Breakups — we’ve all been through them. But, this might be one of the hardest breakups yet: you’re split with sugar.
My name is Coach Marife and I was a sugar addict. Yes, I can admit it — I loved sugar. Can you blame me? I was raised eating Frosted Flakes, Corn Pops or Sugar Crisps for breakfast. For lunch or dinner, I would eat sweet spaghetti (Filipino style) or sweet marinated BBQ. These eating habits followed me into adulthood. I would rather skip the entrée to eat dessert or I would look at the dessert menu first so I could plan my main entrée around it. My favorite drink was a caramel macchiato with extra, extra, extra caramel.
As much as I loved sugar, sugar loved me back. As I got older, the more sugar I had, the more I wanted it, and the more weight I gained. I was addicted and all I could think about was what my next sweet treat would be.
How sugar is failing you
Like me, you could have a sugar addiction and not even realize it. And, like a bad boyfriend, it’s time to let sugar go. Here’s why: Sugar can increase your appetite, suppress your immune system, weaken eyesight, cause premature aging, cause disease, increase water retention, cause depression and lead to many types of cancer (stomach, breast, ovarian).
Also, there’s a reason you often hear the phrase, “I feel like I’m going into a sugar coma,” after someone eats too many sweets. Eating too much sugar can also impair cognitive function and reduce your memory and responsiveness.
The problem isn’t necessarily the sugar you sprinkle in your coffee or that piece of dark chocolate you eat for dessert. The real problem lies in the hidden sugar found in almost all processed foods. Sugar is everywhere – it’s in bread, pasta, and of course, your favorite coffee drink. It is hidden in ketchup, crackers, chips, soups, sports drinks, juices, and soda. It adds up quickly and soon you’re eating much more than your daily allowance.
Don’t believe me? Next time you go to the grocery store, check the label and see for yourself.
5 ways to beat your sugar addiction
Breaking up with sugar has many benefits. Reducing sugar intake helps you maintain a healthy weight, lowers blood pressure, decreases your risk of heart attack and keeps your brain sharp. Below are my five tips for helping you beat your sugar addiction and see the benefits.
Tip #1: Know thyself
The first step to combat sugar addiction is to understand why you’re eating sugar. Are you eating when you are hungry? Are you eating when you feel stressed? Are you mindlessly eating? For me, I was eating sugar for the taste and pleasure — I simply loved the taste!
When you know the reason behind your sugar addiction, you can make a plan to defeat it.
Tip #2: Boost dopamine levels naturally
Research shows that consuming sugar releases dopamine, a neurotransmitter in the brain that has the same addictive properties as cocaine, but the results are temporary. Eating sugar gives you a momentary high, and then drops off, leaving you with a craving for more. It becomes a never-ending cycle.
A little bit scary, right?
To naturally boost dopamine levels you need to limit sugar intake and increase your consumption of foods with the amino acid tyrosine. Dopamine is made from tyrosine and eating a diet high in tyrosine will ensure that you have the basic building blocks for dopamine production.
The following foods increase dopamine naturally, without sugars added in:
- All animal products
- Dark chocolate
Tip #3: Be mindful of what you eat & drink
Make sure you’re eating three meals a day comprised of protein, fat and a moderate amount of healthy carbs from whole grains, fruits, and vegetables. Breakfast is important to keep morning snacking at bay. My go-to breakfast is eggs with cherry tomatoes and avocado or oatmeal with fruit. If you are an 8fit Pro member, you can get these recipes and more healthy choices in your meal plan.
Be mindful when it comes to fruit and fruit juices. Fruit itself is a natural sugar that is also high in fiber, water content, antioxidants, minerals, vitamins and can provide a quick energy boost. You don’t want to eat fruit in unlimited quantities because it is higher in carbs and sugar than vegetables, but it should still be a regular addition to your diet. Fruit juice, on the other hand, has been stripped of its fiber and all that’s left behind is sugar.
Lastly, remember to drink water. Often when you think you are hungry, it’s actually your body craving hydration. Water will flush toxins and helps to suppress appetite. Plus, substituting water in place of high-calorie, sweetened beverages also keeps your calorie consumption in check.
Tip #4: Move more
When you feel a sugar craving coming on, get up and walk away. Go around your office building and get some fresh air. Chances are, when you get back, your sugar craving will be gone. If you normally go to coffee with friends, instead plan an active meet up like biking, going for a walk, attending a fitness class or doing an 8fit workout together.
Tip #5: Navigate restaurants wisely
Avoid eating out, but when you must eat out, choose healthier restaurants. Crowd out desserts by choosing big salads or lean protein with veggies on the side. With salads, sure you include a protein such as chicken or tofu and have the dressing (which often contains sugar) on the side.
How I gave up sugar
When I began training for a fitness competition in my journey towards health, I began changing my diet and taking these tips into account. Trust me when I say it was anything but easy. I cleared my home of all temptations. I avoided routes that had bakeries. When my co-workers brought in treats, I would sip on peppermint tea as I passed them by.
It may be difficult early on, but it gets better over time. It took me a few weeks to quit thinking about sugar. I can’t remember the exact moment that I no longer had the cravings, but it eventually happens. Plus, combining my new habits with workouts allowed my body to start to shed fat.
The bottom line
Like I always say, you can’t out-exercise a bad diet. Like any breakup, the key to getting over it is to keep your distance and stay away from temptation. You may not be able to quit sugar cold-turkey, but you can gradually reduce processed sugar by replacing it with healthy alternatives. Over time, you will feel and see the difference.
When you follow recipes from 8fit, you can rest assured knowing that their sugar content is low. 8fit recipes take total health into account. We not only reduce sugar but include healthy, natural food choices in each recipe. Our meals keep you satisfied and help you stick to your goals with easy-to-follow directions and quick prep. All you have to worry about is enjoying your meal and reaching your goals.