Quitting sugar is one of the greatest things you can do for your health. Whether you're the kind of person who wants to know how to quit sugar cold turkey or how to quit sugar in 5 days, the most important things to know are that sugar is an addiction and what you really need is a plan.
I can say this with full honesty because Matt & I are currently doing a 'quit sugar challenge' as part of our 30 Anti-inflammatory Detox (aka Elimination Diet). Everything was going great until Day 7, when it all hit me. The next 3 days were filled with terrible sleeps, endless hunger, dramatically yelling at Matt about NEEDING sugar, bread & pasta (refined carbs) and generally feeling terrible... not great when I just started a new job! But I did manage to persist and am very happy now that I'm feeling great on the other side (my skin is glowing!). So if you're also looking to quit refined sugar and survive the challenge, here's some helpful tips & snack ideas for you:
Firstly, A LITTLE EDUCATION IS ALWAYS A GOOD MOTIVATOR
We all know that refined sugar is the devil for our health. Specifically for us ladies, the white stuff is terrible news for our hormones. And when our hormones are disrupted, we can start experiencing issues like weight gain, difficult periods, infertility, disrupted sleep and skin issues like acne and eczema.
Here's the low-down...
According to Alisa Vitti in her book Woman Code, “unstable blood sugar is the most important underlying cause behind hormonal problems”.
Your pancreas manufactures the hormones that regulate your blood sugar levels. When you consume foods high in processed carbohydrates (ie. refined sugar) like candy bars, cookies, soft drinks, fruit flavoured juice drinks, etc your body (in particular your liver) will quickly break down those carbs into simple sugars, mostly glucose. Then your pancreas will react to all of that glucose in your bloodstream by releasing the hormone insulin which escorts the glucose into your body’s cells for energy. Glucose is used as energy for working muscles, a healthy functioning brain and nervous system, as well as to ensure efficient use of fat in the body.
This is where things get bad…
If we have too much glucose in our body, it gets converted to glycogen and stored in the liver and muscles, but only at a limited capacity. This is key information. Once those storages are full, we will start storing the excess glycogen as FAT, at an unlimited storage capacity.
Let me break that down. We consume WAY too much sugar in our diets. Our bodies can't make use of that much. We store it as fat instead, endlessly. We put on weight. This is why consuming excess sugar leads to weight gain.
It’s all about hormonal balance...
We have a very delicate hormonal system which is all connected. When you throw off one hormone, such as insulin, and put tons of extra work onto the organs that are essential for maintaining happy healthy hormones, then it’s no surprise we end up with hormones that are totally out of balance. This makes it extra challenging to lose the weight, clear up persistent acne and solve fertility issues.
Not to mention, refined sugar also causes premature aging. Enough said.
So how can i quit refined sugar?
#1 Choose the length of time you'd like to do the challenge for. I recommend 30 days because the point is to quit the addiction AND also to develop new healthy habits.
#2 Team up with a friend, your partner, your Mom etc. Because the struggle with real and moral support is everything.
#3 Clean out the pantry. Get rid of processed foods and anything with added agave, cane sugar, cane syrup, high fructose corn syrup, fructose etc.
#4 Meal prep like you've never meal prepped before. Spent a Sunday afternoon making soups, a whole organic chicken, energy balls, frozen veggies for smoothies, hummus & bean dips and chopped veggies for snacking. You will thank yourself mid-week!
#5 Don’t buy crap food, including “healthy” processed foods. If you just don’t buy the processed foods, they are that much easier to avoid.
#6 Start the day with a filling & nutritious breakfast. Have a substantial smoothie, an oatmeal bowl with berries & nut butter or scrambled eggs loaded with veggies & leafy greens. This will start you off with balanced blood sugar, making it more comfortable to get through the day without raiding the vending machine.
#7 Head to the office prepared. Bring in a variety of nice herbal teas, some snacks like nuts, seeds & a little dried fruit, cut veggies & dip. Definitely bring your own lunch with you!
#8 Drink a lot of herbal tea. Making a cup helps to distract me from the sugar craving by giving me something to do and I also get to sit back down with a warm cup of tea to enjoy.
#9 Drink tons of water. It will help to keep you satiated and flush out those toxins.
#10 Make as much from scratch as possible. Refined sugar is hidden in everything: store-bought pasta sauce, salad dressings, ketchup, BBQ sauce, cereals, flavoured oatmeal packets, granola bars, flavoured yogurts, etc. Make your own salad dressing with equal parts olive oil, lemon juice and a sprinkle of salt & pepper.
#11 Fill your plate with heaps of veggies. Get really full on the good stuff, to avoid cravings & help you sleep better. Try mashed sweet potato, steamed broccoli, roasted carrots & parsnips, sautéed asparagus, kale & cabbage salad.
#12 Don't beat yourself up if you cave and eat something with sugar. Try to really enjoy it at least and then move forward.
#13 Try your best to get good sleep. Feeling low in energy from a bad night's sleep is a recipe for disaster. Avoid screens at least 1 hour before bed, sleep in total darkness, make sure your room is a little cool, take an Epsom salts bath before bed, use Lavender essential oil and read in bed.
AND MOST IMPORTANTLY...
#14 Keep healthy snacks on hand and eat when you're hungry. Don't wait to eat. For snack ideas, keep reading...
WHAT SHOULD I SNACK ON?
Glorious Green Smoothie. Loads your smoothies with frozen veggies & healthy fat like coconut oil, flaxseed oil, chia seeds, nut or seed butter and avocado to your smoothie.
Apple or pear slices with almond butter & a dash of cinnamon.
A handful of nuts & seeds, if you need to sweeten it up add one square of dark chocolate with 80%< cacao content.
A homemade Turmeric Latte with only a little honey.
Unsweetened apple sauce with nuts, seeds, coconut flakes.
Energy Balls. But enjoy them sparingly as they are full of dates which are very high in fructose (the most troublesome form of sugar). Try my Lemon Ginger Bliss Balls or Joyous Health's Raw Carrot Cake Balls (with half the honey).
Avocado on sweet potato 'toast'. Bake slices of sweet potato and top them with avocado, hemp seeds and flaxseed oil.
Avocado & tomato on brown rice cakes.
1 date with almond butter.
Carrot & celery sticks with hummus.
Cauliflower & radishes with sun-dried tomato & white bean dip.
Do you have any other tips for quitting sugar?!
If you found this helpful, I would love it if you could share it for others!