Some say sugar can be as addictive as heroin. I'm not sure I'd go quite that far. I haven't heard of anyone robbing their families blind or ending up destitute to fund a Haribo habit. But, as I'm sure everyone reading this will know only too well, sweet stuff is incredibly moreish.
My mantra is "mostly healthy, most of the time" and the approach I take is that it's not necessary to give up sugar entirely in order to shed fat. A dessert or sweet snack a couple of times per week is not going to scupper your progress if you've spent the rest of those seven days eating unprocessed, wholesome foods.
Often, imposing a total ban on any particular food only serves to make it all the more appealing and trying to cut out all sugar at all times would be pretty crazy-making for most of us, myself included.
However, reducing the amount of sugar in the diet and learning to handle cravings so sweet things can be happily enjoyed as occasional indulgences, rather than experienced like a guilty addiction several times per day, has been nothing short of life-changing for a lot of people I've worked with.
Besides the many health benefits of cutting right down on sugar and the massive difference it makes to their fat loss results, my clients report all the same benefits I've experienced personally - much higher energy levels, better sleep, improvements in skin tone and more of an appetite for healthier foods.
Discovering that you can get to place where, not only can you cope with the urge to eat sweet things without caving in, but that those cravings actually fade to almost nothing is a liberating experience. You don't have to be a slave to sugar. You can learn to enjoy sweet foods occasionally without compulsively eating them every day. And you can live a life free from constant cravings. It takes effort, especially at first, but it gets easier and it's worth it. Believe me, I've been there.
Here are some of the things that helped curb my cravings whilst I was kicking my old several-times-a-day sweet-hit habit.
If you're looking to cut down on sugar, one of the worst things you can do is eat something sweet for breakfast - it'll simply set you up for a day of stinking cravings. Choose something savoury with a lot of protein to keep you feeling full and satisfied as well as nourishing your body. Eggs are an ideal breakfast food.
When you are going to eat something sweet, make it feel like a true indulgence by savouring a small amount of something very high quality, like 80% cocoa chocolate instead of a big bar of the cheapo sugary kind. Or enjoy eating a slice of freshly baked cake with a fork in a nice café or restaurant instead of hand-stuffing a slab of supermarket cake into your mouth on the sofa or at your desk.
Ride the wave
Sugar cravings will happen. You need to expect that. You also need to know that if you ignore them, they will pass. It will seem at the time like the only way to get rid of that urge is to put something sweet in your mouth, but you will find that it abates if you refuse to give in. This is a challenge at first, but as you experience how cravings pass if you don't act on them it gets a little easier each time. Always keep in mind that the less sugar eat, the less you'll experience cravings and the less effort it will take to ride them out when they do occur.
Take a Bite of Reality
...On the flipside, when you do eat sugar it makes you crave even more sugar. So anytime you think to yourself "oh, I'll just have a bite", remember that having that one bite is only going to make you want another bite all the more. Let's face it, when do you ever stop at just one bite! Far from satisfying you, that little taste is most likely to leave you feeling all the more frustrated.
Fasting helped me to shed fat and take control of my diet in various ways (as I've talked about on my blog). I believe IF really helped my body to regulate blood sugar better, which reduced sugar cravings and the general appeal of sugar for me. Right now, I'm maintaining my current body fat level, so I only do a couple of 16 hour fasts per week, but being in the habit of regularly going 16 hours without eating anything still helps me to know that every time I think about a certain food, doesn't mean I have to eat it.
If you'd like more of Julia's advice on diet and fitness, her best selling book, 'The Fat Burn Revolution: Boost your metabolism and burn fat fast' is available now on Amazon UK, Amazon USA and in stores across the world. You can also join in her group on Facebook or visit www.juliasfitnessblog.com