How to Get Off Sugar without Driving Yourself Crazy
Despite what you may believe, getting off sugar and eating a healthier diet don’t require superhuman discipline, some infomercial’s secret pills, or a lifetime dedicated to eating like a rabbit. Try these easy steps to begin your journey:
Keep sugar and junk food out of your house. You can’t eat what you don’t have! Remove the obvious culprits like soda, candy, brownies, cake, and pastries; also get rid of fruit juice, white flour products, dried fruit, energy drinks, and anything with the word syrup in the first five ingredients.
Eat enough during the day. Eating a combination of protein and carbohydrates every few hours keeps your blood sugar levels stable and prevents your appetite from getting out of control. When blood sugar levels drop too low, you become ravenous, and you’re more likely to grab whatever food is handy. This is one of the primary causes of overeating at night, which contributes to weight gain and late-night cravings.
Get enough sleep. Lack of sleep, stress, and sugar cravings create a vicious circle of frustration and fatigue. Stress keeps you up at night, so during the day you walk around exhausted, which increases your desire to use sugar as a pick-me-up. High sugar consumption creates an inflammatory response in your body that creates more stress. Reducing your dependence on sugar does more than just help you sleep better.
Stop eating fat-free. You may still be conditioned from the 1990s to think that fat-free versions of foods are healthier than their natural counterparts, but there’s more to the equation than just counting fat grams. Manufacturers of fat-free foods typically add more sugar and artificial ingredients to make up for the fat, so you do your body a favor if you stick to natural foods instead of fat-free products.
An exception to this is whole milk — it’s a good idea to choose a lower-fat version (skim or 1 percent) that contains less saturated fat.
When you go out to eat at restaurants or special events, don’t go hungry. Restaurants are notorious for serving up three times as much food as you need and for presenting a tantalizing dessert menu to boot. Special events are often sugar fests, with nothing but offerings of junk food. To help you make sensible choices while you’re out, eat a protein or high-fiber snack before you head out.
Get regular exercise. Exercise has more health benefits than anything else on the planet, period. Regular exercise helps stave off sugar cravings, boosts your energy, and tones your muscles. Exercise is essential for diabetics because it improves insulin sensitivity.
Learn to identify and manage triggers and cravings. If you’re like most sugar addicts, you’ve learned to reach for something sweet under certain circumstances, like when you feel stressed, lonely, hungry, or tired. To successfully reduce your sugar intake, you need to recognize these external triggers and practice making more conscious (and sensible) decisions when they present themselves.
Don’t give up when you fall off the wagon. People often get discouraged when they have a bad eating day, week, or month. Keep in mind that success is a series of ongoing decisions, and it’s never too late to start making better ones, no matter how many poor decisions you’ve made so far. So don’t beat yourself up about the fact that you’ve been less than perfect.