Giving up sugar is one of the greatest things that I have done to improve my health.
Quitting sugar was also one of the most difficult things I have done. Not just personally but for people around me too. There’s a sugar conspiracy in the UK. When I first started to say I didn’t eat refined sugar people tutted at me. It’s was as if not eating sugar made me less fun! Yet they don’t react in the same way when I say I’m gluten intolerant and don’t eat processed cakes! It’s as if making the choice to go sugar free is weird while realising eating gluten makes you ill is a legitimate reason to give it up. Well I realised that eating sugar did make me ill – just not in a medically approved way!
Sugar is addictive and most of us have been hooked on it since childhood. I’m a child of the 70’s when corn syrup hit the manufacturing industry as a cheap source of sweetener and “a finger of fudge was just enough to give your kids a treat!”
Making the decision to join the movement to give up sugar is the first step on a long, hard road. But I’m about to give you my top 10 tricks to help you succeed with your sugar free diet.
1. Just go for it
Don’t spend days planning to quit sugar tomorrow or next week. Just jump in. Do it right now.
There are loads of reasons (excuses) you can come up with as to why you should wait to start your sugar free diet. I know, I went through them all too – I have a Birthday party next week, there’ll be alcohol at a celebration on Friday, I still have a box of Thorntons in the cupboard I shouldn’t let them go to waste.
Stop right there. I can tell you for a fact: There will always be another excuse. You just have to do it and do it right now. Go into the pantry, take your beloved box of sugary cereal or sweet treats out and put them in the bin. If they’re un-opened donate them to your local Food Bank. They are killing you after all!
2. Be a label reader
Always, always – no matter how safe you think the food is that you’re buying – read the label. Thinking about trying that new sauce your best friend told you about for the first time? Read the label. Recipe calls for an ingredient you’ve never heard of? Read the label. Brand you don’t usually eat is on BOGOFF? Read the label.
I know, I’m repeating myself, but you really do have to take control into your own hands and being a label reader gives you the control back and allows you to quit sugar.
3. Take Time to Find Replacements
Write out your usual shopping list, but keep it double-spaced so you can make notes between the lines. As you throw things away check the label to see how much sugar they contained. If it’s high then use the space on your list to explore sugar free replacements when you’re out shopping and have time. Be a label reader.
4. Avoid ready made and processed foods
I know we are all time poor, so cooking from scratch can feel like it will eat into your evening but I’ve got this sussed. Most of the healthy living meals I create and which are in my weekly meal plans for anyone on my 30 days to Healthy Living Programme are ready in under 30 minutes. Many can be pre-made and reheated or assembled the night before and cooked when you come in. If you’d like to learn more about my healthy, ready in 30 minute meals – get in touch to see what the 30 days to Healthy Living programme is about.
Most ready meals, and pre-packed sauces are loaded with sugar and anything that says “diet” even more so as they replace fat with sugar to ensure it tastes good.
Stick to clean fruit and vegetables, meat and fish and you’ll know what you are buying is suitable for a lower sugar or sugar free diet.
5. Remember: It Only Takes Two Weeks
You heard me right. Two weeks of no sugar – I mean NO sugar – and you will find that you no longer crave it. Your taste buds and brain will change and you’ll kick the addiction. Yes, believe me this is an addiction and you’ll get all the symptoms of withdrawal. You’ll be irritable. You’ll likely have headaches. You’ll snap at people. You’ll be tired and lethargic.
But don’t cheat.
If you do, your addiction will reset and you’ll have to start your sugar-free two weeks all over from day one, and that is a waste of precious days of discipline.
6. Keep A Food Journal
I encourage everyone to record their thoughts and feelings with pen and paper. Make yourself a “Give Up Sugar” journal with at least fourteen pages – more if you’re going for this for good. You can have a countdown 14, 13, 12 – 1 etc or a count up 1-14 – whichever works best to motivate you to quit sugar.
Try to write in it at least once per day. When you have a rough day, write down what troubled you, how you felt and how you dealt with it. That way when you’re struggling with the urge to eat something sweet, you can look back and read just how hard you’ve been fighting against those cravings. This will motivate you to stay the course. If you journal the times when you are struggling and what has happened immediately before or afterwards you’ll be able to pick up on the patterns which drive your sugar cravings. For me I know I’ll snack when I’m bored, or if I’m putting off writing a big piece or starting something I think might be difficult. Learning more about yourself will help you hugely on your sugar free journey.
7. Plan It Out
You know it’s only going to be two weeks until this maddening sugar addiction releases its grip on you. I know I said just do it, but planning to do it on the day you just do it will really ensure your success. Write out every meal you’ll eat from day one to seven or day fourteen if you can and stick to it. When you buy food (read the labels) only buy what you need to make the things on your menu. My 30 days to healthy living plan provides menus and shopping lists to help make this easy for you (message me to find out more). Ignore everything else. Remember, you’re just like a recovering alcoholic. The object of your addiction is right there, prominently displayed and (conveniently) within reach. Ignore it.
It’s up to you to resist it. Having a plan will help.
8. Know how to find Hidden-Sugars
Once you’ve become a label reader you’ll be good at seeing through the manufacturers attempts to hide sugar. Some simple things to lookout for are:
“Low Fat” / “Reduced Fat” / “Fat Free”
Anything that should have fat in it, but has been manufactured to be fat free almost always has sugar added – usually in the form of high-fructose corn syrup. Why? Because fat tastes good. Taking it out makes food taste less good. Adding sugar makes it taste good again.
Ingredients ending in “ose” = sugar.
There are a lot of them and they all have different chemical structures, but they all have one thing in common. They’re all fancy words for sugar.
Glucose; fructose; dextrose; lactose; maltose – you get the idea.
Anything that says 0g sugar “per serving” is probably a lie.
If something says that it has 0g of sugar *per serving beware and check the serving size. You’ll generally find sugar somewhere in the ingredients list. If one serving contains less than a certain amount of sugar, companies are allowed to round down to 0. It’s dastardly, but it’s legal.
9. Indulge In “Safe” Foods to boost your mood
One of the quickest ways to get a mood boost when going sugar free is to eat foods which are mood boosting and naturally high in dopamine – the body’s natural “pleasure hormone”. Think spicy foods, chillies and curries, eggs, fish, well sourced meat, fruit, nuts, vegetables and green tea. A lot of our 30 days to healthy living recipes pick up on these things to help boost your mood and cut down on the symptoms of sugar withdrawal.
10. Get a partner
Most of us don’t like to do things on our own so getting a buddy to join you on your quest for sugar free living is a great idea. It will help you stay on track and support you in moments of indecision when you are hovering over a bounty bar! You might be able to convince yourself that you didn’t have a choice but admitting that to someone else may not be quite so easy and will keep your sugar free diet on track.
Find a friend, a co-worker, a relative, or even a total stranger online who shares your sugar-quitting ambitions. I regularly partner with people on my 30 days to healthy living programme and they send me daily updates which help them stay on track as well as interacting with our private Facebook group where other quitters can support and nurture you to success.
Talk to your partner as much as possible during your first two weeks of going sugar free and you will be much more likely to stay on track. I never said it was going to be easy, but the benefits of breaking this addiction will be worth it.
Are you ready to start a Sugar Free Journey?
Message me to find out how to join our 30 days to healthy living programme and kick start a new you.
This comprehensive program includes an elimination guide, healthy wholefood shakes to replace one or two meals a day, drinks and supplements to help with mental alertness and energy, a community Facebook page and support on your journey, weekly meal plans and shopping lists and so much more.