We need to change the way we look at sugar. Sugar is extremely addictive. If we detox from sugar, but don’t change our mindset, we will soon find ourselves back on the sugar rollercoaster. So detoxing is one step of the process, and it will eliminate our physical cravings, but we can’t stop there. So let’s walk through the steps to rehabilitate ourselves from our sugar addiction.
Step 1– Identify every source of sugar in our diet and eliminate it. Obviously we need to stop eating cupcakes, candy and ice cream. However I find that a lot of patients are unaware of how much sugar they drink. Sports drinks and fruit juices may contain as much sugar as sodas. Beware of liquid sugar because it enters the bloodstream rapidly and is very difficult for the body to metabolize properly. It often leads to weight gain and fatty liver. Sugar is often used as a flavor enhancer. Start reading labels and you will find sugar in foods that are not sweet. If you are trying to detox from sugar, any amount of sugar consumption can derail the process.
Step 2– Detoxify your body from sugar. Unsweetened cranberry juice helps eliminate sugar cravings and detoxify the liver. Pour 8oz of cranberry juice into a 2 liter pitcher and fill with filtered water. Drink the entire pitcher through out the day. Repeat for the next two days. Do not use Ocean Spray or any brand that adds sugar. That will defeat the purpose. This will taste TART, especially on the first day when you are coming off sugar. Your liver is your largest fat burning organ. And many of us who are strung out on sugar develop candida, or yeast, in the digestive tract. Yeast overgrowth creates a byproduct that can clog up the liver. Drink filtered cranberry juice at least the first three days of sugar rehab. But feel free to drink it all month or whenever you want to.
After three days of diluted cranberry juice, add some plant based protein powder to your diet. Cleanse Complete is a favorite in our office. 14 days of protein shakes and liver support to remove toxins leftover from the holidays. In addition to drinking 2 shakes/day, remove inflammatory foods such as grains and dairy for your diet. Eat two lean and green meals containing protein, healthy fat and veggies. Oh and drink lots of water! This can be a great way to kick of any weight loss resolutions. It also supports us as we continue to rehab from our sugar addiction.
Step 3– Fuel your body with nutritious nourishing meals. One of the biggest mistakes people make when they are trying to fight off a sugar addiction is underfuel their bodies. Typically what happens is that we look at our daily diet and remove all the sugar-laden foods from it, but we do not replace them with anything. This means that people can cut their calories by 1/3-1/2 of what their bodies are used to and this will cause your blood sugar to dip and trigger hunger pangs. When your blood sugar dips, your body instinctively craves sugar-laden food because it know that is the quickest form of energy the body can get. You must replace sugar with protein and fat. In fact, I tell patients to eat protein and fat with every meal and snack. This helps to stabilize blood sugar and keep the body from being hungry.
Step 4– Identify the mental/emotional need for sugar. This is the most important step in our rehab process. We must identify the triggers that created our sugar addiction in the first place. Sugar is not a reward for an accomplishment. It does not comfort us when we are hurt. We are not required to eat sugar on holidays because it is tradition. However we have all these “happy” associations with sweets and many feel deprived of the occasion if we do not eat dessert.
In addition to holidays, places are a trigger. If you always eat lunch at a certain restaurant because you love their cheesecake, it will be very difficult to go there without ordering cheesecake. If you think you can go to your favorite burger and shake joint and just order a healthy salad, you are kidding yourself. In fact, no matter how healthy and satisfying that salad is, you will feel as if you are missing out on something. You must change what you eat as well as where you eat.
Make sure you get your family and friends on board with your lifestyle change. Some people may think it is funny to knock you off course and tempt you with dessert. Some family members may feel like they are being punished because they do not see the value in eating healthy. They need to understand that these lifestyle changes are not easy and you would appreciate their support. And it doesn’t hurt to educate them about healthy habits.
Change your social media feed! It you are constantly inundated with recipes for various desserts, your will power will be tested. Instead focus on feeds that provide healthy makeovers to your family’s favorite dishes and choose some that inspire you to try new foods. As you change what you see every day, you will change what you focus on.
Step 5– If you need a reason to get sugar out of your life, then find your why. Diabetes or heart disease may run in the family. The same conditions that cause diabetes and heart disease cause Alzheimer’s disease. Don’t wait until you are diagnosed with these conditions to do something about it. I tell all of my patients that we win the game by getting healthy and staying healthy right now. This is the easy road. The road to recover health is the hard road.
Pain can be a great motivator. For those suffering with chronic injuries, sugar is inflammatory and can cause painful flare ups in joints and muscles. My left shoulder lets me know every time I have had too much sugar. It had a lot to say to me between Thanksgiving and Christmas last year. One of my patients said it best when she said, “My body knows that sugar is not good for it, but my mind hasn’t figured it out yet.”
Step 6– Keep working at it! We are a society that loves dessert. We will always be surrounded by it and most will be tempted by it. As you change your mindset and change your focus on eating healthy, those temptations will weaken until they no longer have your attention. Then you will be rehabilitated.