image of cup filled with sugar cubes
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Health

We Lost Our Sugar Cravings and 193 Pounds Combined

The easy strategies these three sisters used can curb your addiction and help wean you off the white stuff.

Three years after banishing most sugars from her diet, Muhsinah Morris is 107 pounds lighter. She’s down to 173 pounds and fast-tracking her husband and five sons toward the same healthy eating regimen.

One motivation, says the 41-year-old Morehouse College chemistry professor, “is that I’ve got a son with autism, who’s also obese. We’ve added more good nutrition for him. Agave made him hyper but, so far, honey doesn’t seem to have an adverse effect. He sees that mommy looks different now, daddy looks different. We’ve tackled this as a family unit and it’s paying off for us.”

Whether to help shed excess pounds or rein in a chronic health disorder, women are reporting serious benefits from dropping sugar from their diets. In several if-I-can-do-it-you-can-too Instagram posts, comedienne and actress Sherri Shepherd has shared her story of how taking sugar off her plate in March 2018 transformed her health. She’s trimmer and her type 2 diabetes symptoms have vanished. Says Shepherd: “It’s because Jeffrey said to me, ‘Mommy, if you die, who’s going to be my bodyguard?’”

Dionne Bessie, 41, a natural gas industry laborer in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, claims that a dozen years of severe fatigue and muscle and joint pain caused by fibromyalgia have disappeared since she kicked the sugar habit in November 2018. She lost 66 pounds in the process. Like Shepherd, 150-pound Bessie follows a ketogenic diet, eating mainly proteins and fat but few carbohydrates. She’s done so under her rheumatologist’s supervision, which is key. (Researchers are still debating the benefits and risks of keto-dieting because, they say, it isn’t meant for everyone. So ask your doctor.)

During her first month on the diet, Bessie, who does eat berries and other low-sugar produce, says, “Even texting got easier for [my aching hands]. I didn’t have as much acne. I lost more weight.” This June, she went to the gym for the first time in more than a decade. “It used to be that sometimes I couldn’t get out of bed in the morning. But that next morning, after I exercised, I forgot that I had even worked out. I felt just that good,” she said. “Getting rid of almost all kinds of sugars as part of keto has a lot to do with that.”

Excessive sugar intake may also feed a slew of other conditions, such as high blood pressure, dementia, cancer and chronic inflammation, which can lead to heart disease. Although sugar doesn’t cause diabetes, overloading on it can cause obesity, a known trigger for the disease. So how do you ditch the sweet stuff? Start with these sugar-slashing strategies.

Read labels. Sugars are everywhere — often hidden in things we don’t think of as sweet, such as ketchup and processed foods — and sometimes appear under names such as fructose, dextrose, maltose or sucrose on package labels. So before you buy, scan the nutritional information for sugar content. The American Heart Association recommends women have no more than 100 calories or 25 grams of added sugar in their daily diet.

Find a substitute. “Sugar is addictive,” says Denine Rogers, a registered and licensed dietician, herbalist and holistic health consultant and coach in Douglasville, Georgia. To win her own fight against high blood pressure, high cholesterol, low blood iron and fibroid tumors, she gave up most sugars except for those naturally found in certain fruits, vegetables and grains. Rogers advises her patients to swap the bad sugars in, say, a chocolate bar or sweet tea for naturally sweetened fresh produce and unsweetened fruit juices. She also encourages them to get to the root of what often are emotional and mental cravings for sugar by journaling their feelings rather than “eating” them.

Morris, the Atlanta mom who’s leading her family’s way-less-sugar makeover, also knows the power of substitution. “I used to keep Starbucks in business, having whatever mocha was in season, several of them a day. Now, instead of mocha, I do one of their green tea drinks, which are 25 calories. At our house, if we have to use some sugar, we do turbinado or organic brown sugar, though honey has become our real go-to.”

Do dinner right. For supper, half of your plate should be filled with lettuce, tomatoes, cucumbers, broccoli and/or other non-starchy vegetables that are naturally devoid of sugars. Lean meat or other protein and brown rice or another grain should each occupy the remaining quarters of the plate.

Snack smart. Insulin helps the body use glucose, a sugar that naturally streams into our blood during digestion and is our main energy source. Twice daily snacks of no more than 150 calories — say, an apple and a tablespoon of peanut butter — can help prevent the insulin spikes that prompt some of us to grab cupcakes or candy.

Ditch the diet mentality. “I’m not talking about dieting. I’m talking lifestyle change,” says Rogers, an Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics fellow. “Be mindful of what you’re eating and drinking. Really, that will help you to cut down. Also, I advise meditating, deep breathing and relying on a special scripture, if that’s your thing, to make these changes.”

Stick with it. After a while, giving up sugar becomes second nature, says New York City event planner Nicolle Munroe, 52, who dropped 20 pounds during her first six months of going sugarless two years ago and has kept the weight off. “Mostly, I cook at home, where there’s no flour, no pasta, no bread, no sugar, except for honey for my lattes. Seriously, eating this way just feels right.”

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