If you’re counting down the days to summer, you’re not the only one. And if you’re also counting backward from the moment you’re expected to reveal yourself in a bathing suit, you’re surely not the only one with anxiety toward the season. This is the time where resolutions from the new year fall to the wayside and last-minute crash diet plans come into play. But it’s old news now that crash diets don’t work. Not only are they unsuccessful, but they can often hurt your health more than help it. Instead, try to make a simple—yet significant—change that you can commit to as part of a healthy lifestyle. One such change is cutting out sugar.
Cutting out sugar in time for summer might sound impossible if you can’t imagine a meal that doesn’t end in dessert, but the perks of going sugar-free are more than worth it. Sugar has been linked to weight gain, mood conditions and other cognitive problems. It is also known to cause vicious cravings and be extremely hard to conquer. But it can be done! The tips in this post may work for some, not for all, but find the right combination that works for you and feel confident heading into swimsuit season!
Are You an Abstainer or a Moderator?
Gretchen Rubin, author of The Happiness Project, wrote about the topic of abstainers versus moderators on her blog. Before you make the choice to cut out sugar, take a look into your current eating habits. Are you good at moderation? If you’re the kind of person who can easily take one cookie off the pan and stop there, you probably are. If portion control and serving sizes are easy for you to follow, then most likely you are a moderator. You can let yourself have just a little bit of something “bad” and still feel fulfilled. If this sounds like you, gradually weaning yourself off sugar might be the easiest and most successful way to cut it out of your life for good.
If having just one cookie off the pan fresh out of the oven sounds impossible, you might be an abstainer. Abstainers operate on an “all or nothing” mentality. For an abstainer, it can be stressful limiting yourself to, for example, three sugary drinks each week. It can lead to inner turmoil over when and where to have them, how to make it worth it, etc. If this sounds like you, cutting out sugar cold turkey might just be the best. .)
How to Cut Back on Sugar
If you're trying to wean yourself off your sugar addiction slowly, start out with substitutions. Instead of adding sugar, syrup or honey to your foods, try fresh fruit. Fruit is naturally sweet and can help satisfy the craving without leaving you wanting more at the beginning of the process. You can also dilute your regular sugary drinks with water. Dilute your drinks more and more each week until water or unsweetened drinks are enough to satisfy you. If you can't get rid of dessert completely, try having half your usual portion. It's also a good idea to trade in your refined carbs (white breads, pastries, etc.) for more satiating carbs like whole grain options. The extra fiber in whole grains will help fill you faster and leave you feeling satisfied for longer.
When you eliminate all sugars and refined carbs completely, it's important to give yourself enough time to form healthy habits instead. After just 3-4 weeks, you will have reset your taste buds to not crave sugars as intensely and instead desire more complex foods. The idea is to lock these healthy habits in place so that if and when you do reintroduce sugar to your diet, you can do so without falling off the wagon. Chances are, the next time you consume sugar it won't be nearly as enjoyable as it once was before changing your diet.
Curb Your Cravings for Sweets
During and after your switch to a sugar-free lifestyle, it's important to stay on top of your health to avoid falling victim again to sugar cravings.
- Eat More
A common mistake that people make on any diet is not eating enough. Even if you’re eating clean, not eating enough will lead to cravings between meals and the perfect chance for sugar to sneak its way back into your diet. Plan your meals each day, and make sure that protein is part of each one. Protein helps to regulate blood sugar and keep you full longer. Aim for 20 g of protein on your plate at each meal.
- Stay Away From Substitutes
You might think that artificial sweeteners will help you stick to your no sugar commitment, but they may actually hurt you more than help. Not only are sugar substitutes full of chemicals that may have a wealth of other negative side effects, they are much sweeter than natural sugar. What’s dangerous about this is that the more you rely on artificial sugar, the more your taste buds build up a tolerance to sweetness. This means that over time you train your body to crave high-sugar foods, and naturally sweet foods don’t cut it anymore. When you want something sweet, skip the Splenda and go for fresh fruit.
Enjoy the Benefits
The benefits of going sugar-free are endless. Yes, you're sure to feel more confident in that new bathing suit, but the real benefits show themselves in your long term health. You will feel more energized, focused, and healthier overall. Though it seems daunting, you can start small and work your way up to completely eliminating this unhealthy substance. No crash diets needed!