How to Break the Cycle & Curb Your Sugar Cravings in 7 Days

Having a sugar craving can be a bit crazy-making, right? It can make us want to get up and find ice cream in the middle of the night, sneak food when no one is watching, and make it difficult to really focus on anything else. 

But you’re not going crazy. You might just be in an unhealthy relationship with sugar. As it turns out, craving sugar is far more biological, environmental, and, yes, emotional, than we may have accounted for. And this complex attachment to sugar goes back to way before you, your grandparents and great-great-great-great grandparents were even born. Back to the days of hunting and gathering, when we knew our fruit was safe to eat by its sweetness. In fact, it’s impossible to find a berry that is both poisonous and sweet - talk about sugar protecting us! Back then, we also needed our energy super fast - and sugar is the fastest and most easily consumed form of energy we can find.

Today, things are very, very different. In the last several hundred years, the quick energy of sugar has become commonplace in most of our processed foods, and it’s become cheaper, easier, and quicker to access all the while we’ve become more sedentary and more automated. While sugar used to be the key to our survival, now its uninhibited consumption is wreaking havoc on our health and wellbeing. 

Here’s what we know about how all that excess sugar affects our brain. Sugar, like other drugs, floods the brain with dopamine, a neurotransmitter responsible for inducing craving and wanting for more of something. When our brain is constantly flooded with dopamine, as it is when we are having lots of sugar, we are driven more and more to seek out sugary foods. Our decision-making, memory, and learning centers guide us to reach for sugar again and again, while ignoring the potential negative long-term effects that may come. This explains why so many continue to eat sugary foods despite medical and health issues, like PCOS, Type II diabetes, and high blood pressure. 

Eating sugar also messes with our endocrine system, which is the driver of our appetite. When we continuously eat too much sugar, we are at risk for developing leptin resistance, which means we don’t accurately feel fullness cues despite how much we eat. And let’s not forget the impact on our body! Cue the diagnoses - metabolic syndrome, obesity, and Type II Diabetes. Sugar is likely a culprit in your health issues.

But there’s hope if you’re finding yourself in the grasps of an unhealthy relationship with sugar and dealing with all the negative consequences that come with it. Your brain and body are amazingly resilient - when you give up sugar for a period of time, it starts to restore. The research agrees! Studies have found that when we eat less sugar, leptin resistance can actually reverse (!), and we are then able to feel our fullness more accurately, preventing overeating and all the negative health outcomes that come with it! Pretty amazing, right? So by taking a little Sugar Break (see what I did there!), you can expect your cravings to decrease, your health to improve, and your taste buds to restore sensitivity. Win win win! 

Let’s give up sugar for 7 days!

7 days is an amazing starting point in your commitment to change your relationship with sugar. It’s a pretty Goldielocks move - not too long, not too short and gives you some time and space to decide your best next moves on day 8. And I so understand that 7 days is not an easy ask by any stretch of the imagination - but let’s look at the finish line - after 7 days you’re well on your way to getting through most of the withdrawal cravings of ditching sugar - the irritability, headaches, and fatigue, and you’re moving into the seriously amazing benefits of living a sugar-free life - less cravings, better and more consistent mood, more energy, better skin, better sleep - that list is seriously endless. And in those seven days, you can turbocharge your motivation and momentum towards your goals. By starting to experience life without the sugar cravings and the effects of sugar ruling your life, you better understand why changing your relationship with sugar may be the best decision for you! 

How do I start?

Starting on Day 1, it’s important that you are setting yourself up for success! Here are 3 things you can do to get started ASAP!

  1. Dump It. Get rid of the sugary food out of your house - and if you live with other people and that seems impossible, then get rid of the foods that REALLY speak to you and leave the ones that you’re just meh about. And it’s not just about getting rid of sugar foods! Be sure to have healthy, satisfying, delicious protein, fats, fruits, vegetables, and carbs that are sans-sugar available for your meals and snacks. 
  2. Declare It. If you live with other people, it’s best to get them on board with the change you’re making! Clue them in to your commitment to give up sugar for the week so they know not to tempt you with sugary foods throughout the week and can best support you.
  3. Plan it. Research reminds us *constantly* that planning is everything. Especially in this sugar-filled world where it’s way easier to get fast and processed food than to think about what’s best for your mind and body. Take a minute to map out how, where and when you’re going to get your food - and make a few emergency plans for if that plan doesn’t go according to...plan!If you don’t make all your food at home, think of a few places around where you live or work that you can quickly order out or pick up from in a pinch. You don’t have to be a master chef to make this change, you just need to spend a few minutes making a plan! 

You might be headed into this week thinking, “I’m giving up sugar for good- no turning back,” or you might be thinking “I’m not so sure about this, but I’m going to give it a try and see what happens.” Either one is totally fine! The goal of the challenge is to give up sugar for 7 days- where you head after that is totally up to you! You can decide for yourself if you want to do another 7 days or even another month sugar-free, start to make a few healthy changes here and there, or decide to go back to your old eating ways. The call is entirely yours, and up to what you feel is best for your life. 

What should I eat and what should I not eat?

On the list of red-light-no-go foods are anything that has added sugar on the ingredients label. And OMG please know that sugar is flippin everywhere - hiding in plain sight. And it comes with a whole lot of names - over 61 as I’m writing this - so be mindful of the “OSE” at the end of words in the ingredients, and ingredients with the word syrup, juice, agave, and honey. And please know that when we are talking about sugar we are most definitely NOT talking about naturally occurring sugars like those found in fruit or dairy - it only and exclusively applies to foods that have sugar added in! Want a foolproof way to know? You can tell the difference between natural sugar and added sugar by looking at the back of a nutritional label - food companies are now required to distinguish the difference between “Sugar” and “Added Sugar” - phew! - check out the example below!

Nutrition Facts

What’s got the green light? To be specific… EVERYTHING ELSE! Literally. Let’s not let restrictive dieting come in and thwart this incredible leap you’re taking. Depriving yourself of healthy fats or sweet potatoes, or cheese or oatmeal or brown rice or steak or strawberries or...the list is really endless is only going to make the call of sugar louder and louder - and we are here to repair that relationship, right? The mistake that so many people make is trying to eat too little food or only low-calorie foods like they would on a typical diet. For those in the back: THIS IS NOT A DIET - but treating it like one is definitely a setup for failure. Make sure you’re having a wide variety of foods - THAT YOU LOVE - without added sugar, and that you’re not skipping meals throughout the day and you’re on the road to food freedom. YAY! 

Another pro-tip: It may be helpful to think about some ways you can swap out the sugary food you’re currently eating for some sugar-free alternatives. If you usually have sugary cereal in the morning, try out some plain steel-cut oatmeal with peanut butter and fruit or some of the delicious sugar free cereals on the market (Ezekiel brand and Uncle Sam’s are crowd favorites). If you usually have a sugary coffee drink, try adding some decadent half and half when you’re taking out the sugar. If your 4pm snack is a handful of M&M’s, try some salted peanuts and fresh berries. Dessert person? I love a frozen banana with some natural almond butter to close out the day.

Sugarbreak makes it easier.

Here’s the good news - you don’t have to do this alone. Sugarbreak Resist dissolvable strips help decrease your temptations for sugar by making sugar WAY less rewarding. That way, you’re not tempted to reach for it when you’re feeling tired, cranky, emotional, or just wanting sugar out of habit. This gives you extra assurance that you won’t sacrifice your long-term goals for your short-term cravings, so you can be feeling proud of your eating and commitments at the end of the day. Sugarbreak Resist strips are truly one of the best strategies for resisting your cravings in a difficult moment. 

What can this 7-day No-Sugar Challenge do for me?

It’s incredible what just 7 days can do for you when you kick sugar to the curb! And while everyone’s experience without sugar is unique, here are some things to expect by the end of the challenge:

  1. More energy!
  2. Improved health and wellbeing - you can literally name any part of the body, any organ, any malady and giving up sugar is always a huge help!
  3. Fewer cravings and obsessive food thoughts. Who doesn’t want that?
  4. A solid shift in your taste buds! When you kick sugar to the curb, you’ll probably find that fruit tastes really sweet! After a while, you might even find that you lose your appetite for super sweet foods (but to be honest, that usually takes a smidge longer than 7 days)! 

All these changes are put into motion right away, so with every day you’re sugar-free, you’re one day closer to all the amazing benefits that living a life without sugar has to offer. 

Important side note: If you’re not feeling 100% in the first few days, you’re probably going through withdrawal from sugar. Your body has become dependent on sugar over the many years of you having it, and now you’re in the process of breaking free! With that said, you might feel more tired than normal, experience headaches, feel more emotional, and be short-tempered - take care of yourself and be sure to drink lots of water to flush the toxins out!. And remember: withdrawal isn’t forever - while you might not initially like how your sugar-free life feels, once your body gets used to this change, the amazing benefits come flooding in! 

How to make this into a long-term lifestyle change and not just another “detox?”

I’d be remiss if I didn’t address this topic with you. So, a little PSA about how you can make a long, sustainable lifestyle change, rather than just a quick-fix diet or sugar detox. Wouldn’t it be the coolest thing to never have to do another detox or diet or cleanse again? It’s totally possible! 

The first step in making this is a lifestyle change and not a quick-fix is to take out the evil F word… FOREVER. Try taking your commitment day by day - or even hour by hour if need be. And be super mindful of the other evil word… PERFECTION. I love the Voltaire quote, “Don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good” - when we are only accepting of perfection, we are most definitely setting ourselves up for failure especially when it comes to our relationship with food. So instead of perfect, commit to never giving up on yourself and trying your absolute best. This is so important and something we completely abandon with diets and detoxes. We don’t need to stop making a healthy and productive change the second things get difficult or we make a mistake. Instead, we just commit right back to our goals at the next opportunity, learning from our mistakes and taking what we observe as a data point, rather than an opportunity to shame ourselves. 

The next thing you want to think about when making any long-lasting change is your WHY. Your WHY is your deep-seated, internal motivations for your sugar-free life beyond the surfacey easy external motivations. Rather than just picking “losing weight”, which is an external motivator and one that can be easily thrown out the window when that tray of brownies is passed, go deeper, go internal: Do you want to feel good in your body, excel in your career, be less obsessed with food, or be more connected with your friends and family? Knowing and reminding yourself of your WHY is the single biggest thing you can do to stay committed to your goals and make this a forever-kind of change.