Choosing to live a healthy life through good choices does not sound like such a bad idea. Taking long walks on the beach after a dip in the ocean without a doubt sounds like the way to go.
However, there are also really tough decisions that have to be made; a calling that only the strong willed can dare to answer such as the decision to reduce your sugar intake.
By now this information should no longer be news to you, as doing away with the excess sugar in your diet is definitely a step in the right direction. The idea of making such massive dietary alterations can be a painful thought to imagine, which may even lead some of us to that safe place… with a chocolate bar in hand to provide extra comfort. Not everyone has the guts to take this leap of faith into the unknown land, where cupcakes and candy are prohibited by the veggie king.
However, Dr. Ian K. Smith, author of the sugar detox guide Blast the Sugar Out, tells us not to stress over it. He writes that detaching ourselves from additional sweeteners is not as torturous as we imagine it to be, even for the hardened candy lovers.
Dr. Smith goes on to say that if you can progressively lower the amount of sugar you take in while gradually substituting it with something else that is rich in fiber and protein, then you can do away with it indefinitely.
He says that knowing what to expect when going through the withdrawal process really helps when you come across that first rough patch. Foreseeing such occurrences will help you stay on course even when it seems darkest, with the sweet end in mind.
About Sugar Detox
Technically, no one can sustain a sugarless diet, as sugar is the fuel that powers our system. Moreover, it is naturally present in a lot of the foods that are classified as healthy, such as fruits, whole grains, and vegetables. Completely doing away with sugar is not the way to go, but rather it is about watching how much of that sweet stuff you are consuming. As much as you think you have a healthy diet, you are probably consuming way more sugar than you actually need.
While many have been on this quest and have chartered out paths, such as a three-day detox, to progressively wean yourself off the sugar, Dr. Smith recommends a five-week course.
By going through this course, you will see a decrease in your sugar intake by 20% over the course of every seven days, enabling you to do away with around two-thirds of your average sugar intake over time.
If you manage to stay under the daily recommended 25 grams for the better part of your week, you can treat yourself to some ice cream every once in a while. Sounds like a good bargain, don’t you think?
Week 1: When The Going Gets Tough
Withdrawal symptoms are real and Dr. Smith cautions us to be on the lookout for a wave of withdrawal symptoms that will hit in the first three to five days into the course. This period is notorious for headaches that are similar to drug withdrawals.
There are also reports of dwindling energy levels and a decrease in mental acuity. Gastrointestinal distress is not a rare occurrence in this stage either.
While it is not scientifically clear why this happens, research indicates that cutting down on sugar has the same effect on the body as quitting drugs. A chemical cocktail, consisting of decreased dopamine levels complemented by high acetylcholine levels, has been associated with these symptoms.
Not everyone will go through this phase, and for those that do, remember that this is only a temporary phase, and it will eventually get better. But if it becomes too much to bear, Dr. Smith recommends having some fruit to help you come down, though you should carefully decide on those that won’t cause a glycemic spike.
Week 2: Braving Through The Cravings
By the end of the first seven days, you will most likely have regained most of your energy. Dr. Smith explains that it is in week two that the majority experience residual cravings.
Their bodies have moved beyond the withdrawal symptoms, but the absence of sucrose is still noticeable. A steady intake of foods rich in proteins, fiber, and healthy fats will help in combating these cravings.
Week 3: A Reward For The Valiant
By now you have done away with half the course, meaning that you now have the hardest parts behind you. Maybe you have had to give up fruity flavored yogurt and instead stock plain yogurt.
It is in this week that you start to truly enjoy the benefits of a low sugar lifestyle. Dr. Smith explains that at this stage people are usually free from cravings, withdrawal symptoms, and many will also start to experience weight loss.
Science explains that the excess sugar in our bodies is converted and stored as fat, so when the excess sugar disappears, so does the weight. At this juncture, your taste buds become highly sensitive to sugar making it easier to say no to sugary foods than before.
Week 4: It is all in your head
This week is better known as the psychological week, characterized by that final, liberating push. At this stage, it is more of a mental than a physical game. The amount of sugar you are currently living on is way less than that of any of the prior weeks.
This is the time that you are to be most vigilant, carefully reading through food labels, looking to single out those hidden sugar sources. By doing this, you can ensure that you are not mistakenly nourishing your sweet tooth.
For this period, you might want to start with salad dressings, instant oatmeal, low glycemic fruits, and you should also go for meals that have zero-added-sugar.
Week 5: Maintenance
Dr. Smith explains that at this stage from psychological outlook, you can appreciate the fact that you no longer need sugar. You realize that your relationship with sugar has moved from being an obsessive stalker to that of a friendly associate.
He further advises that you are to exercise strict portion control and stay away from added sugars, but at this juncture, you can be trusted to make the best decisions.