October is nearing its end which means its officially time for pumpkin everything. Just last week I bought four cans of packed pumpkin goodness and treated myself to pumpkin pie, pumpkin baked apples, and even pumpkin oatmeal. It was delicious, and I loved it. But I also didn’t sleep so great, felt foggy most mornings, and spent my afternoons yawning through the 3pm stretch. It’s not the pumpkin that did me in, its the sugar!! Don’t you just love to hate the stuff? Now that the holidays are upon us there will be plenty of sweet treats in our futures, and that’s ok. We are meant to put on a couple of Christmas pounds and grab some extra nourishment during the dark, cold months. But while it is perfectly acceptable to indulge and savor, keep in mind that savory doesn’t necessarily mean sweet.
It’s Not a Sweet Tooth
You are going to try to tell me that you have a sweet tooth but that just isn’t accurate. People are not born craving or not craving sugar. If they were our whole nation would have been obese in 1789. But they weren’t. Not until today. You weren’t born needing Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup Pumpkins, you became that way. It’s not your fault either so don’t get caught up in the guilt cycle just yet. This isn’t about your own willpower at all. Sugar isn’t a craving, its an addiction. Just as addicting, it turns out, as nicotine. Doesn’t that make your stomach turn? Yep, if you have a sweet tooth, what you actually have is an addiction. The worse part is, the more you eat it, the more you need it, the more you crave it. And when you try to get away from it, you can’t. Its too hard. Doesn’t that sound like cigarettes to you? I can’t wait for the day when cane sugar becomes a controlled substance. You should have to be ID’d, taxed, and over 18 to eat it. But until then, its up to us to gauge moderation and that means something different for everyone.
It’s a Sugar Addiction
Say you smoke a cigarette once. Typically you are fine. You don’t become addicted or need one. You tried it, no big deal. Say you have a couple here and there, still probably fine. Now say it becomes a social enabler and you start meeting a friend for a smoking break or at a cafe. Maybe for you it starts with a crescent, a square of chocolate, or a pump of vanilla in your latte. At first its just innocent hits of glucose that your body can quickly burn up and move on from. Then you start not liking coffee without that hit of sugar. Suddenly a meal doesn’t taste satisfying unless you end it with a sweet. Maybe breakfast isn’t the same without honey on top or a a piece of toast just won’t work right without some sugary jam. Sometimes you don’t even know how much sugar you are eating since its hidden in just about anything you buy from Trader Joe’s. The next thing you know there is nothing that can keep you away from the office treats or the 3pm indulgence. You become addicted. Unfortunately, the consequences are just as dire as that cigarette. It starts with weight gain, mild insomnia, shaky mornings or sleepy afternoons. It ends with insulin resistance, diabetes, heart disease, or cancer.
You Don’t Need to Quit
Sorry for taking that to a scary place. I try to keep this blog as peppy as possible, but on this note I just wanted you to realize what we are dealing with here. Sugar addiction is real and it’s harmful, but its also reversible. The first step is realizing that you are addicted. So many health nuts out there don’t even realize it because they think buying quinoa in bulk or topping a salad with chickpeas evens it all out. But it doesn’t. An occasional treat is fine, but if you are consuming it everyday in the form of cane sugar, high fructose corn syrup, sugar substitutes, agave, honey, or maple syrup you are addicted and we need to start weaning you off the steady drip.
You Need to Replace
So here is what you can do. First of all, every time you have a craving drink a glass of water then think about why you want what you do. Are you looking for comfort? Satiation? Are you bored? Can you just not help yourself because you know it’s there? Think if you are coming from a place of urgency or a place of calm. Now make sure you get something nourishing so you still feel like you are treating yourself. Steer clear of the sugar, at least at first. Don’t worry you can add it back in eventually. This is where one of my favorite words comes into play: Moderation.
Here are some recommendations for getting you started:
- Instead of sugar in your coffee… use unsweetened almond milk or coconut milk.
- Instead of a chai tea latte… blend a banana with almond milk, an apple, and cinnamon for a delicious smoothie. (Adding Vanilla chai Vega also makes this delicious and sugar-free).
- Instead of topping oatmeal with maple or brown sugar… simmer with crushed bananas, apples, turmeric, and cinnamon.
- Instead of a muffin… have an English muffin with almond butter.
- Instead of an after lunch sweet… have a few dried mangoes.
- Instead of a sugary snack… have some nuts and raisins.
- Instead of dessert after dinner… switch to dried or stewed fruit, a pear poached in red wine, or apples sprinkled with cinnamon.
There will be withdrawals and you will feel tired or have headaches, but eventually the urgency will disappear and your cravings will go away. The thing to remember when you start adding things back in is this: It’s really easy to slip back into the addiction. Just as an ex-smoker will smoke one cigarette and then crave a whole pack, you need to make sure a treat is just that. Having a slice of cake is fine but savor it slowly so you don’t feel tempted to devour the whole cake when no one is looking.
Are you a sugar junkie? How are you quitting the stuff? I’d love to get some more ideas from you all!
Once again, thanks for reading!
P.S. Sugar addiction (and all its side effects) is something I can help you with! Join my three months to wellness program and we’ll get started immediately!
We all have our addictions
We drink coffee to wake ourselves up, have a piece of chocolate to fend off the 3pm blues, savor a glass of wine at the end of the day to unwind, and maybe we buy oursleves something pretty for a pick-me-up from time-to-time. Ok so maybe we don’t do ALL of these things everyday, but the point is that we rely on our vices. My husband Garret has an on/off relationship with his one vice per day rule- as in if he has coffee in the morning, no wine with supper. I think that rule is generally a good rule of thumb depending on the circumstances, but everyone’s body is different so a one-size-fits-all approach isn’t the way to go here.
We can all agree that coffee, chocolate, & wine all have loads of benefits
They are all major sources of antioxidants, can amp you up for a workout, calm your nerves, and provide a moment of comfort. The list can go on and on. If you are experiencing nothing but positive results, keep it up! Your body is loving it! However if any of the below side effects hit close to home it might be time to re-asses. For example, my eye was twitching uncontrollably for about a month until I realized it was time to cut back on caffeine! (That’s not pretty!)
Here is the rundown (alphabetically):
- Anxiety: Caffeine can give you more than just the jitters. If you are experiencing anxiety, herbal teas might be better suited for you than coffee (especially camomile! Super soothing!). I still see no problem with wine though. Its a good way to relax those nerves and unwind your day.
- Insomnia: Once again this is where caffeine can be hurting you regardless of what time you are drinking it (or eating it if your addiction is laced with chocolate!). Cut back on all caffeine or energy sources (red bull, 5-hour energy, etc).
- Digestive trouble: Too Slow: Coffee is a natural stimulant and helps get things moving along in a pinch. The more you drink coffee though the more your body requires it (just like a stimulant laxative). FORTUNATELY coffee is WAY easier to get off of than laxatives (see below). If your constipation is chronic- you might be allergic to something your are eating. Get tested. Too Fast: Try laying off ALL of these things! If you have diarrhea that is more than just occasional, you could be allergic to something you are eating. Get tested.
- Low Energy: Ditch sugar and coffee- they are making you lethargic! Your body is constantly adjusting to stimulants and leaves you exhausted once you crash. Give yourself some slack on the alcohol too. Pretty much all of these stimulants can leave you low on fuel.
- Eye twitches, muscle spasms: Definitely could be caffeine. And stress too. Time for some relaxation!
- Heart palpitations, flutters, skipping a beat, racing heart: All of these are insanely influenced by caffeine. If you find that your heart is flip flopping around lately, laying off the stimulants could be all it takes to get you back in gear.
- Hormonal changes such as getting off the birth control pill or menopause: Ditch sugar! It major messes with your hormones and can aid the constant ups and downs that you might be experiencing.
There is no need to deprive yourself of something that you love. But here is how to cut back:
It’s super tricky to lay off a vice since there is probably a reason you are using it in the first place. A good tip I took from “French Women Don’t Get Fat” is the principle of moderation. Personally, I drink herbal tea on the weekdays, and treat myself to an espresso on Saturdays and Sundays. I drink wine with dinner probably 3-5 nights a week. And I only eat sugar when its that time of the month. This loose plan means that I enjoy everything I want to without depending on it.
How to cut back on coffee…
- …and still not be tired: You will be tired when you are first getting off, but withdrawals are short lived. Pick a weekend when you don’t have a lot going on and stop drinking coffee cold turkey. You’ll get your energy back in under a week in most cases.
- …and keep things moving: Start out by drinking your normal cup of coffee in the morning. After dinner put 3-5 prunes in a pot and cover with water. Boil down until the prunes are plump and the water is a murky purple. This is called stewed prunes and it makes a yummy dessert! Once you have this basic recipe down, start playing with it! It is super delicious when boiled along with berries or apricots. And top with honey or cinnamon if you’d like! Sub your coffee for decaf and keep adding more and more prunes (up to about 7) to your dessert. Just make sure you set aside some time to relax, especially at the beginning. Keep in mind that it takes a little bit of time for your body to adjust- but it will!
- …and still have a morning routine: Replace it with herbal tea or decaf coffee. Try swapping out your coffee with decaf or herbal tea. If neither of those things interest you in the morning- try choffee- a new chocolate based morning drink without the buzz-its actually really good!
How to cut back on sugar: If you have a premonition that you may have a sugar addition, you could be right. There have been SEVERAL studies showing that addiction to sugar can be absurdly similar to nicotine. Your body is depending on the rush and crash just as with cigarettes. Removing it cold turkey is painful and not sustainable in the long run. Just as with cigarettes you need to cut back slowly. Save sweets for a weekend or have only one square of chocolate after lunch. If you put sugar in your coffee, slowly remove little by little each day until it tastes good black. If you have a major craving- allow yourself a small treat- like one Hershey’s kiss. That way you won’t feel deprived later and allow yourself to binge on a box of cookies for dinner (no one feels good about that!). Think of this stage as the nicorette gum- you are giving yourself less and less of a dose so you don’t crash as hard and can keep cravings from taking over.
How to cut back on alcohol: If you are out with friends, try my trick: I get one glass of wine that I drink sooooo slowly over the course of the evening so it lasts me all night! Or try drinking sparkling water with dinner if you are looking for something with more integrity then plain water. Or put some cucumbers and mint in your water! If you go out for drinks with your friends every night and are looking to cut back- order some bubbly water with lime so you still feel like part of the party!
Hope this helps!! Let me know if you have anything to add!Read More