When I was growing up, sweets and sugar had a very important place in our family. There was no lunch or dinner that didn’t end up with dessert. “Something sweet to change the taste after eating!” was what my father used to say. It didn’t matter that Type 2 diabetes ran in the family; for us, anything sweet meant “happiness”. As I got older, I didn’t realize how hooked I was to sugar and I thought it was normal to eat that much. That is, until I started to see indications that my blood sugar was high. My suspicions were confirmed by an endocrinologist, who informed me that I was pre-diabetic and needed medicine to help control my blood sugar levels. After taking a high dose of her wonder medicine for a month and feeling miserable, I decided to go cold turkey and just stop eating sugar. I completely stopped consuming any type of sugar and processed food, for a month. Looking back, I think one of the things that really helped me tame my sweet tooth was my decision to eliminate all artificial sweeteners, which I was consuming in massive quantities. Some studies say that although artificial sweeteners can trick us into thinking we are eating sugar and sweet foods, the brain knows the difference and gets confused, making us crave more sugar and high-calorie density foods, sabotaging any diet. (No wonder the obesity epidemic has come hand-in-hand with an increase in consumption of diet drinks!)
Even though I no longer crave sugar and my blood-sugar levels are fine, I know I’ll always have to be careful. Let’s not forget that the brain is hard-wired to be addicted to sugar. Sometimes I just want to “enjoy life” (as some of my friends urge me to do), but after having that huge, beautiful piece of lemon tart, I go home and take my blood-sugar reading. That high number will always remind me that sugar is my enemy and a big no-no in my life.
Here are 5 easy ways you can cut down on sugar and lose your sugar addiction. (You can also go cold turkey, like I did.) Three weeks of no sugar in your diet will stop your cravings for sweets and reset your taste buds.
1-Run away from processed foods: Try to eat food that is as natural as possible. Whole foods don’t require a nutritional label because they have just one ingredient. Have you ever seen a banana with a nutritional label? There’s no need! Packaged and processed food usually contains tons of ingredients, and some are certainly not healthy (like sugar, trans fats, dyes, preservatives, MSG, etc.). By avoiding processed foods, you ensure you won’t eat added sugar and sabotage your efforts!
2-Stevia anyone? A natural sweetener that comes from a plant that typically grows in South America, Stevia is about 200 times sweeter than sugar, but contains no calories or carbohydrates. I always prefer to drink my tea without sweetener, but when I feel like something sweet, Stevia is my choice. When shopping for Stevia, read the ingredients and try to find a brand that is 100% pure Stevia, without other ingredients or artificial sweeteners.
3-Bring on the water! Sometimes cravings are a by-product of dehydration. Try to listen to your body and see if you need to drink more water. If you crave sugar, before running to the refrigerator to eat that big slice of cake, drink a big glass of water and wait a few minutes.
4-Those yummy sweet veggies… They are naturally sweet and healthy! Sometimes I just make a soup with carrot, pumpkin and sweet potato. It’s incredible how quickly my craving goes away.
5-Never skip meals, and always have breakfast: Last but not least is something I keep reminding my clients. If you have been addicted to sugar and are used to the awful roller-coaster experience of highs and lows, avoid irregular eating! Keep your blood sugar levels steady all day by planning or just by keeping some healthy foods at hand all day long. Fill a small bag with a handful of nuts or some pre-cut veggies.
Are you ready to finally end your relationship with sugar? Whether you’re planning to do a full sugar detox and completely stop or slowly cut if out of your life, I implore you to be kind to yourself. You will fall off the wagon sometimes, and that is OK! Just start again, and don’t be hard on yourself. Persistence is the key, not perfection!