Written by contributor Stephanie Langford of Keeper of the Home
Holidays are a time for indulging. We stuff ourselves on turkey feasts, swear that we couldn’t eat another bite, and then happily inhale a scrumptious piece of pumpkin pie. We attend multiple social functions, each one presenting its own array of sweet treats or special drinks.
Kitchens are full of temptation, as we bake cookies or make fudge to give as gifts and stocking stuffers (and sneak just a little taste ourselves).
I (unfortunately) find that I eat a lot of sugar during the Christmas season. Certainly more than I usually would. Most of us do, despite the fact that we know so much sweetness isn’t good for us in a multitude of ways.
If I had written this post a month ago, I might have given you tips on cutting back on sugar during the holidays, healthier alternatives and that sort of thing. But it’s a little late for that now. The damage is done, the sugar consumed. So now what do we do?
How Does Sugar Affect Us?
First, a quick reminder of the WHYs behind reducing our sugar consumption. Knowing why it matters always helps our motivation!
- It compromises the immune system
- It feeds opportunistic bacteria (ie. the bad guys) in our gut. This leads to symptoms like tiredness and lethargy, mental fog, increased sugar cravings, impaired digestion and more.
- It weakens teeth and causes cavities
- It makes our skin break out
- It messes with our blood sugar balance, creating vicious cycles of highs and lows throughout the day
- It depletes our vitamin and mineral stores, and impedes the absorption of nutrients from the food we eat
- It contributes to an overly acidic state in the body (which in turn contributes to disease)
- It throws off insulin levels which can create/contribute to hormone imbalance
- It is addictive and the more that we eat it, the more that we want it
Perhaps you’ve noticed that you’re energy is low and you’re dragging just a little. Maybe your cravings for sweets have increased. Have you been found yourself feeling run down or getting hit by viruses that are going around?
Now is the perfect time to give your body a bit of a sugar break.
Taking a Little Sugar Fast
To be honest, I’m writing this because I need to do this just as much as anyone else. I’ve indulged a little too freely and I know how much better I’ll feel if I take a short break.
For those who have never completely cut out sweeteners for any period of time, it is both challenging and very rewarding. The early days can be a tough time of battling cravings and possibly experiencing some mild detox symptoms, such as:
- increased tiredness
- bad breath
- aches and pains
- mood swings
Once you get through those early days, however, you begin to feel so much better! More energy, more mental alertness, a decrease in sugar cravings, steadier moods, and possibly even a decrease in symptoms of illness that you might consider unrelated (less eczema, improved arthritis, etc.).Photo by SOMEBODY 3LSE
How to Take a Sugar Break
To take a true break from sweeteners, you’ll want to avoid all of the following: white sugar, brown sugar, raw/unrefined sugar (including Sucanat, Rapadura, Turbinado, etc.), honey, maple syrup, coconut sugar, corn syrup, rice syrup, molasses, etc.
I know that some of the sweeteners I listed above are actually excellent alternatives to refined sugars, BUT when you’re taking a break from sugars, you need to take a break from everything, even the healthier options.
1. Choose a date and then just do it
I like to go cold-turkey when I take a sugar break and I would recommend that you try to as well. If you still allow yourself to have some, you won’t experience nearly as many benefits, plus it makes it easier to compromise and have more than you were intending to. Cold turkey is hard at first, but it makes things black and white and when faced with a temptation, there’s no consideration- the answer is simply, “No, thank you!”.
Plan to do it, pick a date that is sooner rather than later, and when that date arrives, commit yourself to staying completely sugar-free. It’s a good idea to decide at the beginning how long your sugar break will last, rather than trying to decide once you’re already off sugar and telling yourself how good you’ve been. If this is your first time, you may just choose to go completely sugar-free for somewhere between 3-7 days. If you are really committed or have done this before, aiming for more like 1-4 weeks will offer the most benefit.
2. Stay away. Stay far, far away.
You might need to get rid of a few last holiday treats lingering in the house, or ask someone else to hide what remains. Figure out exactly which foods you’ll be avoiding and perhaps even put a list up on your fridge of sugary no-no items such as:
- All sweetened treats- chocolate, cookies, cake, candy- this part is obvious, right?
- Sweetened beverages. We consume more sugar than we realize in our coffees and teas, juice-type drinks, iced tea or lemonade, etc. To avoid sweeteners in beverages, stick to water, 100% fruit juice (and keep this minimal), unsweetened tea or coffee.
- Baked goods like muffins, quick breads, bagels, and even breads (other than plain/homemade breads that you know don’t have sugar in them). Also, almost all cereals and granolas contain sugar of some sort.
- Store-bought condiments like ketchup, BBQ sauce, jams and jellies, many salad dressings, marinades… just check the ingredients before you go to use something.
It definitely helps to avoid places like your favorite restaurant or coffee shop, particularly in the early days when temptation runs high and your will power may be running low, unless you know that you can happily sip on a herbal tea or watch someone else eat dessert without succumbing yourself.Photo by pj_vanf
3. Find tasty alternatives
Make it easier on yourself by planning for treats that you know you’ll enjoy, in lieu of your usual sweetened indulgences. It helps to have a plan for dealing with sugar cravings.
Some things that work for me are nut butters (especially with apple slices or on toast with a sprinkle of cinnamon), a handful of nuts like almonds, fruit smoothies (bananas help to add natural sweetness), and herbal teas (especially fruit teas or ones that are spiced and have a natural sweetness, like Good Earth or Celestial Seasonings Bengal Spice). You might enjoy plain yogurt with a bit of Stevia to cover the tartness, and some fresh fruit or berries.
For those unfamiliar with Stevia, this can be a handy herb to have around. Stevia is a herb that is naturally sweet (extremely so). It is perfect for things like hot beverages, yogurt, oatmeal or anything that you would add just a small amount of sweetness to. Some people find that it has an unpleasant after-taste, which I would somewhat agree with. Our family enjoys the brand Nu Naturals. I keep the liquid in our fridge, and small packets of the powder in my purse for when I’m out.
Are You With Me?
Have I convinced you to avoid satisfying your sweet tooth, at least for a little while?
I’ll be taking several weeks in January to go 100% sugar free, and then I’ll just continue to be intentional about cutting back on my sugar consumption beyond that.
Do you think that your body needs a bit of a sugar break after the holidays? Will you join me in going sugar free for a period of time?