Like many addictive substances (caffeine included), a little is OK, in my opinion. I definitely advocate cutting back, but going stone-cold sugar sober isn’t necessarily the answer either. I get that it stimulates some of the same pathways as cocaine – but it’s been utilized in human diets for thousands of years.
This is why, once you can control your sugar cravings, you should still enjoy it:
1) Sugar is celebratory. There are delicious treats with sugar – certain exotic pastries or amazing cakes. Denying yourself these forever can make you feel left out and sad. Any diet that makes you feel this way isn’t constructive. Instead of saying “no” all the time, decide whether the cookie you’re offered is worth it…is it a don’t miss or is it waste of your sugar usage. Halloween candy, oreos and cheap baked goods from 7-11 all don’t warrant sugar spending in my estimation.
2) Giving up sugar is stressful. Studies have shown that dieting can create stress that causes weight gain. Reading every label, preaching that you “can’t” eat that because of the sugar – it’s hard and makes you feel like a loser if you accidentally do have some sugar. Don’t become a zealot, but don’t down sugar packets either.
3) Oftentimes, people replace sugar with artificial sweeteners. Instead of the real thing, with calories and physiological response, their body gets an empty message: the taste buds get sweet flavors, but the body gets no energy. As a result, you crave sweeter and sweeter things because your body perceives that is the only way to get energy. Low-calorie and sugar-free can lead to weight gain. Sugar in moderation – in the form of dark chocolate or a quality slice of cake – can satisfy without breaking your bank.
4) Sugar is natural. Not all sugar – high-fructose corn syrup isn’t – but some is. The sugar in fruit, the sugar in milk – these your body can process. Don’t deny healthy foods because they have sugar. Do keep their intake in moderation and avoid already sugary foods with added sugar, such as fruit flavored yogurt, fruit cup in sugar syrup or chocolate milk.
Note that if you have a problem – you can’t refuse the cake and you’ll risk life and limb to get it. It might be time for a cold-turkey cleanse. A cleanse, not in the sense of lemon water and cayenne pepper drinks – but one that takes sugar off the menu for a week or two. You may have withdrawal just like any addict, but it may help you return to a more normal sense of sugar eating. Signs you might need to quit cold turkey:
2) You add sweetener to everything: oatmeal, yogurt, coffee, tea
3) Breakfast, lunch and dinner have a sweet focus – as do your snacks. For example, do you have pancakes or a pastry in the morning, cookies with lunch and ice cream with dinner? At snack time, do you reach for a “healthy” smoothie with added sugar and a sweetened bar? Do your snack nuts have sugar coatings? Consider how much sugar you’re downing in a day – you may need to back up and start from ground zero.
4) Does every meal have a sweet fruit – a banana, a pineapple, berries and watermelon? While fruit is a valuable part of any diet and usually a good choice with it’s combination of fiber and nutrients, too much can push out vegetables – which also have tons of fiber, minerals, antioxidants and far less sugar. Next time, reach for a handful of carrots, a stalk of celery or a pile of roasted cauliflower. Switch your mindset. If you just can’t…it might be time to go cold turkey.
5) Any sugar tempts you – not just the good stuff. It’s a slippery slope — if you can’t enter Starbucks without getting a pastry (which come wrapped in shrink wrap, by the way) or walk past the candy aisle, you might consider giving it up for a bit. If you rely on sugar for a pick-me-up mid afternoon (like you purchase an afternoon Mountain Dew and Snickers), you might also need to step away.
If you decide a sugar-free period is for you, start today. Check labels – that jarred pasta sauce, mayonnaise, salad dressing and more all have sugar added. Up your protein intake, raw nut intake and reduce your intake of fruits to just 2 servings per day. Say sayanora to cakes, candy and cookies. Ditch the sugary coffee creamer and go for plain cream. If you’re an addict, you have to make sacrifices to wipe the slate clean and start over. Bits of sugar in your life will feed your out-of-control addiction, when you have one.