How to Survive Sugar Withdrawal
How Much Sugar is Too Much?
The United States is the world's largest consumer of sweeteners, including high-fructose corn syrup. As a result of traditional medicine's focus for so long on "low fat", sugar, in all its various forms, has quickly become the number one food additive. It turns up in some unlikely places, such as pizza, bread, hot dogs, processed boxed foods, soup, crackers, spaghetti sauce, lunch meat, canned vegetables, fruit drinks, ﬂavored yogurt, ketchup, salad dressing, mayonnaise, and some peanut butter.1
The USDA recommends that the average person on a 2,000-calorie-a-day diet include no more than 40 grams of added sugars. The American Heart Association (AHA) recommends that we limit our daily sugar consumption to 7% or less of our daily calorie intake—that's about 6 teaspoons (100 calories) for women and 9 teaspoons (150 calories) for men.
Modern Americans consume about 130 pounds of sugar every year. For historic reference, in 1822, the average American consumed 45 grams of sugar every five days. Now, in 2012, that number has drastically increased to a whopping 765 grams of sugar every five days! Is it any wonder that Americans are increasingly becoming obese, getting sick more often, and are generally more lethargic and less energetic than in decades past?2
How Too Much Sugar is Bad
High-sugar diets are strongly linked to an increased risk for type 2 diabetes and heart disease. Sugar has also been linked to depression, migraines, poor eyesight and multiple other diseases and disorders.3
Sugar, especially in excessive amounts, is not only toxic. It is addictive, too. Sugar activates the same brain regions as in someone who consumes drugs like cocaine. Also, people who consume large amounts of sugar build up a tolerance to it, needing more and more to feel that same "sugar rush", which is one symptom of substance dependence.4
Once that "sugar rush" is over, then comes the crash, leaving the sugar consumer feeling lethargic, tired, and sluggish.
How to Break the Sugar Habit
Sugar withdrawal symptoms are very real. It is biochemical; it is not about a lack of willpower. "Days 1-3 are the worst. Days 4-5 start to get better and beyond that you will have an even energy, calmness and clarity that you have probably not experienced for years. That’s the time to enjoy freedom from sugar addiction and vow never to go back. Learn from the smokers and alcoholics at this point – don’t have that first sip or first cigarette – it would never be a good thing!" – Zoe Harcombe, The Obesity Epidemic5
One thing to remember when beginning to reduce the amount of sugar in your daily diet is to do it slowly, tapering off use of added sugar over a short amount of time. If you go for an all-or-nothing, or "cold turkey" approach (which worked for me when I quit smoking cigarettes, but that's a story for another day), you're more likely to cave in and binge, setting yourself back again. You will also feel withdrawal symptoms much more strongly if you attempt to quit eating sugar all at once. By gradually reducing your sugar intake over a week or so, you can greatly reduce the severity of sugar withdrawal symptoms.6
Add fruit to your meals. Natural sugars are much healthier than their added and refined counterparts. By introducing more fruits and vegetables to your diet, you get the benefit of vitamins and minerals that are absent in most sweet "junk" food.
If a lot of your added sugars come from drinks such as soda or juice, try Dr. Oz's Half-and-Half Rule. Dr. Oz says, "dilute [your soda or juice] with a half a cup of seltzer. This will immediately reduce your sugar intake by half! Continue to reduce the amount of the sugary drinks you consume as you go and, soon, you won’t even miss them."7 I now enjoy my tea and coffee completely without sugar.
If sugar is easily accessible, you will be more likely to give into temptation. So, rid your house of temptation when you're ready to eliminate added sugars altogether. This includes anything with high fructose corn syrup and/or artificial sweeteners.
Drink lots of water. Stay hydrated! Often, we eat sugary foods when our bodies are actually craving liquid. Also, why not get up and move when a sugar craving hits?! That way, not only are you not giving in to a craving, you're also doing something great for your body. The more you move your body, the better your metabolism will be!
One more thing. Keep a food journal. Yes, record everything you eat. I highly recommend MyFitnessPal to keep track of your daily diet, and track not only calories, but more specifically your sugar intake. I have used MyFitnessPal for about two and a half years, and absolutely love it. Join me there!
Enlist a friend or relative to help keep you accountable. The more support you have, the more likely you will be to succeed. Just remember WHY you're doing this -- for your health -- for YOU!!
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- 1 http://www.usda.gov/factbook/chapter2.pdf
- 2 http://www.onlinenursingprograms.com/nursing-your-sweet-tooth/
- 3 http://www.sparkpeople.com/resource/nutrition_articles.asp?id=1663
- 4 http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/eating-mindfully/201204/sugar-addiction
- 5 http://endsugaraddiction.com/expert-tips/
- 6 http://www.wikihow.com/Get-Through-Sugar-Withdrawal
- 7 http://www.doctoroz.com/videos/kick-your-sugar-addiction