Transitioning to a Sugar-Free Diet

Transitioning to a Sugar-Free Diet

You know sugar is bad for your health, and when you start digging, you learn it’s everywhere: cookies, cakes, and ice cream of course, but also tomato sauce, salad dressings, and barbecue sauce. Are you feeling virtuous because you enjoy smoothies? Yes, most have hidden sugar. But you eat multigrain crackers and cereals, right? But those have loads of sugar, too. It’s like trying to run away from your shadow, but run you must; your life depends on it.

Details matter: Learn about the foods you eat first

Most people are unconscious, habitual eaters. They reach for a soda because they always have, and they love their pasta swimming in sauce. Sound familiar? Whatever you answer, it’s good; you’ve just become conscious, and that’s the first step in accountability.

Now, start reading labels. Does one food you eat regularly contain sugar as one of its first four ingredients? How about high-fructose corn syrup, because that’s sugar, too? Sugar has dozens of names, so do some research, learn the most common ones, and then look at those labels again. 

How to banish sugar when it’s everywhere

Unless you are an unnaturally strong-willed individual, you will not be able to leave sugar behind cold turkey. Eventually, you’ll relapse because sugar is highly addictive. Instead, adopt a gradual approach. The advantage of the approach is two-fold: your body will gradually adapt, and the transition will not leave you feeling deprived, and you’ll have more time to think about, and fine-tune your diet. Think “baby steps.”

Instead, try this: identify your sources of sugar, your weaknesses, and then create a list. Then work to decrease your most unhealthy dietary habit to zero, gradually, over a month’s time. For example, if you eat ice cream every day for dessert, the first week cut to five times, the next week to three, then to one and zero in the last two weeks.

The next month, pick soda, for example, and start substituting water until you are drinking no soda. Have a peach or some berries instead if you need sugar, and get the fiber and phytonutrients they have in abundance. Continue until you are eating no sugar at all.

Long-term planning for a sugar-free life

It’s actually easier to plan meals without sugar than it is to figure out how to gradually get away from it. You may experience problems in transition because you are habituated to sugar’s addictive properties. Sugar consumption stimulates the reward center in your brain, and you will need to find other rewards that are health producing.

This means eating a diet enriched in food that stimulates dopamine synthesis. Some of the best choices are:

  • Eggs, fish, and turkey
  • Fermented foods
  • Legumes
  • Nuts and seeds
  • Apples and bananas

Taking supplemental tyrosine, and adding high-quality B-complex vitamins, may also be useful, but only in small quantities as a true supplement to food sources. Over time (think months, at least) your brain will reset its reward center, and your body will become insulin-sensitive.

Maintaining a sugar-free lifestyle is surprisingly easy, but getting there the first time is difficult. Most fail, and suffer the consequences, eventually. You will invest your own life with meaning by becoming one of the successful ones; you’ll  encourage others beginning their journey, and you will stand as proof that even though surrounded by the temptations of this life, you had the strength to rise above.