I have to admit something, and you might think I’m a smug POS for saying so, but I don’t get sugar cravings. In fact, I don’t crave any particular food group. That’s not to say I don’t eat sweets or indulge in the finer things in life (I do). But on a day-to-day basis it never strikes me to seek out chocolates or candy. When I do eat sweets, it’s usually situational–a shared dessert with friends or a giant chocolate chip cookie my boyfriend brought for the two of us.
At the end of the day I can take or leave sugary foods.
I wasn’t always like that though. I used to crave chocolate and desserts regularly. And cookies…omg. But somewhere along the way things changed. Sugar stopped having a pull over me. The spell was broken.
However, for many that spell persists. So many times I’ve heard my friends and peers say, “I have a sweet tooth” or “I need to have something sweet at night.” And it’s common knowledge that over-consumption of sugar is a huge issue in the USA. It wreaks havoc on our bodies and is often compared to hard drugs in terms of its addictive properties and effects on the brain. But hey, at least you can’t snort sugar.
So how do you quit the cookies? Kick the cake? Boot the brownies? Shrug the sugar?
Before I get into tactics, some basics. First of all, drink water. Seriously, this is one of the easiest ways to curb your sugar habit without having to go through a whole process. A lot of the time when we crave sugar we are actually dehydrated. Drink 8 to 16 oz of water, wait 15 minutes and see how you feel. Second, do a body scan. Are you reeeaaallly craving something sweet or are you just bored or stressed? Is your body telling you, “NEED SUGAR NOW” or “Eh, I feel uncomfortable because x, y, z and sugar is a pleasant distraction.”? If it’s the latter, find a replacement for the sugar. Go for a walk, drink some tea, call a friend.
As for more detailed methods to detox from sugar, there’s two ways I’ll discuss. The first is the harder one, and that’s to stop consuming added sugar cold turkey. I did this back in 2011. This is really my preferred method, but depending on how addicted you are to sugar, it might not be a realistic option. If you would like to give it a shot, it’s pretty straight forward. No soda, candies, baked desserts, JUICE or anything with added sugar. Make sure you check labels because sugar is in damn near everything. And pro tip: any ingredient ending in -ose (fructose, sucralose, etc) is a sugar. Keep naturally sweetened foods (like fruit) to one or two servings a day. Do it for at least two weeks, but a month is preferable.
It sucks at first. You might get a headache or feel tired and irritable. That’s normal, and it will pass after about a week. Once your month is up you should feel confident that sugar is something you don’t NEED. At this point you can start to reintroduce little treats–no more than one serving and it shouldn’t be every day lest you slip back into old habits.
The second and usually more desirable method is to wean yourself off sugar. You slowly start to reduce, replace and remove sweetened foods. This 3R method requires you to take a close look at your eating habits. Where are you consuming sugar and how can you reduce the amount? Do you have ice cream after dinner every night? Half it. If dark chocolate is your thing, eat two squares instead of half the bar. Drinking several cans or glasses of soda a day? Start by drinking one less can, then after a week take out another serving until you are down to one or none a day. You can also use diet soda as a replacement, but in my opinion it’s better to remove it altogether as the artificial sweetener still feeds your sugar craving.
This method is all about portion control. You still get to taste sweet, just in increasingly smaller amounts.
The next step is to replace certain sweets. Are there certain treats that are perfunctory for you? That you could do without? Switch ’em out. For example, instead of having a mid-day candy snack, eat fruits or nuts instead. I know that blueberries or an orange are way less appealing than Snickers, but you will feel so much better afterwards. And remember, you still get to have your reduced-portion snack at some other point in the day.
Finally, pick something to remove. My recommendation for this one is to give up drinking your calories/sugar. Are you having a glass of OJ with your breakfast? Remove it and drink water instead. (Seriously, juice is loaded with sugar and empty calories and is not healthy for you at all. AT ALL. I don’t even mix my vodka with it.)
The idea behind the 3R method is that over time you reduce your cravings for sugar without the withdraws that come with going cold turkey. And since you know that you still get to have a little bit of sweetness, you avoid the scarcity/deprivation mindset that leads to binging. However, if sugar is a trigger food for you and you feel that you can’t control yourself around it, then cold turkey might be a better option.
This might sound like obvious advice, but it takes a concerted effort. If you consume a lot of sugar, giving it up is not something that’s going to happen on its own or by accident.
And on a side note, since I’m all about mindset, I want to talk about breaking up with sugar. When you hear people talk about sweets, it sounds like a torrid love affair. They love this substance deeply, but they know it’s bad for them and has negative effects on their life, yet they can’t quit it. If you listen closely you can discern that they don’t even really want to give it up. Sugar is seen as such a reward and pleasurable experience that they can’t imagine their life without it. It’s as if a life without sugar is a life without satisfaction. (To be clear, you don’t have to live without it.) If you want to be successful in reining in your sugar addiction, you have to let go of those thoughts.
Yes, sugar tastes great. If your mouth could have an orgasm it surely would whenever you bit into your favorite dessert. But it’s not worth the crash, the free radicals it releases into your body or the weight it adds to your belly. There is life after sugar. Imagine being able to NOT CARE about donuts or cake or chocolate? To me, that is freedom. Stop giving power to sugar; let go of your need for it. Break up with it and DO YOU!
Great article & excellent advice. I don’t have a sweet tooth either but there are several items in my diet that could certainly benefit from the use of the 3Rs.
Thank you, Sean! We all have our vices 😉