There’s no real way to sweeten the truth about sugar. For anyone who is serious about getting in shape, or staying in shape, sugar is your most formidable adversary. Yes, you’re up against a long-term commitment, with many hours spent in the gym. But for a good number of people, dialing-in a proper diet is the true challenge. The fact is, if you plan on living a long, productive, and fruitful life, nipping your fitness issues in the bud is essential. A good way to start that nipping process is to sever your connection to sugar — or at least get a grasp on it.
Sugar truly is a nefarious substance. It’s addictive, for starters, and it acts an awful lot like fairly dangerous drugs, like cocaine, on a physiological level. Soft drinks, like soda, are primary suspects in the deaths of hundreds of thousands per year, and chronic consumption significantly bumps up your chances of becoming diabetic and obese — both of which open you up to a host of related diseases.
Sugar is basically toxic — and is something to avoid if at all possible. The problem is that it’s so good, and so prevalent. And many of us are addicted to it. It’s one of the many factors that makes the transition to a healthier lifestyle so difficult. If you plan on overhauling your diet, one of the first steps you’ll want to take is to cut out sugar. But when you do so, you’ll come across an interesting phenomenon: sugar cravings.
You’ve probably seen these cravings strike in friends or family members. Perhaps a loved one would get moody from time to time, but would lighten up after plowing through a chocolate bar? That was someone caving to a sugar craving, and feeding the addiction.
You’re likely to experience these cravings as well. It’s your body’s addiction trying to get you to feed it. Fending off those cravings is difficult, but if you employ some countermeasures, you’ll be able to walk past a box of donuts without salivating in short order.
What you’ll want to do is ween yourself away from these foods and drinks. Lowering your sugar intake will take some time, and if you stop cold turkey, you could potentially experience some withdrawal symptoms. Those symptoms can manifest themselves in a number of ways, including anxiety, anger, irritability, and even headaches. These are serious physiological and psychological effects, and further prove that we need to start thinking of sugar as a drug — not a dietary staple.
In order to taper your addiction, and get on the path to a healthier diet, you can start by simply substituting. Instead of going for a brownie or doughnut, try some fruit instead. If you’re itching for a Coke, or any other sugar-heavy beverage, have a protein shake. It’ll have some sugar in it — enough to satisfy you, hopefully — but also some actual nutrition as well.
For coffee drinkers, you can ease up on the cream and sugar. You can teach yourself to drink black (or near black) coffee with time, just start easing off of the extras. After a couple of months, see how much less sugar and caloric content you’re consuming as a result. It may surprise you.
Or, if you’re really struggling, go ahead and try a diet soda. Though there are a lot of studies out there showing that drinking diet soda can be just as harmful to your body as a regular, sugar-laden one. But having one a week is probably going to keep you in the clear, so long as you don’t overdo it and retrigger your body’s natural cravings. Try pouring some into a cup and taking small sips.
If all else fails, you can try any number of sugar-free dessert recipes. There are thousands out there.
This isn’t to say that you can never have another cookie again. You’re going to want to have some birthday cake at parties, or some pie and candy during the holidays. The key is to make this an overall habit that persists during the rest of the year — with a few exceptions. Again, having a bowl of ice cream once or twice a week isn’t going to do any serious, irreversible harm.
It’s constant snacking on cookies, guzzling down several cans of soda per day, and a reluctance or outright refusal to exercise that’s going to kill you.
Follow Sam on Twitter @Sliceofginger