Recently, we looked at how much sugar Americans consume — but just how do you dig out from under it?
You’ve likely heard more than a few horror stories about how hard eliminating sugar can be- tales of migraines, shakiness, no energy, irritability, and more.
Fortunately, these withdrawal symptoms are only temporary. And there are ways to minimize suffering and keep yourself moving forward.
If you’re truly ready to break a sugar habit, here are 10 ways to keep yourself on track during the process.
Reason with Yourself
You made the decision to toss the sugar, but why? Take a few minutes to jot down the reasons why it’s important for you to give up sugar. Maybe you want to lose weight or you were recently diagnosed with diabetes…. Whatever your reasons, write them down and carry this list with you everywhere. When the ice cream and cookies call you by your first name, let that “reasoning list” act as your rational mind.
Stand Your Ground
If giving up sugar is good for you, it’s good for everyone around you. But not all family and friends will be motivated to stop eating sugar. So you need to set your borders. No sugar in common spaces. No teasing or tempting. No complaining. Set your ground rules. Remember, you’re leading by example. If you complain and seem unhappy, people around you will too.
So often, it’s the all-or-nothing approach that does us in. Cutting out sugar cold turkey can feel physically and mentally miserable. Hardwired to favor sweet tastes, we can only last so long before feeling deprived. A deep sense of deprivation will lead to failure. Better to quit in stages. Don’t bring new sugar or sugary products into the house. With the sweet stuff you already have, gradually reduce how much you eat. Eventually, you’ll deplete your supply.
Keep it Real
Ditch the fake sugars, too. Sugar replacements may seem a good compromise, but surveys have clearly demonstrated the damage they can do to our bodies, too. For instance, one analysis showed that daily diet soda intake led to a 36% greater danger of metabolic syndrome and a 67% greater danger of form 2 diabetes. Other surveys have shown that heavy intake (3 drinks a day) may, ironically, contribute to obesity.
Read the Label
When it comes to processed foods, sugar hides everywhere. It goes undercover by more than 50 different names, with the industry betting you can’t identify it. So you may need to do some detective work.
Focus on What You CAN Have
Giving up sugar and artificial sweeteners, you’re now retraining your taste buds. So practice mindfulness in your eating. When you eat, sit. Focus on tasting. As you take time to notice the coloring, texture, and fragrance before bringing food to your mouth, your tasting experience is likely to be heightened. You’ll notice some foods have more natural sweetness than others. Some foods may have a sweetness you never had the palate to notification before. Enjoy it all.
Cook Real Food
It’s really amazing how many foods you give up when you give up the added sugars – or, instead, food products. Most mass marketplace bread, for instance, contain sugar. Likewise, many sauces and seasonings. And, of course, ready-made snacks or meal kits. We take so much for granted when we allow industry to cook and bake for us!
Do the Math
Want to know just how much sugar is in that packaged food or sugary drinking you’re thinking about eating? Do the math. And to do it, you just need to keep in mind that 1 teaspoon of sugar= 4 grams, and each gram contains 4 calories.
With so much focus on diet, we can forget to move. Exercise for fitness is a necessity, but motion can come in many forms. Shoveling sand, dirt or snow for ourselves or a neighbor, gardening, taking a group of children on a hike – whatever it is, make it active.
Stay the Course, Gently
Remember you are in this for life. You’re not going to be “perfect” at giving up sugar. There is likely to be temptations and celebrations and friends who want you to savor sweets. Don’t be a curmudgeon. Trust that these special events are as it should be. Enjoy the gifts and the love, and carry on, sugarless, tomorrow.