First things first.... YOU AREN'T REALLY CUTTING OUT SUGAR! Just the refined, processed stuff that is slowly killing you.
A.K.A. the stuff that's messing up neurotransmitter signalling, shutting down your immune system, generating constant inflammation, shunting brain and childhood development, creating insulin resistance, leading to behavioural issues in children... I could keep going but a simple google search will inform you of the serious and negative effects PROCESSED sugar is having on your person.
So here are the essential How To's you'll need in order to successfully get processed sugar out of your life!
1. Create "The" List
How To: Write a list of all the packaged or refined products you eat (this is likely where your sugar is coming from). Then, write down two whole food alternatives next to each processed item.
Now you have a huge alternatives list of healthy alternatives to turn to every time you are struggling with what to eat or want that sugary snack!
Tip: Always have these alternatives on hand and keep the processed items out of the house so they are never a stumbling block for anyone!
2. Change Your Expectations!
You aren’t going to be (processed) sugar-free by tomorrow or even by the end of the month so get that expectation out of your head. Set realistic goals. This is about consistency, not perfection!
How To: This is where your alternatives list comes in handy. Let’s say there are 20 processed food items on that list, you can set a goal to be eating only the healthy alternatives of 5 of those processed items by the end of the first month.
At that pace, you’ll have replaced all 20 of those items with healthy alternatives within 4 months! This is about consistency, not perfection! It took me probably 2 years to be COMPLETELY sugar-free, but I did it in a healthy way, focusing on consistency and learning to not condemn myself when I "slipped up."
In fact, in the beginning I would plan days where I could have a treat, and again slowly it became easier and easier to leave those behind, I wasn't wanting them because I knew how good I felt without them!
3. Write Down Your Whys!
How To: take 30-60 minutes (you only have to do this once), write down 2+ specific reasons you are getting rid of processed sugar. Include 1-2 verified sources for each reason along with a personal component to that reason.
This list will be essential later on for a number of reasons!
4. Changing Your Mind - Not Other's
I could tell people I had chicken hearts with veggies for breakfast this morning and they'd have a meltdown, but if I said I ate two donuts they'd probably pat me on the back. Why?
Because we've been conditioned to believe processed food isn't just part of a normal, balanced life, but that it's essential to one, and we are utterly depriving ourselves if we eat "clean" or live like those "extreme health people" who don't eat sugar!
This is the most critical step but it will be your biggest challenge because it is literally a challenge you have to choose to take.
Step 1: Challenge the beliefs you have, specifically around processed foods and diet, and ask yourself some questions...
Ex. "My child is going to be deprived if they don't get to eat that cupcake." Ask yourself: Where does that thought come from? Does it have any real truth behind it? Would my child really be deprived if I gave them an almond flour cupcake made with honey instead? Why am I believing this? Do I need to continue believing it or would I benefit from changing this belief? Note: always hold your thoughts and beliefs up to the word of God to determine if they are true or not.
Step 2: Replace it with truth.
If you identify you are only thinking a certain way simply because somewhere along your life you were told to, you now have the freedom and power to choose whether you want to keep this limiting belief or replace it with a freeing truth.
Ex. My child is going to thrive in every way without processed junk I will make sure they never feel "deprived."
5. Prepare for Criticism
You won’t always deal with criticism, heck you don’t ever have to bring up the topic, but when it does come up, or someone offers you something, you can simply smile and say, “no thanks, I’m good.” Or, “no thanks little Johnny will have something else.”
Here's the key: no matter how people respond to you, whether they support you or throw a fit about it, it’s only as big of a deal as you choose to make it!
Remember, when it comes down to it, people are only threatened because now they are internally challenged to look at their own choices, willpower etc. it has nothing to do with your fantastic health decision to get rid of sugar, so don’t take their issues upon yourself here.
6. Use Whole Foods
This goes back to: YOU AREN’T CUTTING OUT SUGAR! You are just getting rid of processed garbage that the body doesn’t recognize as food!
Instead, now you get to use the rich, healthy, whole food options:
homemade apple sauce
other fruit (fresh and dried)
These are all great options for snacking and baking! And let’s be real, almost every recipe that calls for “sugar” can be made with one of these whole food options!
[this video is supposed to be funny but it highlights the very real problem of sugar addiction and the effect it has on our children's brains.]
Step 7: Intentional Conversation With Kids
How to: Simplify your whys to a level your kids will understand, then sit down and walk them through these. Get their take on things, see how they feel about making these changes.
A Must Know:
For kids who were raised in a sugar-free home not having candy, cupcakes, sugars etc. isn’t a challenge. They were raised with fruit and whole foods so their body and mind never became addicted to the substance.
For kids who were raised with sugar however and now you are weaning them off of it… weaning is the keyword. Whenever you take away an addictive substance, whether it's drugs, coffee, alcohol or sugar, the body will go through a withdrawal process. Your kids will crave the substance the processed sugar their person has become addicted to!
The benefit of doing this with kids is that there is less of a psychological component. An adult alcoholic knows he enjoys and is addicted to alcohol, which plays a factor in his recovery process and is another hurdle he has to get over. Your child on the other hand doesn’t yet psychologically understand they are addicted to sugar. They see a cupcake and know they want it, and they may cry and scream over wanting ice cream and treats but they don’t know they are addicted.
After a couple of weeks without ANY processed sugar, those cravings will eventually go away, their palates will change and they will be satisfied with the snack of apples, dates and walnuts (just an example).
Step 8: Set Boundaries
Because your kids are addicted they are not going to enjoy this change. Implementing some of your favourite parenting tactics will have to come into play here.
Ultimately you are doing a great thing for all the right reasons, understand part of their behavioural outbursts are due to the withdrawal response but don't be afraid to confidently set boundaries and rules as you work to eliminate the processed poisons.
Step 9: Gather Your Resources
Use the same document you wrote your "whys" and alternatives list in and gather a couple of resources you can use. Blog posts (like this one), recipe blogs, books, how-to's, youtube videos etc.
I'll share a couple of my favourites here to get you started!
Medical Medium Blog! My absolute favourite for fun kid friendly EASY recipes!
Now that you've started the process of cutting out sugar head to Guide To Getting Your Kids Off Sugar: & How To Tell Your Family to keep the ball rolling!