A couple weeks ago I explained that our house is sugar free. This was not an easy transition. Going sugar free is hard. Especially if you are used to giving into cravings that involve candy, cookies, and processed foods in general (like I was, thanks to pregnancy!). Sugar is addictive.
Recommended Read: Transitioning to a Sugar Free House
That being said, there are definitely ways to make this transition easier. You can quit cold turkey, you can phase out sugar, and you can also supplement with sugar-free, healthy alternatives to help cope with cravings. But I think the easiest way to cut out sugar is to understand why our body is craving it in the first place.
One reason you could be craving sugar is due to a dopamine deficiency. Dopamine is naturally produced by the brain and is largely responsible for stimulating your metabolism. Basically, low levels of dopamine are directly related to a slower metabolism. A dopamine deficiency could come about due to illness, aging, previous weight gain, or even genetics.
When we’re dopamine deficient, our body will crave sugar as a way of self medicating.
Sugar initially floods our brains with dopamine causing a “sugar high,” but what most people don’t realize is that after that initial surge, sugar actually depletes our levels of dopamine causing us to crave that “high” again in an attempt fix the problem.
What’s worse, is the more sugar you have, the more you need. Your body gets desensitized to it after a while and you need more to create that same sugar high. So now, your metabolism is even slower and you’re eating more sugar and junk than before. No wonder you’re packing on the pounds!
How crazy is that? It’s like if you were to buy a dandruff shampoo thinking it’d cure your dandruff and while it made your hair look great initially, it actually continued to cause dandruff! So you keep buying it wrongly assuming you’re fixing the problem and now you’re stuck on this terrible cycle.
Even if you cut out sugar your metabolism will still be slow, unless you do something to increase your levels of dopamine.
How to tell if you’re dopamine deficient.
Well, ask yourself these questions: are you always tired? do you have low energy? are you having trouble concentrating? do you crave processed foods? cake? chips? potatoes? pasta? candy?
Honestly, try these next few tips below to increase your dopamine levels naturally (ending your dependency on sugar and caffeine and increasing your metabolism) and just notice how much your energy levels rise!
Not only have I noticed that I feel less tired, but I can power through the toughest workouts with ease when I follow these tips.
Tips for sugar free living (by naturally increasing dopamine and your metabolism!)
- First, eliminate simple carbs.
- Think all white flour, high fructose corn syrup, candy, sweets, sweetened coffee drinks, full calorie sodas, any foods that contain lots of sugar
- Eat these dopamine building foods.
- Oat flakes
- Wheat germ
- Whole milk
- Low-fat cottage cheese
- Low-fat ricotta cheese
- Eat leptin-rich foods (leptin regulates appetite and increases dopamine production)
- Unsalted almonds
- Egg whites
- Season your food- spices are nutrient dense, nutrients help our body metabolize food (another reason junk food isn’t metabolized well is because it is not nutrient dense)
- Some dopamine boosting spices:
- Bay leaves
- Black pepper
- Mustard seed
- Some dopamine boosting spices:
- Eat fruit
- Those cravings still just too strong? Use fruit to help curb them!
- Read your nutrition labels!
- When you first make the switch, you’d be surprised by the foods that contain sugar! Be on the look out!
- Avoid sodas
- I personally decided to give up soda back in 2005 when my track coach told me it’d keep me from hitting my goals. BUT, I do love my energy drinks. Almost everything is fine in moderation. If you’re really needing it on the daily, try sugar free soda and slowly work to cut that down to a few times a week max.
- Don’t skip meals
- Skipping meals will obviously make you more hungry. The hungrier you are the more likely you are to reach for a quick snack. Anything quick is usually heavily processed and full of sugar, unless you remembered your weekly meal prep 😉
- When you exercise you are statistically less likely to reach for that sweet treat.
- Be prepared for withdrawal symptoms and stay strong!
- This means headaches, cravings, and irritability! Just stay strong, it gets easier after the first week!
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We aren’t 100% sugar free. In the house we are, but we do allow ourselves the occasional treat when we’re having a family outing, or it’s Halloween, etc. We do our best to maintain this sugar free life for several reasons: it gives us more energy, faster metabolisms, it helps us sleep better, and we are at our goal weight, plus we just feel great eating real, non-processed foods.
Parents, that sleep tip is real! Not just for us, but for our son too! We noticed that when we cut the crappy processed, “easy” toddler snacks, and fed our son only real food, he slept better. He no longer wakes up in the middle of the night and I no longer have to sleep on the floor next to his bed to get him to stay there!