8 Tips for a sugarfree life
As a teen I once saw a doctor who told me that if I did not stop eating refined sugar I would be diabetic by age thirty. My response was “What a relief that you’re not my real doctor.” No way could I envision a happy life eating sugarfree. There are a zillion reasons why removing refined sugars from your diet is a good thing. But the only enduring reason is because you like the way you feel and the way you heal without it.
Of all the cleanses, dietary changes, treatments and therapies I have researched and tried in the last 30 years, reducing your sugar load is by far the most crucial to cutting your inflammation and reclaiming your healthiest skin, organs, joints and tissues. Last month the FDA, World Health Organization and others cited evidence that lowering added sugars reduces the risk of obesity, heart disease, Type 2 diabetes and some types of cancer. Yep, sugars have now been linked with cancer.
20 years ago I went sugarfree in order to reclaim my life from autoimmune disease. But until about 3 years ago I’d never read a book about all the harmful effects of refined sugar. If you’d like to review some incriminating evidence yourself, there are several books now that describe the premature aging, damaging and drug-like effects of refined sugar/sweeteners on the brain and body. Sugar Shock!, SugarBlues, The Bitter Truth About Artificial Sweeteners, and Sugar-Busters are a few.
1) To Purge Or Not To Purge?
Breaking my sugar addiction was “as good as done” for the first two days. Then on day three I became irritable, anxious, paced the floor, and wandered into the kitchen every 15 minutes for just a little something sweet. My hands shook with tremors when I held them up in front of me. I’d get all set mentally to begin a project and then find myself staring into the cold cereal cupboard again.
We moved residences a few weeks later and as I unpacked food items, I knew I was making it much harder for myself by keeping all the garbage in my cupboards. At first I put all canned and packaged goods containing sugar, corn syrups, and milk products in a big moving box in the garage. I didn’t have the guts to throw away poor quality food like I do now. A few weeks later I gave it to a neighbor who seemed very grateful. Purging was the easiest way for me and my little ones to get into whole and healthy foods. I began immediately looking for replacements for the ready snacks, particularly for little people. (See Kid’s Snacks chapter of The Feel Good Cookbook for lots of ideas.)
2) Blood Cleansing Breaks Addiction
Breaking a sugar addiction is not just a mental exercise, but is a chemical dependency challenge as well. Refined sugar has a chemical effect on the brain and bloodstream like any other addictive substance. When you find yourself craving something sweet just to get a fix, consider, just for a weekend, consuming only fresh, raw, vegetable juices. The effect will be that as digestion takes a rest, your body’s energy turns to “housekeeping,” cleaning up stuff that by design does not belong in the tissues and blood. If you want to eat, keep it raw to keep the body cleansing. Cooked food requires greater energy and resources to digest, thus housekeeping is stalled until you fast or “go raw” again.
Wheatgrass juice is an even more powerful blood cleanser than vegetable juices, but approach it with caution. Begin with one ounce at morning and night, then double it only if you feel no cleansing reactions or nausea with that amount. A manager at our local natural foods store once reported that people struggling with drug addiction would belly-up to the juice bar for wheatgrass juice because they’d heard there’d be a drug test at work the next day. “It’s good stuff” he said, “but not quite that good.” It may not clean up all the chemical byproducts of sugar addiction that trigger withdrawals in a single day, but it can in a week or so. The same therapy is effective for breaking an addiction to caffeine, tobacco, medications or other addictive substances.
3) “Treat” Yourself Already
Make a point of treating yourself to indulgences other than sweets, like savoring a morning walk, gardening, playing football with the kids, or taking a nice, long, bubble bath. Gather or buy fresh flowers; give yourself an afternoon off doing something yummy to you. Discover activities that are even more rewarding than entertaining yourself with food, and feel your body feeling better, the sweetest treat of all!
4) “Sweet Is A Treat”
We’ve adopted this motto at our house and try to allow sweet things to remain in the dessert category. Sweet Gala Apples or a juicy navel orange is a treat, not part of a main course meal. The enzymes needed to digest fruits actually do their job much more effectively when eaten alone than when thrown in the middle of a meal.
5) Less Is More
We have a healthy homemade dessert every Sunday evening as part of family night. This way dessert is something we look forward to as a treat instead of an entitlement at each meal. I’m finding that “less often” actually creates more anticipation and enjoyment than escalating frequency does.
6) Savor Bites
This has become a family tradition that sharpens all the senses by keeping your mind enjoying the present moment. With nine kids at the dinner table, you bet I liked the idea of a period of silence during the meal as Buddhist monks observe. So everyone can focus on the food itself and notice its colors, textures and unique tastes without distraction. With sweet treats and meals that include tasty animals someone in our family will say, “Savor Bite,” and together everyone gets a good bite in their mouth, closes their eyes and listens for the sound of …raspberry singing softly over a creamy crepe or the crooning of a sweet and spicy Thai curry over the melodic texture of brown rice.
Years ago, while cutting back on both sugar and meat consumption, we started this tradition in order to thank the animal we were eating for giving us its life. Before that we slammed down meat like no tomorrow without thinking about where it actually came from. Sweet things are also deserving of this attention. Just for fun, try watching a movie without eating at the same time and decide that the movie itself will be your savor bite. Then, if you’d like, eat some popcorn when you can focus on it and really savor the flavor…instead of mindlessly scarfing it down.
7) “Just Water, Thanks”
I no longer serve juice at meals, just water. This not only reduces our grocery bill and caloric intake but it encourages far more drinking of cool, clear water (which we all really need). The bonus is that floors, tables and counters are not continually sticky with dripped and dried juice syrup…I love that. I still buy juice concentrates but use them primarily for sweetening desserts and smoothies.
8) Finding Substitutes
As you transition to healthier food choices, give yourself some mental space to ponder alternatives. At first I scoured the aisles of my grocery store for any food items free of sugar, milk and wheat (because it was necessary) and bought bunches just to send the message to the grocer that people want more of them. You can find 100% fruit-sweetened jams made by various namebrand companies. They are delicious with nut butters, or cut in half with water to make tasty fruit syrups for pancakes or desserts. I talked with store managers about expanding the selection of fruit-sweetened products and asked about discounts for buying in bulk. I was left with a narrower shopping list, but hey, that saves time and money too, right? Because I’m not using fresh dairy products (except butter), I can usually make it through a month on two trips to the store, stashing extra produce in a spare fridge in the garage.
We Can Help
If you want to be sugarfree you’ve got to find substitutes, and that’s where Feel Good Foods can help. We’ll help you find a new favorite libation other than sugared drinks… like stevia sweetened lemonade garnished with mint (add ice for a lemon slushie..mmm.) We’ll turn you onto new finger foods other than candy and offer delectable desserts much lower in carbs than the sugar coma ice creams of yesteryear.
Browse some healthier options at myfeelgoodfoods on Instagram, or feelgoodfoods on Facebook. Or thumb through a copy of The Feel Good Cookbook at a local bookstore. And sign up for our newsletter to stay tuned as we send out new ideas each week to help you and your loves enjoy the sweet life with greater savvy than ever before.
Join me in kicking the sugar habit this year, or at least cutting way back and helping those you love do it too.
Love from Bend,