Nov. 10

Kick the Sugar Habit!

Category > Food

With all things in life, kicking a bad habit (or getting into a new/good habit) doesn’t come easy. Let’s face it, if being fit was easy, everyone would be. So first and foremost be prepared that kicking something like a sugar addiction will take willpower, discipline and plain old time. This is near and dear to my heart because I am a recovering sugar fiend myself  ;)

First off, don’t beat yourself up over being in the situation you may be in right now. Humans are programmed to be highly attracted to it through evolution – the key is to recognize how addictive, detrimental and sneaky sugar really can be! It’s found in healthy foods such as fruit & vegetables (beets, corn, potatoes etc), and you get your daily amount before you ever even consider having that cupcake. Or even if you’re not having those cupcakes, you might find yourself in a situation I’ve been in before whereby I say to myself, “I don’t eat any chocolate or candy….why am I still craving sweets?” It’s because is was hiding in my salad dressing, yogurt and worst of all my “Sugar-Free” drinks.

Let’s break it down into the anatomy of a sugar fix into a very basic explanation. White sugar is made up of both glucose and fructose molecules. When consumed in excess, these are metabolized differently in your body. Glucose triggers a blood sugar spike and the release of insulin. Insulin is a fat storing horomone which counteracts the spike. Mr. Fructose calls upon your liver to convert it to fat. Eating too much sugar may stimulate your appetite rather than satisfy it, meaning after you eat it, you start craving more. It’s a vicious cycle…worst part is, that isn’t the worst part :) Eating too much of the stuff is directly linked to obesity, insulin resistance, fatty liver, heart disease and T2 Diabetes. Now, enough of the backend story, here are some things I changed to overcome it (in no particular order):

Make the Decision and Stick to it! Decide that you’re going to take control and nourish your body instead of poisoning it.

Beware of beverages! Our bodies didn’t evolve to register liquid calories the same way it does solid foods, so nix sugary drinks all together. The American Heart Association recommends consuming no more than 450 calories from sugary drinks per week. Now, let’s put that number into perspective. A Grande White Hot Chocolate from Starbucks is a whopping 420 calories. A Grande Caramel Brulee Latte has 360 calories. A bottle of coke has 240 calories. Now, I personally know many of my colleagues at work who consume at least one of those Starbucks drinks per day, each day of the week…totaling 2940 calories!!!! Also, don’t be fooled by juices either – they can be some of the top most offenders. For example, there are 152 sugar calories in 8 oz of grape juice; 137 calories in 8 oz of Cranberry juice etc etc.

Curb Sugar cravings naturally! Instead of reaching for a Kit-Kat when you’re craving something sweet. Go for fruit. Fruits contain sugar, but they also contain fiber which slows down the absorption of sugar into the bloodstream, thus reducing the dangerous “high-low” sugar cycle. Just remember portion control…

It takes Time! For me personally, cold turkey has rarely ever worked. It requires an extremely high degree of self control and let’s be honest; if I had that high degree of self control in the first place, I wouldn’t have been a sugar junkie. So, scale it back slowly. Use a little less sugar each time you make a coffee, until you’ve eliminated it. Your taste buds will adjust naturally. Trust the science behind it. You will eventually stop craving it and each day that passes will be a little bit easier. Also trust that once you’ve banished sugar from your system, your taste buds will become more sensitive, and these whole natural foods will taste sweeter and more satisfying.

Avoid ALL Sweeteners! Sweeteners have been proven to expand our waistlines as well. One hypothesis I’ve read about suggested that these pseudo sugars trick your body into some of the same responses as sugar. There are debates over which sweeteners are better than others…or whether Stevia is the new holy grail…but the point of this entire post isn’t to find “alternatives” or “easy ways out”. It is to banish it all together, retrain your pallet and take control.

Jazz up your food! Adding spices to your food will help satisfy. Spices have also been shown to slow the digestion of fat, and assist is craving less “desserts” after a meal…..

…In Fact, Eliminate Dessert all Together! It wasn’t until I was in University that I realized what traditional dessert was in the typical North American household. Growing up, dessert after dinner didn’t exist. If you weren’t satisfied after your meal, you could have more hearty food….not a piece of cake.

Clean out that Pantry! Don’t wait until you finish that box of cookies in the pantry or until the bag of skittles are done. Throw them out right now and keep them out of the house. They’re not good for anyone, so throwing them out will be doing a favour to everyone in  your family.

Keep the Meaning to the Word ‘Treat’! If you reward yourself with a job well done at work, for cleaning the house in record time or a birthday etc…that’s fine, but stop it there and keep the definition of “treat” sacred. What tends to happen with most people is that they start thinking they’re just rewarding themselves for anything well done, but really, it’s become and addiction and they’re finding ways to avoid admitting it by pretending that they are just “rewarding” themselves. We are not animals, and do not need to reward ourselves every time we roll over.

Eat Healthy Foods! Eat enough healthy food to satisfy your hunger. Snacks like fruit, carrots, red pepper and cherry tomatoes can satisfy your sweet tooth.

Drink Plenty of Water! Try adding a package of dehydrated lemon crystals to your water to help satisfy.

Study Yourself! Learn to identify when you crave sweets. Is it usually when you skip a meal. Or is it when you are stressed/anxious? For me, I was the type to inhale whatever was in my reach whenever I was stressed with impending deadlines at work, an overwhelming inbox of emails or exams when I was in school. Once you acknowledge what your triggers are, you can retrain yourself to consciously stop reaching for sugar and go for a walk instead. Take a bath. Call a friend to discuss. Relaxation helps to balance your blood sugar and reduce cravings.

The outcome? You will start notice that little muffin top disappear – more energy –  less highs and lows in your mood – no more crashing in middle of the day at random – and overall it is an investment you’re making in your well being. Do many of you struggle with getting looped into the sugar cycle? What has helped you to curb cravings? Please feel free to share all your thoughts and opinions below.