By Heather Aardema
You’re trying to get off sugar. In fact, maybe you’ve kicked the habit a number of times.
You might even remember that brief moment when you thought refined sugar tasted too sweet.
So why do you always come back to it? Why can’t you leave it alone for good?
If this sounds like you, you’re not alone. We’ve become a nation of sugar addicts. Our consumption has increased from 10 pounds per person in 1800 to 140 pounds per person per year today.
Trying to get off sugar is a daily obsession for many.
How’d we get to this state?
There are many dimensions to this story. It’s well documented that sugar is eight times as addictive as cocaine. The food industry is intentionally using this substance as the core ingredient to make processed flour, food dyes, preservatives, etc. taste good.
What’s the result?
The more we eat, the more we crave. Even well-intentioned parents fall into the trap of rewarding their kids’ hard work and good behavior with sweet treats, setting the stage for sugar addiction down the road.
The next time you notice a craving for sugar, try one of the following tricks:
- Put a grain of sea salt, a drop of peppermint essential oil, or squeeze a little lemon or lime onto the tip of your tongue
- Sip on some licorice root or marshmallow root tea
- Or eat a few bites of healthy fat and protein
If you’re still hankering for something sweet, eat a large handful of blueberries or strawberries, slowly savor a teaspoon of raw, local honey, or enjoy a few squares of dark chocolate.
While they may work in the moment, these solutions are quick-fixes that don’t address the deeper issue.
Truly want to eliminate your reliance on sugar? It’s going to take significant effort.
To make it easier, try these strategies:
Strategy #1—Know your WHY for eating sugar
Quitting sugar is a major life change. Knowing why you want to quit sugar will help you bypass daily distractions like the cookie jar.
Start off by asking yourself why you want to take this step, not why you should take this step. Your doctor telling you to stop eating sugar may not be motivating enough.
So what is motivating enough? Looking and feeling amazing? Or maybe sugar makes you feel bad or makes your thinking foggy. Makes you hold on to weight you’d like to release.
Get crystal clear on what you want, why you want it and then commit to small wins. That’s much more rewarding than the momentary bliss of over-indulging on brownies in the break room.
When you know your WHY you’ll no longer be willing to break promises to yourself.
Strategy #2—Master your mindset
If you think you’re being deprived, you’re going to behave as if you’re being deprived.
Start off by examining the meaning you’re giving to eating less sugar, in essence, to eating healthier.
Does it feel like a punishment or a privilege? Notice the nuance in “I HAVE to give up sugar and eat healthier” versus “I GET to give up sugar and eat healthier.”
Once you see quitting sugar as a privilege – that you get to give up the sweet treats that leave you feeling lousy and lethargic – you’ll begin to build a healthier relationship with food.
You’ll notice that you’re replacing the sugar in your diet with nutrient-dense, whole foods, leaving you with results you deserve (way more than a cupcake) – a body and life you love.
When you master your mindset you’ll no longer look to sugar as the reward.
Strategy #3—Honor where you are in the moment
Listen to your body. Can you sense the difference between physical hunger and emotional hunger?
It’s subtle, but emotional hunger is more gnawing, persistent and can make you feel guilty.
When you realize that you’ve walked into the kitchen, HALT and ask yourself, “Am I truly hungry in this moment?” If the answer is yes, then eat (something healthy!).
However, if the answer is angry, lonely or tired, you’ve misread your emotions and exhaustion for hunger.
So which emotions trigger your sweet tooth? Emotional eating happens when eating becomes the response to an emotion rather than expressing the emotion.
What should you do? A craving lasts for about three minutes. In that time, shift your headspace and embrace a non-food action.
Choose an activity that matches the intensity of your emotion and do it. If you’re bored or lethargic, go for a walk. Angry? Go for a run.
Other ways to resist sugar? Listen to music, dance, read, take a bath or watch a movie. If none of these work, you can always flick a rubber band on your wrist like my grandma used to do to stop a bad habit.
When you honor where you are in the moment, the power of temptations will dramatically decrease.
Imagine never having to quit sugar again.
How long should you hold out?
It’s tricky. There are many factors interwoven with actual cravings, such as the make-up of your gut microbiome, hormones, yeast, etc.
However, if you completely remove all artificial and natural sweeteners, sugar cravings typically move to the background within three to 10 days.
Trying to satisfy a sweet tooth in a more “natural” way only makes the transition last longer and often harder. For a true reset, no sugar means…well, no sugar.
Withdrawal cravings can be intense, but if you’re willing to put in the effort by embracing these strategies, they will disappear – and you’ll be on your way to feeling better.
Heather Aardema is a Functional Medicine Certified Health Coach, minimalism enthusiast, and blogger who resides in Wheat Ridge, CO with her husband and two young boys. You can find her inspiring clients to grow healthy and live fully at RootofWellbeing.com. Stop on by and pick up her Nutritional Thrive Guide, 5 Simple Ways to Get on Your Path Toward Health.