Many of us are trying to minimize the processed, refined, and added sugars in our diets. We know the health risks, we’re starting to feel the negative effects, and we want to prevent any future health conditions from developing.
If you’ve tried minimizing, reducing, and cutting out sugar, then you know it’s a hard change to make. But it seems so simple; just stop eating sugar and move on, right?
No so fast. This method is guaranteed to fail.
Because sugar is an addiction.
It completely takes over your brain chemistry and, according to numerous studies, sugar is just as addictive of a substance as many drugs. The more you eat, the more desensitized your brain gets. As your brain becomes desensitized, you develop a tolerance to sugar. To continue recreating the pleasurable sensations and sugar “high,” you need to eat more. This puts you in a cycle of cravings and withdrawals which keeps you coming back again and again.
Maybe you’ve tried to cut out sugar and got overwhelmed, got stuck, and gave up.
Quitting sugar isn’t as easy as telling yourself, “Just stop eating it.” It requires more than willpower and muscling your way through it.
Like other addictions, you need the proper process, support, connections, and accountability to kick the habit. Without these systems in place, cutting out sugar can be a slow, painful, frustrating, and hopeless challenge.
Here are the top 3 mistakes people make when trying to cut out sugar.
Mistake #1: Thinking of sugar as a delicious food
To successfully cut sugar out of your life you need to stop thinking about it as a nourishing, rewarding, comforting, wholesome treat.
Sugar is a toxic chemical. Some are calling it a poisonous drug as dangerous as heroin or cocaine.
If you think about it this way—if it was labelled with a poison skull symbol—would you look for it as a way to soothe and nourish yourself? Would you give it to your kids as a reward or incentive? If every time you took a bite of sugar you were mindful of the harm it was doing, would you reach for it so often?
If you’ve tried to quit sugar and been unsuccessful, it could be because you are still thinking of it as a delightful indulgence, a tasty treat, a sinful extravagance—not as the harmful substance it actually is.
Mistake #2: Going it alone
Another very common sugar-quitting mistake is trying to tackle it alone.
You decide you want to eat less sugar and say to yourself, “Monday morning I’m going cold turkey!” You don’t tell anyone, you don’t have a plan in place, and you have zero accountability.
The next day you get invited out for dinner and, with no commitment made to anyone but yourself, you agree. The wine flows, the bread basket circulates, and dessert is ordered with a “yes please.”
Research shows that people who are better connected to themselves, to the people around them, to nature, to their work, or to a higher power appear to be healthier than those who are isolated. When you’re busy, overwhelmed, tired, or stressed, it’s easy to close yourself off from others and spend much of your time without those connections. Isolation can be a huge risk factor to your health.
When trying to make a health, wellness, or lifestyle change like quitting sugar, it’s crucial to your success to surround yourself with support and connections. It’s too easy to break your commitment to yourself. Your chances of success will be much higher if you reach out, ask for help, and be accountable to your spouse, a friend, or health professional.
Mistake #3: Eating the wrong foods
Most people begin minimizing their sugar intake by cutting out the usual suspects like baked goods, candy, soda and other sweetened beverages, chocolate, sweet treats, desserts and snacks. The next step is to look at other sources of carbohydrates like bread products, grains, and fruit.
Breaking the sugar cycle means eliminating many common food items. To stay satisfied and full on this new way of eating you need to eat the right combination of foods. Otherwise you’ll be reaching for a cookie before you can say “hot fudge sundae.”
Start with a foundation of vegetables. Next, make sure you get ample amounts of healthy fat which will reduce the sugar cravings and help you feel fuller longer. Avocados, oily fish like sardines and mackerel, macadamia nuts, eggs (eat the yolks), and grass fed animal protein like beef, lamb and wild game are great sources of healthy fat. Use olive oil for salads and when dressing foods after they’re cooked, and coconut oil or butter for cooking.
If you tried to quit sugar before, but didn’t eat enough healthy fat and protein, you likely felt empty, hungry, unsatisfied, and ravaged with cravings.
Next time you try to break the sugar cycle, keep in mind these common mistakes. Learn from them, avoid their pitfalls, and successfully cut out processed refined sugars once and for all.