A celebrity nutritionist has revealed the signs of sugar addition and how going ‘cold turkey’ is the only way to stop the cravings.
Leisa Cockayne, who counts the likes of Ferne McCann, Christine McGuinness, Vas Morgan and Atomic Kitten star Natasha Hamilton as her clients, described how noticing ‘slumps’ and ‘crashes’ throughout the day can indicate a sugar addition.
The 44 year old, based in Ireland, author of 7-Day Sugar Cleanse, spoke exclusively to OK! about how she cut sugar from her diet in 2016 following a diagnosis with endometriosis and described how she has ‘dedicated her life’ to sharing the benefits of her lifestyle.
And Leisa, who has garnered 54,300 Instagram followers with her vibrant recipes and colourful meals including desserts such as sugar-free raspberry and rose donuts, described how ‘you can have your cake and eat it’.
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How can you tell if you are a sugar addict?
Leisa said: “A really good rule of thumb to see if you are a sugar addict, like any addiction, if it is making you behave differently.
“Clients have come to me like, ‘oh my God sugar is really taking over my life’. It is where there is a packet of biscuits and there is no such thing as having one. The packet of biscuits are opened and they are just devoured.
“That is not behaviour you are going to treat the same way as a plate of salmon or a bowl of broccoli! It is when it is starting to change your behaviour or, more importantly, that you are losing control over it.”
She continued: “A second sign of addiction is if every single occasion has to be around food, and, particularly sugar. This could be a cinema trip and rather than the film you are going to see it becomes about what you are buying to eat during the film.”
Why do we often have ‘slumps’ throughout the day?
Leisa, who is the author of blog Make Me Sugar Free, described how sugary snacks set us on the ‘blood sugar rollercoaster’ which often leads to cravings at 11am and 3pm.
She continued: “This is because you are eating too much sugar for your body to cope with and it puts you on that sugar rollercoaster.”
When asked about her sugar-free lifestyle, Leisa said: “People often say, ‘oh I don’t eat much sugar’, and I say: ‘What do you eat in a day?’
“Then it turns out they will have their two pieces of toast in the morning, then they have got another very high ‘carby’ elevenses snack, then a real ‘carby’ lunch, then the same at two and three o’clock when they get that slump they will need more carbs.”
Can we ever stop the sugar cravings?
Leisa said: ‘Sugar cravings start with the packaging and how they are all so lovely and beautiful in their shiny foil wrappers. Everything about them is designed to entice and they are a trigger.”
She continued: “It is so hard to get away from and cold turkey is absolutely the best way. The first thing I say to clients is to remove it from your house because, sometimes when you are on the throes of that absolute craving, it is so hard to go, ‘oh no I am fine’, because you are up against a physiological and psychological assault!”
Why is it hard to resist sugar?
The nutritionist said: “Humans do not have a corresponding hormone that tells us we have eaten enough sugar. However you are not going to tuck into a bowl of broccoli and go ‘I need more, I need more’ because you body is like: ‘Okay, I have had enough!’
“This is because we have those corresponding hormones and our body knows to assimilate the nutrients.”
She added: “Humans have been around for over 200,000 years and we have only had sugar in our diets in the last 100 years but suddenly in the last 50 years it is in everything from yogurts, tomato sauces, some breads and sugary snacks.
“But we as humans have not developed anywhere near the pace that our food industry has in the way we have such readily available sugar.”
How can we cut our sugar when it is hidden in so many foods?
The nutritionist to the stars said: “The first thing I say is to start your day as you mean to go on to keep your body on a homeostasis and to avoid the blood sugar rollercoaster.”
“If you start the morning by having a high protein breakfast and then fill up with veggies that is the most important thing.
“It is not about lack or abstaining, it is about cramming in as many nutrients and as much vitamins and minerals as possible so your body has everything it needs.
“We don’t have an abundance of time in the morning so I recommend a quick omelette in the morning or avocado and smoked salmon with a boiled egg which you can prepare the night before.”
How soon can you feel the effects of a sugar detox?
Speaking about the physical changes, Leisa said: “In two days of coming off sugar you notice it on your skin and it is really amazing because it affects elasticity.
“It is also such a good mood booster and you feel on a natural high, your mood starts to lift and you just feel you have more energy.”
Asked about how it improves the working life, she said: “The other thing you notice around day three is that you have less brain fog which people don’t realise they have until it starts to lift and you get such a clarity!”
Leisa added: “By day three to four all of a sudden you are sleeping well through clearing up your digestive health because when you stop eating sugar the change to your gut health is incredible.
“Then there are longer-term aspects like reduced risk of cancer, reduced risk of stroke, Type 2 diabetes and coronary heart disease.”
How does you palate change following a sugar detox?
“It is really interesting because we have five different flavours that we taste but most often we only tend to crave sugar or salt,” Leisa said.
“The minute we put something on our tongue the brain responds to trigger those digestive enzymes but when we have sugar that is not happening.
“On week two of the 21-day programme I allow blueberries and everyone has said it is like a food orgasm! They say: ‘I cannot believe that blueberries actually taste this sweet!'”
Explaining the difference between refined and natural sugar, she said: “We are so used to eating hyper-sweet foods – it is unbelievable! And when you are so used to consuming that you need more to taste it again!
“But when you break that habit and cleanse the palate, the tiniest bit of sugar goes the longest way and you suddenly realise how fake a lot of these sweetened foods taste.
“I will naturally sweeten with banana, date or apple and people are like: ‘But that is full of sugar!’ However there is a difference. There is no refined or added sugar and those foods come with a huge amount of fibre that our body knows who to digest and how to assimilate.”
Is the sugar-free lifestyle suitable long-term?
Leisa, who has been sugar-free since 2016, said: “I am often asked: ‘Is it ok to eat sugar? Yes it is absolutely fine but if you are addicted you have to create that big disruption to your diet and reset your palate to be able to eat healthily again.
“It is about a low-sugar lifestyle. It is not about never being able to eat sugar again, it is about giving people control over their diets where they are not dictated by cravings.”