Have you ever considered cutting sugar cold turkey? Have you done it? How did you do?
Based on my experience with clients I can say that an addiction to sugar is much stronger than an addition to nicotine, caffeine… or bad romantic comedies. The cold turkey experiment is usually unsuccessful.
Which is why it’s better for your self-esteem and your sanity if you take a deep breath, gather some patience, and get smart about your sugar fixes. It’s a little like cheating, yes, but it is realistic. The idea is that, slowly and methodically, you can re-educate your taste buds to what sweet tastes like — you know, strawberries (with no glazing) ARE sweet, so are apples. And bananas? WAY sweet.
Occasionally I get a lil’ sweet somethin’ that I used to enjoy when I was a kid, or even just a few years ago, just to see how my taste buds have changed. One time I had the brilliant idea to get a Snickers bar — it tasted awful, I couldn’t have even half of it AND it gave me a 2-day headache. It was so clear to me that this was self-punishment.
Reeducating my taste buds didn’t happen overnight, mind you. It’s been a very gradual process, but I have enjoyed it and I haven’t felt deprived. ***Now, I wasn’t pushed by a life-threatening condition, so I’ve had the luxury of time.*** But the point is, instead of trying to go cold turkey and failing once and again, you can give yourself 4 months or 6 months, or a year. After all, how long has it taken you to get to where you are now?
These “tricks” can come in handy in your “rehabilitation” process:
1. Use dried fruit.
Dried fruit — raisins, cranberries, dates, apricots, etc — is VERY, VERY sweet, but it’s certainly less harmful than other very, very sweet things you could eat. Keep dried fruit in the house and use it in cooking, often. This way you can get little doses of sugar right in your meal. You’ll feel less vulnerable to the lure of dessert.
2. Fall in love with sweet vegetables.
That amazing array of pumpkins and winter squashes? Sweet potatoes, carrots, onions, beets, parsnips? Eat them! I especially recommend you bake or roast them because it concentrates the sugars, giving you more of a sweet fix.
3. Learn to control your sugar.
There are certain foods — yogurt, sodas and other sweetened beverages, etc — that have excessive amounts of sugar in them — 35 grams per serving. Considering there are 4 grams to a teaspoon, I’d say that’s excessive — and they are usually sweetened with high fructose corn syrup.
The idea here is that you get used to buying the plain versions of these and sweeten them yourself — yogurt with maple syrup, sparkling water with a natural flavored syrup. You control the amount of sugar and the quality of the sweetener. I can almost guarantee you need much less than 35 grams of sugar per serving to get satisfied, and, as your taste buds get readjusted, you’ll gradually need less.
Check out this website for a visual on how much sugar is in different processed foods.
4. Get your sweet treats… with fat.
I know that sounds counter-intuitive, but there are a couple of good reasons why you should favor fat-rich desserts like ice cream or mousse over straight sweet things like candy — assuming, of course, that the fat is NOT hydrogenated vegetable oil but naturally saturated fat like heavy cream, butter or coconut oil.
First, fat is what makes you feel full, so you’ll be satisfied with much less of the sugary stuff, and second, you won’t get as bad a sugar high because fat slows down the assimilation process. This is kinder to your metabolism.
5. Get “French” about your sugar fixes.
If you are going to have a dessert or your little sweet thing, you might as well do it right. Get the best quality you can find and afford. Instead of going to the supermarket and getting Entenmann’s cookies to eat mindlessly in front of the TV, invite a friend to come with you to the best coffee shop in the area and share a piece of the most decadent chocolate cake together, happy, and with no distractions.
Don’t keep sweet things in the house if you know you’ll be constantly fighting yourself not to gobble everything up — that’s just plain self-punishment. Instead, make eating dessert an occasion, you know, to be happy. This is when being really “picky” is appropriate.
So, what do you think? Do you have good tricks to get smart about your sugar fixes?