What makes you gain weight and increases your risk of diseases such as cancer and heart disease? We tend to blame dietary fat for these types of problems, but the real culprit behind weight gain and chronic disease is sugar. Sugar — including refined carbohydrates such as rice, bread, and pasta — is stored in the body as fat, feeds cancer cells, depresses the immune system, ages the skin, and contributes to internal inflammation, which is linked to every major age-related disease.

The average American consumes 152 pounds of sugar per year — that’s the equivalent of 22 teaspoons every day. Kids and teenagers consume even more, averaging 34 teaspoons per day. It’s not surprising that 70 percent of Americans are overweight and nearly 1 in 4 teenagers is prediabetic or has type 2 diabetes.

What’s more, research shows that sugar is addictive — even more addictive than cocaine. So if you’re constantly craving sugar, it doesn’t mean you have an eating disorder or that you lack willpower — you’re likely addicted. Sugar hijacks your brain chemistry, your hormones, and your metabolism, and the more you eat, the more you crave.

If you experience any of the following symptoms, you may be addicted to sugar:

  1. You continue eating sugary foods past the point you intended.
  2. You crave simple carbohydrates, such as bread, pasta, and pastries.
  3. You crave sugary foods even if you aren’t hungry.
  4. You eat sugary foods until you start feeling sick.
  5. You use sweet foods to reward yourself for your accomplishments.

The good news is, it’s possible to break your sugar addiction in as little as ten days. It requires a real commitment to changing the way you eat, but getting off sugar can lead to fewer food cravings, a more stable appetite, increased energy, and fewer mood swings. You may also notice health benefits such as weight loss and clearer skin.

Follow these steps to kick your sugar habit:

  1. Quit cold turkey. Give up sweets, processed foods, flour, wheat, baked goods — anything that contains sugar or refined carbohydrates. Also give up artificial sweeteners, such as aspartame and sucralose, which are also linked to weight gain and diabetes.
  2. Cut dairy out of your diet for ten days, as dairy contributes to internal inflammation, which can disrupt numerous biological processes throughout the body.
  3. Give up high-calories drinks, including sodas, sports drinks, sweet teas, fruit juice, and sugary coffee drinks.
  4. Include healthy sources of protein in every meal, such as eggs, nuts, seeds, fish, chicken, and grass-fed beef.
  5. Eat the right carbohydrates. Focus on non-starchy green vegetables, such as asparagus, broccoli, zucchini, and Brussels sprouts, as well as leafy greens such as spinach and kale.
  6. Eat lots of healthy fats. When you give up sugar and refined carbs, your body switches to burning fat for fuel, so don’t be afraid to load up on good sources of fat. Fat will also help keep you feeling full and help prevent food cravings. Healthy sources of fat include nuts, seeds, avocado, coconut oil, olive oil, and omega-3 fats from fish.
  7. Manage your stress. High levels of stress increase cortisol, which can trigger sugar cravings.
  8. Get plenty of quality sleep. Research indicates that getting less than eight hours of sleep disrupts your hunger hormones and can lead you to overeat.

You may experience some unpleasant side effects when quitting sugar, such as headaches or flu-like symptoms. After 2-3 days, most people begin to experience positive effects such as increased energy and fewer food cravings.

If weight gain and age-related disease are concerns of yours, learning more about your individual genetics can help you put together a long-term diet and wellness plan that works for your body. Your genetic blueprint from Vivaliti DNA can provide important health information such as your ideal diet type, your individual nutritional needs, and metabolic factors that may need to be addressed in order to reach your health and wellness goals. Download a sample report to see everything you get in your 49-page genetic report!