There are plenty of great reasons to cut out sugar from your diet. Maybe you indulged in one too many gingerbread sweater cookies or couldn’t resist the (ahem, seven) snow-capped mountain cupcakes that crossed your plate this holiday season (raises hand), or maybe you just want to get a kick-start on your healthy AF 2017 resolutions. Whatever the reason for saying so long to sugar, you can expect some drawbacks when you start to say goodbye. So we asked Alexandra Miller, a corporate dietitian at Medifast, to share the good and the willpower-challenging things that come with cutting back or, if you’re really looking to slay, completely eliminating sugar from your diet.
1. Your body will get used to the change (though not immediately). Like with most shifts in our normal eating habits, it can take some time for our body to adjust, which is why Alexandra suggests starting slowly when eliminating sugar. She says, “Our bodies take time to adjust to dietary changes. In order to be successful, gradually wean yourself off of excess added sugar. Start by eliminating or reducing one or two main sources of added sugar in your diet. Once you feel comfortable with the changes you’ve made, continue to set small, realistic goals.”
2. Protein will be your new friend. “As you make changes to your sugar intake, be sure to include a source of protein and fiber at every meal and snack,” suggests Alexandra. She adds, “This will help keep you full and satisfied throughout the day while keeping cravings at bay.” Alexandra also suggests you commit to staying hydrated by drinking at least 64 ounces of plain water per day.
3. You may have not-so-great withdrawal symptoms. Newsflash: Eliminating sugar isn’t going to be the same for everyone, because we all respond differently to changes in our diets. “As your body adjusts, you may experience headaches, fatigue and/or irritability. This is a normal reaction to the body adjusting to the change in diet. Fortunately, it’s temporary,” Alexandra says. Phew! “To help combat these feelings, be sure to drink plenty of water and get adequate sleep. Stay busy and focus on eating a balanced diet so your body has the nutrition it needs to stay healthy and strong. It may also help to have smaller, more frequent meals throughout the day to help keep your blood sugar levels stable,” she says.
4. Expect ALL the cravings. (Sorry.) You can’t expect to give up the sugar in your coffee and your after-dinner dessert and for things to go on like normal. What can you expect? Cravings. Alexandra explains, “Sugar fuels the cells in our brain. Not only that, the brain sees sugar as a reward. When we eat a lot of sugar, we reinforce that reward. And therefore, the more sugar we eat, the more our body craves it. Some studies have found that sugar and sweetness can induce reward and craving in a manner comparable to addictive drugs, though more research is needed.” Following her tips above will help with these, but you’ll also need to remind yourself how strong you are — physically and mentally. You HAVE the willpower in you, girl!
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