We are privileged to have a guest author on our blog today – Shane Doll from Shaping Concepts in Charleston, South Carolina. Shane is writing on this topic, which is great timing considering we’ve been surrounded with sugary temptations from Valentines to Easter.
Tips for Overcoming Strong Sugar Cravings
Without question one of the biggest obstacles individuals face when starting a weight loss program is dealing with those awful sugar cravings. You make the move to pull out all the processed foods along with sodas and sweets, but then the side effects kick in. You experience mood changes, irritability, headaches, and those over so strong cravings for sugar. Your body seems to be fighting against you every step of the way. In reality, this is simply a natural part of breaking a sugar addiction.
The fact is, when you subject your body to high levels of sugar over prolonged periods of time, you’ll undoubtedly experience discomfort when pulling it out. Not only are you dealing with withdrawal symptoms due to sugar’s affect on the opioid receptors in the brain, but you’re also dealing with the side effects of detoxification. In short, there are numerous physiological changes going on throughout your body when you start restricting sugar intake.
While there’s no way to avoid the initial discomfort, there is however some tips you can use to shorten the process and improve your likelihood of sticking with it. The biggest mistake I see people making when trying to beat a sugar addiction is simply trading one form of sugar for another.
As a Charleston personal trainer , I’ve found the strategy of having my clients give up the cake, candy, sodas, and other junk foods and replacing them with other so called “healthy carbohydrates” to be less than optimal. Switching from white bread to whole grain bread for example seems to only prolong the suffering with sugar cravings.
As a fitness professional, I think a lot of us initially recommend the “gradual” approach to weaning clients off sugars because it seems more reasonable. We don’t want to come across as being too militant with our approaches. The problem is sometimes this only makes things harder for the client in the long-run.
With the exception of plant sugars from vegetables (glucose) and moderate fruit sugar (fructose), I’ve found the best strategy is to remove all starches, grains, legumes, and dairy during the “sugar buster” phase of detoxification.
I recommend my clients follow a Primal Blueprint type diet with lots of lean proteins, greens, vegetables, nuts, seeds, healthy omega-3 fats, and moderate fruit. This will help to lower blood sugar levels, heal tissue at the hormonal glands, improve gastrointestinal function, and lower insulin levels.
Removing all processed and refined foods along with potatoes, bread, pasta, rice, cereals, and other starch sugars just seems to work best. If you don’t pull out the starches, the sugar cravings are likely to persist.
When you experience the strong sugar cravings in the beginning of a weight loss program, your body is trying to tell you something. These strong signals are caused by something I refer to as “toxic hunger.” This is a response to your body removing metabolic waste and toxins. What your body is desperately crying out for is micronutrients from live foods. The individual has literally starved him or herself at the cellular level even though they may have been eating sufficient calories from processed and refined foods.
A lot of dieters will cave in and find momentary relief by eating some sugar, but it’s only a quick fix. This is no different than finding momentary relief from nicotine-withdrawal symptoms by smoking another cigarette. The root problem with the addiction is still there and left unresolved. Let me be perfectly clear, there are no short-cuts to breaking a sugar addiction other than healing your body and conditioning it to use other energy substrates like fat.
The longer you’ve been on sugar and processed foods, the more time it will take to detoxify and rejuvenate the cells. Be patient with yourself but just know the body has an amazing ability to heal itself fairly quickly when you put in the right foods.
I recommend an “all out” approach to eating whole, natural foods for 30 days. Don’t just replace “bad carbs” with “healthy whole grains.” Pull out the starches and condition your body to fuel off fat instead of sugar. Within 30 days you can see dramatic changes if you push through the withdrawal symptoms and resist the temptation to cheat with just a little bit of sugar.
The withdrawal symptoms will be the strongest during the first 10-14 days. This is where you don’t want to be “dieting” per se. Instead, make sure you’re eating enough or it will be extremely difficult resisting the true hunger signals calling for energy and nutrients.
This is where a lot of individuals get tripped up. They think they have to eat less and go into diet mode when in reality they should be eating more! The difference will be they’re eating from natural foods that will provide nutrients to the cells.
Another quick tip is to consider the benefits of drinking straight black coffee. Moderation is essential as you don’t want to consume more than 2-3 cups a day. However, there is new research that shows the natural caffeine in black coffee can fill the opioid receptors in the brain that sugar once occupied. This is why coffee is so helpful with any addiction.
By following a diet with lots of lean proteins, greens, and vegetables along with performing regular exercise and getting adequate sleep, you can break a sugar addiction in as little as 30 days. What you’re actually doing is just getting the body back in balance and providing the necessary nutrients for optimal health and function.
Live foods hold the answer to breaking a sugar addiction but you’ve just got to give them enough time to heal your body. The strategies I’m giving you are not quick fixes that avoid the root of the problem. They will take some time but your success is ensured if you stick with it and simply commit to eating foods that heal.
Shane Doll is a certified Charleston personal trainer, fat loss expert, speaker, and founder of Shaping Concepts. With a staff of over 10 certified fitness professionals, Shaping Concepts provides personal training in Charleston with a specialty on weight loss and body transformation.