Tips to help you quit sugar
It’s #Sugarfreeseptember at the moment. I’m not sure where that started but it’s all over social media and of course I’ve jumped on board because I’ve had first hand experience of the benefits of going sugarfree, as described here AND here.
If you are going sugar free for the first time, I highly recommend Sarah Wilson’s I Quit Sugar 8 Week Program. You can sign up for the full program, or just buy her book, and DIY using that as a guide, as I did the first time around. Some of the things I learnt through that experience are now fully ingrained.
And best of all, in Australia at least, we are blessed with a wealth of resources and support, including new sugar free food coming on to the market and recipes all over the internet for how to live sugarfree. So get googling and get inspired.
Ok enough preamble. Here are my Top Tips for going sugar free! (I was going to to do a Top 10 but found I couldn’t stop writing… )
Tips for giving up sugar
- Quit sugar with the help of a guide like the I Quit Sugar book (you can buy it as an eBook or hard copy here). When you start to look around and read labels, it’s remarkable how insidiously sugar has invaded almost every processed food we buy. By weaning off foods that have sugar added, we do start to ‘detox’ and lessen the cravings. Eating sugar just makes you want more.
- Giving up sugar is easy if you don’t buy it. It’s that simple. If it’s not in the house, you can’t eat it, unless you go out to buy it. Some cravings are strong enough to send you out the door, in your pyjamas at midnight in the middle of a hurricane to the nearest shops (believe me I know), but most can be dealt with by just putting as many obstacles as possible between you and that food.
- Similarly, don’t look at it. This might sound odd, but I know for me, I’m far more likely to want cake, biscuits etc, once I’ve laid eyes on them. At my work we often have sweet food in the kitchen that colleagues have brought in, or left over trays of catering from meetings. When an email goes around the office telling us to help ourselves, I just avoid, avoid, avoid. If I can’t see it, I’m far less likely to want it. Similarly, when I’m in catered meetings, I sit as far away from the trays of food as I can, and – this sounds really silly – sometimes don’t wear my glasses so it’s even harder to see.
- Drinking licorice tea really helps me stop eating sugar. This stuff is quite amazing. It tastes beautifully sweet and has gotten me through many afternoons where I would otherwise be reaching for the lollies. Make sure you buy one that’s just pure licorice root. In Australia, the Twinings ‘Comforting Licorice’ is really good, and you should be able to find it in any health food shop and most supermarkets.
- Replace sugar in your tea/coffee with sugar alternatives like natvia or stevia. I don’t recommend artificial sweeteners – they just don’t taste as good and it seems silly to go for chemicals when there are herbal sweeteners now so easily available.
- Indulge in other sugar free food. This might mean not counting calories for a while, which can be a scary prospect if this is how you’ve been primarily trying to lose weight. If you would normally reach for the sweet finger food options, load up on cheese instead. Obviously if you’ve got a cholesterol or gall bladder issue, fatty food is going to be a problem, but otherwise, a few weeks of extra cheese or potato chips instead of sugar won’t do much damage. Too many people decide they’re going to ‘quit sugar’ at the same time as cutting out all fried food, dairy, gluten, etc and that’s madness in my opinion as it fails to take into account the psychological relationship we have with food. Baby steps kids!
- Have fun with healthy sugar substitutes. It’s not too difficult to find ‘sugarfree’ branded sweets, chocolates, etc in supermarkets or speciality stores or online. In most cases this means they’re sweetened with stevia (a herb), and/or some maltitol or another of the sugar alcohols. An indirect ‘benefit’ is that these sugar alternatives can be hard to digest, so you actually can’t binge on sugarfree chocolate, even if you wanted to… you’ll spend the rest of the night on the toilet. I’ve written up a guide to sugar replacements here. For the Australians, the ‘Well Naturally’ sugar-free dark chocolate, in the health food aisle of any supermarket, is delicious. It tastes every bit as rich and creamy as ordinary dark chocolate, I think.
- Get creative with sugar free meals in the kitchen. I’ve been having fun lately with sugarfree and glutenfree baking. For a while I resisted this because I was concerned I would binge anyway if I had a whole batch of freshly baked muffins sitting around the kitchen, but I’m slowly learning that when your food is nutrient dense, you just don’t want/need more. I could easily eat a dozen nutritionally empty chocolate biscuits, but could never eat a dozen home-made sugarfree cupcakes. Well maybe I could… but I would be far less likely to. Is a sugarless diet a joyless one? No! There are so many websites out there with creative home cooks who are doing amazing things in the kitchen, it seems unfair to name just a few, but here are the ones I’m enjoying so far:
- Try chromium supplements. Chromium is a mineral that helps insulin do its job in maintaining regular blood sugar levels. I started taking the supplements a while ago and have definitely noticed it helps me stop eating sugar. The one I take is Herbs of Gold Chromium Max. I’m not sure how widely available that particular one is, but you’ll be able to find something similar in a health food shop. Also talk to your doctor or naturopath about it before you start.
- Get tapping! I’ve been raving about tapping, also known as Emotional Freedom Technique since reading Jessica Ortner’s The Tapping Solution for Weight Loss and Body Confidence. I’ve written up a book review you might like to read here. So often our sugar cravings aren’t physical at all, or at least it starts as an emotional need we might fail to recognise, which quickly turns into a physical one. Even if you’re a sceptic like I was, I highly recommend you get yourself a copy of the book and when cravings strike, just try tapping yourself out of them.
- Indulge occasionally. After being sugarfree for a few weeks you’ll find fruit tastes incredibly sweet and even more delicious, so a big fruit salad smothered in cream (real cream please, none of that nasty artificial rubbish) satisfies any craving. And don’t fret about the fat in the cream (unless you have a health issue as I mentioned earlier in which case don’t take any of my suggestions without talking to your doctor first). Fat isn’t the enemy.
- Be kind to yourself. One of my favourite little pictures is this one:
We’re all human and fallible, and the longer I’m on this path of trying to improve my health and my relationship with food, the more acutely aware I am that some of the beliefs we hold about food are really deeply ingrained from childhood. Unpacking that takes a long time. Food = comfort, and if you give in to a craving to comfort yourself sometimes, or just because you’re out with a group of friends who are all enjoying cake and you don’t want to be the odd one out, then who cares? I think the 80:20 rule applies here. Eating sugar free is an aspirational goal, so have fun working towards it, and don’t police yourself so heavily that it all falls in a heap and you dive nose first into a never-ending pit of chocolate covered despair.