Did you know that sugar is a drug – an addictive one at that? Well, think about it: You crave it. And if deprived of it, you can’t seem to think straight. You’re just not yourself. The bad news is that sugar is, well, bad for you. Sugar has been found to cause damage to heart tissue. And it’s directly responsible for obesity since it interferes with the hormones that tell your brain you’re feeling full (so you keep eating, even when you should stop). It can make you insulin resistant causing diabetes and even some forms of cancer. And your liver actually can’t handle it.
The trouble with sugar is that it comes in so many forms and it’s easily hidden in refined and processed foods. So even when we think we’re not eating it, we are. Plus, scientists have found it to be as addictive as cocaine. And when you try to quit, you’ll experience very real withdrawal symptoms, including mood swings, muscle pains and headaches and even high blood pressure. It’s really not easy to quit.
But it’s possible. And if you want to enjoy your good health, you should quit now.
Here’s how to break up with sugar, once and for all.
1. Know thy enemy
Learn to identify the different forms of sugar. Corn syrup, fructose, dextrose, maltodextrin are just some examples of sugars. These are added to foods (including salad dressings and marinades) to sweeten them. So start reading food labels and learn to spot them, so you can learn which foods to avoid. You want to try and pick the foods that have very little to no sugar in them. Of course, first prize are whole foods (vegetables, lean proteins, fruit and whole dairy products). These don’t have added sugars – just the sugars nature made them with.
2. Choose healthy alternatives
Try to cut back on your sugar consumption by looking for alternatives. You could try stevia, xylitol or agave nectar. You could also try using spices, like cinnamon, to add flavour that “pretends” to be sweet.
3. Be prepared for the hunger
When you’re hungry, you’re far more likely to reach for a sugary snack. So it’s a good idea to pack yourself healthy, sugar-free snacks each morning, and keep them nearby. That way, if you do find your tummy growling between meals, you can nibble responsibly. Try making yourself a snack mix of nuts and seeds (good fats, fibre and nutrients). Just be wary of adding too much dried fruit – it carries a lot of sugar.
4. Say hello to healthy fats (and good bye to “fat-free”)
Fat-free products (and even low fat products) sound like they’re the healthy option. But if you’re trying to kick your sugar habit then you need to make sure that your meals are truly filling and sustaining. And that means full-fat options are better for you since they do keep you feeling fuller for longer. Of course, you must ensure you’re getting the healthy fats (think avo, olive oil, oily fish).
5. Find healthy mood elevators
When sugar hits your blood stream, one of the things it does is hit the pleasure and reward centres of your brain. That’s why you feel so good after eating a slice of cake or drinking a sugary soft drink. When you’re quitting sugar, your body is going to crave this “high”. So get it from healthy alternatives. Consider including a whey protein shake in your daily diet since whey protein has been found to increase your serotonin levels naturally (serotonin is a happy hormone). Coconut is another natural mood booster (with a whole lot of other health benefits too!).
6. Get enough sleep
When you’re tired and sleep deprived, you are hard-wired to seek out sugary foods, because they give you a burst of energy. So make sure you’re getting enough sleep each night.
If nutrition and wellness are your life’s passion, consider signing up for a Specialised Nutrition Certification at Trifocus Fitness Academy. With it, you’ll be able to make a career out of your nutrition know-how and help others find the same road to wellness. Click here to find out more.