I’ve written about my relationship with sugar before and while I feel like I have the upper hand most of the time, once in a while (during a birthday celebration weekend, perhaps) I may find that one dessert can easily turn into three and the “why not?” careless attitude takes over and overshadows what I know to be true— that sugar gives me headaches, makes my belly hurt and my skin break out. I’m less present as a wife and mother. Fortunately, I know that getting back on track—while a little challenging—is totally doable. Regardless of if this is something you’ll put into practice right away (after Independence Day BBQs) or if you’ll bookmark it for a later date, here are six tried-and-true tips I personally use to recover after a period of over-indulging on sweets.
Tip #1 Drink water
Why it works: Extra H20 will help eliminate water weight, flush body of toxins and ward off cravings as we often mistake thirst for hunger. Besides, who doesn’t feel better sufficiently hydrated?
Tip #2 Move your body
Why it works: You know the feeling of pleasure you get from eating sugar? That’s dopamine being released in the brain. Exercise can stimulate dopamine release and produce that same feel-good sensation. I find intense exercise can temporarily suppress my appetite (great for keeping the sugar monster in check) and I’m more likely to refuel with something healthy if I’ve just worked out.
Tip #3 Support digestion
Why it works: After consuming high levels of sugar, the body’s gut bacteria are most likely out of whack. A probiotic supplement can aid in rebalancing the good bacteria. Get similar benefits from eating fermented foods like sauerkraut, kombucha and kefir. Soothe an upset tummy with one of my current favorite beverages—a homemade lemon ginger concentrate with immune-boosting and digestive-soothing properties added to boiling water.
Tip #4 Have a plan (and know your triggers)
Why it works: If you have non-sugary snacks and meals on hand, you are less likely to succumb to a treat craving. Nuts, eggs and sweet potatoes are a few of my favorite foods post sugar binge (or any time, really). Also, know your triggers. If eating bread makes you crazy for cookies, steer clear of those refined carbs for a few days. Likewise, if any area of the grocery store temps you (bakery aisle or bulk candy), be honest with yourself and try to avoid those when shopping.
Tip #5 Fill up on the double F’s (fat and fiber)
Why it works: Fiber and healthy fat can both help you feel fuller, longer. They also help stabilize blood sugar levels, especially helpful when eating fruit. Grab a small handful of nuts with berries (naturally high in fiber) or blend a banana with an avocado and raw cacao powder for a not-to-sweet chocolate pudding.
Tip #6 Avoid the double A’s (alcohol & artificial sweeteners)
Why it works: Not only does drinking alcohol put strain on the liver, your body’s detoxifying organ, lots of drinks are high in sugar themselves. Plus temporarily abstaining will make sure no bad choices (food and otherwise) are made under the influence! As for artificial, no-calorie sweeteners—your body can’t tell the difference between that and the real stuff. You’ll keep perpetuating the cycle.
Keep in mind, a few days of unhealthy eating won’t derail all of your previous efforts so don’t be too hard on yourself. It means you’re human—we are biologically adapted to crave sugar. It happens to everyone (even fitness instructors and health coaches-in-training) so take it as a learning experience, bringing you one step closer to figuring out what works and what doesn’t in your personal journey to optimum health.