Just like quitting smoking, cutting out sugar is easier said than done because of its addictive nature, according to psychologist Alexis Conason. When you consume sugar in cake, cookies, ice cream, sodas or yogurt, it activates the same brain regions as other addictive substances like cocaine. Going cold turkey is the best approach to break the addiction and start improving your health.
Sugar in Your Diet
Before weaning yourself off of sugar, look at your diet to identify where sugar hides in all the different foods and beverages your consume. Read food labels and look not only for the word sugar, but also for sucrose, glucose, dextrose, fructose, high-fructose corn syrup, honey, evaporated cane juice, fruit juice concentrates, molasses and agave syrup. Sugar is not only present in sweets, desserts and sugary drinks, but is added to tomato sauce, bread, ketchup, mustard and salad dressings. Get rid of all these sugar-containing foods.
Go Cold Turkey
Some people choose to gradually reduce their sugar intake over a period of a few weeks, but you can accelerate the transition and get rid of your sugar cravings more quickly by going cold turkey. Decide on a date in the coming week or month and prepare yourself mentally. Try not to focus too much on the fact that you won't be able to eat sugar again to avoid the "last supper" effect or uncontrolled binges. Instead, think of your new sugar-free diet in a positive way, and remind yourself that weaning from sugar will allow you to lose weight, get healthier and break your addiction and cravings.
Avoid Refined Grains
In addition to eliminating sugar-containing foods and beverages, it is a good idea to get rid of refined grains and flours in your diet. Even if the white bread, bagels, crackers, pretzels and many breakfast cereals you select do not have added sugar, the refined starches they contain can easily break down into sugar and increase your blood sugar levels, promoting weight gain and hunger just as easily as sugar. Aim to get your carbohydrates instead from fresh fruits, sweet potato, broccoli, squashes and other vegetables, as well as nuts, natural nut butter, plain milk and yogurt.
The first few days after weaning yourself off of sugar and refined carbohydrates can be difficult. Be aware that many people experience more cravings, low energy levels, irritability, headaches and dizziness while the body adapts to a sugar-free diet. This transition usually lasts a few days. Drink plenty of water and eat lots of vegetables, fruits, nuts and other healthy foods to alleviate side effects. Once your cravings disappear and your energy levels improve, you will know your body has weaned itself off of sugar. Stay away from sugar to prevent starting a new vicious cycle of sugar addiction.