It’s 3:00 pm, and you are seriously craving sweets.
But you promised yourself that you wouldn’t eat sugar anymore. And ever since you made that commitment, sweets are all you can think about. The pull is so great that you can’t concentrate, so you cave. You eat it anyway, and as you eat it, you tell yourself “it’s just this once; tomorrow will be different.”
But it’s not just this once. You’ve been telling this to yourself for quite some time now: the sugar cravings are now controlling your behavior.
It doesn’t have to be this way.
Willpower doesn’t work
You intend to quit sugar, but for some reason you still eat it. The trouble is, you’ve been relying on willpower and you’re discovering that willpower alone doesn’t work in the long term. Your motivation must be powerful enough to overcome any desire to eat sugar, and you need a way to curb the chemical side of sugar cravings.
Who says you have to quit eating sugar?
I’m quitting sugar because ___________ says I should. How would you fill in the blank? Why does that other person say that you should quit eating sugar? Here are some examples:
- My family says that I should quit eating sugar because I have mood swings.
- This diet book says that I should quit eating sugar because I will lose weight faster based on (these studies).
- My doctor says that I should quit eating sugar because I am diabetic, and it could kill me if I’m not careful with my blood sugar levels.
These motivations originate from other people telling you that you need to quit eating sugar, and if this is your motivation, you are more likely to fail.
The motivation must come from you
The driving force must come from you if you are to succeed at this.
For example: I need to quit eating sugar, because…
- I want to be a good role model for my toddler (who wants to eat everything that I eat).
- I cannot stop myself from eating when I get sugar cravings.
But what if their reasoning is solid? Isn’t that good enough? Yes, however, you need to tweak the motivation so that it comes from you.
For example: I need to quit eating sugar because….
- my mood swings hurt the people that I love.
- I cannot shed weight any other way.
- I want to live a long, healthy life, and my diabetes will kill me if I don’t quit.
See how this is different? To make this work effectively, your tweak needs to come from you, and it needs to be powerful enough to overcome temptation when it arises. Once your motivation is clear, you need to have a plan that will help you on the chemical side of things.
Reduce sugar in stages
Toss out the “all-or-nothing” mentality—it doesn’t work. Doing it in stages is the most effective way to quit without having uncontrollable sugar cravings.
Stage 1: Eliminate most forms of sugar
At first, you need to stop eating most forms of sugar, but you need an emergency sweet that will work for you when you get a craving. This sweet should not send your blood sugar as haywire as with sugar. If your ideal diet does not include the items in stage 1, you can tweak it in stage 2, once you have control of your cravings.
- Eliminate all sweets (including sugar substitutes), except fruit, organic raw agave nectar, stevia, and maple syrup.
This will eliminate a lot of the problem foods, yet allow for some indulgences that you can purchase at a health food store.
- Eliminate (or drastically reduce) pasta, rice, and bread. These complex carbohydrates break down into simple sugars, so they contribute to sugar cravings and the mid-afternoon slump. They can also make you feel very sleepy if you eat them for lunch, so it’s best to eat other carbs for now.
- Create a supportive environment. Remove everything from your home that you are not allowed to eat. If it’s not in the house, you’re less likely to go out and get your fix. Or, if you do, you are more likely to go to a health food store and buy something that is consistent with your plan.
- Hold yourself accountable. Post your intentions on Facebook, Twitter, or post a comment here. Explain your new way of eating to your friends and family so that they can support you.
When will you be ready for stage 2? You’ll begin to feel in control of your food intake and your cravings, and this level of control may surprise you. Once you’re in control, you’re ready to tweak it, if you wish. (Or, you can just stay with it like this. It’s up to you!)
Stage 2: Be clear about your ideal, and tweak your diet to fit it.
Clearly draw the line so that there is no doubt of what you will eat and and what you will not:
Will you allow…
- sugar substitutes? (xylitol, aspartame, saccharin, stevia, sucralose)
- less processed sugar (succanat, turbinado, evaporated sugar cane juice, etc.)?
- milk? (Lactose is a form of sugar.)
- beet sugar?
- vegetables? If so, will you only eat leafy greens, or will you include legumes, tubers and roots?
- fruit? If so, will you limit your intake of fruit to certain kinds of fruits?
- sweet syrupy substances, such as high fructose corn syrup, maple syrup, or agave nectar? If it’s agave nectar, does your answer change if it is raw and organic?
Once you have your ideal in mind, write down what forms of sugar you will allow yourself to eat on an ideal day. Now, tweak stage 1, and you’re golden!
Readers: What do you plan to eliminate at stage 2? Hold yourself accountable here by posting a comment below!
Featured photo credit: Vintage cupcakes via Shutterstock