According the National Institutes of Health (NIH), we’re consuming 3 pounds of sugar each week. That’s 22 teaspoons every day with the average teenager having 34 teaspoons daily, if not more. This drastic jump in consumption from years ago is not only behind the staggering rise in obesity, but is one of the main reasons why so many of us are suffering with illnesses, conditions, depression, and even disease. Is it as simple as saying that a major step toward improving our body and health means removing sugar from our diets? Many people living their best and healthiest lives yet will happily tell you yes.
Ready to see for yourself? Here are 10 steps to break your sugar addiction.
1. Get Educated and Committed: Knowing what sugar is doing to your body and your health can help jumpstart your success. When you understand exactly how your sugar addiction has been chipping away at your health as well as your waistline, you’ll be fueling your motivation to kick sugar to the curb. You’ll also understand where some of those aches, pains and ailments are most probably stemming from, giving you even more motivation to kick sugar from your diet.
2. Learn Your Labels: Learning the many names marketers and advertisers use to disguise sugar is a way to empower yourself as you transition away from sugar. Here are some different names for sugar you’ll want to steer clear of: high fructose corn syrup, any ingredient ending in “-ose,” honey, molasses, fruit juice concentrate, sucrose, corn sweetener and brown sugar. These are all forms of sugar that act just like regular, white, refined sugar in your body.
3. Assess Where Your Daily Sugar Intake is Coming From: Is it coming from sugar you’re adding to your drinks during the day, liquids like soda, juice or that late afternoon coffee concoction? Is it coming from refined sugars like sweets and treats or in carbs you’re having with meals? Keeping a food journal for a few days can show you exactly where and when you’re taking in excess sugar so you’ll know which areas to focus on.
4. Dump the Junk: While many eating, exercise and lifestyle habits work best when they’re slowly implemented, kicking your sugar addiction is typically easiest with the “cold turkey” approach. When sugar still has a place in your diet, sure you’re making progress but you remain mildly addicted. Crazy as it may seem, the same receptors that are triggered with drug use are triggered when eating sugar, so every “hit” of sugar keeps the cravings strong. So grab your garbage bag, head over to the cabinets and fridge, take a deep breath and dump… Bread, pasta, rice, bagels, waffles, pancakes, cookies, crackers, ice cream, oatmeal, juice, soda, artificial sweeteners (including products that contain artificial sweeteners like soda, yogurt and creamers), high sugar yogurt, jam, candy, fat free dairy/yogurt/milk, dried fruit, dates, figs and starchy carbs (corn, potatoes).
5. Stock Up On Healthy Substitutions: Now with a cleaned out kitchen, stock up on foods that will nourish, fuel and heal you. These foods are high-quality protein in the form of grass fed, hormone and free range beef and poultry, wild caught fish, nitrate/nitrite free cold cuts, cage-free organic eggs, organic dairy (if you eat dairy) or unsweetened coconut or almond milk, healthy shake mixes for an easy breakfast or snack, fresh low sugar fruit, plenty of fresh vegetables, healthy fats, herbs and spices.
6. Lose the Liquid Sugars and Obvious Refined Sugars First: Studies have found that soda is where the most added sugars in our diets are coming from. Research shows that the average person consumes 44.7 gallons of soda per person per year with fruit drinks accounting for 11.5 gallons per person per year. Those liquid calories add up at lightening speed, wreaking havoc on our bodies, health and so much more.
7. Kick the Carbs at Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner: It’s easier than you think when you create simple meals like shakes/smoothies, eggs/omelets, Greek yogurt with nuts for breakfast, lettuce wraps, soups or delicious salads with healthy protein for lunch, stir frys or protein with vegetables and healthy fats for dinner.
8. Strategize Your Trades to Transition Away From High Sugar Foods: For example, trade sugar (or artificial sweetener) in your coffee for stevia, trade a hamburger bun for lettuce leaves, trade spaghetti for spaghetti squash, trade high sugar fruits for low sugar fruits (e.g., bananas for blueberries), trade baking with flour for almond or coconut flour.
9. Pre-plan: Have what you need so you’re not at the mercy of whatever is available. To do this, shop online, cook extra on the weekend when you have extra time, and take what you need when you’re heading out for the day.
10. Get Support: Get the support you need to help keep you motivated, on track and accountable. Also, to those close to you who may be supporting your efforts, you may want to ask for a free pass for a day or two because you may not be at your “sweetest” during this transition.
Besides losing excess weight, what can you expect once you kick your sugar habit? Notice how much better you’re sleeping, how much more energy you have, how much easier it is to focus and think clearly. Take note of how much steadier your moods seem, how your cravings subside and the general sense of well-being you begin to feel. Notice how you start to appreciate real, whole fresh food, how much better your skin may look, how digestive symptoms may disappear and how much better your body feels and responds. Finally, appreciate the gift of health you’re giving to yourself as well as serving as a positive role model for those within your care and reach.