Giving up sugar is one of the greatest things you can do to improve your health. (If you haven’t already read it, be sure to read our previous post: 10 Convincing Reasons You Need To Give Up Sugar, Right Now!)
It’s also one of the most difficult. Sugar is addictive and most of us have been hooked on it since childhood. Making the decision to join the movement to give up sugar is the first step on a long, hard road. Now I’m about to give you 10 more.
The following are my 10 most effective tricks which I used when I succeeded in breaking my own sugar addiction 10 years ago.
1. Dive In Head-First
Don’t plan to do it tomorrow. Don’t do it next week. Just start. Do it right now.
There are a ton of excuses to wait. I know. I thought of a lot of them before I started. “There’s [this random event] coming up and there will be sweets there.” “I’ll wait until after Valentine’s Day.” “I should finish up [this sugary food I already have in the cabinet] first.”
Stop right there. I can tell you for a fact: There will always be another excuse. You just have to do it and do it right now. Go into the pantry, take your beloved box of Honey Sugar Puff Frosted Rainbow cereal, and throw it in the trash bin because you won’t be needing it anymore. It is killing you, after all. You’re not really going to put up with that from a box of cereal now, are you?
2. Read the Label… (On Everything.)
Always, always, always – no matter how safe you think the food is that you’re buying – read the label. Thinking about trying that new sauce your best friend told you about for the first time? Read the label. Recipe calls for an ingredient you’ve never heard of? Read the label. Brand you don’t usually eat is on BOGO and you have a coupon? That’s wonderful! Read the label.
I know I’m being redundant and repeating myself a lot here, but playing “Label Detective” is repetitive business. Do it until you’re the expert. Do it until you can read a label upside-down, backwards, and with your eyes closed in under ten seconds. (Okay, that’s a bit of an exaggeration… but you get the point.)
Read the label.
3. Take Time to Find Replacements
Write out your usual shopping list, but keep it double-spaced so you can take notes between the lines. On a day when you have plenty of time, take your list to the grocery store and, as you shop, employ trick #2. Play “Label Detective” with your list. When you find something that you regularly purchase is hiding lots of sugar, cross it off. Explore the surrounding shelves and find a replacement which passes inspection then write it in under the crossed-off item. After you’re finished, hang onto that list and use it as a reference for future shopping trips.
4. Avoid the Inner Aisles Completely
This was some of the best advice that I got when I was battling my sugar addiction. Most of what adorns the shelves in the inner aisles of any grocery store is full of hidden- and not-so-hidden-sugar. Don’t even let yourself be tempted. Shop the perimeter and ignore the rest as much as possible.
5. Remember: It Only Takes Two Weeks
You read me right. Two weeks of no sugar – I mean NO sugar – and you will find that you no longer crave it. You need to keep this in mind because during that two weeks, you will go through all of the symptoms of withdrawal. You’ll be irritable. You’ll snap at people. You may even get to the point where you think you’d punch your best friend in the kisser for a Snickers bar.
But don’t cheat.
If you do, your addiction will reset and you’ll have to start your two weeks over from day one.
6. Keep A Journal
(As a writer, I submit to the possibility that I may be a tad biased on this topic. However, it’s still going on the list.)
When I’m doing something which requires a lot of willpower (as quitting sugar assuredly does) I find it helpful to record my thoughts with pen and paper. Make yourself a “Give Up Sugar” journal with at least fourteen pages. I reverse numbered mine so I could see how close I was every day, but you should do whatever you find most helpful.
Try to write in it at least once per day. When you have a rough one, write down what troubled you and how you dealt with it. That way when you’re struggling with the urge to eat something sweet, you can look back and read just how hard you’ve been fighting against those cravings.
7. Plan It Out
You know it’s only going to be two weeks until this maddening addiction releases its death grip on your body. So before you start, make a plan. Write out every meal you’ll eat from day one to fourteen and stick to your guns. When you buy groceries (read the labels) only buy what you need to make the things on your menu. Ignore everything else. Remember, you’re just like a recovering alcoholic in a convenience store. The object of your addiction is right there, prominently displayed and (conveniently) within reach.
It’s up to you to resist it. Having a plan will help.
8. Know The Hidden-Sugar Signals
While processed food manufacturers are notorious for hiding sugar in odd places, there are a handful of signals that almost always denote its presence.
“Low Fat” / “Reduced Fat” / “Fat Free”
Anything that should have fat in it, but from which said fat has been removed almost always has sugar added – usually in the form of high-fructose corn syrup. Why? Because fat tastes good. Taking it out makes food taste less good. Manufacturers want you to want to eat their food products, so they add sugar to make it taste good again.
Ingredients ending in “ose” = sugar.
There are a lot of them and they all have different chemical structures, but they all have one thing in common. They’re all fancy words for sugar.
Anything that’s 0g “per serving” is probably a lie.
If something says that it has 0g of sugar *per serving (or with some funny symbol other than * next to it), beware! Check the serving size. Is it an unreasonably small amount? If so, you’ll find sugar somewhere in the ingredients list. If one serving contains less than a certain amount of sugar, companies are allowed to round down to 0. It’s dastardly, but its legal.
9. Indulge In Your “Safe” Foods
When I was quitting sugar, I spent those first two weeks putting hot sauce and mustard on everything. I’m serious.
Green beans? Hot sauce.
Steak & eggs? Hot sauce AND mustard!
Go ahead and treat yourself to any sugar-free foods that are “comfort foods” to you. It should take some of the edge off the cravings. Just beware of foods containing artificial sweeteners as these usually come with their own long list of health-damaging effects. Also, a lot of them (sugar alcohols which usually end in “OL”) tend to make you really, really gassy. Painfully so. Trust me, you don’t want to experience this.
Some of the best “safe foods” that were always on my list included:
- Pork Rinds (I know. Ew…)
- Green Beans
- Celery w/ Cream Cheese
- Cheese Sticks (Read the label.)
- Olives (Check the ingredients if they’re stuffed with anything.)
- Almonds / Cashews
- Salad w/ Caesar dressing (Again, label.)
- Plain Mustard
- Tabasco Sauce (Yum!)
- Dill Pickles (NOT sweet.)
That last one was another of my saving graces. I ate so many pickles during those first two weeks, it’s a wonder I didn’t turn into one.
10. Team Up!
It’s so much easier to break an addiction if you have a quit-buddy. I was lucky during my quit-sugar adventure that my then-boyfriend was an excellent cook and supported my decision to give up sugar. He helped by gently steering me away from sugary foods and through positive feedback every day. I’m honestly not sure that I would have done it without that support.
Thus my last piece of advice to you is, “Team Up!” Find a friend, a co-worker, a relative, or even a total stranger online who shares your sugar-quitting ambitions. Talk to them as much as possible during those first two weeks; and remember to keep it positive! Breaking the addiction is not going to be easy, but if you’re persistent you will get there.
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