Ah, the new year: that inevitable time of the year where your jeans are fitting tighter than usual after the abundance of rich holiday food. Whether you prefer the sweet or savory foods that fill holiday gatherings, you may just find yourself craving more after you have sworn you’ve had the last bite.
The addictive nature of sugar can make it harder to quit. Studies have found that sugar is addictive in the same way as cocaine or nicotine is and that most Americans are eating 22 to 30 teaspoons a day-- which is 4 times over the recommended 6 teaspoons a day (Santos-Longhurst). Plus, sugar is difficult to avoid when it feels like it is added into almost everything.
One great way to get back to the basics of good food is to do a sugar fast. This simple idea can be accomplished in different ways and with different levels of intensity. There are many different suggestions, diets, and cleanses that claim to accomplish a fast and it’s important to choose one that is healthy for you.
Fasting in any form drops your blood sugar levels and can make you feel angry and irritable. It's important to remember that going cold turkey may be the best method, but is also very hard. If you have never fasted before, it may be easier to remove your top five or ten sugary items in your diet before trying a full sugar fast.
Easy ways to start cutting out sugar:
- Cut out soda, juice, frappes, smoothies, and other sugary drinks that hide huge amounts of added sugar.
- Read the labels of processed foods, such as condiments, salad dressings, salsa, yogurt, bread, and granola/protein bars. They contain more sugar than you might think!
- Beware food fads. Just because food is billed as vegan, organic, free-range, non-gmo, or made without preservatives doesn’t mean that it is sugar-free or healthy.
There are groups that allow for a guided sugar detox and also provide support like The RESTART® Program-- a five-week program dedicated to learning more about eating health that includes a three-week guided sugar detox.
If you have already managed to cut out some of the big sugar items out of your life, you can try a more extreme sugar fast. One version is The DASH Diet for Weight Loss Solution. This is a two-week metabolism reset that cuts out all sugar, including the natural sugar in fruits and carbohydrates. The idea is to cut out all the foods that will spike your metabolism and cause your body to produce insulin for a two-week period.
While it sounds hard, this two-week reset allows for three meals a day and three snacks a day which makes it more functional than a 48 hour total fast. Personally, I enjoy doing the DASH two-week reset twice a year. The first four days are the hardest, as the body readjusts to a lower level of sugar intake, but eventually the metabolism resets and your pesky sugar cravings disappear.
It is important to note that after two weeks I happily add fruit and small servings of carbohydrates back into my diet. The two-week reset simply helps me to get back into good eating habits and helps stop cravings for sugar which keeps me from reaching for sweets too often. Trust me, the hanger is worth it.
If you want to read more about The DASH Diet or RESTART® Program, see the links below:
Santos-Longhurst, Adrienne. (2018) How to Beat Sugar Detox Symptoms and Feel Better Than Every, Healthline, retrieved from https://www.healthline.com/health/sugar-detox-symptoms