THE BLOG

How to Give Up Sugar

19/09/2014 12:11 BST | Updated 18/11/2014 10:59 GMT

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In the past year, helping people to give up sugar with hypnotherapy is something I increasingly do.

For decades, fat was diet enemy number one and we were encouraged to eat a low fat diet. For many this meant loading up on low fat foods which were invariably higher in sugar to take the edge off the absence of fat. In spite of this advice, obesity levels have continued to rise, and now it appears the tables are turning on fat and sugar is the new bad guy.

Robert Lustig, from the university of California, the main guy leading the anti-sugar brigade, displays some pretty convincing evidence that sugar is indeed the culprit when it comes to weight, diabetes and heart disease, rather than fat.

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Sugar can often feel very addictive, and many believe it is. When we eat sugar, dopamine is released, the 'reward' brain chemical. Sugar essentially hijacks the brains reward system, which hard wires us to want to eat sugar again and again. The more of it we have, the more we need to get the same rewarding feeling. It's the same mechanism by which we can get hooked on nicotine and cocaine. A study at the University of Bordeaux showed that sugar was actually preferred by rats over cocaine. Not ideal if the same applied to humans.

Other downsides of sugar include the increased risk of diabetes, it's potential to deplete the collagen in your skin and the proposed link between high blood sugar and dementia. Sugar could also raise your risk of dying from heart disease...And the list goes on...

Giving up sugar is no mean feat. It's not just the obviously sugary foods but everything that sugar is hidden in. Ketchup is a no-no, honey is not great sugar wise and in fact, if we're doing this properly, white bread is out since it raises blood sugar levels faster than table sugar.

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I've been sugar free now for over a year and a half and I mostly avoid white carbs like bread, rice and pasta too. It's not always been easy and there have been temporary relapses (gelato on the beach in Italy...ah...), but overall I feel more energised, my skin is better and I'm free from the blood sugar roller coaster that I used to ride each day at 3pm. That was no fun.

Here's what I've learned along the way;

  • Swap white carbs for buckwheat and quinoa alternatives which release carbohydrates more slowly and contain more protein (since they are in fact, seeds, not grains.)
  • Address your stress levels and any emotional issues around sugar. Do you turn to sugar to make yourself feel better? To calm yourself down? To celebrate or commiserate? Hypnotherapy can help you to mange stress and emotional issues and pin point their connections with sugar.
  • In terms of fruit, limes, lemons, rhubarb, raspberries and blackberries have the lowest sugar contents. Having these with yoghurt, Coyo or cream and maybe a sprinkling of nuts can make a good dessert when others are tucking into cake and ice cream. The highest sugar fruits are
  • bananas, grapes, melon, mangos and dried fruits, which are best avoided when trying to reduce your sugar intake.
  • If going to a dinner party or somewhere where you know there will be sugary treats available, bring something you can have with you so you don't feel too left out.
  • Sugar alternatives such as agarve and honey have come under fire since they are basically high in fructose, which can have similarly harmful health effects as sugar. Although less 'natural' than agarve or honey, stevia and xylitol give a sweet taste while avoiding many of the problems with sugar. Although these aren't' recommended all the time, if I get a chocolate craving, I reach for these peanut butter cups made with stevia or make brownies with xylitol.
  • I use old bags of sugar in my cupboard as exfoliator. Just mix some with your normal cleanser (just don't lick your face midway through, yep, I did that...)
  • Alcohol wise, a vodka with fresh lime and soda is the lowest sugar option. Sometimes I blend ice, stevia, vodka, lime juice and soda water to make a pretty darn good cocktail.
  • It can be easier to go all in and give up all sugar completely rather than allowing yourself some on occasion, which can just put you right back on the sugar addicted cycle. I found that after around 3 weeks sugar free that I didn't crave sugar very much at all.
  • -Lastly, don't give yourself too much for a hard time, giving up or reducing sugar is a journey, not a destination!

Have you given up sugar? Have you tried? Do you have any sugar free tips? I'd love to hear them.

Photos supplied by 123RF.