Eating sugar makes you want more sugar. It is a controlling substance that can hijack your mind and wreak havoc with your health, making it impossible to lose weight. I know firsthand that it is not fun going through life feeling controlled by sugar. In this blog post, I share 10 practical ways to break free.
10 Ways to Stop Eating Sugar [Video]
I mentioned that I know firsthand that it is not fun going through life controlled by sugar. And that is true. For many years of my life, sugary foods would be my first thought in the morning and my last one at night. I often say that I was a sugar addict, and I have the cavities to prove it.
Today, I can honestly say that, while I still like sugar and desserts, I’m not controlled by them, and I can choose to eat them or pass on them without issue. The 10 things I share below are the things that allowed me to turn the corner and break free from sugar. When applied, they will help you as well.
#1 Keep Sugar Out of Your House
The first strategy is to keep sugar out of your house. This is simply an out-of-sight, out-of-mind principle. Don’t kid yourself that you are strong enough to resist the pull of sugar. Sugar is not only addictive, our brains remember that sugar gives us a kick, so when you’re feeling sad, tired, or grumpy, your brain says, “go get some sugar.” If there’s no sugar in your house, you’ll feel uncomfortable in the moment, but I guarantee you that you’ll feel better the next morning.
Some of you face a challenge with this first tip. You live with someone who does not share your desire to live a sugar-free life. So, keeping it out of the house is not an option. That may be the reality you face; however, it doesn’t mean that you have to abandon your goal.
#2 Fill Up at Mealtimes
Number two on our list of ways to stop eating sugar is to fill up at mealtimes. Often, our desire to give up sugar corresponds with a desire to lose weight. We’ve been conditioned to eat smaller portions to accomplish that goal. That is not a wrong way to think, but if you are constantly fighting off hunger, it will be hard to avoid grabbing a sugary snack.
Filling up at mealtime can be a challenging thing to allow yourself to do. However, research indicates that we experience less hungry when we eat less often. A study showed that when the same amount of calories were consumed, people who ate small meals nearly every hour of the day experienced more hunger than those that split the calories into three larger meals (1).
#3 Eat Fat
Of course, what you eat at your mealtimes matters. If your meals are filled with refined foods like bread and cereal, those foods will digest quickly, leaving you looking for more to eat sooner rather than later. So, tip number three for getting control over sugar is to eat fat.
Foods that contain fat slow digestion and keep your blood sugar level stable, resulting in hunger control. Yet, here again, allowing yourself to make this change and bring dietary fats into your meals requires a mindset shift. We’ve been taught for years that eating fat makes you fat. However, eating healthy fats without refined carbohydrates gives you a sense of control over hunger, making it easier to avoid snacking.
To make this practical, start with a commitment to eat a daily salad. This is one of my 4 daily habits for weight loss. More than 80,000 people have downloaded the strategy, and you can download a copy for yourself here.
The benefit of a daily salad is that it acts as the perfect vehicle for healthy fats. For instance, you can top a bed of salad greens with meat, cheese, avocados, nuts, and seeds, all of which provide you with hunger-satisfying dietary fat.
#4 Notice How Crazy Sugar Makes You Feel
If you’re having a hard time changing your habits and keeping sugar out of your life, do tip number four and notice how crazy sugar makes you feel.
At the beginning of this post, I mentioned that sugar hijacks your brain, and that is true. When you eat sugar, it causes the release of a chemical called dopamine that activates the reward center of the brain in much the same way as addictive drugs like cocaine. So, there is a “reward” for eating junk food because it causes a quick boost to your energy level and mood. However, this boost wears off, causing a crash that leaves you scrambling for another fix.
It’s not a good experience when you feel controlled by food. Just stopping and noticing how much sugar is robbing you of your focus and peace of mind can be enough to regain some self-control, helping you to pass it by.
#5 Skip the Sugar Substitutes
There are many sugar substitutes on the market, from the more natural ones, like Stevia and monk fruit, to artificial ones like Splenda, Equal, and Sweet’N Low. It is common to think that using sugar substitutes can help you kick your sugar habit.
There is a lot to unpack concerning the health value of artificial sweeteners. However, if you truly want to get past your sugar addiction, I encourage you to follow tip number 5 and skip the sugar substitutes. These sweeteners can replace sugar, but they will keep your sweet tooth alive and well. You do not want that because your taste buds and brain will stay locked on loving sweetness, making for an ongoing battle to avoid the real stuff.
You may opt to use sugar substitutes as a short-term crutch as you break free from sugar. However, you’ll be happiest with your results and gain more of a sense of self-control if you wean yourself off of all added sweeteners.
#6 Stay Hydrated
You can help your body get back to a sense of control by staying hydrated, which is tip number six. Dehydration can mimic hunger, and all of the metabolic functions in your body take place in a watery environment. So, staying hydrated is vital for controlling your appetite and keeping your metabolism strong.
What we often overlook is that hydration is a two-step process. You need to replenish water and electrolytes. Sugar is a quick digesting carbohydrate that causes a spike in insulin. Insulin is a hormone that causes water retention. When you stop eating sugar, insulin levels drop, causing salt and water to be flushed out by your kidneys (2).
If you don’t replenish them, you’ll feel off your game and hungry. Fortunately, replenishing electrolytes is a simple task that can be accomplished by using an electrolyte supplement or adding a pinch of sea salt to a food or drink to get sodium, chloride, and other trace minerals.
#7 Set Short-Term Goals
As you’re working toward a sugar-free life, keep in mind that you want to be kind to yourself. Sugar is an addictive substance, so there’s no shame in wanting to eat it. You can reach a place of peace with sugar, but don’t make it harder than it has to be by setting unrealistic goals like “I will never eat sugar again!”
When we set all-or-nothing goals, we feel stressed, building our desire to eat comfort foods. Instead, follow tip number seven and set short-term goals. Start with today only. For today, avoid sugar and foods with sugar listed as one of the top three ingredients. Tomorrow, you are free to make a new decision, but as for today – no sugar.
#8 Stop Eating 3 Hours Before Bed
Another short-term goal that will help you keep sugar out of your day is to declare an end to your eating day 3 hours before bed. This is another of my 4 daily habits that you can download.
One of the reasons this strategy works is because the hours after 6 p.m. have been shown to be the time of day that we consume the majority of our calories (3).
By declaring an end to your eating day 3 hours before bedtime, you avoid sugar-filled, calorie-dense foods and more easily move past the desire to snack. For instance, when you’re relaxing after dinner and the thought comes to you, “What could I eat?” Instead of walking into the kitchen where all of the temptations are stored, your brain reminds you that you are done eating for the night. You may feel some disappointment at that moment, but you’ll stay out of the kitchen, allowing your brain to go on to other thoughts.
#9 Use a Stopper
Getting yourself to stop eating after dinner is an effective way to get sugar out of your life. However, it is not always easy. We have been hardwired from our primitive days to eat when food is available. So, the act of eating makes you want to keep eating. This is why tip number nine, using a stopper, is so valuable. A stopper is an item, drink, or activity that allows you to separate from eating.
Sometimes this separation from eating is simply changing the taste in your mouth to move past that “mouth-feel” need where you know that you are no longer physically hungry, but you still want to eat. For those times, minty things like brushing your teeth or using mouthwash work well.
Other times, you simply don’t want the comfort of eating to end. For those times, try a warm drink after dinner and have it ready to go, so there is no initiation barrier to using it as a stopper. For instance, tonight, before you eat dinner, heat a cup of tea. When you’re done with dinner, sip the tea. This will do two things, it will feel comforting, and it will take time to finish, which leads us right into our final way to stop eating sugar, which is to use a 10-minute time out.
#10 Take a 10-Minute Time Out
When you want something sweet after dinner, or the thought pops in your head to eat sugar, take a look at the clock and tell yourself that you’ll wait and make a decision whether or not to eat something when 10 minutes have passed. The beauty of this trick is that most of us are easily distracted thanks to our busy minds.
By declaring to yourself that you’ll pick up this eating topic later, your brain naturally moves on to something else. That distraction is often enough to move past the temptation and continue toward your sugar-free goal.
There is no question that sugar is a controlling substance. It can feel like you need to eat it to feel normal. But there is life on the other side of sugar. If you need a guide to help you break free, start with my 4 daily habits. The downloadable guide comes with videos that will help you get the habits working in your life.
(1) Munsters, Marjet JM, and Wim HM Saris. “Effects of meal frequency on metabolic profiles and substrate partitioning in lean healthy males.” PloS one 7.6 (2012): e38632.
(2) Tiwari, Swasti, Shahla Riazi, and Carolyn A. Ecelbarger. “Insulin’s impact on renal sodium transport and blood pressure in health, obesity, and diabetes.” American Journal of Physiology-Renal Physiology (2007).
(3) Gill, Shubhroz, and Satchidananda Panda. “A smartphone app reveals erratic diurnal eating patterns in humans that can be modulated for health benefits.” Cell metabolism 22.5 (2015): 789-798.