If you think you might be addicted to sugar but you’re daunted by the thought of giving it up, consider a gentle way to let it go. Last week we looked at the reality of sugar addiction, but getting off of it cold turkey is a tough way to go. It can cause a Herxheimer Reaction (a “Herx” for short). This is the term for the reaction your body has when you suddenly deprive the bad bacteria and pathogens inside you of their food source (they love sugar, too). So basically, if you go cold turkey, you quickly starve them to death. That releases die-off toxins into your bloodstream at a rate too high for your body to manage easily, which leaves you with flu-like symptoms including nausea,a runny nose, body aches, a searing headache, and horrific brain fog. Who has time for that? For those of us who have to carry on in the real world but really need to get off the sweet stuff, here are 8 easy ways to help you gently give it up for good – while you stay functional as well.
The Gentle Way to Give Up Sugar
- Increase your protein. Protein makes you feel full longer than carbs, and it converts to glucose (sugar) when your body needs it. People often think that carbs are vital for energy, but as long as you have enough protein in your diet there won’t be a problem. Protein converts to energy on an as-needed basis. Men need a minimum of 56 grams of protein per day, women need 40, kids 10+ need as much as an adult, and kids 4-9 need 20.
- Add herbal supplements. One reason we hit the sugar is in the first place is to give us a lift. Instead, start adding these to your morning routine: rhodiola rosea for energy, ashwagandha for mood, and bacopa for mental clarity. You’ll notice them working right away, but when you take all three every day, the long-term difference in the way you feel will be remarkable.
- Add healthy fats like avocado, coconut oil, real butter, and olive oil to your meals. Like protein, healthy fats also make you feel full longer, plus they’ll do great things for your hair, skin, nails, and digestion. All fats are not created equal, though. Avoid margarine, corn, canola, and soy oils.
- Substitute treats. Plan ahead! Keep sugar-free options on standby all the time. Veggies and dip, deviled eggs, sugar-free jello, sugar-free pudding, shakes, or some rolled up deli meats with a little 35-calorie Better Mayo spread inside, will help you stay true to your commitment to your health.
- Use a good sweetener. The healthiest option is pure organic stevia powder like NOW stevia, but it’s only found online and at health food stores. The healthiest grocery store option is Truvia. It’s made of erythritol, a sugar alcohol that doesn’t cause gas or stomach upset in most people, and Reb A, the isolated, extracted sweet compound in the stevia leaf. Note: some people are genetically wired to find the taste of stevia to be bitter (it’s like that with cilantro, too), so if you’re one of those people, try monk fruit sweetener instead. Swerve is good, but it’s not cost effective for most people. Nearly all other sweeteners are chemicals.
- Don’t go cold turkey. Like we said, if you stop the sugar all at once you’ll likely experience a Herx. To avoid that, work sweets out of your food plan a little at a time by giving up one sugary food for two weeks, another the next couple of weeks, and so on. You can also switch to having sugar only on the weekends, then to having it only on holidays & birthdays, then only on rare occasions, and then, never. Ever.
- Give up carbs the same time you give up sugar. Carbs are basically sugar and are metabolized as sugar, so until those are in check, your sugar cravings will not stop. You’ve seen how this works: you eat chips, you want cookies. You eat stuffing, you want pie and ice cream. It’s a chain reaction. An easy way to reduce or give up carbs is to start off by just giving up white food: potatoes, rice, and bread, and then eliminating the other carbs in your diet a little at a time the same way you do sugar.
- Give up sodas. Regular soda has 150 calories in a can, and diet sodas are no better. Artificial sweeteners in soda manipulate satiety (feeling satisfied) so that you really can’t tell when enough is enough. Instead of soda, try Lacroix or some of the other delicious carbonated waters. If you want it to taste sweet, add a shot of liquid stevia into a Lacroix drink. You could also just swap your oh-so-ordinary soda for a very chic looking bottle of Pellegrino, Evian, or Perrier sparkling water. One French woman said that women in Paris always have water with them. Maybe that’s their secret?
I have given up sugar a couple of times in my life, once cold turkey and the other gently, and the latter is definitely the way to go. Even though it will take a mental shift to get the sugar out of your life, when it’s all said and done, you won’t be sorry you did it. Your health, your energy, and your weight loss will bring you very sweet rewards.