Top Tips for Staying on Track

So you've almost made it a full week! The first few days on the sugar-detox are the hardest, because you are dealing with the physical withdrawal from sugar and caffeine as well as trying to fight old habits while forming new ones. There is a lot of new territory to navigate.

Last spring, when I decided to give up processed sugar along with caffeine and alcohol for about 40 days, I basically had no idea what I was getting myself into. There was a steep learning curve to say the least. So that you don't have to make the same mistakes I did, I thought I'd put together a list of tips to help you stay on track (starting with the MOST important).

How to set yourself up for success:
 1. Make sure you are not undereating. I cannot say this enough. It will set you up for failure and make you cranky. Cutting our processed sugars means you are also cutting out a lot of calorie-dense food. While vegetables are nutrient dense, they are low in calories. Even if you are trying to lose weight, you will likely need to increase your portion sizes to maintain a desired calorie intake. To help with this, you may want to use a calorie counting site like cron-o-meter at the start so you can get a hang of how much you should really be eating! 
2.  Have someone do the challenge with you. Having support (and sometimes just someone who you can to complain to who understands) really makes a difference. When you are feeling weak, they can keep you on track and accountable! Plus shared suffering is a great way to bond. I tease, but having this shared experience (and hopefully success) really is a great way to bring people closer together. I also found that making changes in my diet made me want to reflect on other areas of my life and make changes there as well. It is nice to have someone you can talk things through with.
3. Always have snacks on hand. This goes hand in hand with tip No.1. Being hungry and without healthy food options sets you up for failure. When you are full you are that much less likely to reach for something bad.
4. Keep your home stocked with healthy foods. For the same reason as No.1 and No.3.
5. Prepare as much as possible on the weekend or ahead of time. Weekdays are often hectic and finding time to cook a wholesome meal can be hard.  Plan out a few meals on the weekend. Then use the extra time to clean and cut your vegetables and put them in Tupperware so cooking is faster. Making a big meal (I love casseroles) ahead of time also makes starting off the week easier. Or simply double a recipe you like so you have meals for multiple days. Breakfast is especially important! You may want to make an oatmeal bake or granola on the weekend so you can head out of the door quickly in the mornings.
6. Be aware of hidden sugars. I didn't even realize half the stuff that had added sugar until I started reading labels. Lots of sauces, yogurts and even regular sliced sandwich meat has some. While it is only a tiny bit, I found that even eating these trace amounts really messed me up and made my cravings worse. So keep a close eye on what you buy!   
7. Don’t beat yourself up if you slip up. It happens to the best of us. It does not mean you have ruined everything and should give up. In fact, eating poorly can be a great reminder of why you are trying to change your diet in the first place. You are making significant changes and trying to change old habits. This kinda of stuff is not easy for anyone!
That said, there will always be excuses and reasons to "cheat." Notice when and why urges to cheat hit you and try to find ways to counter them. Always feel like you NEED something to munch on while watching TV? Make some lightly salted popcorn on the stove so you can still snack. Craving something sweet right after lunch? Bring fresh fruit. Don't let yourself slip back into old habits just because it's easy. Create new ones. Have the determination and focus to make a positive change. Remind yourself why you are doing this.
8. BYOB: No, not beer. Bites and beverages. Food is often at the center of social gathers if not the pretense for one in the first place. Cutting out foods from your diet can have a profound impact on your social life  if you let it that is. To make sure you're not starving at parties, bring your own snacks and drinks or eat ahead of time. Who knows maybe they will be so good you'll have a few converts by the end of the night.
9. Socialize smarter: If people are going out to eat, do a little research and try to suggest places that have options you can have. Most places have a few salads that are just as good with an oil and vinegar dressing. Also don't be afraid to ask the waitress if you can simply order meat with a side of veggies. Worst case scenario, they say no. Another approach is to simply eat ahead of time and get a side order of something and drink while you catch up with friends. One of my favorite meals to go out for is breakfast, because it still leaves you will lots of options (omelets, fresh fruit, teas, etc.). Another way to make sure your social life doesn't suffer is to organizing activities that don't revolve around food (movies, bowling, mini golf, hiking, climbing, etc.).
9. Party smarter:  If you're out in the evenings at a bar or club, ask the bartender to give you sparkling water with lime and a straw. For all anyone knows, you're having a vodka tonic or G&T. (Some brilliant advice from my friend Barbara)
10. Drink enough water. When you start cleaning up your diet your body goes through a little shock. Kind of a withdrawal combined with detox systems. Being dehydrated only makes matter worse. You may notice you have less energy and/or headaches. Depending on where your diet and sugar intake was before, these can be mild or severe. Drinking water and getting light exercise will help flush all the bad stuff out of your system and ease these symptoms.
11. Start your day off with a glass of lemon water. Like I said above, your body is going through a withdrawal/detox. Drinking a glass of lemon water first thing in the morning on an empty stomach stimulates your digestive system and liver after a period of fasting to flush everything out. I get more into it in this post.

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