Sugar is everywhere. It’s in our food, our drinks, it’s added to nearly everything and it’s little wonder that sugar addiction is such a prevalent problem these days. If you’re someone who’s struggling with sugar addiction, know that you’re not alone, and it’s not your fault. Millions of people are trying to kick their sugar habits for good. The great news is that a sugar addiction can be overcome, and people go on to live a healthier, happier life. Please read on to learn the 10 steps to help you detox from sugar:
1. Know what sugar is doing to you
If you’re concerned that sugar might be a problem for you, the first step to wrapping your mind around a sugar detox, is to increase your awareness of what sugar is doing to your body and how it might be affecting your life. Before you can accept the need to quit sugar, you must have awareness of what sugar is doing to you. Is it problematic to your life? Is it affecting your work, your relationships, or your health? Once you have gained this awareness, it becomes easier to accept that you may have a problem with sugar and need to make the necessary changes to improve your life. Ignorance is not bliss when it comes to addiction; knowledge is power.
If you’re not sure, start by keeping a food journal and recording how you feel after eating sugary foods. Do you get a sugar high followed by an energy crash? Do you feel tired, irritable or moody after eating sugary foods? Are you suffering from joint pain, inflammation, brain fog, have increased hunger and reduced satiety from food, an increase in blood pressure, weight gain along with difficulty in reducing weight, strong cravings, insomnia, lethargy, depression, type 2 diabetes?
If any of these ailments resonate with you, then it’s likely that sugar is having a negative impact on your health.
2. Acknowledgement and Acceptance
It’s so easy to get wrapped up in the taste of sugar, the emotional ties we attach to foods and the fear of missing your favourite treats, thereby overlooking the potential damage it’s doing to your body. And many people still think that quitting sugar is just a matter of willpower. But the truth is, it’s so much more than that. Quitting sugar is a process, and it doesn’t happen overnight, but if you’re open to making some changes, it’s very achievable.
Acknowledging you have a problem is a crucial step to quitting sugar. It can be difficult to come to terms with the fact that you have a problem with sugar and you need to cut it out, but it is essential to your recovery. Once you have acknowledged the problem, you can begin to accept it and work on making changes. Acceptance is another important component to quitting sugar, as it allows you to let go of your attachment to the substance. Instead of seeing sugar as something that brings you joy and you need it in your life, you can view it as something that is causing harm and bringing pain into your life. This shift in perspective can be instrumental in helping you make the decision to cut sugar out for good. You must be honest with yourself about how much sugar you’re eating and what impact it’s having on your body and be stronger than the excuses you tell yourself why you are eating those foods. Once you’re able to do that, you can start to make changes.
3. Write a list of why
It is important to have a clear understanding of why you are undertaking this endeavour. You need to be able to articulate your reasons to yourself and others in order to stay motivated and on track. Our “why” is the motivating factor that drives us to take action and see things through, even when the going gets tough. When we know why we’re doing something, we’re more likely to stick with it and persevere, because we’re connected to a larger purpose. When your resolve is being tested, referring to your list of why will help you remember all the things you are trying to avoid and help you stay on track.
First, start with a blank sheet of paper, notebook, journal or open up a new document on your computer. Then, take a few moments to think about what you want to accomplish and what you hope to achieve by quitting sugar? Start to jot down a list of reasons why you want to achieve those goals. Be as specific as possible and hone in on the pain points. What is sugar doing to you, how does it make you feel and what do you want to feel instead. Write it all down and refer to the list often, especially in times when you think a little treat won’t hurt, or you are seeking a pick me up in the form of food – look at the list of why and remember what sugar does to you.
4. Read food labels carefully
Often processed foods contain a long list of “ingredients”, and many of them are unfamiliar to us. Unfortunately, food manufacturers are tricky and they use other names for sugar in order to deceive consumers. If you see any of the following words, it’s a good indication that sugar is present: glucose, fructose, sucrose, honey, molasses, corn syrup, fruit juice concentrate, and more. Also be on the lookout for “sugar alcohols” like sorbitol and xylitol, which are often used in sugar-free or low-calorie products. If sugar is one of the first few ingredients listed, it’s likely that the product contains a significant amount of sugar. Also know that “natural” or “organic” sugars are still sugars. So even if a product claims to be healthy, it’s important to read the label carefully to make sure that sugar isn’t sneakily hiding inside.
5. Clear out the pantry and fridge
It’s now time to get real and let go of the packaged and processed foods containing sugar, and that means the next step to kicking sugar is to do a pantry and fridge clean-out. Remove all foods that contain sugar, including obvious offenders like lollies/candy and soft drinks/soda, as well as sneaky sources like tomato sauces/ketchup, salad dressing, and health food bars.
However, simply throwing them away can feel like a waste. If you’re mindful of waste and can’t bring yourself to bin the food, there are a few other options, you could give the food to a neighbour or donate to a food bank. If other people are in the house who will continue to eat these foods, see if you can store them out of your eyesight and ask that these foods are consumed elsewhere. Once the sugary foods are gone, you’ll be less likely to reach for them when you’re feeling tired or emotional.
6. Get ready for the naysayers
It can be tough going against the grain and doing something different from what everyone else is doing. Change is never easy, and it’s often met with resistance. And it makes sense, our brains are wired to resist change. Mirror neurons allow us to instinctively imitate the behaviour of those around us, and our primitive brain is constantly telling us to do what everyone else is doing in order to stay safe. People who are resistant to change often do so out of fear – fear of the unknown, fear of failure, or fear of not being accepted. People will try to hold you back, but don’t let them. Change can be scary, but it’s also exciting and full of possibility. So when you decide to strike out on your own and do something different, be prepared for the naysayers, unfortunately, not everyone will be supportive of your decision to detox from sugar. They may not understand your decision at first, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t follow your plan. Be prepared for people to try and tempt you or convince you to give up your detox. Stay strong, look at your list of why and remember your goals. After all, you’re the only one who knows what’s best for you.
7. Know the difference between physical hunger and head cravings
Head cravings generally come on suddenly, and they’re often intense. You may feel like you need a certain food right now, and nothing else will do. Cues and triggers tell our addiction brain to eat the thing and eat it right now. Physical hunger comes on slowly and builds, and it’s not a big deal if you don’t need to eat immediately. Pay attention the next time you are hungry and observe yourself. How does it feel? Are you really physically hungry, or is there something else going on? If you can learn to identify your head cravings, you will be one step closer to conquering them.
8. Stay properly hydrated
Water plays many important roles in the body including oxygen delivery to cells, lubricates joints, improves cell to cell communication, cushions bones and joints, transports nutrients, empowers the body’s natural healing process, enables digestive process, moistens oxygen for breathing, removes wastes and flushes toxins. When you’re trying to detox from sugar, one of the most important things you can do is to stay properly hydrated. Make sure to get adequate electrolytes in your water. Three of the major electrolytes are potassium, sodium and magnesium, but others include calcium, chloride and phosphate. Signs of inadequate electrolytes include cramps, dizziness, irregular heartbeat and brain fog.
Water is crucial for life and probably the most under estimated nutrient essential for health and wellbeing, however knowing and sourcing the most optimal form of water can be over complicated and confusing when presented with such a myriad of options of water in today’s market. Mineral rich mountain water run off is the optimal source of water, but quite unrealistic to attain access to for most of us today, so the second best option and one that is more readily available to most, is filtered tap water. In order to maintain good hydration, avoid diuretic beverages such as coffee, caffeinated teas as well as some herbal teas such as peppermint, soft drinks, alcoholic beverages and packaged fruit juices.
9. Have a plan for when life gets in the way
There’s no denying that sugar is everywhere, and unfortunately, it’s not always easy to avoid. Whether it’s a birthday party or the holidays, there will be times when you’re faced with temptation. The important thing is to have a plan in place for how you’ll deal with these situations. This could involve bringing your own food, avoiding certain trigger foods, or having a backup plan on how you’ll deal with these situations.
We’ve all been there before, the stress of the day gets on top of us and we find ourselves running late. Whether we miss the evening train or get caught in traffic, it can be easy to let these stressful situations derail our resolve. However, life is full of stressful situations, both at work and at home. By having clean, prepared meals ready in the freezer, we can avoid resorting to unhealthy fast food options. And by taking a different route home, we can avoid tempting ourselves with our favourite unhealthy snacks. You might be feeling ill or have sick kids to take care of, no matter the stressor, that’s why it’s so important to always be planning ahead and by always being prepared, we can protect ourselves from making bad choices when we’re under stress. The most important thing is to be prepared. By having a plan, you’ll be more likely to stick to your goals and avoid falling off the sugar-free wagon.
10. Pick a date and start
Once you’ve made the decision to detox from sugar, emptied your shelves of sugary treats and shopped for clean whole food, it’s time to take action. Pick a date and start. It may seem daunting, but starting is half the battle. Once you’ve made the decision, choose a date and stick to it. The first few days will be the hardest, but it will get easier with time. Be patient and remember why you’re doing this detox. After a few days, you’ll start to feel better and have more energy.
Checking in with yourself is important for assessing how you’re feeling both mentally and physically. This can be done periodically throughout the day or week, and it doesn’t have to be a formal process. Simply taking a few moments to reflect on your current state can be beneficial. Once you’ve checked in with yourself, it’s important to celebrate the milestones-both big and small, in a way that doesn’t necessarily involve food. Sometimes, the simplest things can be the most meaningful. Maybe you want to take a relaxing bath, buy yourself a new book, or call a friend just to chat. Whatever makes you happy, make sure to give yourself some time to enjoy it. Dedicating even just a few minutes each day to celebrating your accomplishments can make a big difference in your overall wellbeing.
Detoxing from sugar can be difficult, but it’s definitely worth it. By following these 10 steps, you’ll be on your way to a healthier, happier life. And remember, taking small steps each day is the key to success. If you’d like help to start your detox journey and assistance with preparing a food plan, please contact me at Pauline@nextstophappy.com.
Pauline Atchison (Functional Nutritional Therapy Practitioner) www.nextstophappy.com
Names of Refined Sugar. Blood Sugar Regulation. Nutritional Therapy Association Inc.
Hydration. NTA Student Lecture, 2020 Nutritional Therapy Association Inc.
Water, Hydration and Health. Barry M. Popkin, Kristen E. D’Anci, Irwin H. Rosenberg
Nutr Rev. Author manuscript; available in PMC 2011 Aug 1.
Published in final edited form as: Nutr Rev. 2010 Aug; 68(8): 439–458. doi: 10.1111/j.1753-4887.2010.00304.x
The Last Resort Sugar Detox Guide (M. Collins) 2021
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