Perhaps you want to lose weight and sugar cravings are sabotaging your efforts? Or maybe you want more energy, focus or productivity and know that getting off the blood sugar roller coaster is the key. Or it could be that you are done with the mood swings caused by eating sugar.
I know from personal experience that kicking the sugar habit will dramatically improve your health and well being but it might seem like one of the most difficult things you can ever imagine doing. This is not really surprising given that sugar is so commonly available, providing temptation in so many foods we eat. The good news is, there are many ways to reduce sugar in your diet without feeling deprived or going cold turkey. Understanding the reasons behind your cravings is half the battle to unlocking the solution that works for you.
The Secrets Of Quitting Sugar Without Pain
The Physical and Emotional Causes of Sugar Cravings
It is important to realize that sugar is an addictive substance – just like caffeine and even alcohol. Sugar is an addictive substance, because:
1. Eating even a small amount creates a desire for more; and
2. Sudden quitting causes withdrawal symptoms such as headaches, mood swings, cravings and fatigue.
Knowing this, psychologically you won’t blame yourself for being “weak” and giving up if you fall off the wagon. It’s not just about willpower – your cravings have a physiological effect but it is possible to wean off sugar by reducing your intake gradually and painlessly.
Have a Clear Intention and Goal
Having a clear intention and goal in mind will help you to get off the sugar wagon and to stay off. Visualize what your life will be when you are no longer under the control of your sugar dependency. Is your goal to lose weight, have more energy, better concentration and fewer mood swings? What will these benefits allow you to do? Ask the bigger why, until you get to what really moves you.
Also take stock of your obstacles. Journal about your challenges, and see what is really holding you back. Get to the bottom of it. It is time to stop hiding behind your excuses and take action to live your life to the fullest.
Use God as your driving force to give you the strength to achieve your goals to quit sugar for good. Try to find a quiet space where you can share these thoughts with God even if for just a few minutes each day.
Cultivate Awareness by Journaling
The first step to making changes is to be aware of the problem. To cultivate awareness, keep a food journal to observe how you feel after eating certain foods – record how your digestive system reacts, your energy level feels for the next few hours, as well as how your mood and ability to focus are being affected.
For 2-3 days, tune into the impact of sugar on your overall well being, including your physical wellness, your mental clarity and your emotional balance. Notice what happens when you eat a lot of sugar – do you feel hyper and then crash quickly? Do you get moody or cranky? Do you crave more sugar even though you know you shouldn’t be eating it and then feel guilty afterwards?
This mindfulness will help you build the awareness you need to bring about changes. This is the chance for you to get a handle on what you eat and drink, so that you can take control of how you feel and think.
Know Thy Enemy
Humans love sweet things – that is in our nature. Even before mankind started refining sugar, our ancestors sought out foods with sweet tastes. Our body is programed to desire sweet taste because sugar and carbohydrates provide energy that our bodies need for our day-to-day activities. Sweet foods contain a high concentration of sugar, which means a lot of easily accessible energy that makes sugar attractive.
It is important to remember that God will not allow you to be tempted beyond your ability and he will also provide a way of escape so that you will be able to endure it (1 Corinthians 10:13).
Curb Sugar Cravings with Food
Armed with this knowledge, you can reduce your sugar cravings by eating foods that will reduce your sugar cravings such as: grains, fish, sea vegetables, beans, root and sweet vegetables, nuts, seeds, leafy greens and winter squash. These foods help to create balance by satisfying the body’s needs without relying on sugar-laden foods to meet your energy needs.
They are also very grounding in nature. Include them in your meals, and see if they help reduce your urge for desserts.
Also be cautious about having a low protein intake as this can mask itself as a sugar craving. If you have a relatively low protein diet and tend to feel fatigue easily, try increasing your protein intake, or experiment with the type of protein in your diet. Besides meat and fish, you can try nuts and seeds, good quality cheese in moderate amount, as well as eggs, and beans.
Sugar cravings can also be our body’s way of telling us that we need certain nutrients, besides protein. These nutrients include chromium, carbon, phosphorous, sulphur, and the amino acid tryptophan.
You can also use herbs and spices to help control your cravings. Coriander, nutmeg, cloves and cardamom naturally sweeten your foods so they can help curb your sugar cravings by satisfying your need for sweet taste. Cinnamon helps regulate blood sugar level, and also brings out the sweet flavor in foods.
Maintain Energy Naturally
Since the need for quick energy is a major reason for many people to reach for sugar, it is important to make changes to your lifestyle in order to boost your energy so that you are less tempted to go for the candy jar.
Stress can be a big reason for sugar addiction. The stress hormones exacerbate sugar cravings, because sugars and sweets stimulate our brain to create feel-good chemicals.
If you find yourself under stress and reaching for sweets, literally take a step back from the cookie jar, take a few deep breaths, get some oxygen into your brain and get in touch with the reason that you are craving sweets.
This would be a good time to have a conversation with God to confirm your need for self-control, which He gave to all of us.
Often, When we crave sugar, it is our body being thirsty, not hungry. Most people are chronically dehydrated, or under-hydrated. Symptoms of dehydration include migraines, headaches, tiredness and digestive problems.
In particular, when you feel tired or have a headache due to dehydration, you will want a quick fix – and that most likely means you will reach for sugary foods.
Next time you feel an urge to get sugary food, try drinking a glass of water, then give yourself a few minutes and see what happens.
Follow the 90/10 Rule
Finally, follow the 90/10 rule. Eat well and healthy 90% of the time, and let yourself indulge without guilt 10% of the time. Don’t beat yourself up if you slip – this kind of guilt and beating yourself up does not help you stay on track.
As stated in the Galatians (5:22-23), “The fruit of the spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control”. God has designed our spirits to achieve these goals. Therefore, deprivation is not a sustainable way to make changes that last, it is faith that can heal your body and spirit. You may be able to go cold turkey on your favorite food for two weeks, but what happens after that? Most people will probably binge, feel bad, and give up.
Allowing yourself to eat what you love, and possibly finding healthier substitutes to satisfy your taste buds, is how you can make healthy changes that will bring you benefits for a long time to come.