Blogger Roxie Nafousi shares her top tips to beat the sugar cravings
Roxie is a contributing writer for Marie Claire, blogger and ambassador for the Mental Health Foundation. Follow her on Instagram @roxienafousi to join her on her life journey…
A lot of us see the New Year as a time to kick start a healthier, happier year ahead and with motivation being so strong, it is the best time to make some life changes. I’m not a big believer of FAD or extreme dieting and I don’t believe in depriving myself completely of anything. However, the research on the effects of sugar on not just our weight but, more importantly, our overall health has shocked me. Sugar is incredibly addictive – the more you have, the more you want. But with benefits of cutting out sugar including a better night’s sleep, improved moods, weight loss and a happier, healthier body, it’s time to stand up to sugar and gain back control!
Here are my top tips to help you cut down on sugar:
Hide and seek
I recently watched Jamie Oliver’s documentary Sugar Rush and I was astounded to see how much sugar we, as a nation, are consuming without even realising it – sugar is hidden EVERYWHERE. We often think of sugar as cakes, sweets, table sugar, but forget to think about the amount of sugar in things that we see as ‘savoury’ items.
Most worryingly are the items that are billed as ‘healthy’. When things are described are ‘low fat’, sugar is almost always added to improve the taste after the fat is removed. Take a Starbucks Green Tea Matcha Latte; we know the benefits of green tea and matcha and so it would easy to think this might be a healthy drink, but this latte is packed with 32 grams of sugar – that’s the equivalent of drinking a full fat can of Coca-Cola!
To cut down on sugar we must first find out where it hiding, so always read the label. My rule of thumb is that if it comes in a bottle, carton (fruit juice is the worst), jar, can or packet and has a shelf life of more than 3 days then it’s probably got sugar in abundance. Aim to eat organic and fresh produce as much as possible.
Out of sight, out of mind
I know that if I get home after work and I’m feeling tired and a bit peckish, I’ll go into the kitchen and grab a quick snack, which is usually something unhealthy and sugary. When my kitchen is cleared of all the bad stuff, I simply don’t have that option and the desire is quickly curbed.
I highly recommend clearing out your naughty cupboard because we all know that when a craving really hits, no amount of reasoning can stop our hand reaching into that cookie jar. Instead, fill your fridge with healthy alternatives, such as vegetable crudités with hummus. I also absolutely love herbal tea – Liquorice and Cinnamon Tea is my favorite because it tastes sweet and warming and feels like a treat without any of the guilt.
I find it is a lot easier to stick to something when it has a timeline. So, if you decide you want to see if you can give up sugar for a month, put a date in your diary a month from now so your subconscious can work towards that date. I also like to write a little diary to show how I feel each day, it only has to be a sentence but it will really help you to see your journey. It might say something like ‘today was hard but I feel really proud I succeeded’ or ‘I woke up feeling amazing today because I slept so much better last night’.
I read an amazing book last year called Sweet Nothing which follows Nicole Mowbray on her journey to giving up sugar. The book is packed with information and useful tips in a lighthearted and relatable way. When embarking on any life change, I always find it helpful to hear about other people’s experiences and acquire as much knowledge as I can as I find it really helps me to stick to my goal. I’m basically trying to brainwash myself with healthy knowledge!
Beware of the booze
I could write a whole article on the effects of booze and why we should give it up, but I am a drinker myself so it would be hypocritical to do so, especially as I think (for a lot of us, anyway), the thought of completely abstaining from alcohol can be a daunting idea. However, in the first few weeks of giving up sugar I really do advise to steer clear of alcohol altogether. Not only is it packed with sugar, it messes up your blood sugar levels so much, that the next day that we desperately crave the bad stuff and it’s hard to make good decisions intoxicated or on a hangover.
Don’t press the ‘f*ck it’ button
Sugar has such a strong emotional connection for most of us that giving it up or even cutting down can be incredibly difficult. As a kid, most of us were told that if we were good, we could have a treat (the treat nearly always being sweets or an ice cream). Those messages are ingrained into us at a young age and are not easy to undo. So, if you slip up – that’s ok! Don’t beat yourself up and don’t press that ‘f*ck it’ button where 1 bar of chocolate turns into 15. I’ve done it countless times and I look back now and realize that if I’d just allowed myself to be human and know that it’s ok to fail every now and then, I wouldn’t have gone into that binge cycle at all.
One of the main reasons we experience sugar cravings is because our blood glucose levels aren’t regulated. Magnesium is one supplement that aids this regulation and also helps to improve sleep – you can find magnesium supplements in almost all pharmacies and health shops.
Cinnamon has also been found to lower blood glucose levels and curb cravings, and thanks to its sweet taste I find this to be a really great way to help cut down on sugar. I sprinkle some on my coffee every morning.
As most sauces are filled with sugar, try making the most of your herb cupboard when cooking. I use an array of herbs and spice for seasoning, my favourites being paprika, garlic, ginger and chilli.
Remember, this process is about loving yourself and nourishing your body, it’s not about depriving yourself or punishing yourself. Please tweet me at @roxie_n with any questions and I’ll be happy to help.
Lots of Love, Roxie xx