Want to know how to stop eating sugar and lose weight?
You’re in the right place! Today, you’ll learn how to stop sugar cravings instantly, even if you’ve struggled with them for years.
Want to learn more? Read on!
Why is sugar so bad for you?
We all know what having a sweet tooth feels like…
…You come home, tired and drained and the first thing you do is go to your candy stash. You’ve earned it, right?
…Or your hit that afternoon slump. A donut or a sugary coffee is exactly what you need to get energized.
I know because I used to be so hooked on sugar! I was working as a management consultant in New York City and my days were busy and stressful. I tried to make up for all the late nights and intense workdays with anything I could grab quickly, whether it was cupcakes, cookies, or chocolate.
But after my two children were born, I started to realize just how damaging my food choices were. Not only did I put on weight, but I had even less energy for spending time with my family.
I knew something had to change.
As a result, I began reading scientific studies on weight loss and how to get rid of my sugar addiction. It did take trial and error, but ultimately, I figured out a methodology.
Since then, I’ve significantly reduced my sugar intake. But the best part is that it doesn’t even feel like a sacrifice or something I struggle with because I eat such delicious food every day. (I eat more than I did before.)
I feel lighter and so much more energized (I even went on to start this business on the side). I also lost 40 pounds in 9 months, flattened my tummy, and fit into all those old clothes I loved but thought I’d have to throw away.
You see, if you feel like your weight won’t budge, your sugar cravings can have a lot to do with it.
Here’s what I mean by that.
What does sugar do to your body?
Why does sugar feel so addictive? The answer is simple: our caveman brains. Back when food had to be hunted or gathered, our ancestors preferred foods that gave them lots of energy. In other words, foods that are rich in carbohydrates or sugar.
Still today, our brains are wired in this way. But while our ancestors had to work hard for any food they ate, sugary foods are nowadays incredibly easy to come by and cheap. We barely have to leave our couch to get sweets delivered to our home, and definitely aren’t as active as our caveman ancestors.
But the thing is: when we eat sugar, our brains get a rush of dopamine (the pleasure hormone). And because of this reward system, we are likely to eat even more sugar. Researchers even compare the neurochemical reaction that causes sugar addiction to drug abuse.
So it doesn’t come as a surprise that we eat more sugar than ever.
In fact, the average American consumes about 17 teaspoons of added sugar every day.
At the same time, the American Heart Association (AHA) recommends less than 6 teaspoons (25 grams) of added sugar per day for women and less than 9 teaspoons (36 grams) of added sugar per day for men.
(As a quick refresher: Added sugar are those that aren’t found naturally in foods or are used solely to sweeten foods. Examples of added sugars include table sugar, corn syrup, raw sugar and honey, whereas natural sugars in foods like fruits and vegetables are less detrimental to health.)
Few of us follow these recommendations, though.
But ultimately, added sugar is incredibly bad for your health. Here are some of the health problems that sugar can cause, all supporting the need to cut back on eating added sugar.
According to research, a diet that’s high in added sugar is bad for your heart, . (That’s the case even if you exercise or aren’t overweight. In addition, a meta analysis of studies suggests that sugar-sweetened beverages may increase heart disease risk.
Heart problems have such an impact on your whole body, from the way your brain functions to your physical health and fitness.
Research shows that high added sugar intake is linked to obesity. A meta analysis of studies found a link between increased body weight and consuming sugary drinks. That’s why cutting out sugar will likely have a direct impact on your weight.
But that’s not all. Eating a high-sugar diet can increase your waistline and contribute to numerous health issues often associated with being overweight. For example, being overweight is a risk factor for developing type 2 diabetes. Other possible health issues associated with being overweight include high cholesterol and heart problems.
One of the biggest issues with a high-sugar diet is dental caries. This illness develops when bacteria in the mouth use sugar to produce acid that demineralizes the hard tissues of the teeth.
According to the World Health Organization, dental caries is such a big issue that it eats up 5-10% of healthcare budgets in industrialized countries and is the main reason for the hospitalization of children in many rich countries. Think about it: if more of us cut sugar from our diets, this could potentially have a big impact on our teeth and the healthcare system.
Sugar is also inflammatory, especially when consumed in large amounts and in the form of added sugar. Inflammation can lead to illness and bad health, so you should try to avoid overeating inflammatory foods.
Mental health and wellbeing
And while you might be eating sugar to boost your energy, it can actually have the opposite effect. A study shows that men who ate a high-sugar diet were more likely to develop depression or anxiety than those who ate lower doses of sugar. For long-term wellbeing, you shouldn’t get quick dopamine hits with sugary foods, but eat a balanced diet.
Memory and productivity
In one study, rats that ate a high-sugar diet performed memory tasks more poorly compared to rats that didn’t have access to sugar. This indicates that sugar has a negative impact on memory.
Sugar also affects your energy levels. As blood sugar levels rise, the pancreas produces insulin, which regulates how cells absorb blood sugar for energy or storage. When they absorb blood sugar, levels in the bloodstream decrease. If you eat sugar in high amounts, you’ll notice your energy go up, only to fall rapidly afterward from the rapid increase in insulin production.
According to research, sugar is dehydrating so your skin can feel less hydrated if you tend to eat a lot of sugar. The fact that sugar is an inflammatory food also affects your skin and can cause acne. Foods rich in sugar can stimulate the production of androgens, a type of hormone that can clog pores and cause acne.
AAccording to a 2016 study, people with a high-sugar diet tend to sleep less deeply and wake up more often compared to those with lower sugar intake. This can begin a vicious cycle, since sleep deprivation can actually make you end up craving sugar more.
So, now you know how sugar affects you. As you can see, a high-sugar diet can have a big impact on your overall health and wellbeing.
But is all sugar bad for you? That’s what we’ll look at next.
What type of sugar is bad for you?
Not all sugar is bad for you. In fact, you get it naturally from all foods that contain carbohydrates, including grains, dairy, fruits, and vegetables.
A diet containing these foods is healthy. That’s because they include a lot of other good nutrients and as your body digests these foods slowly, you get a steady supply of energy from them.
The problem is when you start eating too much added sugar, so sugar that’s added to food to improve the taste or extend shelf life.
Added sugars include:
- Corn syrup
- Brown sugar
- Corn sweetener
- Fruit juice concentrates
- High-fructose corn syrup
- Invert sugar
- Malt sugar
- Syrup sugar molecules ending in “ose” (fructose, glucose, lactose, maltose, sucrose, and dextrose)
The biggest sources of added sugar in the typical Western diet are sugary drinks:
- soft drinks – 25%
- fruit drinks – 11%
- sport/energy drinks – 3%
- coffee/tea – 7%
The next biggest source are snacks and sweets (31%).
Added sugar is also found in flavored yogurts, cereals, most processed foods, soups, bread, cured meats, and condiments, to name just a few.
You might be consuming sugar in ways you don’t even notice. A study shows that ⅔ of coffee drinkers and ⅓ of tea drinkers put sugar or sugary flavorings in their drinks. More than 60% of calories in their beverages come from added sugar.
With this in mind, are artificial sweeteners better than sugar?
This is a controversial topic. While artificial sweeteners are safe to use, they aren’t necessarily better than sugar. A 2012 statement from the American Heart Association stated that using artificial sweeteners can reduce the number of calories you eat, which helps you lose weight.
But other research shows that sweeteners are much sweeter than sugar and can make you crave sweets even more. So drinking a glass of diet soda isn’t better than a glass of diet coke. (Not to mention that artificial sweeteners often come in processed foods that are unhealthy in many other ways.)
If you stop eating sugar, will you lose weight?
Research shows that elevated sugar consumption leads to weight gain.
Plus, a lot of processed food high in sugar includes starches and fat. When you consume sugar (for example as donuts or cookies), you also consume these other, unhealthy ingredients.
So what happens if you, instead, eat the right foods with only natural sugar?
Your health will improve.. a lot!.
You see, foods like salmon, white fish, chickpeas, and beans include a lot of great nutrients that keep you full for longer. Some of them can boost your metabolism and regulate your blood sugar, which helps you stay energized throughout the day (without feeling that you have to eat something sugary to keep you going).
I never tell my students to completely cut out sugar, though. That’s what we’ll look at next.
How do you break your sugar addiction?
Maybe you’ve asked yourself, “How can I stop myself from wanting to eat sugar?”
Good news: you CAN learn how to stop eating sugar.
I know because I’ve done it. Plus, I’ve helped 100s of women do it, too.
Just take my client Lindsay, who, after going through my program, curbed sugar cravings and lost 15 pounds. And it was all “very easy”!
As Lindsay says:
“I was out of control with the sugar. I knew I needed help and I knew I needed accountability. I needed something serious, like an intervention.”
She didn’t even have to sacrifice a lot to get her results.
“Honestly, I didn’t expect how easy weight loss was going to be,” she says. Here’s how she achieved her goals:
Another of my weight-loss clients, Louise, travels a lot for work. With a hectic schedule and a lack of healthy food alternatives at airports, she’d overindulge on sweet foods to get a quick energy kick.
But by going through my program, she ended up losing 13 pounds in 10 weeks and stopped going for sugary temptations. Here’s how Louise describes her new lifestyle:
That said, cutting out sugar does take work. Sugar is added to almost everything so you do need to know what to eat and how. You WILL need to rely more on your own cooking rather than eating out a lot, which, on the other hand, requires that you know what to cook without spending hours in the kitchen every day.
And as research shows, eating sugar makes us want more. Eating sugar stimulates the pleasure center of the brain and releases dopamine, which can begin an addictive cycle.
A study involving rats shows that eating high-sugar diets alters inhibitory neurons in those rats, so that rats fed with sugar were less able to control their behavior and make decisions. If this applies to humans, it means that your decision-making capabilities weaken if you eat a lot of sugar… leading you to eat more of it.
However, even if it might feel like it, there doesn’t seem to be such a thing as “sugar addiction,” at least if it’s compared to addictions like drug addiction. And that’s good news! Because it means it’s easier to cut off your sugar cravings than it is to get rid of other addictions.
Here’s how you can do it.
How long does it take to detox from sugar?
Some medication is being developed to help people control sugar cravings. Right now, though, there are no medications that will reliably do so.
But there are natural ways to reduce the amount of sugar you eat.
According to a Yale report, setting short-term goals helps people stick to their weight-loss goals.
That’s why you should commit to a limited time period, like a month. Don’t completely cut off sugar, but take it in steps. For example, bring a snack box to work with nuts and vegetables for when your energy dips. Plus, drink infused water with lemon or orange to satisfy your cravings.
And what happens when you stop eating sugar for a month? Do you still crave it? Or not so much?
The problem is that sugar seems to activate some withdrawal and relapse symptoms. Research on lab animals has shown that rats that are deprived of sugar worked harder to get it once they were reintroduced to it. And as research shows, eating sugar makes us want more. Eating sugar stimulates the pleasure center of the brain and releases dopamine, which can begin an addictive cycle.
That said, getting off sugar can be done. After a while, about a month or so in my experience, you’ll feel significantly less addicted to sugar if you follow the right steps.
What is the easiest way to detox from sugar?
So, how do you get rid of your sugar cravings?
Moderation, rather than elimination, is key.
Eat sugar in moderation
Just take my client Tree.
Tree loves to eat out with her family and that involves desserts. She never gave up on these dinners, but was still able to lose 20 pounds and flatten her stomach.
She didn’t deprive herself, so she was able to enjoy her sweet treats while eating the right foods most of the time.
Most of the time, you can simply switch out your sugary treats to healthy, but tasty alternatives.
A study shows that participants ate significantly less high-sugary foods when they were given a mint with gymnemic acids from the Gymnema Sylvestre plant (traditionally used in Ayurvedic medicine and meaning “sugar destroyer” in Hindi) compared to those who were given a placebo.
A few of my own favorite sugar-replacing foods are cinnamon and mint.
Plan your meals
The next thing is to plan your meals. You see, if you have your breakfast, snacks, lunches, and dinners planned out, it gets much harder to go for quick solutions, like a chocolate bar as a snack or a ready-made meal as dinner.
And if you eat delicious food all the time, you won’t even miss sugar. Your energy levels will keep much more stable if you eat frequent, small meals and a varied diet.
Other factors also impact how well you stay off sugar.
Research shows that staying active throughout the day can help people reduce cravings for sugary foods. In the study, overweight people were shown to be less likely to eat sugary snacks after a brisk walk.
How much sleep you get affects your sugar cravings. So get enough sleep, at least 7-9 hours a night.
Another contributing factor is dehydration. If you drink too little water, your food and sugar cravings go up.
The last thing is to have a support system in place. Support systems have been shown to be beneficial for people who are trying to lose weight. So keep yourself accountable with a coaching program or similar.
Sugar elimination diet plan
Last but not least, let’s put a plan in place so that you can go ahead and start cutting out sugar.
Here’s what to eat to keep sugar cravings at bay, feel energized the whole day, and lose weight:
One of my big breakfast favorites is a delicious low-sugar smoothie. Use both vegetables and fruits so that you avoid adding in too much sugar. You can boost the natural sugar content (meaning you don’t need to add any sweeteners) with fruit like a banana, which is sweeter than many other fruits
And I always add a bit of cinnamon to my coffee. It soothes my sweet tooth and makes me enjoy my coffee more.
Prepare some snacks for work so that hunger pangs or afternoon slumps don’t take you by surprise. You can use a small container and add servings of nuts and berries. Or, why not prepare one of your smoothies and bring it with you?
Lunch and dinner
Yes, cooking can be daunting after a full day at work. That’s why I love to use a crockpot or batch cook my meals. When I come home, food is already prepared and all I need to do is serve it.
My best tip for using your lunches and dinners to curb your sugar cravings?
Focus on protein. Protein helps curb hunger and food cravings, including sugar cravings.
My fat-burning food framework helps you eat the right amount:
Drinks are some of the worst offenders when it comes to sugary foods. Soft drinks and sweetened coffee and tea are all part of it.
But instead of drinking these drinks to keep you alert the whole day, swap them out for infused water. Infused water offers a sweet taste, while keeping you away from sugar.
Over to you!
There you have it! Now you know how to stop eating sugar and lose weight.
Next, I’d love to hear from you:
Have you tried ways to cut out sugar from your diet? How did it go?
Let me know in the comments below!
Reviewed by: Diana Gariglio-Clelland (RD, BSc)