Do you feel out of control when it comes to eating sugar? Sugar does change your brain chemistry and can drive compulsive behavior. You can go on a 30-day detox from the “sugar dragon” by doing a Whole30.
Afterward, use these steps to remain free of this dragon…
#1. Dump the sugar at home and work
Get the sugar out of your house and personal work space. Science shows that the more you have to work for it, the less inclined you are to eat it.
Tip: You do not HAVE to eat someone else’s sugar, if offered to you at work or events. YOU get to decide what you ingest, and you don’t have to take care of others’ feelings about you saying “no thank you, I am off sugar.”
#2. Nix fake sweeteners and sugar substitutes
Cut out aspartame, sucralose, saccharine, xylitol, malitol, sorbitol, and even stevia, since these can make you desire sweet food. This study found a link between increased consumption of the fake stuff and weight gain.
#3. Get your sweet taste from real food
When sugar and fake sugar are out of your system, you will really appreciate the sweet taste in real food, especially fruit. Cooked root vegetables are sweet as well, such as carrots, parsnips, beets, sweet potatoes and yams. Winter squashes are also sweet. Dates and applesauce are nature’s sweetener.
#4. Develop strategies for triggers
Triggers are situations that make you want sugar. They could be a place, a time of day, a social event, or a mood. This is potentially the hardest category because it involves changing automatic behaviors. This takes consciousness.
If the trigger is emotional, it’s more complex. These behaviors often develop in childhood. Ask yourself what you are really looking for? Are you seeking to escape a feeling? Let your uncomfortable feelings exist without dictating your actions – they will go away. Comfort? Think of other ways to get comfort.
Tips for seeking comfort or pleasure: Find substitute “treats” such as bubbly water with lemon, herbal tea, a bowl of berries. Or it could be an activity, like going for a walk, cuddling with a pet, taking a bath or shower, exercising, being in nature, physical contact, watching or reading something that makes you laugh or feel good, talking to a friend, meditating.
#5. Commit to getting back on track
If you end up eating sugar, whether by choice or compulsion, forgive yourself and move right on! Get back on Whole30 (or simply off sugar) for a few days to reset. You’re human, and humans by nature go off track with their behaviors. It doesn’t mean that you’re bad, nor does it mean you let the sugar dragon back in on a permanent basis.
Tips: Journal about this experience. Write a list of reasons why you broke up with sugar, that you can refer to. It could include a selfie of how you look when you feel out of control. Talk to supportive people. We need other people to help us heal and change.
#6. Eat a protein-driven breakfast
Have plenty of protein for breakfast, at least 4 – 6 ounces. A protein-driven breakfast sets your blood sugar stability for the day, reduces sugar cravings, and sustains you better and longer. Breakfasts that are carbohydrate/sugar driven are less sustaining and may cause midmorning sugar crashes. For example, if you have pancakes with syrup in the morning, you may initially feel full and satiated, then shortly later feel hungry, shaky, or sleepy.
#7. Find ways to dial down your stress
Stress hormones can cause blood sugar instability and sugar cravings. Stress can also cause emotional eating. Reduce your stress in the ways that you can, and then find ways to manage your stress so that you actually change your perception of stress and your reaction to it. Read more about ways to do this here and here.
#8. Get enough sleep every night
Most people need eight hours of sleep per night, if not more. Not getting enough sleep can increase your sugar cravings! It affects hormones that control your appetite (leptin and ghrelin), and it can also raise the stress hormone cortisol. This combination makes you more susceptible to urges and cravings. If you are physically tired during the day, you may crave sugar as a pick-me-up.
When do have your strongest sugar cravings? Many people have them towards the end of the day. Research shows that sugar cravings are tied to your circadian rhythm and sleep patterns. If you don’t sleep on a regular schedule, or if you’re not getting enough quality sleep, your sugar cravings can intensify. Learn more about sleep here.
#9. Keep emergency food
Often sugar cravings occur because you are hungry or thirsty! Make sure you have access to emergency food or snacks if you go for long stretches between meals. Ideally snacks should contain protein and fat, and not carbohydrates alone.
#10. Take magnesium and vitamin D
It’s common for women to be deficient in one or both of these nutrients, which can have an effect on sugar cravings.
If you crave chocolate, which is high in magnesium, it could be a sign that you need magnesium. Magnesium is a very common nutrient deficiency, because it’s low in our soil today. Research shows chocolate cravings may be common among people deficient in magnesium. Learn all about magnesium and women here.
According to research, If your vitamin D is low, the hormone that turns on your appetite (leptin) may also be low. This means you could feel hungry all the time. It’s easy to test your vitamin D levels with simple blood work.
#11 Use herbs and supplements
Some supplements can help reduce cravings. My favorite ones include:
- Crave Arrest™ uses amino acid precursors to serotonin and dopamine.
- Digestive bitters counteract the sweet taste and improve digestion.
- Gymnema (must taste it) is a digestive bitter helpful for those with insulin resistance.
- Endotrim (kills cravings, appetite, and helps weight loss)!
- A taste of glutamine, in powder form, nixes cravings.
I welcome your input below!