Monday, August 3, 2009

Sugar Sugar

Recently, I made the decision to cut down on my sugar consumption. I’ve been a sugar junkie as long as I can remember and I’ve justified my bad habit for about as long. I’m not particularly overweight, I don’t drink all that much and I walk 90 minutes most days, so it was easy to shrug off my inner voice when I scarfed down cookies after lunch, ice cream after dinner and candy for a late night snack. I loved sugar and no one was going to take it away from me, damnit.

But the voice in my head had started to get louder over the years. It was telling me that my body kind of felt like crap all the time now and that the tiny little belly pouch I’d developed was not-so-sexy. I started to cut down on the sugar… a little. And then one day Shawn, who is one of the most health conscious people I know, pointed out that I was addicted to sugar and that, most likely, I was going to end up diabetic or worse if I kept up my habits. He didn’t say it in a mean way, but in the kind of matter-of-fact way that he relays information that is what it is, even though he may wish it wasn’t.

And he scared me. Suddenly my inner voice's fears had been spoken out loud and I had to acknowledge them. A few months earlier I had purchased Lick the Sugar Habit, a first step in acknowledging that I needed to change. After Shawn’s observation I started reading it and realized very quickly that I AM a sugar addict. And I’m not alone. The book also pointed out that so many of the stomach ailments that have plagued me over the last year are not just stress-related (as my family doctor believed), but also related to my sugar consumption.

I always figured that of all the vices I could have, sugar was pretty low on the totem pole. In high school my friends snuck beer at the beaches and I scarfed bags of Fuzzy Peaches while I watched them drink. I would get silly for awhile and then crash, just like them, but my high was legal and so I felt a little smug about the whole thing. But reading the book I realized that all that sugar – and the mountains more I have consumed since – was doing almost as much damage to my body as alcohol (not that I’ve abstained from that as an adult either).

So I decided to quit. Not quite cold turkey, as the book suggests, because sugar is in almost everything these days (another reason for the alarming obesity stats in first world nations), but as close as possible. So for the last few weeks I have stopped eating dessert. No sweets after lunch, after dinner or for snacks throughout the day. No cake, no cookies, no candy and, hardest of all, no ice cream.

At first, it sucked. I won’t lie. I even conceded to one Godiva chocolate after lunch on the first few days to make withdrawal easier. Funnily enough, after a few days I didn’t even want the chocolate anymore. Cutting back on my sugar made me want less, not more, just like the book said. So now I eat almost no refined sugar throughout the day. I still eat fruit and raisins and naturally sweet things, but there is no more mainlining Sour Kids after a rough day.

Will I keep it up? Maybe. I hope so. I don’t know that I’ll be as militant as I have been the last few weeks – I’d like to think that I could have a slice of birthday cake or an ice cream cone once in awhile and really enjoy them – but I don’t think I’ll ever go back to being a sugar junkie. I’m so much more aware of how much sugar is in my food now. Reading labels blows me away! And I’ve even given up artificial sweeteners as much as possible too – the research shows that they are even worse for my body than refined sugars, plus they make me crave sweet treats too. It’s a lifestyle change and those are always hard, but I’d like to be one junkie that kicked her habit.

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