Do you ever wish there were an easy way to kick cravings? The hardest things in life will actually bring you the most joy in the end. As you learn discipline and persistence, you’ll have all kinds of success in your life, but it all starts with you making one small decision. Think you can kick the sugar habit? I know you can. Let’s take a look at some ways you can do that.
Sugar cravings are almost impossible to end, unless you take action to combat them. While a sweet treat every now and then won’t hurt you, you are hard wired to be addicted to sugar. Just like it is a drug, it makes you want more and more until suddenly, no amount is enough.
To live your best life, you need to take care of yourself first. So, let’s focus on some of the daily choices you can make that can help your life be happier, healthier and more productive…to truly live the life you have always imagined. Some tips will be familiar and some new. We will explain some tips in more details than others due to time.
LAY OFF THE SUGAR
This may sound impossible, but it is not. The following tips will all help you to naturally reduce your sugar intake. I know — I am a recovering sugar addict! And, I have coached hundreds of clients off the sugar rollercoaster with my 5-Day Whole Foods Reset Challenge and my private health coaching clients.
We need to avoid or limit sweetened coffee drinks, candy, cookies, and most desserts because some cravings come from foods that we have recently eaten. After one sip or bite, your body will want more. Do you notice that around the holidays your cravings for sweets increase after having more desserts than usual?
Seek out low-sugar or healthier alternatives such as 70 percent (or higher) dark chocolate versus milk chocolate. My favorite is the 85 percent dark chocolate bars. Eat and enjoy a square every day. Sugar is okay in small quantities, but most of us tend to have too much – and much of it comes in the form of “sneaky sugar” (foods we don’t suspect have sugar).
A great rule of thumb is to eat healthy nutrient-dense foods 80 percent of the time, then when you go out to eat or at a party, indulge for the other 20 percent. I adopt the 90/10 rule myself. We are all unique and you need to figure out what works best for you. I have some clients that eat 100 percent healthy Monday – Friday and then are more relaxed on the weekends. Part of 1-on-1 health coaching is figuring out what is the best solution for each client.
AVOID THE FAKE STUFF – ARTIFICIAL SWEETENERS
Artificial ingredients affect blood sugar levels and are linked to other serious health problems. If you need to add a sweetener, use just a small amount of natural sugar. If you need to use white or brown sugar, try to use less. Your palate changes and you will crave fewer sweets as you eat less sugar.
If you want sweetness, I recommend consuming real sweeteners like local wild honey, unprocessed stevia, 100 percent pure maple syrup and dates
Sugar-free or fat-free on a product usually means artificial sweeteners are in the product.Example: artificial sweeteners like aspartame (Equal, NutraSweet) or Saccharin (Sweet’N Low). The body does not know how to assimilate these artificial chemicals, which is why it has zero calories.
Research continues to show that these substitutes actually cause weight gain by stimulating your appetite and your body’s fat storage capabilities, even though they are touted as “diet” products. Long-term studies needed. Assume it is not safe.
FIND THE SNEAKY SUGAR
What are some items you’ve purchased and later were shocked to find out they contained sugar? Nearly 70 percent of the added sugar Americans eat comes from processed food such as bread, salad dressings, peanut butter, and pasta sauce. To avoid this sneaky sugar, limit processed food that comes in a package and focus on real nutrient-dense foods.
Even some so-called healthy foods contain sugar. A lemon poppy seed Clif Bar has 21 grams of sugar or 5 teaspoons. Compare that to a chocolate-glazed cake donut from Dunking Donuts, which has 13 grams of sugar, or 3 teaspoons. Overconsumption of refined sweets and added sugars found in everyday foods has led to an increase of chronic diseases.
BE A LABEL READER
Sugar is often disguised in some oh-la-la fancy language (over 250 aliases), labeled as corn syrup, lactose, dextrose, maltose, glucose or fructose, anything ending with –ose is typically a sweetener, high-fructose corn syrup.
Any item that lists any form of sugar in the first few ingredients or has more than 4 grams of sugar should be limited or not eaten.
LISTEN TO YOUR CRAVINGS
Our bodies are sending us messages through discomfort or food cravings that need to be decoded. Trust your body and listen to your cravings as your new BFF. We may crave certain foods such as sugar when we are dissatisfied with a relationship, feel bored, stressed, or uninspired. Do you need a hug, a pleasant walk, a glass of water, or an apple with almond butter? Listen to your body as it tells you what you actually need.
Have you been spending too much time in front of a computer screen? Not been drinking enough water? Drinking too much wine? Messages are too important for us to ignore.
Some of my clients keep a craving journal; they rate their cravings from 1 to 10 and note their thoughts and type of cravings they are having. The first step is awareness of these cravings and thinking about why we may be having them. Cravings are not the problem – Listen to what your body is telling you!
We have been taught to believe that our inability to stick with a diet is our fault, a flaw in our body and our will. When we give in to our cravings, many feel guilty and worthless. Cravings are not weaknesses. In reality, they are important messages meant to help us maintain balance. It all comes down to trusting our bodies instead of thinking of our cravings as an enemy to be ignored. Think of a craving as a best friend telling you a secret.
FEEL THE DIFFERENCE IN WHAT YOU EAT
Studies suggest that we think differently when we eat meat, eat broccoli, drink coffee, drink alcohol or eat sugar. Our food goes into our stomach, and as it gets digested, it gets absorbed into our blood. Our blood is what creates our cells, our tissues, our organs, even our thoughts. So both research and personal experience both demonstrate that what we eat affects how we think and how we act.
Stop and think for a moment about how you feel throughout the day. Do you sometimes feel like you have brain fog and are tired after lunch? Are you angry and irritable between meals? Or maybe you’re energized by a great meal? Feel the difference in the moods that prompt you to eat certain kinds of foods. What is your mood craving?
The Standard American Diet (SAD) is high in processed carbs and poor-quality animal meat while lacking in vegetables and water. SAD leaves many people in a bad mood. It’s hard to feel inspired and happy when you’re living on chemical, artificial junk food. Many nutritionists refer to this relationship as the law of malnutrition. Someone could be overweight, but also malnourished.
People want to be lifted out of a bad mood (and gain energy), but the irony is that these foods are a big part of the problem. When your blood sugar goes up, you get that “woo-hoo” good feeling, but then it crashes down, and you are in a vicious cycle since you need to eat more to feel the temporary good. Starting today, with an action plan and support, you can get off this sugar rollercoaster for good.
Each person’s food sensitivity varies; this is called Bio-individuality. A certain food could be good for one person than for another person, food can act like a poison. Every single person I have health coached is different; most people need to drink more water, eat more veggies, sleep more, move move, but when it comes to behavior change and to truly figure out which foods are best for you, each person is different. It is amazing and an honor to help people feel good in their own bodies – maybe to get rid of anxiety, stop binge eating or reduce pain in their body. They have the freedom to choose foods that will nourish them and live the full life they have always imagined.
DRINK MORE WATER
Most people are chronically dehydrated. We often mistake thirst for hunger. The first sign of dehydration is thirst, so we need to be listening to our body’s signals.
Crowding out, one of the central concepts taught at the Institute of Integrative Nutrition, occurs when you add certain foods to your diet to crowd out the unhealthy cravings. An example is drinking more water and eating more greens to help control cravings. A good measure of how much water you should drink per day is to take your body weight divided by two and change to ounces. For example, if you weigh 160 pounds, then around 80 ounces of water would be the right place to start. The amount of water will probably increase if you are exercising or out in the heat. Studies show that people who drink two glasses of water before meals feel fuller and eat less.
Our body naturally detoxes overnight, but we tend not to drink enough water to flush those toxins out. I recommend to my clients to drink a full glass upon waking, anytime they feel hungry (before snacks) and around 20-30 minutes before each meal.
If you’re not used to drinking water regularly, try initially replacing just one of your other drinks (such as a sugary drink or coffee) with a glass of fresh water.
Keep a check on your urine. As a guide, it should be plentiful, pale in color and odorless.
Have fun with your water add fresh mint, berries, cucumbers, lemon or essential oils to add more flavor. Most people drink cold water, but you can mix it up and drink hot water with fresh lemon or fresh ginger. This is my go-to drink when I wake up in the morning — such a perfect way to start the day!
Drink green or herbal tea and experiment with the different flavors. Does anyone have any favorite herbal teas that have a natural sweetness to them? I love licorice tea or any tea blend with licorice for when I am craving sweets.
With my clients, we determine a good strategy to add more water to their diet. Everyone is different, so experiment to see what works for you. Some people use water phone apps, some use a form and check off boxes, others pour their estimated water amount into a few containers and put a time on each water bottle as a goal for when it needs to be empty. A simple strategy could be to start with eight rubber bands on a drinking glass and take one off each time you refill.
GIVE YOURSELF A BREAK & DISTRACT YOURSELF
Be patient and wait 20 minutes to evaluate what you are truly craving. It may not be food!
Do something active to distract your brain and those crazy cravings such as taking a walk, playing a game, or cleaning (preferably not the kitchen).
If you are at work, see if you can take a real break and go outside and disengage from work. You may be stressed or sitting for too long… and taking care of your mental health must be a priority.
After the 20-minute active break, if you are indeed hungry, you will be mindful of choosing a nutrient-dense snack instead of a sugar-loaded carb. A glass of water and an apple with a small handful of nuts & maybe some jerky is my favorite go-to snack and easy to pack along with you for whatever kind of day you may have planned.
Let’s get you started on a meal plan that will really help your family to thrive as you come off the sugar. Give my 5-day Whole Foods Reset a try. You’ll learn so much about proper nutrition and feeding your body the right way.
Have an amazing day!