Getting off sugar – an addict’s tale…

After a brief hiatus, I’m back to blogging – but more importantly I have a story to tell….

There was a woman.  This woman was very healthy – she ran, she spinned, she strength trained — she worked out practically every day (except her weekly rest day of course!).  She ate plenty of greens and lean protein and whole grains and always asked for her salad dressing on the side – she was practically angelic in her good choices.  But at night, she morphed into her evil twin – the Dr Jekyll to her Mr Hyde.  This evil twin was determined to undo all her hard work.  This evil twin would make an appearance especially when she had had one too many drinks, or if she was stressed, or even if she was just bored.  This evil twin would raid the refrigerator looking for anything sugar — chocolate chips, bites of cookie dough ice cream, peanut butter cookies – pretty much whatever sweet fix she could get her dirty little paws on.

Sound familiar?  Many of us, myself included, find sugary foods very hard to resist.  And it’s understandable — the daily pressures of life and work are hard enough without sugar confronting us at every turn – in the deli food counter, in your local coffeeshop, and even at your Farmer’s market.  And the literature is only increasing on the addictive powers of sugar.  In Bordeaux, France, Dr. Serge Ahmed, is in the process of completing a study with rats.  Given the choice between sugar and cocaine – guess what those rats choose every time?  Shockingly…SUGAR.  Scientists hypothesize that sugar, produces dopamine in the brain, which is the “feel good” chemical – the same chemical that is released when you experience orgasm or do hard drugs.  When people eat sugar, they feel a temporary “high”, and when this high disappears, they need more.

So how do you break this cycle?  Here are some tried and true tips that have helped me

  1. Enlist a friend.  While a mild sugar addiction is hardly as debilitating as a drug or alcohol addiction, it never hurts to get a little extra moral support.  Tell a close friend or a significant other that this is something you’re working on.  Having another person on your side and prying your hand away from the office cookies can be a great thing.
  2. Clean house.  As I always say – if it’s not there you won’t eat it.  Take all the tempting sweets that are in your pantry, refrigerator etc… and dump them!  Yes – it may seem wasteful, but most of these foods offer no nutritional value to you, and it is more wasteful in your diet than in your trash.  If you live with someone else who wants to eat his/her junk, ask them politely to place these foods on higher shelves – so that you aren’t confronted with them every time you go to take out food.
  3. Find a sugar stand-in.  We don’t live in a vacuum and chances are that even with the best of intentions – you are still going to find yourself craving sugar the first couple of days away from the stuff.  Make sure to stock up some delicious seasonal fruit from your local grocery store or farmer’s market.  One of my favorite healthy treats is to zap apple slices in the microwave with a little cinnamon and a drizzle of agave nectar for a sweet, but not cloying, baked apple.  Dried fruit also works well – dates are my personal fave – by limit the portion to two or three pieces to keep calories in check.
  4. Check yourself before you wreck yourself.  Ok – so you were good all week and then you had a couple of cookies – or five.  You feel like you’ve let yourself down and you’ve failed – but before you decide to reach back in and finish the box – give yourself a break!  Nobody is perfect, and I am not suggesting that you deprive yourself of goodies every now and then.  Rather than getting down on yourself for this temporary setback – view it as an opportunity to recommit to yourself.  Every meal is a new opportunity to be healthier, stronger, and more beautiful.  So show yourself a little love and treat your body right – because it’s the only one you’ve got!
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