Have you ever tried to give up sugar? Chances are, the first day went well, and you thought it was going to be easy. The second day might have gone okay too, except you caught yourself eyeing up your coworker's iced caramel latte, and the donuts in the break room were calling to you a little more loudly than they usually do. By day three, noticing treats became full-on cravings, and cravings became obsessions.
You might be thinking you weren't a big sweets person before giving up sugar, and now it's all you can think about. What's going on?
Turns out, giving up sugar is harder than it seems. In fact, some experts say quitting sugar can be just as difficult as quitting cigarettes or alcohol. When you eat or drink something with added sugar, your body releases dopamine, which is a feel-good chemical. It's all the same mechanism that fuels other types of addictions.
When you quit sugar, you're not just saying no to cookies and cake (which, let's be real, is hard enough). You're saying no to all foods and drinks that contain added sugar—which is a lot of them, including some you might not expect.
Here's how to break free from sugar, for good.
Start by weaning yourself off of sugary drinks.
This includes soda, sweet tea, lemonade, sports drinks, and anything else with added sugar. Even some fruit juices contain a lot of sugar with very little juice, so keep an eye on those. Instead, opt for water, sparkling water, or seltzer.
If you drink sugary drinks regularly, you might be surprised at how much sugar you're cutting out just by swapping out your sugary drinks, or sweetening your coffee with naturally sweetened syrups instead of sugary artificial creamers.
Next, cut back on sugary foods.
Start by eliminating processed foods like cakes, cookies, pastries, and candy.
This is a good time to start reading labels. You'd be surprised at what kinds of foods have added sugar! Certain salsas, sauces, and condiments can contain a lot of sugar. Salad dressing is a big offender.
That might sound miserable, but the good news is, treats made with natural sweeteners can be better than the real thing. You can find muffins, cookies, peanut butter cups, and more made with monk fruit that won't send your blood sugar through the roof.
Make sure you're eating enough fat, protein, and fiber.
These nutrients will help you feel satiated, and if you feel full, your blood sugar won’t ride the rollercoaster and you won't think about the sweet stuff as much.
Stay there, or keep going.
After that, you may decide that your sugar intake is under control, or you may decide to start cutting back on foods that contain natural sugars, like fruit, honey, and syrup. It’s up to you and your goals—if you’re trying to get blood sugar under control for medical reasons, you may want to be more strict with it.
Sugar is everywhere, but that doesn’t mean you’ll focus on it forever. With a little bit of effort now, soon you’ll be less and less tempted until you break free from sugar for good.