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How to Cut Back On Sugar In 30 Days (Without Going Crazy)

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As a healthy eating professional—I founded the kitchen and home e-commerce site Salt House Market and work as a healthy chef and entertaining expert—I spend my days surrounded by healthy food and crafting new recipes like this kale and golden beet salad. But while leafy greens and roasted veggies might make up most of my diet, I do have my vices. The biggest of them all? Sugar.

So when Shape.com asked me to team up with them to ditch the stuff that wasn't serving me in my life as part of their Personal Best challenge for the month, the first thing that came to mind was sugar and sweets. I love going out to eat and indulging in something really yummy and trying new desserts that sound unique. My old habit would be to just eat it all, because why not?

When I'm tired, I often reach for sweets, and I struggle with the willpower to have only a few bites. When it comes to sugar or chocolaty things, I can just keep going and going.

But I'm pretty cognizant of the way that eating different food makes me feel. I know I have much less energy after a sugary dessert, and that I feel a lot more energetic and light when I eat a lot of vegetables and proteins. So signing on for this monthlong challenge was the extra nudge I needed to finally make a change.

My plan was never to cut out sugar entirely. I knew that would never work, and I'm all about finding balance in my life and ways to satisfy my cravings in a healthier way. So I came up with two strategies. The first was to make sure I had one of two healthier, less processed sweets in my cabinet—like dried mango or dark chocolate. It's still sugar, but this way I'd have something better on hand for when cravings struck. Second, I made a plan for those restaurant meals. When I went out to dinner, I wouldn't deprive myself of dessert if I really wanted it, but I would limit it to a few bites. Surprisingly, after three or four bites, I already felt satisfied, so there really wasn't a big justification for overloading on sugar at the end of the night. Changing that habit was actually easier than I thought it was going to be.

There were a couple moments, though, when I really had to summon all of my inner strength. I made my boyfriend's favorite cake for our anniversary, and I was tempted to eat as much as my body would allow, but I resisted. I told myself that I've had this cake many times before, and that I don't actually need to devour it. Seeing him enjoy it was half the fun anyway. Another morning, I was waking up after a night out (I didn't limit alcohol this month, but I did eliminate the sugary mixers and add-ins). I could have really gone for a doughnut right about then. But nope, I didn't head for the bakery and convince myself I deserved it. (And that's saying a lot, because I'm the kind of girl who just sees a picture of doughnuts on Instagram and wants a doughnut.) Instead, I thought about it and realized that some naturally sweet coconut water would do my dehydrated body more good. Then I made myself one of these creamy nut milk smoothies that taste more like a milkshake (swap in readymade unsweetened almond milk like Silk if you're in a hurry!), so it was easy to trick my taste buds.

By mid-month I was patting myself on the back for doing so well with the cutbacks, sticking to the plan, and feeling better for it. I created a little reward system for my hard work. I needed to schedule a hair appointment, and I told myself, "You're doing so good, why not make the appointment for the end of the month as a way to pamper yourself after meeting your goal."

As March draws to a close, I can tell you that I stuck to my commitment to cut back on the unnecessary sugar, and I have successfully beat my sweet tooth cravings. I still enjoy a treat here and there, but I make sure the portion size won't leave me in a hazy sugar coma the next day.

It's said that habits can be made or broken in 30 days, which is why I think this is a smart challenge for anyone who wants to put their cravings to the test. I was surprised by how quickly my body responded to these small changes—my skin even looks and feels better. I'm definitely going to continue with the three-bite rule with desserts going forward, but will I be having a doughnut sometime soon? Probably.

 

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