Ahhh…sugar. Something we’ve craved since the moment we first tasted it.
Over the past year, I’ve tried to eliminate added sugar from my diet. This hasn’t been easy.
You see, when we eat sugar, it increases the levels of serotonin – a mood elevating hormone – in our body. Our bodies and brains get used to this higher level of serotonin and depend on it for a sense of well being. So when our serotonin levels dip, we reach for the sugary stuff to elevate it. But you have probably noticed that although sugar gives you an initial high, you usually crash a couple of hours later. You feel sluggish and depleted. And that’s when we reach for sugar, again.
So how do we begin to stop this vicious cycle?
The first step is to make the decision to eliminate added sugar from your diet. Yes, the first few days are going to be extremely hard. Extremely. Hard.
I used to eat red licorice like it was going out of style. I would buy a large bag of it almost every week at the grocery store. And as soon as I got home, I would eat a few pieces. A couple of hours later, I would eat some more. The next day, I would wake up craving the stuff. And yes, I would even eat some before breakfast. I figured, if I just had one more piece, I would satisfy my craving.
Turns out I was wrong. The more licorice I ate, the more I wanted. One day I decided enough was enough. I was gaining weight and I didn’t feel healthy. So I quit buying licorice.
Wow, I didn’t expect to feel like I was going to die from the cravings. Headaches, mood swings, intense cravings. Every time I saw a commercial on TV for Twizzlers, I thought I was literally going to get up and lick the TV screen. But I fought through it. Whenever I felt an intense craving, I would occupy myself with something else. I would go for a walk, chew gum, read a really good book, anything to occupy my mind for 15 minutes.
After 3 weeks of this, the cravings finally slowed down. I didn’t eat, breathe, and dream about licorice anymore. I could actually walk right buy a package of licorice in the candy isle without picking it up. And now? I don’t even think about the stuff. It’s like it never existed.
Here are some more steps you can take to help eliminate your sugar cravings:
1. Eat more protein: when you have an intense sugar craving, what your body is really craving is protein. So instead of reaching for that cupcake, eat a hard boiled egg or a handful of almonds.
2. Remove temptations: go through your pantry and fridge and throw out all the sugary stuff you have stashed away. If you can’t see it, you won’t eat it.
3. Distract yourself: just as I was saying above, when you experience a craving, do something to occupy your mind so that you will forget about the craving altogether.
4. Replace sweets with fruits: the sugar in fruits is digested differently than refined sugar, so it doesn’t cause that “crash.” I find eating an apple or a handful of grapes takes away any sugar cravings I am experiencing.
5. Go for quality, not quantity: Eat a small piece of dark chocolate instead of a large piece of milk chocolate. I eat a small square of dark chocolate once a day. I let it slowly melt in my mouth and enjoy every second if it.
6. Read labels: you would be surprised how much sugar is hidden in foods. Looking for the sugar content in foods can help you eliminate high sugar foods from your diet.
7. Eat more healthy fat: the first thing you might hear when you go on a diet is to eat only “low-fat” foods. But the truth is, you need healthy fat. When I started adding more fat to my diet such as nuts, avocados, and coconut oil, I started feeling more satisfied.
8. Don’t skip meals: eat 6 small meals throughout the day to keep your blood sugar levels more stable. And be sure to eat a satisfying breakfast to keep you full for a few hours. My personal favorite, a big bowl of oatmeal!