Until I was in middle school, I thought sweets were a required part of the daily diet. You know…meat, vegetables…brownies with ice cream. I didn't know that was unusual, that's just the way things were in my family.
When I started going over to other friends' houses regularly, I remember thinking, Wait! Where's the dessert? These people aren't going to eat anything sweet! That's when I knew that my family's way of eating was different, but it wasn't until many years later that I finally learned how to stop eating sugar.
Is Sugar Addictive?
You betcha! There's a lot of debate in the scientific community about whether or not sugar meets the true definition of an addictive substance. But what matters to you and me is that “sugar and sweetness can induce reward and craving that are comparable in magnitude to those induced by addictive drugs.” Translation: Sugar is seriously addictive.
Why Should I Stop Eating Sugar?
Drinking two 16-oz sugar-sweetened soft drinks a day for six months is enough to greatly increase our risk of fatty liver. When I was a student, we were taught that fatty liver was a lead-up to alcoholic cirrhosis. But today, many people who don't drink alcohol at all have fatty liver due to poor diet. A high sugar intake also leads to weight gain and high cholesterol levels.
How to Stop Eat Sugar without Losing Your Mind
Know that kicking the sugar habit is probably going to be tough—really tough. You're going to need to set yourself up for success ahead of time if you want to stop eating sugar once and for all. Here are three steps to take to break your sugar addiction:
- Get rid of your access to sweets. Go through your pantry, your desk drawer, your glove compartment, and any other place where you might've squirreled away a few bits of butterscotch or a secret stash of peanut brittle. Ruthlessly pitch it in the trash. I know, some of you will see that as your hard-earned money going in the rubbish bin. If you're one of those people, ask yourself, “Does that really belong in my body, or in the trash bin?” If you're not sure…consider yourself well and truly addicted. 🙂
- Retrain your brain. Every time you crave something sugary, eat something naturally sweet, such as a piece of fruit. Your brain and body will be rewarded with a tiny bit of the sugar you crave, and it will be temporarily satisfied. You may be thinking, But wait…what about all the carbs in the fruit? Aren't they “bad” for me? Carbs aren't bad; our brains and muscles need them for fuel. It's almost guaranteed that there will be fewer carbs in the fruit than there were in the sweets you were craving. Plus, the fruit has fiber, which will slow your digestion and prevent spikes in your blood sugar.
- Get your Z's. Sleep-deprived people eat crave more sweets and eat more food in general than people who get adequate rest. So, the less sleep you get, the more sugar you will crave. If you're not sleeping well, it's time to take a good, hard look at what you can do to get better rest.
The bottom line
I'll admit it right now: I'm a sugar fiend. I've been known to eat semi-sweet chocolate chips straight out of the bag. The bottom line is I will eat any kind of sugar I can find, so I just can't keep it around. I also know the more sugar I eat, the more sugar I want. As soon as I get a taste of it, I start sliding down the slippery slope of sugar cravings.
My go-to snack is an apple with peanut butter or a slice of cheese. I get a little sweetness with the apple, and the protein from the cheese or peanut butter makes me feel full. Plus, an apple takes a while to chew, unlike a handful of chocolate chips that I can eat in 3 seconds… and then go back for more.
If you're on a mission to kick your sugar habit, what's worked well for you? Share your best tip with us in the comments below!
Photo by Evan Hein on Unsplash
MPH, RDN, LDN, CDCES, IBCLC
I believe people with diabetes can enjoy good food and good health without feeling ashamed of their bodies.