You know it’s bad for you and your weight loss efforts. Research studies prove it, your doctor tells you to cut back, and even your mother might have told you to not eat so many sweets when you were growing up. But weaning yourself off sugar isn’t easy. All is not lost though, because there is a definite way to successfully wean yourself off sugar and, as a result, eat a healthier diet that will help you lose weight.
Decide What Sugar Is Acceptable
Not all sugars are bad. Naturally occurring sugars in fruits, vegetables, and other whole food products are generally fine. It’s the refined sugars that you need to avoid for your health and your weight loss success.
When avoiding refined sugars, which are most often found in processed foods, read the label of each food carefully to make sure the manufacturer hasn’t added sugar to the recipe.
Look for words on the ingredient list that end in –ose or –rin, such as dextrose and maltodextrin, any type of cane or rice syrup, maple syrup, corn sugar, and fruit juice of any kind. Don’t purchase or eat those foods.
Taper Off Forbidden Sugars
I recommend using a step-by-step instead of a cold turkey approach to weaning off sugar. It’s really hard to just give up sugar completely, especially if you are accustomed to eating a lot of sugar.
Here’s the order I recommend when weaning off sugar.
1. Get rid of refined sugars in processed foods first. Pick one or two products each week to eliminate from your diet to make the transition easier:
– Most fruit drinks
– Some yogurt and dairy products
– Regular sodas
– Bread products
– Pasta (some varieties)
– Crackers and some varieties of chips
– Granola bars (some types)
2. Eliminate the use of white sugar in drinks like coffee or tea. This can be a difficult step; however, it is necessary. Over time you will get used to drinking it plain.
3. Stop adding sugar to fruits and vegetables. Believe it or not, I used to add sugar to fruit all the time and doused sweet potatoes with brown sugar. If this is one of your habits, stop it gradually. Fruit is sweet all by itself and definitely doesn’t need to be enhanced with white or brown sugar.
4. If you must sweeten fruit or drinks, use a bit of honey. Be sparing because although honey does have some nutrients, it is still sugar.
Have a Plan for Sugar Cravings
Weaning yourself off sugar is going to take at least six weeks. That’s about how long it takes for cravings to really subside.
During those weeks of avoiding refined sugars and eliminating added sugar, you are going to want something sugary and may feel tempted to give up on your desire to wean yourself off sugar.
Don’t give up. Those cravings are normal. You might wonder why those cravings occur at all. After all, if you give up carrots you don’t crave them all the time. At least I wouldn’t.
Researchers doing work on what sugar does to the brains of mice found that sugar has an addictive quality and acts on the brain in a similar manner to drugs. They surmised this might be similar in humans. It makes sense that you are going to experience cravings when eliminating most sugars from your diet.
When the cravings strike, try one of the following to fight them off until they pass:
– Eat some fruit.
– Drink something hot.
– Have a large glass of water splashed with lemon or lime juice.
Just don’t give in. The longer you can go without sugar the less you will crave it and the less palatable it will be if you do eat sugar again. For me, sugary foods taste too sweet, whereas in the past no food was sweet enough.
Don’t Start Eating Sugar Again
Once you have successfully weaned yourself off sugar, don’t start eating it again. It will take no time at all for you to be right back where you started, and that’s the last thing you want to happen.
When faced with temptation, remind yourself to say “no” to sweet foods at social events, have healthy alternatives in your home and office, and remember how long it took you to wean off sugar in the first place.