When it comes to success in our 6 Week Lifestyle Challenge, there's one thing that 100% needs to be kicked to the curb...and it's absolutely everywhere.
Sure you want to get leaner, but the problems caused by sugar aren't all about weight gain. A high sugar diet can increase your risk for heart disease, type 2 diabetes, arthritis and Alzheimers disease. It also contributes to the likelihood of developing mental health problems like depression and anxiety.
Sugar addiction is a REAL thing, and there have been studies that have found sugar stimulates the same reward circuits in the brain activated by cocaine and opioid drugs. And just like these drugs, your body gets used to sugar and eating more is the only way to get the same result.
So, removing sugar from your diet is obviously a good idea. But before doing that it's a good idea to know where we are all getting sugar from beside the usual suspects of cakes, cookies, and candy.
Sugar is also in almost all conventional (and even many natural) bread, canned vegetables, yogurt, pasta sauce, hummus, sauces, salad dressings, and unfortunately even baby food and baby formula. Educating yourself on all the different forms that sugar comes in on the ingredient list is a great start to build your road map of avoiding certain products.
REMEMBER, here are some sneaky ways to say sugar:
corn syrup solids
high fructose corn syrup
evaporated cane juice (crystals)
Now that that’s clear, let’s talk about the BREAK UP!
6 Steps to Kick the Sugar Habit.
Drinking Lots of Mineralised Water
1. Drink lots of mineralised water:
Mineral deficiency causes sweet cravings and purified or reverse osmosis water often doesn’t contain (enough) minerals. The purification or RO process does a great job getting out the bad stuff we don’t want, but unfortunately it can also filter out the trace minerals which are essential to fully hydrate us.
So, choose mineralised (not mineral) water whenever you can or if you drink RO water, pick up a bottle of essential trace minerals at your local health food store and add a few drops to each glass. A good general rule of thumb for water is to drink 20mL per kilogram of bodyweight daily.
Drinking enough of the right kind of water will slash cravings, boost energy, and do wonders for your digestive and immune system. Speaking of minerals, chromium is a wonderful mineral to use temporarily to stabilise blood sugar and stave off sugar cravings while detoxing.
They suggest 200mcg of chromium GTF (glucose tolerance factor) with both breakfast and lunch for 4-6 weeks.
Eat Sweet Potato
2. Eat Sweet Potato:
If you are a sugarholic, I challenge you to have 1 sweet potato with lunch everyday for five days and see how you do with sugar cravings. Paleo is a great, healthful diet, but I find a lot of super low carb, die-hard Paleo folks end up craving a lot of sugar.
Paleo doesn’t have to be low carb. In fact, if you are addicted to sugar, you need complex carbohydrates to slow the release of glucose in your blood stream to even out the spikes and dips that cause mood and energy imbalances and ultimately more sugar cravings.
I suggest have a complex carb with breakfast, lunch, and dinner regularly for at least a few weeks.
3. Reduce Coffee:
Coffee without breakfast in the morning is a recipe for a sugar craving disaster kind of day. You see, when we wake up (if we have healthy adrenal glands), we are supposed to secrete the stress hormone cortisol, which helps us start our day. Many of us are tired and under-slept, and therefore not producing enough cortisol, so we hit the coffee pot for a substance-induced “hit” of it.
Then this unnatural spike bathes our cells in cortisol and insulin can’t get in to feed them. When the cortisol bath wears off, our cells are screaming for insulin in the form of sugar to put out the “state of emergency” the body is experiencing.
So, if you must have your ceremonial cup of coffee upon waking, no problem, but have it with breakfast. Make sure that breakfast contains both protein and healthy fat. Alternatively or additionally, switch to green tea to lower your coffee/caffeine intake.
Gentle Sweeteners & Spices
4. Gentle Sweeteners and Spices:
Ceylon cinnamon (keep in mind that the typical supermarket cinnamon is the cassia variety) has been clinically proven to stabilise blood sugar and to have a healing effect on the pancreas.
Adding cinnamon to your coffee, breakfast smoothie, sweet potato, or whatever else you can think of is a great way to gracefully detox from sugar. It tastes sweet and satisfies your taste buds.
Another favourite natural sweetener to use sparingly that will give you that sweet flavour without the negative biochemical reaction in the body are dark liquid stevia, coconut sugar, raw honey*, and maple syrup*. Start upgrading the way you use sweeteners and soon you will crave less and less.
* Not compliant on Lifestyle or Athlete program.
Cut Back on Animal Protein
5. Cut Back on Animal Protein:
Too much animal protein can create a “contracted” state as they say in Eastern medicine. The body then craves the opposite state, which is expansion. Sugar makes us feel that way.
When you think about it, the body never makes a mistake. It’s always craving to be in balance and works toward it the best way it knows how.
If you are eating animal protein with every meal, adjust that or maybe eat a bit less, and see if that helps. Alternatively, not enough animal protein creates sugar cravings. Evaluate how much animal protein you consume and begin to play with the amount to see how it affects your cravings and energy level.
6. Lifestyle Balance:
There is no replacement for enough sleep. If we don’t sleep enough, the body will, again, try to create a balanced state by craving sugar. Rest and relaxation are underrated in our culture.
Be counter cultural and take time to rest and rejuvenate. Getting enough exercise in the form of movement you enjoy (versus dragging yourself to the gym) is another way to naturally cut down on sweet cravings.
In our 6 Week Lifestyle Challenges, these factors are assessed daily in the 7 Healthy Habits. They also include honest, open relationships with people you enjoy being around, having fun and working play into your life, having a creative outlet you enjoy, and doing things that make you feel connected to the bigger picture.
Adding in more positive lifestyle factors to your life is a sure fire way to get sweetness, guaranteeing you will never miss the actual sugar!