Sugar is biologically addictive. It highjacks your taste buds, your brain chemistry, your hormones (see Don’t Listen to the Sugar Monster), and your metabolism. The more sugar you eat, the more you crave.
If you’ve read any of my previous posts, you know that I’m a big proponent of mindful eating (see Mindful Eating), but I also know my own weaknesses and know that for me I need to have certain guardrails in place to ensure that my body isn’t confused when I check in for my hunger signals.
From much research and experimentation I know that certain foods make me hungrier.
These include sugar and processed carbohydrates. For my body chemistry and age I also need to be mindful of overall carbohydrate intake. This may not be the case for you. Only self awareness and honesty can uncover your own limitations.
How do you break the addiction and take back your health?
Mark Hyman, MD states that it takes only ten days to detox from sugar. He says that by taking the following steps for 10 days you can rewire and reset your brain and your body.
- Make a decision to break the sugar habit.
- Quit cold turkey.
- Don’t drink your calories.
- Add protein to every single meal, especially breakfast.
- Eat the right carbohydrates.
- Eat good fats at every meal.
- Quit gluten and dairy.
- Manage stress.
- Prioritize sleep.
Mark Hyman’s resource is one of many that I have included in my free resource list. If you are interested in receiving the full list and receiving occasional emails from me, sign up is provided in the sidebar of this page. I’d love to keep in touch! If you find that it’s not helpful, you can cancel at any time.
Let’s break these steps apart one by one.
Make the decision.
This is the hardest part. You have to know your “why” for wanting to do this. There are many questions you can ask yourself to make this decision.
How might my life be different if I break the sugar addiction?
What will happen if I don’t make any changes?
What vision do I hold for myself for health and wellbeing and how might this help me get there?
How would breaking my sugar addiction fit into the values that I hold for myself? (If you’re not sure about this one, you can take the free values assessment offered at the bottom of this post.)
What are my fears behind trying this?
Quit cold turkey.
Stop consuming all sugar, flours, artificial sweeteners, hydrogenated fats, MSG, as well as all processed and prepackaged foods.
Why must I stop consuming artificial sweeteners and MSG?
Dr. Hyman states that artificial sweeteners also cause diabetes and obesity and MSG causes cravings.
If you choose to take this 10 day challenge, you may feel uncomfortable for a few days as your body detoxes from the sugar. Try to plan for this ahead of time and think about how you can overcome this obstacle. Think about keeping a journal of your symptoms. Maybe call a friend, or take a warm bath. Ask yourself “What calms me down besides food when I don’t feel well?” Only you can answer that.
Make sure you spend some time thinking about what might be waiting for you on the other side!
Don’t drink your calories.
Eliminate sports drinks, sweet teas, sweet coffees, and juices. Try some unsweetened green tea, Rooibos tea, or some other herbal tea without additives. My favorite beverage is sparkling mineral water. You could even try putting in a slice of lemon.
Add protein to every single meal, especially breakfast.
Protein has a stabilizing effect on blood sugars. If you can control your blood sugar, you can control your hunger and your cravings. Starting your day off with a good source of protein can set you up for the whole day. Some examples of good sources of protein are whole eggs, nuts, seeds, fish, chicken, and grass fed meats if available.
Eat the right carbohydrates.
For ten days eat only non-starchy vegetables. Examples of these would be asparagus, mushrooms, onions, cabbage, lettuce, broccoli and cauliflower, to name a few. This isn’t to say that starchy vegetables are bad, but walking away from them for 10 days can help calm the sugar cravings. Then you can decide about adding things back in like sweet potatoes and decide it they work for you.
Eat fats at every meal.
What? Did I really say that?
Yes, and this is so critical. This will be necessary to keeping hunger at bay by regulating blood sugar. These fats are needed by every cell in your body. They give you energy, keep your skin and hair healthy, and maintain your brain and mental health. You also need these fats to absorb certain vitamins, and to protect against toxicity.
This will be your energy source for these ten days because of your reduction in carbohydrates. It may take your body some time to adjust from burning sugar (carbohydrates) for energy to burning fat for energy. You will need to be patient with this one. If you find yourself getting sluggish, you can try adding in a high quality MCT oil to help you if you experience some energy slumps as your body shifts to this new energy source.
Some examples of healthy fats are nuts, seeds, avocados, coconut oil, olive oil, and omega 3 fats from fish.
Examples of fats that are NOT healthy are soybean oil, peanut oil, safflower oil, sunflower oil, corn oil, wheat germ oil, cotton seed oil, grape seed oil, and rice bran oil.
Quit gluten and dairy.
Gluten is a protein found in wheat, rye, barley, and triticale (a cross between wheat and rye). This means avoiding things like bread, pasta, and baked goods.
Dairy includes milk, yogurt, cheese, butter.
Remember, it’s only for 10 days and you can add these back in after and see how they make you feel. Again, you may experience withdrawal, especially in the first few days. But doing this can substantially reduce your cravings. After you get over the hump, you should experience more energy, feel better, and a whole host of symptoms can go away.
When you’re stressed, your cortisol levels increase, which makes you hungry and crave sugar.
Practice meditation and mindful movement like Qigong, Yoga, Thai Chi, as well as deep breathing on a daily basis. I have included a download of helpful tips on how to decrease your stress to expand your ideas. This step crucial!
Less than eight hours of sleep a night increases hunger hormones and drives you to overeat. Sleep deprivation can lead to insulin resistance and poor blood sugar control.
Make sleep a priority by giving yourself enough time to sleep and practicing good sleep hygiene by avoiding blue light at night, using blackout shades or an eye mask, and getting sun exposure in the morning when you wake up.
There are more helpful tips for sleep in How to Manage Stress download above.
Freedom from sugar addiction is right around the corner!
It won’t be easy, but anything is possible for 10 days, taking it one day at a time, one hour at a time. What is waiting for you on the other side? What do you have to lose?
Taking these steps can be so helpful. If you give it a try and find that you need extra support, contact me and we can spend an hour exploring where you want to go and how health coaching can help you get there. There is no obligation. You have nothing to lose. I hope to hear from you!
If you want to dive deeper into understanding your values to help you with your decision to embark on this challenge, click the button below for a free values assessment.
If you choose to take this challenge, let me know how it goes by leaving me a comment below. What were your success? Your struggles and learning experiences?
I wish you wellness and peace on your journey.