Quitting sugar can be one of the most profound lifestyle changes, as it impacts our well-being on so many levels. Reducing or better even, eliminating refined sugar from your diet will improve your health and well-being significantly.
It can help you:
* increase your energy levels
* balance your mood
* slow down the aging process
* lower the risk of medical conditions
* beautify your skin
* lose weight
* upgrade your sleep
* level up your work-out results
* strengthen your willpower and confidence
* raise your awareness on the importance of healthy living
* save money
If you decided that you want to quit or reduce your sugar intake, it means that you feel that you have somehow outgrown your current nutrition habits. Whatever the reasons are, you want to give yourself (and maybe your partner or family) a higher quality of life. And that’s a very powerful decision, so feel proud of yourself for taking this step!
In order to change our patterns we need to understand where the challenges are and how to work with them to transform into the next level.
The focus in this article is on practical tips that will help you quit sugar in a way that you make long term lifestyle changes that last.
My aim is to share with you what worked and what didn’t work for me during the past 10 years of a mindful relationship with sugar, so that it will make your process easier and more durable.
The initial period of a sugar diet change is for most people the most challenging phase. Sugar is such a prominent part of modern culture. For many of us it is very addictive and we all have our own level of dependency on it. We often only discover how dependent we really are on it when we try to quit.
Luckily it will get much easier along the way. Both your body and your mind adapt to changes relatively quickly and you will usually feel a significant difference within a few weeks, sometimes sooner.
Preparing yourself by knowing what to expect and how to deal with temptations, will increase your chances of staying sugar-free.
These are my personal tips that have worked for me to make long-term transformations:
Quitting sugar: a holistic approach that really works
1. Make sure that you really want it
The thing that makes quitting sugar so challenging is that it’s everywhere and it’s addictive, which is why it requires discipline. You’ll likely be saying no often in social settings and from time to time you will be explaining your decision. And that’s ok, because it’s really worth it.
Just be clear about it to yourself and to others, so that you’ll have less temptations. Remember that you do this for you (and perhaps your partner or family) and there is so much to gain from. It’s one of the best investments you can make to upgrade your quality of life.
2. Understand which strategy works best for you
The initial period of a sugar detox is the most challenging one.
You might have have some sort of withdrawal symptoms, your body is detoxing after all.
Fortunately after this period you will have much less or even no cravings.
The main thing is to get through that initial period.
Some people find that it works best for them to reduce their sugar intake all at once (I am one of those people) while others prefer to do it step by step.
This is a totally individual approach and there is no right or wrong here, it’s about what works best for you to meet your long-term goals.
Please note that it is not recommended to go straight from eating a sugar-loaded diet to not eating any sugar at all. This can be a big shock on your body, so proceed consciously and consult a medical doctor or nutritionist.
If you want to do this step by step, start by eliminating the things that you are less attached to first. Let’s say you don’t really miss drinking sodas, but you can’t imagine yourself without chocolate cake in your life yet. That is totally fine, begin with cutting out those sugary products that you can be without more easily.
Keep the foods that you are attached to at this point, but choose high quality products. If it’s a chocolate bar, buy one with quality ingredients and a high cacao percentage.
Stay mindful about when you eat something and how much. This means that you only have something when you really feel like it and have a small piece instead of eating everything at once.
Go step by step until you eliminate all sugar intake or as much as you wish to.
If you want to quit all at once, it might be a bit more challenging at first, but you will also get to your desired results sooner.
What makes this easier is to start after a detox or juice fast which cleans part of your system, energizes you and resets your taste buds back to pure, natural flavors.
You will have much less or possibly no sugar cravings at all and naturally sweet things such as fruit will suddenly taste much sweeter than you were used to.
If you’re new to detoxing, consult a medical doctor or nutritionist.
I tried both sugar quitting strategies and the second one worked the best for me.
I found that it’s much easier for my body and mind to get used to not having any added sugar at all, than having a bit once in a while.
This is personal and will depend on you and your circumstances.
Make sure to prepare your body for this. When I first quit sugar I already followed a healthy diet for years, so the change wasn’t so radical.
Everyone is different and there are people who enjoy sugary treats occasionally without feeling tempted to have them on a regular basis, so find what is good for you and do that.
Take an honest look at your sugar consumption patterns and make a realistic plan.
You want to have a healthy balance between challenging yourself and doing it the easy, enjoyable way.
3. Be disciplined, but not too hard on yourself
Sometimes when we really want something, we become a bit uptight. If it doesn’t work out immediately or the way we would like it to, we can feel disappointed.
Progress is not a linear path, it often goes in waves. Be soft and kind to yourself.
It’s all a process and the main thing is what you learn from it, instead of chasing a non-existent ideal of perfection.
If you had a tempting moment and had that piece of cheesecake or a candy bar, it’s really ok. Even if you had more than that!
It doesn’t mean that you have to start all over again now, or that you can’t do it.
Eating is often an emotional habit; the more we understand where something comes from, the better we can anticipate it and use it to make more aligned choices in the future.
Whatever it was, it happened. Recognize it, learn from it, re-commit and keep going.
4. Anticipate the temptations
Timing is so important. You can have an amazing idea, but if for whatever reason you’re not ready for it, it might be better to wait or to create the right circumstances for it.
While you can’t always anticipate everything, the more prepared you are, the better you will deal with possible temptations.
Make sure that you have enough healthy and satisfying foods available. Give away any left-over food that no longer fits into your new diet and stock up on healthy, tasty sugar-free treats. Take some with you when you are on the go.
When you go to some social event don’t be shy to ask if there will be sugar-free options. If not, just bring your own.
If you have a special event planned with your favorite dessert being served and you are not sure that you can resist it, wait with quitting sugar until after the event.
If you know that you have a more stressful time coming up, take an honest decision whether you are ready to deal with the discomfort that the initial period of a sugar detox might bring.
5. Fill up on the good stuff
Eating regularly and focusing on highly nutritious, tasty food will make quitting sugar so much easier.
Satisfying, filling meals with lots of fresh vegetables and protein will keep you full and your blood sugar balanced.
Your body does need some natural sugars in moderation from fruit, vegetables and nuts. Make sure to also include good fats such as avocado, coconut products, nuts and seeds.
They provide a good source of energy and support many important body functions.
I like starting the day with a filling, protein rich breakfast like oatmeal with all sorts of toppings or eggs with avocado, salad and tahini.
Stay pleasantly full during the day as your cravings will mostly appear when your body is in need of energy.
Avoid skipping meals, fill up on the good stuff and get your sweet fix from fruit, nuts, dates, homemade chocolates, oatmeal, bliss balls or a nutritious (green) smoothie.
Get inspired and experiment with new recipes.
6. Get enough sleep and exercise
When we are tired, we often crave sugar to compensate for the lack of energy, so make sure you are well rested. Exercise gives you energy, reduces stress and motivates you to stay fit, while working on a strong, fit body.
It also helps your body ask for what it naturally needs. You are much less inclined to crave junk food over a fresh and healthy meal after a strong work-out.
7. Find your partner in shine
It is often so much easier to take upon transformative habits together with someone else. You understand what you both go through and can truly motivate each other.
Look for people in your own network or on the internet and join forces to kick the sugar habit together. It will make it easier and more fun!
8. Set your goals and stay flexible
There is no need to think in terms of forever, only or never: you are the one who decides what you want in your life.
If it feels like too much of a commitment to quit sugar, do it for a month and see how you feel. Whatever you decide afterwards, that month will absolutely leave a positive impact on your health and life.
If you realize that it’s not for you to continue at the moment for whichever reason, you might get back to it later on in your life.
Any decision that is true to you, is a good decision.
9. Read the labels
Besides the obvious sugar bombs like candy, sodas, cakes, chocolate and ice cream, there are many other products that contain sugar such as bread, sauces, salad dressings, pre-packed juices, ready-made meals and cereals.
Always read the ingredients, this is important to get a general overview of what you are consuming, not just because of the sugar. Avoid processed foods as much as possible.
* Sugar doesn’t always go by the name sugar. It can come in as much as 50+ variations, so look out for names such as glucose, corn syrup, sucrose, maltodextrin, dextrose, malt syrup and fructose.
* Foods made from white flour such as cakes, cookies, bread, pasta, pizza etc. have a similar effect on your body as sugar and raise your blood sugar levels.
* Artificial ”sugar-free” sweeteners are certainly not a healthy sugar replacement and they come with their own health risks. Aspartame, Sucralose (also known as Splenda), Saccharin and Acesulfame-K are best avoided.
10. Enjoy the process
Positive lifestyle changes are meant to improve your quality of life and that shouldn’t feel as a sacrifice, but rather an opportunity for more happiness and well-being.
Have fun with it and celebrate yourself for committing to transform yourself into a version of you that makes you even happier.
If you encounter challenges on the way, stay light about it and focus on all the good things that the experience gives you.
Lastly, it can be very motivating to be inspired by others, but don’t compare yourself to anyone, it’s not a race.
This is about you and your progress. You will get there on your own pace.
11. Choose the good sweetness
Quitting sugar does not mean that you can’t enjoy any sweet treats anymore. There are so many possibilities for tasty and highly nutritious foods that feed your body and mind.
In the blog I share my favorite high vibe recipes with you such as raspberry-coconut pudding, adaptogenic moon milk popsicles, vegan panna cotta, bliss balls, avocado-chocolate mousse, medjoul dates with chocolate and fig-coconut ice cream.
All are sweetened with natural sweeteners and can be made entirely without added sugars if you wish so. Enjoy!