By Dr. Nichelle Gurule
I have been sugar free for over a year now and the sugar cravings, along with the temptations are long gone! Honestly, it is possible, though in the beginning it really does seem quite impossible.
Most everything we eat, especially as Americans, has sugars in them. From a book I recently listened to on audio called “Year of No Sugar” reported, 80% of the processed and packaged foods have added sugars. No wonder we have such a hard time getting rid of sugar from our lives. It is in so many things we eat and is extremely addictive.
My journey with breaking free from the chains of sugar started about four years ago. I always knew sugar was not the best thing for the body, but as I went through graduate school, I learned more about nutrition and I became a lot more intuitive with my body. I was able to recognize what foods didn’t make me feel well and overtime the cost of eating those foods was far greater than the joy of consuming them. I highly encourage you to learn more about what sugar does in the body before completely shoo shooing the idea of taking it out of your life or at least finding ways to limit your intake overtime.
Yes, I too ate a TON of sugar!
Surrounding Myself with Healthy Habits
Once I entered graduate school, I had the knowledge from undergrad, the new knowledge from graduate school, and the motivation of the healthy habits of those around me to begin a healthier lifestyle. The actions of those you are around drastically impact your decisions. This is observed from the behaviors of rebellious teenagers, smokers, gym goers, and more. If you want to quit or start a certain behavior, it is best to be around those that are on the path that you are hoping to be on.
The Start of Many Sugar Free Challenges
The last two years of grad school, my husband Antonio and I would do a sugar free January. The very first time we tried this, we ultimately just got rid of the blatant sugars we were consuming such as sugar in our coffee, dessert, trail mix with m&ms, etc. The first time around we didn’t dive much into the hidden added sugars that are in peanut butters, salad dressings, other condiments and so much more. With each year we refined our January challenge, eventually getting rid of anything with sugars, including honey and syrup. However, we always allowed ourselves to have several servings of fruit a day, and still do.
Sugar is Addictive; it is a Fact, Not a Myth
Sugar is addictive for almost everyone out there. You’re not alone! I always joke with people and say, “ You know your addicted to sugar when someone says to be sugar free and you have a little panic attack about how you will go without your favorite sweet treat. But if you were asked to go without broccoli, you probably wouldn’t be so resistant.”
Sugar is related to many problems Americans face each day from fatigue to acne, to obesity to inflammation, to many other diseases. It is highly addictive and the thought of getting it out of our life seems impossible. It is a tough since it is in everything we love to eat. Going cold turkey is tough for most, but making small changes overtime is feasible for everyone.
FINALLY SUGAR FREE!
At around 3 months postpartum, the CrossFit gym we were at was holding a nutrition challenge and I decided to jump on board. It was really easy to eat poorly when you are busy with an infant and are consuming as much as a teenage boy. I was so hungry in the beginning months of nursing and fell into eating foods that I knew bothered my stomach from the sugars and whatever else is in all that processed junk. The challenge was the perfect excuse to make some changes, yet again.
This time the changes stuck! I can’t predict the future and know what challenges I will face when life gets even busier (if that is even possible). I do know, that this is the first time in my life that I haven’t had sugar and don’t miss it or crave it.
The first month of being sugar free was like most others for me. It was challenging to get rid of habitual patterns of sugar in coffee or a sweet treat after dinner. The first month I always played around with alternatives to satiate the sweet cravings, which I now see is kind of missing the point. The challenge was a way to encourage staying on track.
After the challenge, I was where I was before in all the previous years, the challenge was over, now it was time to just have a “little” bit of that brownie or just add a little sugar to my coffee. The cycle begins again, but this time was different. I felt motivated to continue sugar free for another month, just see if I could do it and see if the cravings subsided even more.
Boy oh boy was I happy I made the commitment to face another month sugar free. What I discovered was the first month sugar free for me was breaking habits that related to sugar intake. I was still tempted at social gatherings or when offered a sweet treat, though I declined. After two months, the social gatherings with the array of amazing sweets were not tempting. I could stand by the tables or even have a piece on my plate for my husband and not have any inclination to just “try” a little bit.
Of course, after two months I decided to go for three. It was the three-month mark that I believe truly kicked my sugar addiction for good. It sounds silly to say, but honestly I finally felt free from sugar, the chains were broken and I finally did not find sweets at all tempting. I have tried a few bites things here and there, but I don’t have that satisfaction from them I once did and the foods I have tried are too sweet. Just fruit is enough to satisfy the sweet tooth for me!
Why Was This Time Different?
I am honestly not entirely sure why this time around the changes lasted. Perhaps it was similar to quitting smoking where they say it takes 7 times to quit for good. Perhaps it was a matter of practicing what I preach to my patients. Maybe it was even that I was fed up of how much sugar, a harmful ingredient if chronically and excessively consumed, was in our day-to-day food.
What I do know is that it is possible to get rid of sugar from your life. If the sugar addicted me could eventually eliminate the sugar from my life, I am pretty sure everyone could. To be successful with any change, you have to really want it and no one else can want it for you. The reason for your change may be related to an illness or it could be related to just wanting a healthier life in general. The facts about sugar are out there! Sugar is inflammatory and an inflamed system cannot be healthy. Sugar has been linked to obesity, Diabetes Type II, hypertension, cardiovascular disease, metabolic disease, non-alcoholic fatty liver, gout, acne, cancer, and more!
If you decide to take this journey keep in mind, it is not an all or nothing. You can make gradual steps to decreasing sugar throughout the year. You don’t have to go cold turkey. You can start by cutting your sugar in your coffee by half and getting the sugar free peanut butter.
If you ever have any questions of how I went from gushers and brownies to an apple being my sweet treat, please email me!
Some books to check out that I have liked related to sugar are “Year of No Sugar” By Eve O Schaub and “Sweet Poison” by David Gillespie.
Keep your eye out for part 2 of this blog, where I will discuss the tips, tricks, and some other things to consider with getting rid sugar from your diet.
-Health Through Movement-
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