I am not one who adds additional sugar to most things. However, there are times that I simply feel like I NEED the sweetness and this is when I knew I had to research “how to wean yourself off sugar”. I was wondering why I was craving sugar when I rarely add it to anything I eat. And then I discovered! OMG! Sugar is added to absolutely everything we ingest – my biggest surprise was the amount of sugar added to spaghetti sauce, so now I make my own!
Once I got over the amounts of sugar I was actually ingesting – natural or otherwise – I knew that I had to figure out how to quit craving sugar. So, here are a few strategies on how to wean yourself off sugar.
#1. Recognize What Sugar Is
Sugar is lurking everywhere! It is hiding everywhere and even has pseudonyms! Begin to read your food labels and when you begin to see words like dextrose, fructose, galactose, glucose, lactose, maltose, sucrose, you are consuming sugar. Obviously sugar is found in candy and desserts but it is also found in anything processed and the colour white.
Think pasta, rice, milk, and bread. They may not taste sweet but they are packed with sugars and especially if you are trying to manage your diabetes through diet, these types of foods are your enemies.
#2. Admit Your Addiction
It has been shown that sugar causes similar reactions in the brain as cocaine so there is no wonder that we often crave it. The first step in curbing your cravings is to admit you have an addiction. Like I mentioned previously, I didn’t think I had a problem at all since I rarely add it to my cooking but once I investigated further, I realized I was reaching for foods that gave me that sugar buzz! And once I began quitting sugar, I began to notice sugar withdrawal symptoms which only solidified my belief that I was truly addicted.
Dr. Eric Berg in his 6 mins Youtube video illustrates what happens when you wean yourself off sugar for 14 days.
#3. Stop Buying It
I am easily tempted, especially if I am hungry. I work long hours and when I get home, I am often starving and want to reach for something that is quick and easy. That often means something processed and inevitably filled with sugar.
“I’ll just have a few crackers until the chicken is ready.” Yep, and the next thing I know, I have eaten an entire sleeve of crackers. (You know you have been there, too!) So stop buying these items.
Removing the temptation is half the battle when you are trying to wean yourself off sugar. I also find that replacing those high-sugar items with healthier choices is assisting me tremendously. I now reach for a few almonds and consciously chew slower. It curbs my appetite long enough that I can have time to cook something worthwhile to eat.
#4. Give Yourself Time
Being that sugar is definitely addictive, your body needs time to adjust. Expect it to be difficult as your body is actually going through withdrawal. You may experience headaches, bloating, tiredness, nausea, aches and pains, depression and cravings so strong that you cannot think of anything else.
The first 2-3 weeks will be rough, depending on the amount of sugar you regularly consume. Have systems in place to lessen the struggle. Avoid the break room at work if there are often sweets present. Have healthy alternatives that are easily accessible like almonds or certain low-sugar vegetables like cucumbers, broccoli, and celery.
#5. Drink Tons of Water
When you have a craving for sugar, reach for a glass of water. I am generally not someone who drinks enough water anyway so I find having my water bottle always near is helpful. I even have a regular reminder set on my phone to remind me to drink more water.
Not only does it help to prevent the effects of dehydration, but it also helps to flush out the toxins from my body and reduce the cravings.
In the winter, I am often cold and there is nothing better than some sweet comfort food in the evening. However, I have found that my cravings can be curbed by drinking warm lemon water. The lemon compels me to drink more water but I have found that I am also reaping so many more benefits from the combination of lemon and water.
#6. It Is OK to Indulge
If you cut yourself off from any type of sugary delight forever, you are being unrealistic. It is ok to treat yourself every so often but there are better choices than a glazed doughnut especially when you are first learning how to wean yourself off sugar.
Try dark chocolate. When I craved sugar, milk chocolate was my ultimate choice. However, not only did it make me crave more sugar, but it’s also one of the things that triggered migraines for me. I then began trying dark chocolate as an alternative and now I find that anything less than 70% cacao is too sweet for my palate. Oddly enough, I am also satisfied after 1 or 2 squares of dark chocolate.
Apples and peanut butter is also a great choice. However, choose the unsweetened peanut butter. The apples contain antioxidants and fiber that keeps you fuller for longer and the peanut butter is a source of protein. This combination keeps you from making poor food choices.
#7. Include Friends and Family
It is always easier to do things when you have supportive individuals around you. The difficult part is convincing your friends and family to decrease their sugar intake alongside you and the reality is YOU are deciding to take this journey.
Involve them in your research when it comes to the amount of sugar found in your food.
I found a fun activity to calculate the amount of sugar in a meal I would normally have by always reading the food label and then I pour that equivalent amount of actual white sugar into a clear jar.
It really hit home with my support system and whenever one of us reached out for a sugary snack, we could remind each other of the activity. So this made us accountable to each other.
# 8. Start a Competition
Competing against yourself can be ok but it is so much more fun to challenge friends and family. Think of some sort of incentive like money, or perhaps an item like a laptop that would motivate you all to stay off the sugar.
You can even go big and reward the entire family with a trip if everyone changes their habits for 6 months. Find a common goal and work towards it.
#9. Forgive Yourself
Reducing your sugar is tough – there is no doubt about it. More than likely you will falter and reach for that piece of decadent cake. It will happen, and it is ok. The important thing is that you forgive yourself and NOT reach for another slice. Realize that you are human and will make better decisions, even after making a poor one.
#10. Eat Regularly and Incorporate Protein
As I previously mentioned, I tend to make the worst food choices when I am hungry. I know I should eat regularly to keep hunger pains at bay but sometimes my schedule or just lack of planning get in the way.
Be sure to be eating on a regular basis and incorporate sources of protein like chicken, eggs, hummus, and nuts into your diet. Have them easily accessible so that you are less drawn to something quick and easy AKA sugar-filled choices.
My Final Thoughts…
Sugar is literally everywhere and quitting is no easy task. However, having a plan and support systems in place can make that journey a little bit easier.
Weaning yourself off of sugary foods that can damage your teeth and your overall health will be difficult but so very worthwhile.
Good luck and I would love to hear about your strategies to quit craving sugar.