SugarWith the holidays quickly approaching, and the abundance of delectable and decadent treats everywhere we turn, it’s easy to forget how much damage the sugary type of treats can do when we over-indulge. Since I was very young, rewards came in the form of sweet treats. This translated similarly into my adult life, though I rewarded my adult self for achievements as well as things like feeling down, feeling excited about something, finishing a project, it’s the weekend!, and so on. Over the years, I became quite addicted to sugar and the euphoria it injected into my system, and consumed it even when I knew I shouldn’t, and worse, when I was cloyed with too much sugary stuff and I didn’t really want it. Can you imagine?! I would eat a cookie, and then have another, and another, you get the picture. I would plan to have a couple of pieces of a chocolate bar, and before I knew it, the whole thing was gone. After a year-and-a-half of gaining the “non-profit twenty” in my new job, and feeling frumpy, lethargic, and generally unhealthy, I decided that I’d better change. I would begin with a two-month sugar fast.

I’d done sugar fasts before, but it was in order to get a clean bill of health at my annual check-up. This time, I knew I needed to shift my thinking, as well. I intended to establish a similar plan for my daily caloric intake after the official fast ended. For the duration of the fast, I eschewed all processed sugar. That meant reading a lot of labels — it’s hard to find bread without sugar! During those two months, if I craved something sweet, I allowed myself fruit. I found that some frozen, organic blueberries with a bit of organic heavy cream (You can veganize this, of course.) and cinnamon is a close treat to ice cream. If I needed sweets and fats with an interesting texture, I would mix some Grape Nuts cereal with about a tablespoon of organic peanut butter and -bing!- it was a winner. I made my own granola to sprinkle on yoghurt since there is not any sugar-free granola on the market that I could find. I started with this recipe and omitted the brown rice syrup. (Aussies call it rice malt syrup.) My plan worked well for me over the weeks, and I found myself craving sweets less and less.

LillysChocolate

Over those eight weeks, I lost eight pounds, doing nothing other than removing processed sugar from my life. I’m happy to report that since the fast is now over, I’ve kept my promise to myself and have been following the same plan fairly closely. I do, on occasion, allow myself a regular, sugary treat. The difference now is that I can have a bite or two of a cookie, a very small (kids portion) cup of ice cream, or two squares of chocolate, and I’m sated. I’ve also found that I can still have treats that contain no sugar, like Lily’s chocolate bars, and “sweetening” with cinnamon. I can also bake things using Stevia and sometimes Erythritol (a sugar alcohol) as sweeteners without the negative effects of many other artificial sweeteners.

Three Sugar Substitutes to Help Kick Your Cravings:
1. Cinnamon
2. Dates
3. Stevia and/or Erithrytol

I found IQuitSugar.com and SugarFreeMom.com to be quite helpful, and I simply alter their recipes when they call for brown rice syrup. Dates are also a good substitute if you really, really must have something very sweet and sugary, although I recommend taming your inner sugar tiger by avoiding too much in the way of sweet-tasting things. Again, cinnamon is a great tongue trickster, making you feel you’ve had that sweet treat, but with no guilt or side effects. If you don’t feel you can cut sugar out completely, no worries. If you must have a regular sweet treat, allow yourself to have a little bit and don’t feel down about it. Feel good that you can have a small amount that’s just enough, and then move forward with your plan. Whatever you do, please don’t fall for the agave trap. It’s worse for you than high-fructose corn syrup! Remember, this is all for you, by you, and you are the one who’s going to reap the rewards after you’ve tackled this craving creature! You’ll be happy to know that it gets easier every day.

I feel I must be fair and give you full disclosure: for the first week, I felt horrible, with headaches, joint pain, and an irritable state of mind as all the toxins were leaving my system. It was not fun, and it’s different for everybody. However, there are myriad benefits to doing the fast, including a higher level of energy, sleeping better/more deeply, clearer skin, weigh loss (I’ve dropped a total of 14 lbs. after 11 weeks!), improved mental cognition, lessened joint pain from an old injury, better freedom of movement, a happier disposition, and a feeling of freedom from that addiction. The best thing about “resetting my system” to diminish my craving for sugar? feeling really healthy again. It really does reset your taste buds and lowers cravings; When my tastebuds were accustomed to loads of sugar-heavy foods of all sorts, I used to think Lily’s chocolate tasted “thin” and didn’t like it. Now, I find this sugar-free treat delicious! I recommend doing a sugar fast to anyone who is suffering similar circumstances to mine. Of course, I’m obligated to mention that you should check with your health care practitioner before you go a’changing, but if you have any questions about this post, please feel free to contact me, and I’ll be happy to elaborate on any tips, resources, or experiences.

Three Steps Towards Sugar Independence:
1. Be realistic with your practice. Do it for your better future self!
2. Get creative! Substitute different sweet things without sugar to satisfy a craving.
3. Best yet, change your body’s cravings by “resetting” its needs: try a sugar fast for at least twenty-one days.

Anna McCambridge

Anna McCambridge

Visual Artist at AnnaMccambridge.com
Anna is a local artist, arts advocate, designer, writer, and vegetarian. She lives in Orlando with her husband, Marabou, and is currently illustrating her first children’s story. Her work can be found at annamccambridge.com and seen in local galleries in Central Florida.
Anna McCambridge

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