• Jamie Sculley, ND

The Benefits of Quitting Sugar and 10 Easy Ways to Reduce Your Intake

Updated: Aug 3


This is one of the top questions I see women asking. I've written about reasons to quit sugar before, but wanted to revisit this and share some real-life tips from other women who have been successful in doing this. If you're a "sugaraholic" who feels overwhelmed at the thought of quitting or you don't know where to start, then keep reading for tips on how to quit sugar for good!



Why Sugar Is Unhealthy

It's no surprise that sugar isn't good for us. Sugar can cause drastic fluctuations in our blood sugar, increase the risk of diabetes and weight gain, cause gum disease and tooth decay, accelerate the aging process and crowd out healthier foods. If you want to learn more about why you should avoid sugar, check out my previous post here.



How You Can Quit Sugar Starting Today

There are many ways to permanently take sugar out of your diet. Some of these may work for you and some may not, so pick a few and experiment with what works for your lifestyle.



1. Identify as Someone Who Eats Healthy

This is probably the most important tip I can give because it makes eating healthier less of a burden and more of a choice that goes along with who you are as a person. We make decisions based on our identity and how we see ourselves. To go against our identity feels wrong so identify as someone who eats healthy. Think about what qualities and beliefs you'd have as someone who doesn't eat sugar. How would you feel? How would you eat? How would you think? Ask yourself "what would healthy [your name] do?" As you identify with a healthier version of you, you'll make choices that go along with that identity.


2. Come up With Reasons Why You Don't Want to Eat Sugar

Anytime you make a change you need to have a strong reason behind why it's important to you, otherwise, you'll struggle when faced with temptation. Willpower is not a long-term strategy. You're not perfect and you don't have to be.


Become aware of how you feel on a day to day basis by tracking things like sleep, pain, digestion, headaches, energy, mood or anything else you struggle with. Many of these problems may be related to sugar intake and may be relieved by decreasing or avoiding it.


If you already know that sugar makes you feel bad, ask yourself "do I really want to eat sugar? Is it worth it?" Write down all the things that sugar does to you until it becomes entirely unappealing and makes your decision to avoid it easier.


3. Go Cold Turkey - Just Stop Eating It

This tip works for many people, especially if continuing to eat sugar just makes you want more. From personal experience, gradually reducing sugar didn't work so avoiding it completely was how I was able to reduce it. Drastically reducing sugar intake can also quickly reduce your craving for it. After a week or so, you may find that your taste buds have changed and you don't even want it anymore.

4. Substitute With Other Sweeteners

For some people, going cold turkey doesn't work because they feel too deprived. Eating sweet foods made with healthier sugar alternatives is another option. Try sweeteners like stevia, honey, maple sugar, or monkfruit. Erythritol is another option but start off low because it can cause abdominal cramping or diarrhea.


5. Substitute With Other Sweet Foods

Choosing naturally sweet foods like fruit, dates, or sugar free drinks can still give you the sweet taste without the pitfalls of sugar. Try eating frozen yogurt or sorbet instead of ice cream; flavored water or sparkling soda instead of sweet tea or soda; or fruit or dark chocolate for dessert.


6. Read Labels

You may be surprised how many foods have added sugar in them. This may take more time if you're not used to reading labels but it's worth it to see how much sugar is in the foods you normally eat. Take a look at how many grams of sugar and added sugar are on the label and at the ingredients. Added sugar may not always be obvious so look for ingredients like dextrose, corn syrup, cane juice, fructose and high fructose corn syrup. If sugar is high up on the ingredient list, there's more of it in the food. After a while you'll find brands you like that have minimal sugar and it'll become easier.


7. Make More Foods From Scratch

Many prepared and processed foods have salt and sugar added to help with shelf life and flavor so making your own food at home gives you more control over what you eat. Find recipes online at Allrecipes or subscribe to magazines like Cooking Light or Eating Well to find healthier recipes.


8. Notice How Sugar Affects Your Whole Body

Women who have cut out sugar notice that they feel better overall. They notice increased energy, less bloating, and have an easier time losing weight. You may also notice increased focus, clearer skin, better sleep, less headaches, easier periods, less pain, and just feeling amazing overall.


If you struggle with any of these use it as motivation to quit or reduce sugar. Once you've been off it for a while, your taste will change and you may find that sweet foods taste sickly sweet or make you feel dizzy, shaky, or hungover. This can be a strong motivator to avoid sugar and you may find it's not worth feeling this way!


9. Allow It in Moderation

Reducing sugar is about doing your best, not being 100% perfect. If you choose to eat sugar sometimes, try eating it in moderation or use the 80/20 rule. Most of the time (80%) choose to avoid sugar and occasionally (20%) have it in your diet.


Some of my patients choose to stick with a healthy diet for the week and then relax it on the weekend when they're likely to eat out or spend time with family or friends. So give yourself a"cheat" day and truly enjoy the foods you love! Having a flexible eating style will allow you to feel less restricted and make it easier to stick with it as a long term dietary strategy.


10. Know That You May Feel Withdrawals

Anytime our brain is addicted to something it'll feel it when we take it away. Sugar is no different. You may feel like you're coming down with the flu, have headaches, feel tired, or feel moody or grumpy. Drink lots of water, rest and know that it'll pass.


If you're already thinking about quitting sugar I want to commend you because you're on the right track to eating healthier. Find support from family, friends or online groups. Having these people around you can really help you feel supported, provide encouragement and show you that it's possible! Remember that it's about getting back up and trying again! Good luck!





Summary

Sugar can cause fluctuations in our blood sugar, increase the risk of diabetes and weight gain, cause gum disease and tooth decay, accelerate the aging process and crowd out healthier foods. Tips for reducing sugar include identifying as someone who eats healthy, coming up with reasons to not eat it, going cold turkey, substituting alternative sweeteners, substituting other sweet foods, reading labels, making foods from scratch, noticing how it affects your whole body, allowing it in moderation, and dealing with sugar withdrawals.



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If you'd like to work with me please take a look around my website for more information about my services and Rise Into Wellness Plan. I'm also offering my Rise Into Wellness Lifestyle Guide, which is a bonus guide I give to all my program clients!


In health,

Dr. Jamie




This website is not intended for the purpose of providing medical advice. All information, content, and material of this website is for informational purposes only and are not intended to serve as a substitute for the consultation, diagnosis, and/or medical treatment of a qualified physician or healthcare provider.


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