Towards the end of the holidays, my mother organized a two week sugar detox, over e-mail, with relatives and friends across the country. Discussed over a slice of gluten-free yule log on Dec. 26, this was a great idea! Not so much in early January, when it was 10 degrees, snowing and I received an e-mail subject line: Sugar-Detox Starts Tomorrow.
The parameters were to avoid obvious sugars and added sweeteners. Fruits such as oranges and raisins were allowed and there was no need to cross-examine servers about hidden sugar in the salad dressing. Juices, sodas, desserts, Mochas and sugar or honey in tea, etc. were off-limits. I was prepared to feel deprived by the absence of my almost daily dark chocolate fix.
Surprisingly, these two cold winter weeks were easy and even enjoyable. I slept better and woke up before my alarm, my moods were high but my appetite and my weight went to all-time lows in my adult life. I realized, this was much easier than similar attempts years before for two reasons: 1) I now cook over 90% of my food from whole foods resulting in few cravings thanks to a nutrient dense diet without hidden sugars and salts 2) I now know that sugar is often an “emotional” solution to being physically or mentally tired and was able to adjust accordingly.
I recommend a sugar detox for everyone. Unlike extreme detoxes that interrupt your daily life and often rebound into a larger weight gain, a sugar detox is gentle and easily integrates into your daily routine. It generally results in a few pounds of sustainable weight loss. Most importantly, a sugar detox is often a “gateway” to further weight loss as you become aware of the impact of sugar on your body, appetite and mood. Those in my detox group with more sugar-laden diets reaped the most dramatic benefits: their taste buds changed, sugary foods they had regularly eaten lost their appeal and they felt dramatically better. A few weeks later the majority of us are still avoiding many sugars that we had regularly consumed and many of us are continuing to lose weight. Convinced yet to try it yourself?
If so, here is my basic guide for implementing your own successful sugar detox:
1. Get a sugar-detox buddy, or army. Organizing over e-mail is an effective and easy way to create accountability, share triumphs, challenges, ideas—and laugh.
2. Integrate whole foods and vegetables into your diet. A Green Smoothie for breakfast is a great place to start. A vegetable filled breakfast is one of the easiest and most effective ways to curb cravings, lose weight and give your body much needed nutrients.
3. Organic oranges. Natural sugars are a great and healthy way to curb cravings for the white stuff. Date Sweetened Fudge is a slightly more decadent way to get a natural sugar fix in those critical first few days when the sugar siren’s call is particularly enticing.
4. Sleep. Nap. Sleep. Often sugar cravings are for a quick energy fix. Here’s a great video from Arianna Huffington describing how women can “sleep their way to the top”.
5. Get creative. Accessing your creativity and indulging in an outlet that you find enjoyable, whether blogging, baking healthy recipes with your kids or tapping into an artistic talent or pleasure from childhood, will truly satisfy the emotional “fix” that we often rely on sugar to fulfill.
To a fruitful and fun February.