How to quit sugar

by: Yuri Elkaim

Sugar Detox Plan- A 10-Step Blueprint for Quitting Sugar

A proven sugar detox plan could mean the difference between you having an easier time losing weight, eating well, and feeling great or…

Continuing to suffer with candida overgrowth… debilitating cravings… and packing on pounds of excess fat.

So if you’ve been gripped by sugar’s deadly claws, the powerful 10-step sugar detox plan in this post will save your body and your health.

Natural Vs. Added Sugar

Natural sugar is the sugar found naturally in foods like fruits, vegetables and dairy products. Alternatively, added sugars are those that are added to food by manufacturers or what you might add to a recipe. Think white sugar, brown sugar, corn syrup, molasses, honey and many more. In fact, there are over 50 different names for sugar so you have to make sure you’re checking your labels thoroughly.

The key is to avoid added sugar. There’s no need to stop eating fruits and vegetables (please don’t!) or drink a glass of milk (unless you’re lactose-intolerant, of course). These items are not what we refer to when we talk about avoiding sugar. These foods also have naturally occurring fiber which means that they are more slowly absorbed into your system and don’t spike blood sugar like added sugars do.

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So now that you know the difference and what to avoid, here are 5 surefire ways you can decrease added sugars in your diet and kick the habit for good!

Related: 9 Foods That Lower Blood Sugar Naturally

Why a Sugar Detox Plan is Needed (for Most People)

Most people are already aware that sugar is bad. Yet, overwhelming amounts of research remind us that sugar is strongly associated with obesity (1), cardiovascular disease (2), and terrible dental health because it provides easily digestible energy for the bad bacteria in the mouth (3).

And that’s just the tip of the iceberg – I’ll explain a few more reasons below. But since you’re here looking for how to detox your body from sugar cravings, you likely already know it’s pretty bad for you.

Yet when people talk to me about sugar and I tell them that they need to get it out of their lives, they usually have at least one of these things keeping them from doing it:

  1. they don’t know how bad sugar really is
  2. they don’t think they consume very much sugar
  3. or they’ve tried to quit and just found it too hard

Is Sugar as Bad (and Addictive) as Cocaine?

Do you know why it’s so hard for you to quit sugar?

Because sugar stimulates the reward center in your brain – called the nucleus accumbens – to release dopamine, which makes you feel “really good”.

When you eat foods that contain a lot of sugar, a massive amount of dopamine is released and as with any drug, the more stimulus you provide, the more you need over time to feel the initial effect due to a down-regulation of dopamine receptors.

That’s why sugar is really no different than, and functions similarly to, drugs of like cocaine and nicotine (6).

For some people there will even be anatomical changes in the brain when exposed to these sorts of foods which is part of the reason for developing full-blown addiction (7).

Sugar vs Cocaine Brain Image

Sugar and flour addiction is very real and it’s not solely an emotional reliance on sweet treats or bagels. It is a recognized and well-documented physiological disorder involving both your neurotransmitters and your hormonal system.

In a recent study at Harvard, researchers discovered that a very sugary milkshake didn’t just cause a huge spike in blood sugar and insulin levels; it also stimulated huge changes in brain activity. (8) In short, the brain becomes addicted to that spike.

Don’t worry, there is hope.

I realize that this makes it sound even harder to get sugar out of your diet, but the truth is that you can do it.

The addiction to sugar and flour might be powerful, but studies have shown that our bodies and our neurological systems can be free of the addiction within a week to ten days of going cold turkey.

Of course, you first have to get through that 7-days and you’ll need help to do it. So here are 10 steps that will get you there.

Mindset Matters

If you tell yourself you are being deprived your going to want it more, and most likely give in. Here is an example of how a diet mindset or limitation mindset works against you:

  • “I really want to buy a candy bar but I told myself I’d eat salad for lunch. This diet sucks.”
  • “Ugh, It’s been less than a day and all I can think about is sugar. Oh how I really want to make brownies right now.”
  • “I didn’t workout this morning, so now I can’t have that piece of pie leftover from last night.”
  • “I ate one bite of cake. I’m a failure. Maybe I’ll just eat the entire pan to drown my sorrows. I’ll never lose weight.”
  • “It’s been a hard day. I give up. I’m going to eat caramel popcorn and binge watch Netflix.”
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Sound fun and uplifting to make an effort to change? It doesn’t to me, but this is part of why diets fail so often. If your mind isn’t prepared and positive then your body will get no where.

Questions to ask yourself for a positive mindset around food:

  • “How do I want to feel today?” 
  • “What sounds delicious that will also make my body feel amazing.”
  • “How can I fuel my body so that I am full of healthy energy.”
  • “It’s been a hard day, how can I honor my body for everything it has been through today”
  • “I did so good today, I want to celebrate. I’m going to do something I love.”
  • “I’m ravished! Time to make myself a quick but hearty meal.”
  • “What can I add to the menu today that will stimulate my taste buds and nourish my body. Maybe something I haven’t had in a while?”
  • “What meals should I add to the menu to help me thrive this week?”

Ditch the “I Deserve a Treat” Reward System

We’ve been taught from our youth that good behavior and achievement earns us a reward. Most of the time that reward is in the form of a sugary treat. Sit quietly in church you get a candy. Play hard in that soccer game you get a juice box and a doughnut. Go pee in the potty and get a treat. Finish your vegetables and get dessert. Show up at the bank and get a sucker. 

When the rewards quite rolling in from others this mantra is already ingrained in our brains. Go to the gym, get a candy bar on the way home. Have a stressful day, eat half a container of Haagen Das. Boyfriend dumps you, eat more ice cream and chocolate and whatever else you can find to feel better. 

All this under the line, “You deserve it!” I’m sorry Honey. You don’t deserve diabetes, or to be obese, or the endless roller-coaster of blood sugar highs and crashes. You don’t deserve high blood pressure, or Hashimoto’s, or cancer, or hormonal imbalance. The truth is, you deserve to thrive, to feel young and vibrant. You deserve to be healthy. All you have to do is treat yourself well. So it is time to change that indoctrinated reward system for treats. You up for it?

If you have a hard time breaking away from any kind of reward in situations where you would normally want one, then try finding new ones that don’t include food. Here are some examples:

  • Buy a new outfit
  • Go to the movie
  • Take a detox bath (here’s how to take a detox bath)
  • Get a massage
  • Plan a date
  • Go for a relaxing walk or hike
  • Get to bed early
  • Participate in your favorite hobby
  • Schedule some alone time
  • Hire a housekeeper

More Fats

It was the bulletproof diet that called for no sugar in my coffee.

That was what made me give it up.  The only reason I really crave sugar these days is that moment, the morning moment, when I used to have it all…

The extraordinary amounts of grass fed butter I’ve been eating not only make my life DELICIOUS, they also help with the nosugar.  I feel satisfied.

Who EVER feels satisfied?

Try butter.

At 3 Weeks I Was Crawling

And I had a slice of pizza.  Yeah, bulletproof went off for me that day, I had to.  I also had a kombucha.

Even though these two things are not exactly sugar per-say, they come close.  But the interesting thing was that a little taste gave me a new determination to keep going.

I also got myself some Xyla from north american birch which I hear is ok although there is no high -be warn you addict, you know who you are-.

Yeah, is really not ‘just’ like sugar.

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They cut out fruit 

Some ‘sugar quitting’ programs suggest cutting out all sugars, to begin with, including fruit, as a way to ‘detox’ or ‘re-set’ your system. I’d like to see the evidence that our bodies are just like a computer and have a ‘restore’ button. I’m genuinely curious.

I don’t think this is necessary. Yes, fruit does contain sugar, but it contains the right amount, in the perfect package, for delivery into your body. Fruit is a great source of dietary fibre, with one large piece offering between 3-5 grams (16% of our total fibre needs). They’re also rich in vitamin C (an antioxidant) plus a range of other vitamins and minerals – each fruit offering an element of nutrition a little different from the next.

There should be a limit to your fruit consumption. You don’t need to cut it out but you certainly don’t need to build your whole diet out of it. Two serves of fruit per day is plenty, especially if you’re sedentary. You may like to eat a little more if you’re very active.

Here are my fruit consumption guidelines

Eat fruit whole and fresh as opposed to blended, juiced and dried. These processing techniques concentrate the sugars and make fruit easier to overconsume. Use your teeth as the processing equipment as much as possible! Consume fruit according to your activity levels. If you need help determining what that is, seek help from a nutritionist.

Reduce the sugar from your diet by minimising your consumption of:

  • All fruit based juices (blended, cold-pressed, juiced, organic)
  • Dried fruits, especially ones that list added sugar on the ingredients list
  • Processed fruit and whole foods bars. Just because the sugar comes from dates, it’s still sugar and many of these ‘healthy’ bars are just as sugar-rich as a chocolate bar.

They become afraid of packaged food

Depending on your personality, putting strict rules in your life around cutting out sugar usually results in one of two things: You either rebel against yourself and binge on sugar regularly or you become obsessive about every single food that crosses your lips, unnecessarily cutting out nutritious foods that don’t need to be.

I’ve had clients fret over the sugar listed on the nutrition information panel of a tin of tuna or 4 bean mix. Being pedantic about every gram of sugar listed on a packet’s nutrient panel will lead you to eliminating perfectly healthy processed foods. Healthy packaged food do exist. What to know how to tell the difference? Take a nutritionist shopping with you!

It’s a popular approach within the field to recommend removing processed foods from the diet. The approach is called ‘clean eating’. I don’t believe everything in a packet is ‘dirty’ and needs to be removed. Be a savvy shopper and start with removing the obvious foods first.

Here are my processed food removal guidelines

Start with reducing or eliminating the consumption of the foods below. They have high amounts of added sugar or sweetener and very little nutrient value.

  • Soft drink and diet soft drink
  • Lollies and diet lollies
  • Cordial and diet cordial
  • Milo, hot chocolate and other milk flavourings
  • Chocolate, strawberry and other flavoured milks
  • Hot chocolates, frappes, caramel lattes, chai lattes
  • Mousse, custard, highly sweetened yoghurts, ice-cream and other dairy desserts
  • Chocolate
  • Cakes, biscuits, pastries, slices, doughnuts and baked sweets (bliss balls, paleo recipes and un-refined sugar included)
  • Alcoholic drinks – especially mixed drinks and cocktails

They cut out milk and yoghurt

Sugar naturally occurs in milk, this means that it’s also naturally present in milk products such as yoghurt and cheese. This sugar is called lactose and for those of us without the enzyme to digest it, it gives us diarrhoea. How pleasant.

Anyway, sorry about the poo talk. You don’t need to worry about the sugar present in plain milk and natural yoghurt. Even when it’s reduced fat or skim. Dairy is perfectly fine to consume as part of a balanced diet if you don’t have an allergy or intolerance.

There is a common myth going around the inta-webs that skim milk contains added sugar. It doesn’t. When you remove the fat from milk, you take away about 4% of it. This concentrates the other nutrients making skim milk slightly (a tiny bit) higher in sugar, protein and it’s other nutrients like calcium. Check the ingredients of skim milk next time you go shopping. It will look something like this. Ingredients: Skim milk.

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When we start to look at milk products with add sugar like flavoured milks and super sweet yoghurts, you need to start reading labels and making wise choices. A nutritionist can help you with that.

My dairy consumption recommendations

  • You only need to consume 1-2 serves of dairy per day. This is 1 cup of milk and 200g of yoghurt.
  • Sweeten greek or natural yoghurt with fruit or honey. That way you control how much extra sugar is added.
  • If you avoid dairy for an allergy or intolerance, seek help from a dietitian for other ways to meet your calcium requirements.

They eat too much fat

Along with the ‘quit sugar’ message came the ‘fat is not bad for you’ message. And after years of most of us thinking low-fat diets are the way to go, the relief that we can now indulge in pork belly, bacon, cheese and avocado was almost too much to contain!

It’s true, as the field of nutrition has matured and research progressed, we now know that fat, in particular saturated fat, is not as bad as we once thought. However, before you go all nuts for the lard and coconut oil on your next shopping spree, read on. It’s not all rainbows, unicorns and bacon. You can still consume too much fat.

In addition, a high-fat consumption is only ok if your overall diet quality is good. Meaning, if you consume lots of fresh, whole vegetables, a few fruits, whole nuts and seeds, a few legumes, a little grains and whole meats and dairy – then a pork belly burger or butter-laden Brussel sprout is not going to give you an instant heart attack.

The problem with only focusing on a single nutrient, like fat or sugar, is that we can neglect to see the forest for the trees. In other words, we lose sight of the fact that the single biggest predictor of long-term good health is consistent overall diet quality, not an individual food or nutrient consumed on one occasion.

The science shows us that our diets can go between two extremes: high sugar or high fat. Both have been shown to increase risk of disease.

My fat intake recommendations

Enjoy in moderation as part of a balanced diet, rich in vegetables:

  • Nuts
  • Seeds
  • Avocado
  • Extra-virgin olive oil
  • Coconut oil
  • Other nut and seed oils
  • 100% nut or seed butters

Foods that can be enjoyed on occasion in small amounts as part of a balanced diet, rich in vegetables:

  • Cream
  • Butter
  • Margarine
  • Mayonnaise
  • Aioli (my favourite all time thing)
  • Sauces and salad dressings

How I quit sugar the Spirit Junkie way

I surrender to a power greater than me | The Universe Has Your Back card deckWith my deep desire to feel healthier, I set out on a wellness quest. In August, through doctor supervision, I committed to treat candida, an overgrowth of yeast in the digestive system that causes inflammation and myriad symptoms.

One out of three people suffer from candida. (To learn more about candida and its effect on your health, read The Candida Cure by Ann Boroch.)

One important way to treat candida is to remove sugar, including fruit, coconut palm sugar, agave, artificial sweeteners, barley malt, brown rice syrup, brown sugar, etc. Pretty much anything that has sugar or turns into sugar is a no-no on the candida diet.

Spiritual surrender has been the key to my success in quitting sugar

At first, I thought living sugar free would be easy. I was mistaken. Sugar is a tricky ingredient that shows up in just about everything!

To make this commitment work for me I’ve had to lean on my spiritual faith and truly surrender.

My spiritual surrender has been the key to my success in quitting sugar. So instead of giving you my favorite recipes for sugar-free desserts (you can actually find that post here), I’ve decided to share five spiritual steps to quit sugar.

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In my digital course called Finally Full, I talk about food addiction and body image issues. I guide you to create a healthy spiritual relationship to food and share the wisdom I gained from my own spiritual recovery around food addiction.

The course also includes guided Kundalini meditations that even complete beginners can do easily! Get on the path to a beautiful and healthy relationship to food.

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