Ever wondered why you couldn’t lose weight, or couldn’t seem to stick to a diet?
It’s likely that you were roped in by a sugar addiction and didn’t even know it.
Here’s a five-step plan to help you cut cravings for the sweet stuff and start filling up on whole foods.
Eating this way won’t just help you kick sugar to the curb—you’ll feel better, lighter, and more energized. And you’ll find it so much easier to stick to your weight loss goals.
Phase 1: Eliminate Sugary Beverages | Time: 1 to 2 weeks
Why: There are many culprits: soft drinks, sweetened waters, coffee drinks, energy drinks, fruit drinks, and even apple juice. In fact, apple juice can be a combination of apple flavoring and 100% sweetener derived from concentrated fructose from the apple, so it can be called 100% apple juice.
One problem is that the size of these beverages can be deceiving; they also can be a way in which more sugar and calories can sneak into your diet without your knowledge. A conventional 12-ounce serving of a typical sugar-sweetened carbonated beverage, for example, is approximately 150 calories. But people rarely drink one serving. In fast-food chains, convenience stores, and movie theaters, these beverages are offered in portions that can contain around 300 to 500 calories.
Even cutting just one serving per day has been shown to produce a weight loss of 1.1 pounds at six months, and 1.4 pounds at 18 months. That might not sound like a tremendous amount, but remember that many people are not drinking just one 12-ounce serving per day. Approximately half of Americans drink sugary beverages “on a given day,” and within this half, about 25% derive 200 or more calories from them.
How: If you’re a big drinker of sugary beverages, this can be a tough one, and going cold turkey is your best bet. This is because they are not a part of your new way of eating, and it’s not suggested that you allow even small amounts of them into your diet. They have no value, other than giving you pleasure, which you’ll be getting elsewhere from now on.
Make a list of all the sugary beverages you drink and create a plan for substitutes so you don’t feel tempted to cheat. Pour the ones you have at home down the sink, and take them off of your shopping list.
Phase 2: Eliminate Junk Foods | Time: 2 to 3 weeks
Why: You’ll most likely find these foods in vending machines, at sporting events, and at fast-food restaurants. However, you’ll also likely find them lining the shelves of your pantry.
In fact, they are most likely fueling your addiction. It’s important to identify the sources of unnecessary sugars in your diet and cut them out. This means you’ll have to cut sweet foods like cakes, cookies, candy bars, and ice cream as well as savory and salty foods like chips, popcorn, and pretzels, all of which are classic examples of junk food. This even includes seemingly healthy items like most granola bars, energy bars, fruit bars, caramel-laced rice cakes, and buttery crackers. You know junk food when you see it, and if you’re in doubt, it’s most likely junk food.
How: To eliminate junk foods from your diet, take a modified cold-turkey approach. These types of foods have no place in your diet, and you should work to get rid of them all. Much like sugar-sweetened beverages, they are very likely fueling the vicious cycle of your dependence on them. Some people can vow to eat no more junk food at this phase and be fine, but you might need to taper down your intake more slowly and eliminate these items one by one.
If you tend to eat a lot of junk food, make a list of the items that you tend to overeat, and then figure out which ones are highest in sugars and other carbohydrates. You can then prioritize which ones should be eliminated first.
For example, if you regularly eat high-sugar-equivalency items such as coffee cake and candy bars and have a pair of prepackaged cupcakes for dessert every night, phase these out first. Once you’re confident that you’ve moved past them, target other items on your list and cut them out next. Work your way down your list of common junk foods until you have eliminated them all.
The key to cutting out junk foods is replacing them with healthy alternatives (not substituting them with other junk foods).