By Soji James, CPT, CSCS
It can feel like an uphill struggle sometimes to reduce sugar in your diet. Chances are it already has you in its snare.
It’s white, provides you with a feeling of exhilaration, as well as an increased sense of energy and alertness. It elevates your mood and can be found at parties and establishments and businesses everywhere.
The euphoric high can feel like the best thing in the world—until it’s over.
You can literally go from feeling like Will Smith at the end of Pursuit of Happyness to feeling like the Incredible Hulk on a destructive rampage as the excitability is replaced with feelings of irritability, anxiety, and restlessness.
Drum roll – Ladies and gentlemen, say hello to sugar.
On average, Americans eat around 152lbs of sugar a year—per person. The big bad companies are just increasing bankroll and are the only ones who are benefiting from this trend.
If we’re speaking honestly, they actually may be the most efficient drug dealers ever. They have ditched the sleazy image that we associate with a drug supplier and slapped cool phrases on their product such as “fortified with calcium” to throw us off their trail. Even worse, they have violated our trust by paying millions to hack into our brains and directly profit off of our weakness and comforts. (Yeah I’m looking at you, chocolate-covered popcorn!)
Consuming a ton of sugar has absolutely nothing to do with willpower, or you being mentally weak. Sugar has a powerful impact on the brain. Upon ingesting sugar, dopamine (a neurotransmitter associated with pleasure/rewards) is released in the brain. The more of these types of foods we ingest, the more dopamine floods our big, beautiful heads. Eventually, our dopamine receptors down-regulate and we need more and more sugar to experience this same feeling of “wow, that was freaking amazing”.
As our blood sugar level rises, our body secretes a hormone known as insulin whose job is to clear the blood of glucose (sugar). As our insulin level drops, the body experiences the loss of this “high” and craves more. This is when you experience feelings of hunger, even though you may not actually feel hungry.
To sum this up, sugar basically dooms you to a cycle of craving more crappy food and leaving you feeling guilty each time you succumb to its pressure. Totally not cool.
I’m here to give you some tips to reduce sugar in your diet and cut it out so that you can become the best possible version of yourself.
Are you looking to lose weight, enhance performance, sleep better, and to stop feeling sluggish? Are you ready to punch sugar addiction in its proverbial face and embark on a quest of awesomeness?
Sugar is readily available everywhere you look, so if you do not plan ahead, chances are that you will be unsuccessful in escaping from its alluring grasp. Take control of your current environment by disposing of processed goods and replacing them with healthy alternatives. (If you have no cookies around to devour, then you can’t eat them. Simple as that.)
In terms of future additions to the household, grocery shop on a full stomach, not when you are starving. This way it is easier to maintain control of what you bring into your home and not self-sabotage yourself during a moment of weakness.
I’m sure you have probably heard the saying that breakfast is the most important meal of the day. I won’t continue that debate here, but how you start the day can and does dictate the path that you follow for the rest of the day. Breakfast foods are typically ridden with sugar (think bagels, English muffins, French toast, waffles, etc.) and can set you up for a day filled with cravings, low energy, and mood swings. Instead, opt to get more sources of fat, protein, whole fruits, and veggies into your morning rotation to reduce sugar in your diet.
When people hear sugar-free, they immediately throw their hands up into the air in despair and overwhelm themselves with feelings of deprivation and restriction. I’m calling on you to avoid being one of those people. Make food prep/planning into a game by experimenting with a new recipe every week, or going out of your way to try out a new fruit/vegetable. Have fun with this! Your mindset will determine your success.
While this may not be your cup of tea, I believe that a lot of people could benefit from sugar detox. Going cold turkey and cutting out sugar altogether allows you to reset how your body responds to sugar intake. Try it for 21 days. If you are down for the challenge, make sure that you read your labels. Food manufacturers often use things not known as “sugar” to sweeten their products and you may not even know it. You have to become a label detective in order to truly distance yourself from sugar.
One of the best books I’ve read on how to cut sugar is “The 21 Day Sugar Detox: Bust Sugar & Carb Cravings Naturally” by Diane Sanfilippo. It’s a clear cut and effective whole foods based action plan that will help you reset your body and your habits. Check it out here.