How to Break up with Sugar

Breakups. We’ve all been through them. In this case, the thing we need to break-up with is sugar. Delicious, mouth-watering sugar.

My name is Marife, coach at 8fit, and I was a sugar addict. Yes, I can admit that 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 look at the dessert menu first so I could plan my main entrée around the dessert. 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, I gained more and more weight. The more sugar I had, the more I wanted it, and the more weight I gained. I was addicted. All I could think about was what my next sweet treat would be.

Like me, you could have a sugar addiction and not even realize it.

How sugar is failing you

Sugar is like a bad boyfriend or girlfriend. Let’s just face it – it is time to break up.

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). Eating too much sugar can impair cognitive function and reduce your memory and responsiveness. There is a reason you often hear the phrase, “I feel like I’m going into a sugar coma” after eating too many sweets.

The temporary fix we get is not worth the cost of our health.

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 is in bread, pasta and of course, your favorite coffee drink. It is hidden in ketchup, bread, crackers, chips, soups, sports drinks, juices, and soda. It adds up and soon you are eating much more than your daily allowance. 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 and decreases your risk of heart attack. It also keeps your brain sharp.

Here are my top tips for helping you realize these benefits.

Tip #1: Know thyself

The first step to combat sugar addiction is to understand why you are eating sugar. Are you eating when you are hungry? Are you stress eating? 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. When combined with exercise 1, they help reduce your dependence on sugar and replace it with healthy habits:

  • all animal products
  • almonds
  • apples
  • avocado
  • bananas
  • beets
  • dark chocolate
  • coffee
  • watermelon

Mix these into your diet to stop sugar cravings, decrease dopamine depletion caused by sugar consumption, and produce dopamine naturally.

Tip #3: Be mindful of what and how you eat & drink.

Make sure you are eating three meals a day comprised of protein, fat and a moderate amount of healthy carbs from whole-wheat foods, fruits, and vegetables. Breakfast is important to keep morning snacking at bay. My go-to breakfast are eggs with cherry tomatoes and avocado or oatmeal with fruit. If you are a PRO member, you can get these recipes and more healthy choices in your meal plan. Also, you should always have healthy snacks available for when hunger hits to keep you from heading towards the vending machine or grabbing a bag of chips.

Be mindful when it comes to fruit and fruit juices. Fruit itself is a natural sugar that is high in fiber, water, 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 it’s fiber and is even higher in sugar than Coke. Try always to choose whole fruit over juice.

Remember to drink more water. Often when you think you are hungry it is actually your body craving water. Water will flush toxins and helps to suppress appetite. Food with a high water content looks larger and is absorbed more slowly in the body, which helps you feel full longer. Substituting water in place of high calorie, sugar sweetened beverages also keeps your calorie consumption in check. One serving of soda or juice can contain 140 calories from sugar and will not keep you full.

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 workout, they are less than 20 minutes with 8fit, or go for a walk together. Every movement helps. Take the stairs instead of the elevator. Park farther away from the front door. Get your body moving as often as you can.

Tip #5: Navigate restaurants wisely

Avoid eating out, but when you must eat out, choose healthier restaurants. Crowd out desserts by choosing big salads. Make sure you include a protein, such as chicken or tofu, and have the dressing (which often contains sugar) on the side. Whole Foods, and similar grocery stores, have a great salad bar.

Eat a variety of vegetables and greens. Often vegetables are included as a side dish on restaurant menus. Head here first when going out and fill up on a few vegetable sides.

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 — it was anything but easy.

I felt like I was in rehab. 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. On the plus side, combining my new habits with workouts allowed my body to start to shed fat.

It took a few weeks to quit thinking about sugar. It may be difficult early on, but it gets better over time. I can’t remember the exact moment that I no longer had the cravings, but it eventually happen.

The bottom line

Desserts is stressed spelled backwards—is there a correlation?

You can’t out-exercise a bad diet. Like any break-up, 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, replace it with healthy alternatives. Over time, you will feel and see the difference.

When you follow recipes from 8fit, we have already made sure their sugar content is low. 8fit recipes take total health into account. We not only reduce sugar, but include healthy, natural food choices, fruits, vegetables, and meats. Our meals keep you satisfied, satiate your appetite, 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!

References:

  1. Regulation of brain function by exercise. Neurobiol. Dis. June 2003.