If you didn’t know I am taking part in Sugar Free February – a whole month of no added sugar or sweeteners to try and kick my sugar habit. I wish I could say that it’s been easy but actually at times it has been pretty hard not to give into my temptations and I’ve had to make a real effort to avoid added sugars since it seems to be in almost all convenience meals/snacks.
Today I am welcoming Sara Jackson a registered Nutritional Therapist and Naturopath from sjhealth.co.uk to share her advice and experience in overcoming sugar cravings.
“I am pretty sure the message has sunk in with most people by now- whether we want to listen to it or not is a whole other question. Eating excess sugar is bad news – it’s directly linked to some of the most prevalent diseases we face in modern life – from obesity, type 2 diabetes, to some cancers. There’s stacks of research out there proving the inflammatory action of sugar on our body systems. Aside from the links to disease, this massive inflammation can affect our bodies in many other ways from ageing you rapidly, and contributing to everything from painful joints, rotting teeth to dry, wrinkly skin.
I work with many clients to help them get off sugar and break their addiction. Scarily it’s been shown that sugar is addictive in the same way that cocaine and nicotine are due to the way sugar interacts with the reward centres of our brain. Sugar addiction also involves the most common stages of addiction – cravings, tolerance (so you’re never able to get enough), and withdrawal.
So what’s the best way to break your sugar habit?
It’s going to hurt, but the most effective way is to go cold turkey and take out sugar as well as reducing refined carbs in your diet like white bread and white pastas. Like sugar, they provide zero nutrition, and are forms of processed sugars and starches that don’t exist in nature. Don’t fall into the trap of artificial sweeteners because not only do they feed the sugar cravings, but there is mounting evidence that things like aspartame which many consider a neurotoxin due to its strong association with brain tumours and seizures. Scary stuff….
I’m not pretending it’s a walk in the park, but there’s a few things you can do to make it a little easier to stick at it.
- Make sure you have plenty of support around you, especially for the first week or so which is definitely the hardest and have plenty of distractions at hand for when those cravings kick in.
- After you get through the first week though you’ll notice that your palette changes and you can actually taste food and naturally sweet food like fruit suddenly seems sooo much sweeter. If those cravings kick in, grab an apple of some blueberries and after a few weeks, you most probably wouldn’t want that packet of Haribos that you used to happily munch on because they will be so sickly sweet to your newly attuned tastebuds and will make you feel pretty gross and might even give you a headache.
- If you know that a stressful day usually has you reaching for the emergency chocolate stash, then try to find other ways to deal with those emotions. Simple breathing exercises for even just a minute, but repeated throughout the day can be so effective or taking a quick walk around the block can take the edge off.
- If you’re eating balanced meals with plenty of lean protein, healthy fats like avocados, nuts and seeds, whole foods and eating rainbow coloured veggies with a little fruit, you will feel full and satisfied, leaving little room for those pesky sugar cravings to set in.
Stick with it. I have seen the most incredible results with clients who are able to get off the bad stuff – blood sugar levels balance, stubborn weight falls off, energy levels soar, skin issues disappear and vitality returns. You won’t look back…”
Throughout Sugar Free February I’ve actually found that my taste buds have changed and as Sara mentioned, I actually don’t want some of the sweet things I used to crave. For example, I saw a video on facebook for ‘unicorn hot chocolate’, which was warm milk with tonnes of white chocolate melted into it and pink food colouring added. I was watching the video because I was interested to see what was in it, but when they were melting all of the chocolate I actually started to feel queasy at the thought of how sickly it would taste!! That said, I did buy a bar of 100% dark chocolate and go a bit overboard and eat half it in one sitting, which also made me feel queasy. So my cravings haven’t gone all together, but they seem to be getting better.
Getting support and having distractions has been very helpful to avoid giving into temptations and breaking my habit of eating sugary snacks in the evening. I’ve found that calling my boyfriend for a chat or doing things such as cleaning really help to keep me distracted, but other activities such as colouring or reading don’t seem to work because I am still thinking about chocolate or whatever it is that I wanted to eat. So I think that you will have to experiment with some different options and see what works for you.
What are your top tips for breaking a sugar habit? Have you ever tried?
P.S. If you enjoyed this post check out this advice for going sugar free from Jenna Hope Nutrition.