October is nearing its end which means its officially time for pumpkin everything. Just last week I bought four cans of packed pumpkin goodness and treated myself to pumpkin pie, pumpkin baked apples, and even pumpkin oatmeal. It was delicious, and I loved it. But I also didn’t sleep so great, felt foggy most mornings, and spent my afternoons yawning through the 3pm stretch. It’s not the pumpkin that did me in, its the sugar!! Don’t you just love to hate the stuff? Now that the holidays are upon us there will be plenty of sweet treats in our futures, and that’s ok. We are meant to put on a couple of Christmas pounds and grab some extra nourishment during the dark, cold months. But while it is perfectly acceptable to indulge and savor, keep in mind that savory doesn’t necessarily mean sweet.
It’s Not a Sweet Tooth
You are going to try to tell me that you have a sweet tooth but that just isn’t accurate. People are not born craving or not craving sugar. If they were our whole nation would have been obese in 1789. But they weren’t. Not until today. You weren’t born needing Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup Pumpkins, you became that way. It’s not your fault either so don’t get caught up in the guilt cycle just yet. This isn’t about your own willpower at all. Sugar isn’t a craving, its an addiction. Just as addicting, it turns out, as nicotine. Doesn’t that make your stomach turn? Yep, if you have a sweet tooth, what you actually have is an addiction. The worse part is, the more you eat it, the more you need it, the more you crave it. And when you try to get away from it, you can’t. Its too hard. Doesn’t that sound like cigarettes to you? I can’t wait for the day when cane sugar becomes a controlled substance. You should have to be ID’d, taxed, and over 18 to eat it. But until then, its up to us to gauge moderation and that means something different for everyone.
It’s a Sugar Addiction
Say you smoke a cigarette once. Typically you are fine. You don’t become addicted or need one. You tried it, no big deal. Say you have a couple here and there, still probably fine. Now say it becomes a social enabler and you start meeting a friend for a smoking break or at a cafe. Maybe for you it starts with a crescent, a square of chocolate, or a pump of vanilla in your latte. At first its just innocent hits of glucose that your body can quickly burn up and move on from. Then you start not liking coffee without that hit of sugar. Suddenly a meal doesn’t taste satisfying unless you end it with a sweet. Maybe breakfast isn’t the same without honey on top or a a piece of toast just won’t work right without some sugary jam. Sometimes you don’t even know how much sugar you are eating since its hidden in just about anything you buy from Trader Joe’s. The next thing you know there is nothing that can keep you away from the office treats or the 3pm indulgence. You become addicted. Unfortunately, the consequences are just as dire as that cigarette. It starts with weight gain, mild insomnia, shaky mornings or sleepy afternoons. It ends with insulin resistance, diabetes, heart disease, or cancer.
You Don’t Need to Quit
Sorry for taking that to a scary place. I try to keep this blog as peppy as possible, but on this note I just wanted you to realize what we are dealing with here. Sugar addiction is real and it’s harmful, but its also reversible. The first step is realizing that you are addicted. So many health nuts out there don’t even realize it because they think buying quinoa in bulk or topping a salad with chickpeas evens it all out. But it doesn’t. An occasional treat is fine, but if you are consuming it everyday in the form of cane sugar, high fructose corn syrup, sugar substitutes, agave, honey, or maple syrup you are addicted and we need to start weaning you off the steady drip.
You Need to Replace
So here is what you can do. First of all, every time you have a craving drink a glass of water then think about why you want what you do. Are you looking for comfort? Satiation? Are you bored? Can you just not help yourself because you know it’s there? Think if you are coming from a place of urgency or a place of calm. Now make sure you get something nourishing so you still feel like you are treating yourself. Steer clear of the sugar, at least at first. Don’t worry you can add it back in eventually. This is where one of my favorite words comes into play: Moderation.
Here are some recommendations for getting you started:
- Instead of sugar in your coffee… use unsweetened almond milk or coconut milk.
- Instead of a chai tea latte… blend a banana with almond milk, an apple, and cinnamon for a delicious smoothie. (Adding Vanilla chai Vega also makes this delicious and sugar-free).
- Instead of topping oatmeal with maple or brown sugar… simmer with crushed bananas, apples, turmeric, and cinnamon.
- Instead of a muffin… have an English muffin with almond butter.
- Instead of an after lunch sweet… have a few dried mangoes.
- Instead of a sugary snack… have some nuts and raisins.
- Instead of dessert after dinner… switch to dried or stewed fruit, a pear poached in red wine, or apples sprinkled with cinnamon.
There will be withdrawals and you will feel tired or have headaches, but eventually the urgency will disappear and your cravings will go away. The thing to remember when you start adding things back in is this: It’s really easy to slip back into the addiction. Just as an ex-smoker will smoke one cigarette and then crave a whole pack, you need to make sure a treat is just that. Having a slice of cake is fine but savor it slowly so you don’t feel tempted to devour the whole cake when no one is looking.
Are you a sugar junkie? How are you quitting the stuff? I’d love to get some more ideas from you all!
Once again, thanks for reading!
P.S. Sugar addiction (and all its side effects) is something I can help you with! Join my three months to wellness program and we’ll get started immediately!