Whenever I am socialising I always get asked health & fitness questions, which I love answering of course! This week a friend asked “How Do I Give Up Sugar?”. My answer is below.
Before I get into this it does raise the question about whether you should even give up sugar. An interesting study recently compared the success of advising people to give up sugar vs asking them to reduce fat within their diet. The advice to give up sugar did not add any benefit to being to reduce food intake and fat consumption only. What this shows is that the underlying methodology behind losing fat is moderating your energy balance. However, many people want to give up sugar for various reasons other than body fat changes. So if this applies to you then follow these steps to give up sugar :
1 – Clarify Your Definition of sugar – It is very important that you define what you mean by sugar. The term sugar means different things. For most they use it to refer to eating junk food or white carbs, which may or may not be high in sugar. This could include chocolate, cake and so forth. Others refer to all sugars and thus would remove not just obvious junk but also fruit and milk products. The biological definition of sugar would include the sugars found in vegetables as well. If you take this approach to the extreme then you are looking to follow very low carb / keto diet. Neither is right or wrong but you need to be clear where the lines are drawn in sugar elimination
What is your definition of sugar / giving up sugar entail?
What foods are clearly not allowed?
What surprising ones are allowed?
2 – Calculate Your calorie intake amount of your current Sugar intake – With your rules clearly set then it is prudent to see just how much food you will be giving up when you start your no sugar approach. The reason that so many people struggle to stick to a no sugar plan is that their no new plan is significantly less in total food than their previous intake. While you feel great for a few days eventually the under eating catches up with you and cravings for sugar foods increase and you return to your old ways.
Once you have seen quite how much food you eat you can ensure any new plan is of similar food intake amount. The hard bit is then getting yourself to eat more, almost everyone combines the no sugar approach with wanting to lose fat at the same time. This makes the process much harder, it is more enjoyable to take a few weeks to become comfortable with no sugar then move on to focusing on reducing your total intake amount to allow for fat loss.
Another area people struggle is forcing themselves to eat more food. Without knowing, you may be trying to follow a very strict low energy plan and the only way you reach break even with energy intake is through these “sugar mistakes”. Often you then feel guilty and this cycle becomes the underlying cause in the majority of eating and food related issues. It is vital you find a way to eat more food to ensure you are in a ball park of your previous intake amount.
How many calories of food will you cut out if you follow a no sugar diet?
How does a good to bad day compare on this calorie amount?
Bad Day Currently – ________ Calories From Sugar
Good Day Currently – ________ Calories From Sugar
3 – Plan For Taste & Availability – Much of our sugar intake comes from simple ease of access or desire for high tasting foods. In step two you would have see the amount of food you need to eat to make a no sugar diet easier to follow. In this step you should plan to find foods that have some sort of matching power on taste, e.g. you at least like them.
To do this, plan out how you could match the taste of foods that replace sugar. Simply pick out foods you like and plan how to get these into your diet. Sometimes you will need to bend other health rules you have in place to allow this. If you can find high tasting foods to replace sugar e.g. above 7 on a 0 – 10 taste scale, then you have made this game much easier.
I have found many people are surprised by how much more food they can eat of this high tasting sugar replacement to still match their overall intake calculated in step two.
The next bit of planning is being able to find substitutes for the times when you would grab sugar because of ease of access, the social situation you are in or to match the mood you are feeling. This process involves drawing up a list of possible substitutes based on all the logistical requirements for it to actually work. Then go out there and try it and see if this solution actually works or do you need to try a new idea.
What can you replace your sugar with that is above 7 on a 0 – 10 taste scale?
What can you easily grab to replace convenience sugar intake?
What can you easily grab to replace sugar consumed in social situations?
What can you eat to match sugar consumed for emotional reasons?
These answers can take a while to discover but please be persistent.
4 – Power Up Your Motivation – Start ASAP – Be Kind! – For change to happen you will usually need some motivation to get it going. Increase it by reminding yourself of some of the sugar facts out there, do this by reading one of the many books on sugar or watching documentaries like this one>>. Focus on the motivational benefits that not eating sugar would bring to you.
With this in hand you must start ASAP. No delaying, putting off, having a huge sugar binge on all the foods you think you will miss. Just start today and go! Yes there will be mistakes here and there but alongside starting today you should also carry with you a kind attitude. If you make a mistake forget it immediately then get back to the plan.
Food changes, especially eliminations have a tough first two weeks or so which if you get through it sees a fairly quick transition from being tough to follow to fairly easy and eventually your new natural behaviour patterns. Therefore, on any tough days in the beginning just tell yourself that this is a one time thing which will not exist in few days times.
Please note, much of the toughness in sugar elimination comes from step 2, not being close to matching your old calorie intake with your new no sugar diet.
What book or documentary can you learn more about sugar?
Start today – What is the very first step you could take right now?
Review – What day in 2-3 weeks would be good to review how this process has gone?
Be kind – How can I remind myself to be kind about any errors I may make?