Diet and Nutrition

Putting a Stop to Sugar Addiction

It’s addictive and produces withdrawal symptoms, can cause a multitude of health issues that lead to death, and is hidden within other things we think we are safely consuming.

Sounds kind of like drugs, right? Well, it has a few similarities, but what we’re talking about is sugar.

Studies have shown that the average American consumes roughly 22 teaspoons of sugar per day and over time this equates to about three pounds of sugar per week. Since the American Heart Association recommends no more than 9.5 teaspoons a day, you can see where this poses a problem.

Obviously some of the most common culprits for this sugar frenzy is consumption of sodas and other empty-calorie foods such as breakfast cereals, cookies and other desserts. However, some of this sugar is found in things you wouldn’t necessarily expect including yogurt, bread and salad dressings. This type of added sugar alone counts for 500 calories of the average American’s diet every day.

We realize a lot of this information is kind of common sense. It’s safe to say we all generally know that sugar is bad for us and how toxic it is, but the thing that we don’t have a lot of advice on is how to cut back other than the obvious pointers of cutting out soda and eating less desserts and junk food. Yes, we know to do it, but how?

These are some of our tried and true ways to cut off your addiction and retrain your body to crave foods that aren’t loaded up on sugar:

Don’t Go Cold Turkey

While there have been multiple stories about people and families who have quit sugar, and as inspiring as they are, this method is not the most gentle. Of course, you can do it if that’s the method that works for you, but you’ll be more likely to have a binge session that ends up causing more damage than before.

Depending on your level of sugar addiction and how much you currently consume, quitting cold-turkey could spur withdrawal symptoms such as fatigue, depression, headaches and achy limbs at a level that could actually make functioning through your day difficult.

Rather than going on a full on raid of your house to rid every scrap of sugar, try doing cut backs in increments. For example, if you’re someone that eats half a row of Oreos every night, start by cutting it down to three or four Oreos every night, then the next week only eat a few Oreos every other night. Over the course of a month or two you can whittle yourself down to being Oreo free. Even replacing your vice with something healthy is a good way to knock out cravings. Rather than eating Oreos sub out one or two squares of dark chocolate with high cocoa content. Much healthier and still gives you a sweet fix.

 

Replace Items in Your Kitchen

Like we mentioned a few sentences back, it’s easy to get extreme and want to throw away all the contents of your kitchen when you’re fired up about making a change. However, rather than throwing everything out and then thinking, “okay, now what is there to eat?,” you’re better off making simple swaps over the course of a few grocery trips. Same foods, just a healthier version of it.

For example, I thought I was eating minimal sugar (turns out I was wrong), but then I saw how much added sugar there was in items that seemed to be healthy. So I ditched the “light and fit” yogurt and replaced it with full-fat greek yogurt. Looked at the peanut butter I loved to slather on my whole wheat toast every morning and realized sugar was the second ingredient behind peanuts, which wasn’t very comforting. Then switched to all-natural peanut butter with no added sugars.

Small swaps made it feel like I was still able to enjoy the foods I like, now I’m just cutting out the junk that does nothing beneficial for our bodies. And you know what, it actually tastes better.

 

Learn Your Labels

One of the best tips we’ve every heard is try to eat foods without labels. You’ll notice that these types of foods usually exist on the perimeters of the grocery store, and the reason they don’t have labels is because they’re in their “whole food” state.

Things like lean cuts of meat and fresh produce don’t come with labels because there is nothing added to them. What you see is what you get.

The more we can reduce using items that come in boxes, cans and plastic wrapping, the less added sugar we’ll consume. Additionally, learning to read labels will help you determine the healthier alternatives for those foods we choose to eat packaged, like our previous example of peanut butter. Or even things like orange juice.

Next time you go grocery shopping take notice of how many orange juice brands there are. Then pick up two different brands and compare the sugar content and the list of ingredients. If sugar or high fructose corn syrup is listed anywhere in the main ingredients, that’s not the healthiest option. Same goes for ingredients you can’t pronounce. The less stuff there is in it, the more natural and healthy it is.

 

Up Your Protein and Fat

That’s right, we said increase the fat you eat. Now let’s make sure this doesn’t get taken out of context, increase the amount of protein and healthy fats you eat.

By consuming protein and healthy fats at each meal you will be satiating your body’s need for substance that actually feeds your body and will make you less likely to crave sugar due to stabilized blood sugar levels.

Sugar is a filler, meaning it provides zero nutritional value. Refined sugar contains no vitamins, minerals, enzymes, fiber or fats. That’s why when we go on a sugar binge, it quickly makes you feel full, but in a short period of time you crash and you’re hungry again.

One of the added benefits here is once you’ve upped your consumption of foods that do provide nutritional value, your pallet will change and you’ll not just crave sugar less, but when you do consume it, your body might have an insulin sensitive reaction.

For example, when I worked myself down to having no ice cream (my biggest sugar addiction) and I had sustained that habit for a couple of months, the next time I ate ice cream was an eye-opener. I could barely finish a small cup, which I could devour with ease before, and I had a terrible headache afterward. Didn’t feel good, but it makes you feel great about your decision to nix your sugar habit.

 

 

To put it all in to perspective, quitting sugar is kind of like running a mile non-stop. If you’re someone who has never exercised before you can’t possibly think you’d be able to just go outside one day and be able to run a mile without breaking a sweat or having a hard time breathing. You have to do it little by little until you eventually hit your goal. Quitting something like sugar works the same way.

Little changes over time equals sustainable habits and results.
Sources: Forbes, MindBodyGreen, USDA, TIME

 

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Elle Michels

Elle Michels

Based in Washington, D.C., Elle Michels is a contributing writer to Womenshealth.com.

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