Sunday, December 28, 2014

Sugar Addicted? Try a 3-day sugar fast

If you feel you just can’t stop eating sugar, although the following recommendation may seem counterintuitive, try a three-day sugar fast. Try taking all of the sugar out of your diet—everything—for three days. Not only will you need to avoid candy, cookies, ice cream, and all of the obvious things laden with sugar, but also sauces, juice, or breads with sugar in them. After 72 hours go back to how you were eating before—if you want to. It’s your choice. By doing this you will exercise your ability to choose your actions as well as get the sugar out of your system, even if only for a few days.

In that three-day period, depending on your normal sugar intake, you may go through some withdrawals. These can range anywhere from simple cravings to mild or severe headaches, irritability (needing that 3 p.m. “sugar rush”), or generally feeling tired. The severity of the symptoms will be indicative of your level of addiction. Your body isn’t used to being denied its daily drug supply, and it will rebel.

Hold on to the commitment you’ve made for at least three days—no sugar. But do eat well. Fruit (not juice or dried fruit, which are too high in concentrated sugars) is welcome and a good idea. Because of its sweet nature, fruit—especially the citrus varieties—may appease your sugar cravings a bit. Oranges, apples, kiwis, grapefruit, whatever—as long as you don’t overdo it. You should eat as you normally do, but just avoid sugar. You may be surprised how many foods you regularly, casually eat contain sugar. This will be a good test.

Notice how intake or abstinence affects your skin. If you start your fast with a lot of breakout, even within a three-day period you should see some improvement. But do remember, it doesn’t take very long for breakout to occur; it takes a lot longer for it to clear up. Still, on a 3-day sugar fast you could definitely see positive changes in your skin.

If three days go by and you have no problem staying away from sugar, go for ten days. Start out with the smaller goal and see how it goes. If you can, go on to the longer ten day time period.

Getting off sugar is hard. Sugar is physically addicting, and kicking the habit is akin to going off a drug. Because sugar looks innocent enough and is so readily available, it appears to be harmless—it isn’t. It is a toxin in your body. Becoming aware of hidden (as well as obvious) sugar in your diet and laying off the white stuff for three to ten days will help you see its effect on your body and hopefully your skin.

Clients ask me if I’ve completely eliminated sugar from my diet. The answer is “no.” In my 20s, at the very beginning of my sugar discovery, I completely took sugar out my diet, give or take a few lapses. Then through my 30s and 40s I would eat it on rare occasions. Now in my 50s I probably eat sugar more often than I have in decades. My skin isn’t as sensitive—I don’t break out now from eating sugar—because I have passed over the menopause fence. Still, sugar makes me feel jittery (I’m prone to hypoglycemia) so I do limit my intake.

In my younger years, I really worked on not giving in to all the cravings. I knew for a fact my skin would break out anywhere from an hour afterwards to the next day after eating sugar. Back then, when a craving reared its ugly head, I would just say no. It wasn’t always easy, but I would get stronger through exercising my will. Sometimes I gave in knowing I would probably break out. Now, because it gives me low blood sugar and often times makes me feel nauseous, I still limit my intake; it usually isn’t worth it. And sugar, let’s face it, just isn’t that good for us! (Why do sugary foods taste so darn good?)

For some of you sugar may not be affecting your skin adversely; for others, I know you can relate to sugar causing some (or all) of your skin problems. Taking a break, with a sugar fast for instance, is a great way to see how you are affected—mentally and emotionally, not just physically—by this very powerful, sweet substance.

Alcohol stays in the body for up to 3 days (depending on the amount consumed), so if you’re up for it try knocking off your nightly glass of wine as well as sugar just to give your body a break. However, as I told a client regarding this fast, don’t do too many things at once. Better to be a success at one rather than a disaster at doing both.

Good luck to you on your sugar-free journey! 

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