For people on my NO SUGAR FOR 30 DAYS CHALLENGE and for anyone who has tried successfully/unsuccessfully to quit sugar, there are many symptoms you must have experienced/be experiencing. Because sugar has addiction like effects on the body, it also has drug withdrawal like symptoms in the body. These symptoms are called sugar withdrawal symptoms and are perfectly normal for anyone trying to quit it. They may vary in range and degree depending upon your current health and dependence on sugar previously; but there are many ways to handle this to make the transition smoother (and get your sanity back).
This blog will list some of the things you can do to make this transition smoother:
- Never go back:
You need to follow a cold turkey route. The headaches, jittery feelings, nausea and mind fog might disrupt a day or two, but thinking that we can have some and then taper off might not work for you. The reason being sugar is so effective in our bodies, once you consume it in the tiniest of amounts, it will bring you back to where you started. So when you try to quit ‘again’, you will once again feel the symptoms of day I or week I. Hence, once you quit and experience withdrawal symptoms, don’t go back to the drug you are trying to withdraw.
‘Just two drinks a day sound like a really bad advice you could give to a recovering alcoholic. Why do you want to consume ‘just’ two teaspoons of sugar then? It’s exactly the same.’
2. Throw away the stash:
Most of us over time have collected ridiculous items from the grocery stores, departmental stores and supermarkets which has insane amounts of sugar. When trying to quit, there is a continuous urge in the initial days to consume something which has sugar to trick yourself (just like a drug addict) and till the time you have that ‘something’ in your kitchen rack or in your pantry, chances of you losing that battle go high. Hence, clear away everything that has sugar on its labels. As I said, you need to adopt a cold turkey route.
‘Asking a drug addict to keep their ‘stash’ at home and then make them try quitting seems like a sadistic idea which also looks like it will fail.’
3. Eat the right foods:
When you are hooked up on sugar, a large part of your day’s food (or caloric) intake comes from sugar (direct or indirect). When you cut supply of it, you create a lot of deficit; not just in terms of calories, but also in terms of feeling full. The more deficit you will have for longer period, there will be more chances of you falling off the wagon. Hence, you need to stay full with the right kinds of foods. To make sure you get sustained energy levels, consume a lot of green vegetables. We need about 300-500g of green vegetables to ensure we are getting enough potassium (a mineral crucial for energy generation). And to make sure you feel full, consume enough amounts of healthy fats in your diet. Healthy fats will include some nuts and seeds, but also include nut milks, seed milks, avocados, coconut milk and other coconut products, dairy fats and few oils (extra virgin olive, coconut, sesame etc).
‘To ensure you don’t fall off the wagon, keep yourself full with the right amounts of healthy fats and high amounts of green veggies.’
4. Keep handy snacks ready:
If you have increased the veggies and healthy fats and still are facing hunger pangs, especially at 4pm or mid-night, chances are you would want to consume your go-to foods. You need to have healthy snacks ready with you at this point. If you are craving for something savoury, best food would be kale chips with hummus or some vegetables with hummus dip. If you are craving sweets, it’s best to consume potassium rich foods. I’d say initially if you are very shaky and are fighting brain fog, kale smoothie with lunch and dinner and at that 4pm would really help (even though it would taste like, well kale!). But in terms of snacks, other potassium rich foods will be all your seeds: Pumpkin, sunflower, watermelon, muskmelon (cantaloupe), hemp etc. If what you are feeling is an empty stomach (due to sugar deficit and a light lunch/dinner), some healthy fats (coconuts, avocados) and nut butters would be best to consume, as fats make us fuller. So keep a batch of peanut butter, almond butter, and seed butters ready to fight these cravings. A sprout salad also would be perfect to bring freshness and make you feel full; all in healthy ways.
‘Seeds, some nuts, healthy fats such as nut butters, and potassium rich foods will make the best snacks’
5. Be ready to fight those shakes and headaches:
As sugar withdrawal symptoms are just like that of hard drugs, they will also include disrupting your stress levels and making you shaky. You need to be prepared for that. Try to do everything that relaxes you. You can opt for taking a walk in the morning and evening sun, or try breathing exercises in the morning and evenings (or simply five to ten deep, long breathes whenever you are anxious). In terms of products, you should purchase ashwagandha root powder which will bring you peace and balance. You should also purchase apple cider vinegar. In addition to high potassium diet, apple cider vinegar reverses insulin resistance, making sure your cells get faster energy from the food you eat. If you are not hungry and getting sustainable energy, you will hardly feel the need for sugar. For dosage and which ones to buy, you can read my other blog here.
‘Ashwagandha and apple cider vinegar along with slow, long walks and relaxing breathing exercises will help your adrenal glands and give you a sense of relaxation to fight this curb’
6. Unfocus to focus:
You need to take your mind away from the fact that you have given up sugar. In addition to the above points of taking walks and relaxing, try to do activities which make you happy. Meeting with friends, watching a movie, jogging or even working on something creative will help. A herbal tea (lavender, lemongrass, mild earl gray, chamomile) will help you relax and give you some creative space. Alternatively, you can try essential oils for massage, or in a diffuser lamp to create new aura in your home. The idea is to NOT micromanage/obsess about this one particular habit and move on to other habits which make you feel relaxed, accomplished, busy and happy.
‘Take a macro view in life at this point rather than obsessing about sugar and look at the bigger picture. This could be the best time to practice your hobbies and be creative. You need to unfocus to focus on this target.’
7. Get enough rest:
You need to get a proper sleep. By proper sleep, I mean a timely, deep, sound, uninterrupted sleep. It is a scientific fact that we absorb most of the nutrients in our deep sleep when the digestion is maximum. It is also proven that lack of sleep can result in hunger pangs, high stress and a general debility. Stress also stimulates hunger. When moving away from sugar, it is of utmost importance that you take your sleep seriously. If unable to sleep initially, herbal teas, some stretching before sleep and essential oils will help here as well.
‘Deep sleep which is sound and uninterrupted will make your journey easier. You can nap in the afternoon if you have to and can to be even more relaxed.’
8. Avoid foods which will make you hungry:
There are certain foods which stimulate hunger directly or indirectly. It is crucial in the initial days to not consume too much of grains, caffeine, dairy, or processed foods. Those are known to increase inflammation and also stimulate hunger. Having fermented foods like kimchi, kefir, kombucha will do just the opposite of that and would be best foods to consume to improve gut health, increase absorption of nutrients and decrease inflammation. You can find out how do these foods do that by reading here.
‘Cut down on grains, caffeine and dairy and take up more of fermented foods to improve gut health and reduce inflammation’
9. Take up on stevia:
Stevia is metabolised in the stomach by stomach acids, and has no effect on insulin spike (on the contrary, it is known to reduce insulin effect in body). You need to be creative and take up stevia to make your occasional desserts. Treating yourself is a good idea, only if it doesn’t put you off the wagon. As stevia is just a herb with coincidental sugar like taste with no actual symptoms like sugar metabolism, absorption and causes on brain/body, it is the perfect replacement. To find out more about stevia and other sweetners, you can read my blog here. You can also check out my no sugar, no grain dessert recipe here.
‘Taking up stevia rather than sugar and other artificial sweetners is one of the best things you can do for your health. Think of it as not a diet change, but a lifestyle improvement.’
Seems like such a simple point, but it is extremely important to find out like minded people on a similar journey or those who have successfully taken this journey and have quit. You will learn more from them than you can from anywhere else and more importantly, they will give you a sense of motivation and a feeling that you are not alone that you will feel the confidence, will power and support to do so. The problem is sugar is everywhere and it tries to defeat your goal. You need to find people to join hands who are willing to do what you are doing. I personally run a group on whatsapp where we have a very positive environment of such like minded people. If you are finding it hard to give up on sugar or have given up and want to share your story or improve on health in general and are serious about it, you can send me a whatsapp text on 7045647489 and I will introduce you to many others on the same path.
‘The crusade against sugar is almost unprecedented. You need to find like minded people who will support you in this journey’.
If you can relate to this blog and feel there are some things which I might have missed which could help get over sugar easily, please leave it in the comments or let me know. When it comes to sugar and health,
‘Education is Empowerment’.