How to quit sugar – the ultimate guide
Are you wanting to quit sugar?
Here’s our ultimate guide on how to quit sugar and live a healthier life!
At Brainy Gains, we are all about weight loss using the keto diet and yoga. In order to get into ketosis, you need to have broken your addiction to the sweetness that is sugar. In this post, I am going to show you how to quit sugar and start your road to weight loss and living your best life.
Just a word of warning, whilst quitting sugar is simple, it’s not easy. It will challenge you. You will want to give up (so many times that you’ll lose count). You won’t feel well. You’re breaking an addiction. You will have withdrawals. This ok. You will get through it and you will be able to quit sugar.
The Obesity Epidemic
I’m sure it’s no surprise to you that obesity is on the increase. You just have to have a look around when you’re out and about. You can see that it’s affecting people of all ages with an alarming increase within children.
The average American consumes 19 teaspoons or 76.2 grams of sugar a day. This is well above the recommended 6 teaspoons for women and 9 for men outlined by the American Heart Foundation. To be honest, I personally think that is still too much but it’s a great start.
We know we need to change but I know how daunting it can be at the beginning. I’ve done this and I want to share with you how I did it. I’m going to walk you through the process and make it as easy as possible.
Where is sugar found?
It’s hard to know how to quit sugar if you don’t know where it’s hiding. Finding sugar within your diet can be challenging, especially if you don’t know where to look and what to look for.
Let’s start at the most obvious place that sugar is lurking – processed foods. These are the foods that come in packets and are usually full of sugar and other ‘nutrient-void’ ingredients. When looking at the packaging, you need to know what to look for. Sugar will be disguised as so many names.
Here are a few:
- High fructose corn syrup
- Anything ending in -ose
- Maple syrup
- Rice malt syrup
- Artificial sweeteners
Click here for a more comprehensive list of sugars and sweeteners.
When quitting sugar, you need to eliminate them all. There are some sweeteners that are keto-friendly like stevia and monkfruit but to break the addiction, get rid of them all. When working with clients, I’ve found that it’s common to simply eliminate some types of sugar but replace them with others (add go overboard with them!).
What about fruit?
Whilst fruit is a different situation, sugar is sugar. There’s no denying that. Fruit contains fructose, a type of sugar and can cause your blood sugar to spike and fuel your sugar addiction.
Just to be clear, I am pro-fruit. Whilst it has sugar, it also has so many other nutrients and is part of a healthy diet. Having said that, I do think though that we need to be mindful of how much we’re consuming though.
It’s recommended that we consume 2-3 serves of fruit a day. That’s taking into consideration that we aren’t eating much sugar in other areas of our diets. I’m sure most people are consuming quite a lot of hidden sugar in addition to 2-3 serves of fruit.
It’s so important that when we consume sugar, it’s within foods that are nutrient-dense, rather than nutrient void.
Reducing sugar from fruit
For the purpose of quitting sugar, I’d recommend that you temporarily reduce your fruit intake. I recommend that you consume a small amount of low sugar fruit like raspberries, blueberries, watermelon, lemon and limes.
I usually consume fruit in the morning and find that I feel the best when I stick to that. I have experimented with eliminating all fruit and I find that for me it created constipation. You can experiment on your own if you want.
Why you need to quit sugar
We know that sugar has such a huge impact on the body I’m going to go through of the main reasons why you need to quit sugar.
- Weight loss
- Break the dopamine hit cycle in the brain (creating the addiction to sugar)
- Reduce inflammation in the body
- Improve your gut function (the sugar feeds the bad bacteria in your gut)
- Stop the blood sugar spikes and crashes
- Stop the development of fatty tissue within the liver
- Increase your energy
- Replace nutrient-void foods with nutrient-dense food
- Stabilise your moods
There are so many more reasons but I think that list alone gives you more than enough reason to quit sugar!
How to quit sugar
Now to the juicy stuff! We know that sugar isn’t great and we also know that it’s addictive but how in the world do you quit?
First up I’m going to say that it is possible but it’s not easy. You are probably addicted and you need to withdraw. And yes, you will have signs of withdrawing and it’s ok. You can get through it and you’ll feel so much better on the other side!
There are two ways you can quit sugar
- Go cold turkey
- Gradually reduce and replace sugar
There are pros and cons to both. Going cold turkey means that the symptoms may be more intense but they don’t last as long whereas the gradual method the symptoms last longer but aren’t as intense.
If you’re wondering how I did it, I chose option one. I have to say that it was intense but for me, I think it worked better. I would have dragged it out and be continually replacing sweeteners with other variations.
You know your body the best, you choose. I’m only going to go through the cold turkey method.
How to quit sugar: going cold turkey
As I said, this is the method I chose and I’m happy that I did.
The key to going cold turkey is committing to it for a period of time (I chose 8 weeks because it was a large part of my weight loss program but you could anything from at least 3 weeks) and stick to it. If you know that you’re only sticking to it for 4 weeks, you can get through it. And trust me, when the four or more weeks are up, you won’t even feel like it anymore!
Going cold turkey means that you need to eliminate ALL sugars and sweeteners, even the ones that are keto-friendly. The reason for this is that you’ll just replace one form of sugar with another, fuelling the addiction.
Just so we’re clear, you need to eliminate all sugar, hidden sugars and other sweeteners like maple syrup, honey, agave, monkfruit, dates and artificial sweeteners. This is the most comprehensive list of sugars and sweeteners I could find. Get familiar with it and read the labels of everything you’re consuming.
With regards to fruit, I recommend limiting your fruit intake to ¼ cup of berries or a cup of watermelon in the morning. I know fruit is full of nutrients and you will consume more once you’ve broken the addiction but for the purpose of breaking the addiction, stick to it.
What to eat when you’re quitting sugar
Obviously, you can’t eat anything with sugar in it and once you start looking, you’ll realise there’s plenty to consume.
Related post: 30+ keto meal prep recipes for a stress-free week
Increase healthy fats and protein
Use this time to really nourish the body. Replace those empty calories with more nutrient-dense ones. Consume large amounts of vegetables, organic meats, nuts and seeds. To help keep sugar cravings at bay, make sure you’re having plenty of protein and healthy fats. You’ll find these will help you feel fuller for longer and reduce the risk of consuming sugar.
When you consume lots of sugar, you’ll find that you are constantly hungry. The opposite is true when you’re eating more healthy fats and protein which is so helpful when quitting sugar!
Also making sure that you’re staying hydrated and having at least 8 glasses of filtered water a day.
I found that having a green smoothie for morning or afternoon tea really helped with cravings at those times. Green leafy vegetables are great at reducing your sugar cravings and get more nutrients into the body.
Here’s the juice that I came up with and still consume on a daily basis (it is very green and it might take a little getting used to but once you do you’ll miss it if you don’t have it!)
Green Smoothie Recipe
2 stalks of celery
A large handful of baby spinach (or any other green leafy vegetables you have but I found that baby spinach didn’t taste as green as others.)
Juice from half a lemon
Blitz them all together in the blender (this is the one I use, no need to get too fancy!) with a cup of filtered water and some ice cubes and you’re done.
Preparation is the key! Have your food ready to go and make sure you always have something on hand to help get through those cravings. This is so important to help minimise the times where you just have to have something and you end up eating sugar.
Have some nuts, seeds, a green smoothie or an avocado on hand.
The problem with this is that it gives you the taste of it and then you almost have to start again. It will trigger the increase in dopamine and you start the cycle again.
Withdrawals from sugar
I mentioned earlier that you will get withdrawal side effects. Whilst everyone is different, here are some common side effects when quitting sugar.
- Brain fog
- Lack of concentration
- Lack of focus
- Trouble sleeping
- Feeling excessively tired
- General aches and pains
- Depression or anxiety
- Increased cravings
Just know that it’s ok to feel these things. Your brain will do it’s best to convince you that you need sugar. Go with it and remind yourself that you’re doing this for your health and you’re going to be much better off once you’ve broken the addiction!
Good luck, keep pushing through and you won’t regret it!