Cravings. There is no getting around it: you’re going to be plagued by them.
If you’re just starting out on trying a no-sugar diet, it’s going to be really hard. Sugar is incredibly addictive, and when you go off it, your body acts like it’s lost a vital element of life. Everything in your being will tell you that, to survive, you must have some sugary goodness. It’s completely irrational, yet completely consuming. You don’t care that it’s irrational. You probably don’t even stop to consider that it’s irrational – it just feels so obviously necessary to you.
I’ll be honest: Most of the recipes on here won’t do much for the chemical dependency of sugar, or help you feel better during the withdrawal process. I’ll give you recipes that satisfy your sweet tooth and taste good, but they won’t give your brain that chemical buzz that it wants, so your body won’t think it’s any good. For the first week or so, that’s the way it’ll be.
But don’t give up! Stick with it, through the crazies. Warn your loved ones that you’re going to be slightly insane for a while, and expect it to be hard. But realize it is temporary. I’m not saying all cravings completely go away, at least they haven’t for me, but after the first week, it gets much, much easier. Your body gets more used to not having that chemical reaction to the sugar, and starts accepting the other sweet things you give it. Fruit starts to taste incredibly sweet, and you’re more easily satisfied. It’s a process, but it does get easier.
I’m going to post recipes here that will help with that sweet tooth urge, or that have helped with me, but in addition here are some practical hints, some of the things I’ve found that make it easier to deal with cravings.
1. Eat. All the time. Eat all day. Just not anything with sugar or refined grains. If you let yourself get hungry, it becomes almost impossible to fight the urge for a quick sugary fix, so stay full. Plan ahead and have foods that you enjoy on hand so that you’re not scrambling last minute. Don’t overeat – be sensible – but don’t let yourself get hungry.
2. Eat lots of protein. I’ve found that eating foods high in protein fills me up and satisfies me. It’s much easier to resist cravings if I’ve been eating enough protein.
3. Satiate yourself with good fats. Good fats are natural fats, like butter (preferably from grass-fed cows) coconut oil, olive oil, and (yes) even lard. You’ll feel satisfied when you incorporate a lot of these saturated fats into your diet and won’t feel the need to snack as much. (And, don’t be afraid of healthy saturated fats like these. It’s actually GOOD to get enough cholesterol and saturated in your diet. Really! I know, I know – that’s hard for most people to believe, but it’s true. This is an excellent article that explains why and is a must read: http://paleodietlifestyle.com/cholesterol-is-not-bad/)
4. Keep foods you enjoy and are easy to eat on hand. For me, that’s things like chocolate peanut butter and banana bread. Also plenty of fruits for smoothies and stewed apples. I keep these things on hand almost constantly so that when I want something sweet I don’t have to think about it – I just go grab it. If you have to work for it, you’ll be frustrated and be more likely to eat something you shouldn’t. Maybe for you it’s yogurt, or peanuts, or popcorn (NOT microwaveable!) Whatever does it for you and is okay to eat, keep plenty of it on hand all the time!
5. If necessary, go gradually. If you’re having a hard time cutting all sweeteners and refined grains at once, start by just cutting sugar and occasionally eating raw honey, or maple syrup. Try only having natural, whole food sweeteners for a while, and then slowly cut back from there. (Just don’t eat artificial sweeteners. They’re almost worse for you than real sugar, so STAY AWAY!) You might find that you can get away with just cutting sugar. I have to be careful with all of them, but listen to your body and what it tells you. Which brings me to…
6. Really pay attention to your body. Start out by trying to eliminate everything – all sweeteners (including honey and syrup), all refined grains, maybe even all wheat or all grains altogether. See how you feel after a couple of weeks, then start introducing things back one at a time. Eat a little honey and see how you feel. Try a 100% whole wheat something-or-other and listen to your body. Really listen. Make your choices about your diet based on an honest reflection of how you feel.
7. Cheat. Yes, if you have to, cheat. If you feel like you’re in danger of bingeing on an entire half gallon of ice cream, allow yourself to have one cookie instead. In the first week, I was dying for a cheese steak (my husband was eating one), and so I took a bite of it. After that bite I felt like, “Okay. I’m in charge now. I don’t need to take another bite.” If you think it will help you get control of yourself, allow yourself a small cheat like that and see if it helps. Some people end up bingeing once they have one bite, though, so listen to yourself, and do what works for you.
8. Remember how you used to feel. If you’ve been doing it for long enough to feel better, just think about going back to how you felt before. It makes it seem not so worth it.
9. Educate yourself. Learn just exactly what sugar (and even wheat) do to your body, and what’s happening inside you when you eat it. When you can picture what it’s doing it you, it seems less appetizing. A good place to get started is on my Links and Resources page. I’ve collected there a lot of the articles that have educated me on issues.
10. This article shares some really interesting information about an easy way to stop sugar cravings with taking an amino acid – which is potentially a life changing thing!
Have you found other things that have helped you resist the urge to eat sugar and refined grains? What’s worked for you?