Or more appropriately, pass on the sugar please!
Anyone who knows me, knows that I have always been a sugar fiend. As a child, I was often on the look out for chocolate, be it at school birthdays (where I grew up, kids brought chocolate to class on their birthdays), rummaging through my mum’s purse for a little treat, or just plain old begging for it. The quest for my next sugar high lasted well into my 20s.
And then it happened. Age started catching up to me and I started questioning my sugar intake somewhere in my mid-20s. I felt tired easily, I had put on some weight, and even though I ran daily, the weight did not come off easily because of my unhealthy diet. The only step I was prepared to take at that time was to go from taking 3-4 small teaspoons of sugar in my coffee or tea, down to a half teaspoon. Yes, some of you might think that a half teaspoon of sugar doesn’t taste like much, but when you get used to it, you start tasting the actual flavor of your tea or coffee. That seemed manageable and is something I’ve been able to stick to. But I still loved my share of chocolates, milkshakes, ice cream, pastries, you name it!
During each of my pregnancies I had major sugar cravings. With my first it was a milkshake a week. And I did not share a sip with my husband. I had to have my milkshake fix when the cravings hit or I would be an absolute crab! The second time around, it was a specific chocolate called Toffifay and Cheetos puffed corn. I craved both sweet and salty back to back, and I could only find them both at CVS. I would stockpile a couple of boxes at a time and even though I had a good stash going, I did not, and would not share them with my husband or toddler; the very thought of sharing made me mad. Yes, that’s the type of preggo I was: a sugar junkie, who wouldn’t share treats with her sweet little son!
For me to be where I am now with sugar is just something I had never imagined. I went from sugary coffee and danishes for breakfast, to a cup of tea with a half teaspoon of maple syrup and a whole wheat bagel with peanut butter and bananas. But I also went from feeling lethargic and unsatisfied with my meal unless followed by dessert, to having more energy throughout the day and a more disciplined and healthy lifestyle. Maybe my reduced tolerance for sugar is some sort of punishment for all the times I refused to share, or maybe it’s just my body telling me, “Hey, you need to ease up before all this sugar kills you!”
My tolerance for sugar has declined dramatically, but not through any major effort of my own, oddly enough. I used to love birthday cake at parties, but now I’ll have a bite or two and I have to stop because even that is too much. Just a year ago, most nights I would have a little ice cream after dinner, and now my growing lactose intolerance has made it hard for me to enjoy that creamy goodness. Aside from fatigue, another side effect I had from my sugar addiction, was migraines. I’ve struggled with headaches most of my life, but for the past few years the intensity of my migraines had shot through the roof and an episode would often last three days. Since I’ve reduced my sugar consumption, I’ve noticed a significant improvement in my migraine symptoms and a reduced frequency of headache episodes. Yay!
Back in the 90s, it was commonly believed that the biggest contributor to obesity was eating fatty or fried foods. Now, numerous studies later, it’s common knowledge that we need some fats in our bodies in the form of EFAs (essential fatty acids), which come from foods like avocados, coconut oil, nuts and seeds, and so on. But what has also been discovered is that excessive sugar consumption is also a huge contributor to various diseases, and all sugar is the same once consumed- refined white sugar, high fructose corn syrup, raw sugar - the body sees them all as equals. Even the trendy agave nectar, coconut sugar and stevia, though plant-based (then again so is cane sugar), are heavily processed, and processed foods are best avoided. The only truly natural sugars that are okay in moderation are honey and maple syrup. They go through the least processing as compared with their sweet counterparts.
Before you start cutting out sugar from your diet, stop and think about it. Make a plan. Quitting cold turkey will leave you susceptible to major cravings, and eventually you’ll find yourself back on square one. Trust me, I’ve been up and down that hill many times. Think about how you’re going to cut down on your sugar consumption, whether you take less sugar in your coffee, or whether you substitute honey for cane sugar in your tea. Maybe try fruit as dessert after a meal. There are many resources out there that will help you carve out a plan.
When it comes to your kids, try to replace their usual sugary morning cereal with fruit or oatmeal with no added sugar (yes, it’s out there!), and you can add some maple syrup to it and be in charge of how much sugar they get first thing in the morning. If your kids drink juice, make it at home with fresh fruit, or look for an organic fruit juice option with less sugar like the Honest Kids juice pouches. Teach them about healthy options because it’s something they can carry with them through their lives. I always tell myself that I don’t want my kids to be as sugar dependant as I was as a child because it really took a lot to tone down my consumption of sugary foods as an adult. I do offer them chocolate or ice cream as an occasional treat so they don’t grow up feeling like I deprived them.
Lastly, through my own experience I have learned that the more sugar I ate, the more I craved it. When I got ahead of my cravings, and started making small changes to my diet the less I craved sugary foods. One of my goals in life is to grow old with my health intact, as much as it can possibly be. Maintaining a balanced lifestyle through exercise and a healthy diet, along with the occasional treat because I don’t want to take all the fun out of living, is the way I have chosen to reach that goal.
If you have had a similar experience with sugar addiction and overcoming it, please share it in the comments below because your story might just inspire someone else to do the same!
I’ll leave you with a quick and healthy recipe for my Purple Porridge, that both my kids love for breakfast or even snack time.
1 cup quick cooking oatmeal
1 cup milk
¼ - ½ cup water
a handful of mixed berries
2 tsp honey
Put the oatmeal, milk and water in a saucepan and bring to a boil over medium heat. Keep stirring as the oatmeal cooks, so it doesn’t stick to the bottom. I like my oatmeal super soft and mushy, so I add more water while it cooks to allow the oatmeal to cook for longer. When the oatmeal is soft and still has a bit of liquid, turn off the heat. Stir in the berries and honey and put the lid on. Let the berries cook in the hot oatmeal. Serve once it’s cooled.
Movies, books and articles that inspired this post: