when you’re out of fuel. 

Sweet emotion
There is a strong emotional connection to sugar. It can give us a sense of well-being and trigger happy memories.

DixieBelleCupcakeCafe – Flickr@CC

Sometimes, we have no idea we are eating for emotional reasons. So when you have a craving, examine that feeling a little further. The trick is to find new, healthier comfort foods.

Know the triggers
If you let yourself get too tired, hungry or blue, the sugar cravings can become more intense. When you are low on energy, the body will crave sugar because it’s a quick way to get glucose to the brain. Try not to skip meals when you are weaning yourself off sugar.

If you know you tend to eat sugar on your couch at night when you watch TV, get out of the house! Go see a movie; take a cooking class; learn how to play tennis, walk or take a dance class. Do something active that breaks you out of the habit.

Walk it off
Having a bad craving? Walk, run or work out. Endorphins (the body’s feel good chemicals) get released when we work out and they can really help stop the cravings and make us feel better. If you have a strong urge to eat sugar, walk around the block a few times.

Are you thirsty?
It seems strange, but we can actually crave sweets when we get dehydrated. Add a bit more water to your diet, just to be safe.

Are you drinking sugar?
Some of those Latte/Frappuccino drinks can have anywhere from 10 – 16 teaspoons of sugar. That’s more than a can of Coke.  Try ordering hot tea if you need caffeine and sweeten it with raw honey.

Sparkling apple cider is a great substitution for a soda because it’s bubbly and sweet, but doesn’t have added sugar. Another option is to pour sparkling water into an organic, non-sweetened, fruit juice. Water infused with fresh cucumber and mint or lemon slices is a great substitution to keep at home or work as well. If you garden, grow some Lemon Verbena and put it in your glass water bottle. It gives your water a lemony flavor.

How long will it take?
Once you eliminate sugar from your diet completely, it takes between 3 – 5 weeks for the cravings to stop. If you still crave sugar, you haven’t broken out of the addictive cycle yet. Examine the ingredient list on all the foods you’re eating and make sure there isn’t some added sweetener that’s keeping you hooked.

“Healthy” sweeteners
Agave nectar is used in a lot of healthy “no sugar” baking, but it’s higher in fructose than regular table sugar. High fructose levels can wreak havoc on metabolic health. Be warned, even healthy food manufactures use tricks to keep you coming back.

If you want to eat desserts on occasion, buy or make ones that use raw honey or dates as a sweeting agent.

Get free
Try not to stay on sweet substitutions for too long because they can become a crutch. If you are constantly on the edge of the addictive cycle, you never really feel the full benefit of being off sugar. Some people spend a lot of time trying to replace the things they lost and never fully commit to being off sweets completely. Transferring processed “bad” sugars to healthier sweeteners can still manifest as sugar in the body. It may help, but it doesn’t truly get you out of the addictive cycle. Try staying off sugar for at least 3 months before you add sweet alternatives to your diet. As soon as you reintroduce sugar, it’s really easy to get addicted again, so be careful.

Taste buds
As we reduce the amount of sugar we consume, our taste buds will change. Once you’ve made it through the first month without sugar, you may notice that the food and drinks that you used to love will taste way too sweet to you now.

Unintended benefits
You may sleep better. Your skin may glow and look a lot healthier. Your mind may be sharper, especially in the afternoon and you won’t experience that midday crash. You’ll probably shed some pounds and have more energy too. Other health problems could disappear or feel much better. So when the cravings get tough, remember why you’re doing this and know that they will diminish and ultimately go away completely.

A word about fruit

Abi Porter – Flickr/Creative Commons

When we eat regular table sugar, like the kind found in a candy bar, it quickly turns into glucose and our blood sugar levels spike. When we eat fruit, the fiber and protein help slow down that process so it doesn’t elevate our blood sugar levels in the same way. Fruit doesn’t trigger an unhealthy addictive cycle like processed sugar can.

“According to one Metabolism study, when participants ate 20 servings of fruit per day for two weeks, they experienced no adverse affects in their weight, blood pressure or triglyceride levels. They did, however, reduce their LDL (bad) cholesterol levels by 38 points. Meanwhile, a 2013 Nutrition Journal study found that decreasing fruit intake had no benefit on the blood sugar levels, weights or waist circumferences of people with Type 2 diabetes.” – U.S. New & World Reports, “Can Fruit Make You Fat?” 

Fruit is a critical part of our diet because it contains antioxidants that help our body fight disease. There’s no amount of fruit that will make you gain weight, so keep it in your diet.

Learn More
CNN – “What happens to your brain when you give up sugar” 
NBC News – “Cutting sugar for 9 days made kids healthier: Study”
Harvard Health Publications – “Eating too much added sugar increases the risk of dying with heart disease”
Arthritis Foundation – “Food Ingredients That Can Cause Inflammation”
UCLA Newsroom – “This is your brain on sugar: UCLA study shows high-fructose diet sabotages learning, memory”
Authority Nutrition – “10 Disturbing Reasons why Sugar is Bad for You”
KTAR News – “The surprising link between sugar and chronic pain”
Today- “Cutting Processed sugar for just 9 days has a ‘striking’ effect on health”
Telegraph – “Sugar found in ketchup and Coke linked to breast cancer”
CNN – “When Food Causes you Pain”
The New York Times – “Sugar Season. It’s Everywhere, and Addictive”
Time – “You asked: What’s the Healthiest Sweetener?”
Mayo Clinic – “Artificial sweeteners and other sugar substitutes”
Rodale’s Organic Life – “The 5 Best, and 5 Worst, Sweeteners to Have in Your Kitchen”
SF Gate – “What Is the Difference Between Sucrose, Glucose & Fructose?
Harvard Health – “Glycemic index and glycemic load for 100+ foods

Feature image courtesy of Jeanny on Flickr @Creative Commons

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If you eat sugar regularly, you’re addicted. There’s really no other way to say it. Sugar affects the brain in the same way opioids do, which means the cravings can be just as strong as they are for cocaine or nicotine. This is why even the suggestion of giving it up turns us into snarling animals ready to bite the arm off anyone who dares to take our chocolate.

DixieBelleCupCakeCafe Flickr/Creative Commons

You don’t have to lock yourself in a room or tie yourself to the bed to stop eating cupcakes. If you stay focused on the fact that the cravings are a chemical dependency, it may be easier for your will/mind/whatever to summon up the strength to push through your body’s cravings for sugar. The good news is that when you stop eating sugar for a month, the cravings go away completely. Those first few weeks aren’t a picnic, but if you get through them, there’s freedom on the other side.

Sugar: what’s so bad about it? 

Azmichelle/Flickr@Creative Commons

So at this point you may be wondering what’s so bad about sugar? It’s a household staple and totally ingrained in our culture. Who hasn’t made cookies with grandma? The thing is, sugar causes a range of problems for the body including inflammation, and inflammation is a precursor to many diseases, including cancer. How can sugar be good for you if these facts true?

A UCLA study found that a diet high in sugar slows brain function and affects memory and learning

When kids stopped eating sugar for 9 days, they had lower blood pressure, cholesterol and blood sugar levels

Eating too much table sugar and high fructose corn syrup may increase the risk of breast cancer

Too much sugar can lead to diabetes, weight gain, and inflammatory disease

Eating too much sugar could contribute to Alzheimer’s disease

Eating too much sugar increases the risk of dying with heart disease

Sugar can overload your liver and cause fatty liver disease

Too much sugar can cause intestinal inflammation, which could lead to thyroid disease and autoimmune issues

If you want to read more about these studies and the negative effects of sugar, check out the “Learn More” section below.

11391655836_794bcb92fb_b

Environmental Illness Network on Flickr @CC

Start slowly
If you decide you want to run a marathon, you wouldn’t go out and run 26 miles on your first day. You’d start slowly. The same is true when you want to wean yourself off sugar. Take baby steps and try not to start before a major holiday when you’re facing a lot of temptation. If your goals are realistic, you set yourself up to succeed.

Keep it out of the unnecessary
Sugar, or some form of sweetener, is in almost everything. Start by reading labels (it’s the only way to know exactly how much sugar is in the food you’re eating). Slowly stop buying food and drinks that have added sweeteners. Keep sugar where you want it for now, in your dessert.

Keep it out of the house
It’s really easy to reach for something sweet when it’s calling you from the cupboard.

Janet Hudson Flickr/Creative Commons

Substitutions
If you eat dessert every night and suddenly stop, it’s jarring to the system and difficult to sustain. If you replace what you’ve given up with something else you like, it will make the transition easier. Take some time before you start to wean yourself off sugar to look for foods that can replace your favorite desserts (and carrots won’t cut it). For example, if you eat ice cream, try a sugar free coconut milk ice cream or sorbet.

Be creative and find substitutions that satisfy you. It takes a little planning, but having substitutions ready to go, can really help. Remember, sugar is a highly addictive substance, cold turkey can backfire.

A few ideas
Baked pears or apples don’t require sugar (you can use honey if you need some sweetness) as are Paleo fruit crumbles. Pop some pineapple juice, frozen strawberries and blackberries and maybe a little fresh ginger into a blender and drink your dessert. Add fresh mint if you’re feeling crazy.

If you need a substitution for your chocolate bar, choose a bar that’s 70% cocoa or higher. Dip it in unsweetened peanut butter (yes, most brand name peanut butters have added sugar) for a bit more decadence.

Be creative when looking for substitutions and reward yourself with healthy food you really like. Try and choose substitutions that keep your hands and mouth occupied and take some time to eat like grapes, watermelon, popcorn, or a whole pomegranate fruit. Distractions are good. Otherwise, you have a lot of time to sit and think about what you’re not eating (that sugary dessert or snack) and that’s when the cravings can get really strong.

Minus 1, then 2, then 3
Once you’ve found the substitutions that work best for you, start replacing your desserts and snacks one by one. Again, don’t rush to beat yourself up because you didn’t run 26 miles today or this week or this month. Start slowly. Giving up (or substituting) one sugary thing is enough to start. Keep your eyes on the prize and don’t give up. Weaning yourself off sugar is no easy task, so be proud of your progress. If you fall off course, right the ship and keep on going.

Desserts
If you eat dessert every night, reduce it down to 6 nights a week, (but have a substitution for the 7th night). As you get accustomed to 6 nights, take another night off, and so on until you’ve eliminated sugar from your diet completely. Remember, this doesn’t have to happen in a month.

The afternoon snack
The same principle applies if you eat sugary snacks during the day. Reduce by one until you’re down to where you want to be. If you tend to eat chocolate in the afternoon, switch it out for a 70% cacao dark chocolate bar.

No sugar for breakfast or lunch
If you can, eliminate sugar from your breakfast and lunch. It will help reduce the blood sugar spike that often leads to that midday crash. The crash then triggers us to want more quick energy in the form of sugar and the cycle never ends.

Eat enough & often
The other issue that can lead to the midday crash and the subsequent chocolate binge in the afternoon is not eating enough. If you’re not a big breakfast person and you have a busy schedule, you may look up and see that it’s 2:00 in the afternoon and you haven’t eaten. Now you’re totally out of fuel and crashing. This is when our bodies tend to crave sugar big time.

Try eating small meals or healthy snacks throughout the day to keep blood sugar levels stable. Make a protein shake or eat fruit and nuts. Hummus with veggies is a great snack to bring to work or take with you in the car, as are apples, plums or whatever fruit is in season. Hard-boiled eggs or deviled eggs are a good, portable option as well (unless you’re vegan). Think about snacks you can eat quickly on the go. If you eat enough throughout the day, you won’t crave sugar to keep you going when you’re out of fuel. 

Sweet emotion
There is a strong emotional connection to sugar. It can give us a sense of well-being and trigger happy memories.

DixieBelleCupcakeCafe – Flickr@CC

Sometimes, we have no idea we are eating for emotional reasons. So when you have a craving, examine that feeling a little further. The trick is to find new, healthier comfort foods.

Know the triggers
If you let yourself get too tired, hungry or blue, the sugar cravings can become more intense. When you are low on energy, the body will crave sugar because it’s a quick way to get glucose to the brain. Try not to skip meals when you are weaning yourself off sugar.

If you know you tend to eat sugar on your couch at night when you watch TV, get out of the house! Go see a movie; take a cooking class; learn how to play tennis, walk or take a dance class. Do something active that breaks you out of the habit.

Walk it off
Having a bad craving? Walk, run or work out. Endorphins (the body’s feel good chemicals) get released when we work out and they can really help stop the cravings and make us feel better. If you have a strong urge to eat sugar, walk around the block a few times.

Are you thirsty?
It seems strange, but we can actually crave sweets when we get dehydrated. Add a bit more water to your diet, just to be safe.

Are you drinking sugar?
Some of those Latte/Frappuccino drinks can have anywhere from 10 – 16 teaspoons of sugar. That’s more than a can of Coke.  Try ordering hot tea if you need caffeine and sweeten it with raw honey.

Sparkling apple cider is a great substitution for a soda because it’s bubbly and sweet, but doesn’t have added sugar. Another option is to pour sparkling water into an organic, non-sweetened, fruit juice. Water infused with fresh cucumber and mint or lemon slices is a great substitution to keep at home or work as well. If you garden, grow some Lemon Verbena and put it in your glass water bottle. It gives your water a lemony flavor.

How long will it take?
Once you eliminate sugar from your diet completely, it takes between 3 – 5 weeks for the cravings to stop. If you still crave sugar, you haven’t broken out of the addictive cycle yet. Examine the ingredient list on all the foods you’re eating and make sure there isn’t some added sweetener that’s keeping you hooked.

“Healthy” sweeteners
Agave nectar is used in a lot of healthy “no sugar” baking, but it’s higher in fructose than regular table sugar. High fructose levels can wreak havoc on metabolic health. Be warned, even healthy food manufactures use tricks to keep you coming back.

If you want to eat desserts on occasion, buy or make ones that use raw honey or dates as a sweeting agent.

Get free
Try not to stay on sweet substitutions for too long because they can become a crutch. If you are constantly on the edge of the addictive cycle, you never really feel the full benefit of being off sugar. Some people spend a lot of time trying to replace the things they lost and never fully commit to being off sweets completely. Transferring processed “bad” sugars to healthier sweeteners can still manifest as sugar in the body. It may help, but it doesn’t truly get you out of the addictive cycle. Try staying off sugar for at least 3 months before you add sweet alternatives to your diet. As soon as you reintroduce sugar, it’s really easy to get addicted again, so be careful.

Taste buds
As we reduce the amount of sugar we consume, our taste buds will change. Once you’ve made it through the first month without sugar, you may notice that the food and drinks that you used to love will taste way too sweet to you now.

Unintended benefits
You may sleep better. Your skin may glow and look a lot healthier. Your mind may be sharper, especially in the afternoon and you won’t experience that midday crash. You’ll probably shed some pounds and have more energy too. Other health problems could disappear or feel much better. So when the cravings get tough, remember why you’re doing this and know that they will diminish and ultimately go away completely.

A word about fruit

Abi Porter – Flickr/Creative Commons

When we eat regular table sugar, like the kind found in a candy bar, it quickly turns into glucose and our blood sugar levels spike. When we eat fruit, the fiber and protein help slow down that process so it doesn’t elevate our blood sugar levels in the same way. Fruit doesn’t trigger an unhealthy addictive cycle like processed sugar can.

“According to one Metabolism study, when participants ate 20 servings of fruit per day for two weeks, they experienced no adverse affects in their weight, blood pressure or triglyceride levels. They did, however, reduce their LDL (bad) cholesterol levels by 38 points. Meanwhile, a 2013 Nutrition Journal study found that decreasing fruit intake had no benefit on the blood sugar levels, weights or waist circumferences of people with Type 2 diabetes.” – U.S. New & World Reports, “Can Fruit Make You Fat?” 

Fruit is a critical part of our diet because it contains antioxidants that help our body fight disease. There’s no amount of fruit that will make you gain weight, so keep it in your diet.

Learn More
CNN – “What happens to your brain when you give up sugar” 
NBC News – “Cutting sugar for 9 days made kids healthier: Study”
Harvard Health Publications – “Eating too much added sugar increases the risk of dying with heart disease”
Arthritis Foundation – “Food Ingredients That Can Cause Inflammation”
UCLA Newsroom – “This is your brain on sugar: UCLA study shows high-fructose diet sabotages learning, memory”
Authority Nutrition – “10 Disturbing Reasons why Sugar is Bad for You”
KTAR News – “The surprising link between sugar and chronic pain”
Today- “Cutting Processed sugar for just 9 days has a ‘striking’ effect on health”
Telegraph – “Sugar found in ketchup and Coke linked to breast cancer”
CNN – “When Food Causes you Pain”
The New York Times – “Sugar Season. It’s Everywhere, and Addictive”
Time – “You asked: What’s the Healthiest Sweetener?”
Mayo Clinic – “Artificial sweeteners and other sugar substitutes”
Rodale’s Organic Life – “The 5 Best, and 5 Worst, Sweeteners to Have in Your Kitchen”
SF Gate – “What Is the Difference Between Sucrose, Glucose & Fructose?
Harvard Health – “Glycemic index and glycemic load for 100+ foods

Feature image courtesy of Jeanny on Flickr @Creative Commons

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