Real Talk About How to Quit Sugar
I have an amazing opportunity coming up and I want to look my best; and, although, summer has been VERY fun, if not equally as boozy, the time has come to give the ol' white stuff the heave ho. All summer I've been consuming sugar via alcohol (rose season anyone?!), candies found in clients cupboards and of my accord- aka I get up off my butt and go get it myself. But sugar, whether you believe it or not, can lead to sullen and less than vibrant skin, and I am NOT here for that- nor is the camera ;)
(pictured, me, days before Quit Day, buzzed on Rose)
But I also reside in the real world, where being completely sugar free simply won't suit my lifestyle, so this here is the result of my quitting (greatly reducing) sugar. I suffered, so you do not!
NOTE this is a guide for the real world, so a little sugar will sneak in here or there, but it's the effort that counts, right?!
Before Quit Day
This is often where people fail even before they begin. When it comes to quitting sugar- or giving it up for a period of time- a good start will help you long term, meaning, you must set yourself up for success.
Are you snacky? You better a) toss out ALL the sugary snack food you have around, and if the waste bothers you, donate it or take it to work; and b) replenish with approved snacks, so that this process doesn't feel so damn hard. Will power is a lie, if it's around, it's gonna get ya.
If you're like me and enjoy (ahem, LOVE) a sweet morning beverage, finding a suitable replacement BEFORE quit day means more chances of success. I sh*t you not, if I don't have a hot and sweet morning beverage, my day feels off. Know thyself and plan accordingly.
Decide. This is woo-ish but merits being mentioned. You have to have a pretty decent reason for quitting sugar. Mine is looking my best physically and being mentally clear for the amazing opportunity being presented to me; for you it might be *finally* clearing up your skin or getting your hormones under control. Whatever it is, it better mean something to you, because giving up sugar can be hard; it's habitual, it psychological, it emotional, sugar and giving it up can prove quite confronting for some people, so having a strong "why" is one of the BEST motivators.
Ready? Let's give up the white, shall we?!
NOTE: you may be inclined to binge on all this sugar before giving it up- I did; but let this serve as a warning, Quit Day will be even more challenging if you approach this way.
That said, the week leading up to quitting sugar I ate ALL THE THINGS- Mr.Noodle (with cauliflower for balance), cupcakes, cinnamon buns and baked pastas a plenty and it was divine- and also the cause of a serious chin breakout; but Quit Day and the days following (about three) were rife with headaches, bad moods and just overall malaise, but it went away.
So take this nugget for what you will, if you find that tough times make you quit, don't approach Quit Day like this.
Start weaning yourself on the not-so-obvious culprits, breads, prepared sauces, mid-afternoon sugar snacks etc. Because this will start to train your tastebuds to appreciate the less than saccharine life.
Quitting sugar is about reclaiming your tastedbuds, and this can take time- about one to two weeks, but this is why we're here, to make this process easier, so that no matter what your "Why" is, you persevere.
Are All Sweetness Givers Bad?
I didn't want to say sugar, because foods like honey, molasses, maple syrup, stevia etc. are sweet but they aren't sugar; but the question begs, are they all made the same?
Simple sugar which is the white stuff is converted VERY quickly into our bloodstream, that leads to insulin spikes and, more seriously, hormonal imbalances. This is the stuff that lurks in prepared sauces, jerky and bread; and even though the aforementioned maples, molasses and honey aren't refined they still have the same effect on our blood sugar and insulin levels. So if you've been thinking "I'll just sub honey", I've got news boo, it's all the same.
That said, coconut sugar has been clutch for me as I quit sugar. Coconut sugar boasts half the glycemic index as sugar (sugar is 100, honey + maple are around 60, whereas coconut sugar is 33). For a little background, the Glycemic Index is an index of 1-100, that charts the effects of food on our glycemic value (blood sugar); 1 being the lowest and 100 being the highest.
What I like about coconut sugar is that it's sweet without an aftertaste and it can be subbed one for one in recipes; yes, things will be slightly less sweet, but still sweet enough to satisfy cravings. NOTE this doesn't mean you can use double the amount of coconut sugar, moderation and common sense are key.
Stevia is SUPER popular as 0 glycemic index food, but if you're like me stevia tastes terrible. What do I mean? Well, when I consume stevia I taste metal- no matter what; disguise it with vanilla- still there, and I love vanilla lol. Stevia isn't for everybody, but if it works for you, it's an excellent option. WARNING stevia is 3+ times sweeter than sugar, so be careful when you are using it in recipes; you can always add but you cannot take away. Remember this.
Is artificial sweetener the answer?
No. It is not. Look, artificial sweeteners won't spike your blood sugar, but this doesn't mean it's full steam ahead. Artificial sweeteners provide sweet taste without calories, so when you consume these products, hunger isn't satisfied, leading you to crave more afterward; which is why you can pound unlimited amounts of sugar free foods, yet still want more. And lastly, as I mentioned earlier, some (most) artificial sweeteners are many times sweeter than natural sugar, and that can dull your taste buds to less intensely sweet foods such as fruit, ramping up cravings for high-sugar—and high-calorie—foods. So the solution is to retrain your tastebuds and not try to trick them.
What's Gotta Go
Sugary Drinks- this goes without saying, as these are full of sugar that up your calorie intake without satisfying hunger. Don't let this scare you if you're a soda or juice lover.
INSTEAD mix freshly pressed fruit AND vegetable juice with sparkling water (1 part juice to 3-4 parts sparkling water), this beverage will be lightly sweet but WAY better for you in the long run.
Simple Carbs- the likes of cakes, crackers, cookies, breads, rice, biscuits- all of this shit. These foods leave you feeling hungry and wanting more simple sugars within an hour of consuming. Consuming sugar begets wanting more sugar and since these foods find themselves in most meals in some way or another, beware.
INSTEAD opt for products made with whole and ancient grains.
Prepared Sauces and Dressing- often FULL of sugar. "But what about the sugar free version Bianca?", well those are filled often with shitty fats and fillers that won't satisfy you AND give sugar free dressings an odd texture and flavour.
INSTEAD make your own spice blends and vinaigrettes (Vinaigrette 101 here), it's so easy and they taste so much better than store bought!
Table Sugar and Sweetened Coffee Creamers- this one was VERY challenging for me because I love a sweet morn bevy, but how I start my day is generally a sign of how the day will go forward; so if I start sweet, the floodgates have been opened.
INSTEAD I used Laird Superfood Turmeric Coffee Creamer, it is sweetened with coconut sugar so it's less impactful on my blood sugar and contains coconut cream, which helps to slow the release of sugar into my bloodstream- more on this in a minute.
Booze- this is where my sugar intake soars- rose, white wine, red wine, I do not discriminate; and when it comes to sugar spikes and hormonal responses, alcohol is the worst, because hangovers, hormone imbalance and sugar side effects. I'll never suggest you give up alcohol for good- I have ZERO plans to do that; but as I lead up to my big opportunity, I am cutting it out temporarily.
INSTEAD- drink water or stay in- there aren't many other alternatives...
New Success Habits
Go Wild with Protein and Healthy Fats- when we cut out sugary foods, we have to replace them with other things, healthy fats and high quality protein will keep you feeling full and satisfied, while helping your blood sugar stay in equilibrium and managing sweet cravings.
SUGAR CRAVING? Have some nuts and a piece of cheese.
Flavour Enhance- as a chef I often see people miss the mark on how to make their food exciting. When I quit sugar even I had a small pang of fear that my food life would become boring, but know this, to pander to a sweet tooth without resorting to the refined sugars, just look to your spice rack. Cinnamon and vanilla extract added to coffee, cereal, or baked goods offer a sweet taste without negative effects, and zero calories too! Other sweet spices and herbs to add to beverages and meals include chicory, ginger, nutmeg, and cardamom. Citrus zest also adds a fruity, refreshing sweetness; the secret is to get creative and try new things. What's the worst that could happen?!
So You F*cked Up- Now What?!
Despite our best efforts we might slip up and have a drink, or grab a Wunderbar when having a bad day at work, so it's important to remember that one drink or one chocolate bar isn't going to screw you up, it doesn't make you a bad person with no staying power- it makes you human.
Here are a few things you can do in the likely chance you have some sugar.
Consume with a fat or protein source, this will help the sugar release slower into your bloodstream; ie. handful of nuts if you've had some 5 cent candies.
Go for a walk, so that that sugars (energy) that is release is used up by exertion and doesn't deposit as fat on your body.
Forgive thyself and move on- sh*t happens, life happens, tomorrow is a new day.
Quitting sugar isn't easy- I'm not going to lie to you; that said, there are ways to reduce your sugar intake and still live a deliciously charmed life.