Reducing your sugar intake sounds for most of us like a big challenge...
Thinking of giving up on our favorite treats might feel like a nightmare, especially considering the energy pick up that sugar gives our brain and body. Some of us feel ‘addicted’, others seem to be more in control around it. In any case, lowering your sugar intake sounds like a tough challenge for almost everyone (except the few lucky ones who were born without a sweet tooth).
Let’s assume that you are fully aware of the dangers of sugar and the massive health benefits you can get by reducing your intake. You have probably heard how amazing it feels when you are no longer hooked up on sweets, candies, cookies and ice cream. However, somehow you are still struggling to figure out where to start.
This is perfectly understandable, given how regularly our brain and taste buds get bombed with seducing images of super tasty and gorgeous looking desserts and snacks…how on earth am I going to be able to give up on all of that???
If you are looking for a few simple tips to start on your sugar-free journey with confidence, then read on…
There are three main steps that every successful 'sugar ditcher' should have in mind. Once you master these three steps, you will no longer see sugar as a fierce and unbeatable enemy nor as your best friend when you feel depressed – you will start to see sugar just as an ingredient used in most of the available processed foods, but you will have the keys to feel in control around it. Doesn't this sound amazing?
1) Firstly, raise your awareness of why sugar is a problem and be clear on your intention to ditch it.
In case you are not sure, here is some extra motivation to consider going sugar-free:
- sugar in most processed foods is responsible for the obesity and diabetes epidemic in our society
- sugar makes us hooked on packaged, processed food designed to make us crave for more
- sugar in processed foods is literally ‘empty calories’. It makes us gain weight without giving any benefits in terms of nutritional value - in other words, you ingest calories but do not get any of the additional vitamins and minerals that your body needs to be healthy
- sugar gives you an energy rush for a limited amount of time but then - when blood sugar level drops again - it leaves you lethargic and in need for more of it….why do you think you cannot stop having snacks at work when you feel tired or haven't had enough sleep?
…well these are just a few of the points to consider and should be enough to motivate you, if not let us know ;)
2) Secondly, make a plan to reduce your consumption of sugar over a certain amount of time.
Should you try one sugar-free day or go on with a 3-month sugar abstinence program (might sound like never ending torture…)?
In our experience starting with a relatively short time horizon - let’s say 10 days - gives people the adequate time to adapt to the feeling of not having sugar in their lives, without being too restrictive for too long.
Whatever your decision is, be clear with yourself as to what you expect and how much time and energy you want to commit.
Consider your upcoming agenda, including work, family and personal time. If you are about to leave on a business trip or a 2-week family vacation then maybe this is not the right time. You will be challenged with a change in your routine and it is possible that healthy sugar-free food options will not be easily available. So choose a period of time that fits your schedule and stick to your plan, maybe starting with a shorter (10 days) period.
3) Lastly, in order for any plan to succeed you need to track your progress.
Progress is in each step forward you take and tracking every little step will give you all the motivation you need. This will be particularly useful in those difficult times when you feel like giving up.
How does a food journal look like? Is it not too time consuming? What should you write in it?
Well the most important thing is to track your sugar consumption. How? Start reading food labels, for every processed and packaged food you eat.
Sure, fruits and vegetables also contain sugar but that’s natural occurring sugar and it is combined with loads of good nutrients and fibers that limit the negative impact of sugar on your body and health.
The next time you go grocery-shopping start reading the nutritional labels of any packaged food you buy and eat. The manufactures are obliged to disclose how many grams of sugar the product contains. Typically this is expressed as grams per 100 grams of product or per portion.
What to do with this information? Write down in your food journal how much sugar every packaged product you eat contains and every day calculate your totals. Over the course of the 10 days you will want this quantity to be significantly lower than your initial intake.
Generally speaking the recommended maximum daily consumption of sugar (from the World Health Organization) is 24 grams for women (approximately equivalent to 6 teaspoons) and 36 for men (approx. 9 teaspoons).
Keeping a food journal during your sugar ditching journey will allow you to track daily consumption, making sure you stay below the recommended daily quantity. Furthemore, it will be a powerful tool to keep your motivation high and support you throughout your plan.
We wish you all the best and a lot of success in your effort to become a healthier happier you!
Marco & Sabine