Today is December 1. As I do on the first day of every month, I vow to be healthier, wealthier and wiser. It usually lasts about 48 hours before I revert to my old habits.
Yeah, right, you say. What with Christmas and all those parties coming up, no way! Okay, I probably won’t make it through the month, but I can do it for one day, then maybe another.
It will be hard. From the time I was a child, processed sugar was dangled above my head. “You can have dessert, if you eat your spinach,” promised my mother. “If you do your homework, we’ll go out for ice cream,” said my father.
“Want to go out and get a coke?” asked my first boyfriend. No wonder we have a love/hate affair with sugar.
So, how do you break sugar addiction? Here are five tips to get you started.
1. Quit eating high-fructose corn syrup. Start checking nutrition labels and you’ll notice that a huge swath of what we eat has high-fructose corn syrup in it, especially sweets and junk foods. But you might think you have a healthy diet and still have a sugar addiction because you regularly eat yogurt, ketchup, granola and meal-replacement bars, and salad dressings – many of which contain high-fructose corn syrup. Despite piles of data explaining how dangerous this stuff is, profiteering food manufacturers continue to defend their use of it.
2. Eat natural sugars. Quit dumping white sugar into your recipes, coffee, tea, and cereal. If you must sweeten something, use honey or turbinado sugar (sold as Sugar in the Raw). Avoid brown sugar, as it’s often just white sugar with molasses added. While your food might, at first, seem bland, after a few weeks you’ll notice that lots of things are much sweeter than you knew, including grains, fruits, and milk. After a few months, you won’t miss refined sugar at all, and you’ll be able to tell that soda pop is nasty, syrupy goop.
I bought some organic blue agave in Nashville last month but have no idea how to use it. It’s a low glycemic sweetener. Have any of you tried it?
3. Quit eating artificial sweeteners. New York personal trainer Rich Barretta says "They trigger something in your brain that keeps you addicted to sugar." Turns out, Rich isn’t alone in thinking this. At UC San Diego, researchers found that Splenda fires up the same neural pathways as sugar. Psychiatrist Guido Frank then told The Scientific American, "Splenda has less of a feedback mechanism to stop the craving to get satisfied." Again, if you really need to sweeten something, use natural sugars, and sparingly.
Well, rats. I’ve been using Spenda for ages.
4. Eat plenty of fiber. Soluble fiber helps stabilize blood sugar – preventing sugar crashes and the cravings that inevitably follow. Soluble fiber can be found in fiber-rich foods like oatmeal, beans, fruits, and vegetables. I’ve found that beating sugar crashes is its own health benefit, as you escape the hunger, depression, and lack of energy that come with them. It also breaks the sugar addict’s cycle of refueling every couple hours with more sugar. Not to mention, fiber helps you feel full.
5. Wait out the cravings. Assuming you’re eating healthy foods in healthy amounts on a regular basis throughout the day, you should be able to out-wait sugar cravings as they arise. Like any food cravings, sugar cravings pass pretty quickly. If you’re starving yourself to lose weight, rather than eating properly, it’ll be much harder not to cave to sugar cravings.
All this is great advice, but when that plate of chocolate chip cookies is passed around, I will have to sit on my hands to keep from partaking. And if I keep eating sugar, sitting on my hands will insure I’ll never be able to break them free!