Some people don’t realize how hard it is to stop sugar cravings until they try to give up their favorite sweet treats.
Others know they’re addicted to sugar – no questions asked.
One client explained his sugar addiction like this: “There’s a compelling urge that feels impossible to get over. And the moment it touches my mouth all is good, but unfortunately it just doesn’t last long and then I need more.”
As a former sugar addict myself, I know the pain and suffering that comes with sugar addiction. For me, heavy sugar consumption causes extreme moodiness, fatigue, irritation, and restlessness. Yuck. Sometimes sugar still gets the best of me, but I’ve learned how to curtail the cravings – and you can too.
If that alone doesn’t convince you to take the “no sugar” plunge, did you know that sugar feeds cancer cells, triggers weight gain, and promotes premature aging? (More on that later; for now, just trust me.)
If you’re ready to ditch the brain fog and balance out your body, here are six ways to stop sugar cravings in their tracks:
1. Taper off sugar intake over several weeks – until you’re ready to commit to cutting it out completely. Sugar is a chemical substance and, as such, acts like a drug in your body. If you’re used to daily consumption of sugar, especially at certain times of the day (hello, 3 p.m. chocolate break!) it’s important to gradually reduce your intake to avoid the more extreme or painful withdrawal symptoms. Much like withdrawing from caffeine, keep cutting your consumption in half every couple of days until you’re ready to let it go for good.
2. Cut it out completely. Yes, “completely” means just that: get rid of everything that has any type of sugar in it. This includes fruit, alcohol, dairy, most grains, and even some sugary or starchy vegetables. This must be done for at least the withdrawal period (which varies by person, but averages 10 days to three weeks in my experience). Once you’re through the withdrawal period, you can begin to incorporate some dairy and small amounts of fruit back into your diet, but pay attention to how your body responds. If you feel cravings come back, eliminate fruit for a longer period of time. There are hidden sugars in most processed foods, too, so it’s best to eliminate those altogether. If you do eat any processed foods, carefully read labels and be on the lookout for all the various names that can disguise sugar.
By now you’re probably wondering, “What can I eat?” Don’t worry, here is a great list of foods to focus on during your recovery period:
Likewise, these are the foods to avoid:
3. Stabilize your blood sugar. Heavy sugar consumption can take your blood sugar levels on a roller coaster ride. The peaks are fun, but the valleys leave you depleted, feeling tired, moody, irritable, and struggling to think clearly. Your body naturally strives for balance and knows that simple carbohydrates (like sugar, breads, etc.) are the quickest and easiest fuel source. So when you experience these low blood sugar levels, your body is driven by an unconscious survival mechanism and cravings for simple carbs can become unbearable. It’s hard to fight biology. Therefore, it’s critical to avoid those “valleys” by having stable blood sugar. Do this by:
a) Eating frequently (every 3 hours). Focus on protein, fiber, and healthy fats. Protein is especially important at breakfast and in the afternoon. Good sources of fiber are leafy greens, artichokes, beans, etc. Healthy fats include avocado, nuts, seeds, and healthy oils such as coconut, olive, and flax. Avoid simple carbs (breads, pastas, etc.), as they spike and crash your blood sugar levels.
b) Sleeping regularly. According to The American Diabetes Association, too much or too little sleep may raise your blood glucose level and expand your waistline. In addition, sleep improves your sense of willpower. Willpower is much like a battery that gets charged while you sleep and gets depleted throughout the day. Charge that battery so you have the stamina to withstand cravings.
c) Taking daily nutrient supplements: The following nutrients are known to improve blood sugar control and reduce sugar cravings:
- Chromium Picolate – 200 mcg with breakfast
- L-Glutamine – 500 mg 3x a day on an empty stomach
- Omega 3 Fatty Acid – high quality is worth the extra cost.
- B-Complex (B100) – 100mg, 1-2x a day.
4. Drink lots of water (3-4 liters every day; yep, that’s like a gallon!). Your brain and body becomes compromised and confused when it’s dependent on specific substances. Dehydration can manifest as a sugar craving. Simple solution? Drink lots of water throughout the day. If a craving comes up, consider it a reminder that you’re running low on H20 and drink a big glass of water before you do anything else.
5. Get past day 4. It may take a heavy dose of motivation to get started and some focused effort to get through the first few days. Don’t stress. The key is to get through day 4. After that, the cravings start to subside, there is relief from withdrawal symptoms, and you begin to feel the benefits of breaking the sugar habit. Over and over again, clients report that day 3-4 without sugar is practically unbearable. But once they get over that hump, they are so glad they did it! The problem with indulging here and there is that you perpetuate the suffering. Consuming even just a little bit every few days ensures you’ll never get over that withdrawal hump. The momentary satisfaction ends up having a high cost of continued suffering.
6. Reward yourself. Overcoming sugar addiction is a HUGE accomplishment. Figure out what would feel rewarding to you as a pat on the back for doing this. One example: create a chart and give yourself a star every time you have a craving and don’t indulge. Give yourself praise every time you add a new star. Review your chart at the end of the day and give yourself more praise. Giving yourself accolades positively reinforces the new habit you’re trying to create. After a certain number of stars, or when you make it one week without sugar, reward yourself with a different kind of “treat,” like a rejuvenating massage, a new piece of clothing, or a fun adventure.