Healthy Eating

A New Start, An Old Foe

The summer after I graduated from college, I packed my meager belongings into my rusty old Ford and drove from Boston to New York City, where I planned to live with my aunt and uncle while I looked for a job.

I remember that day very clearly because, as I was driving over the Triboro bridge, I heard the distinct crackle of a gigantic page turning over in the book of my life.

It’s happened again.

I felt a momentous change when my youngest child left for college. After 28 years of staying at home to tend to my children, I’ve started a new career. My children always come first in my life, but they’re adults, who are building their own lives. I’m here for them when they need me.

As I’m reorienting my life, I’ve decided I need to make another important change: I need to kick my addiction to sugar. I’ve tried many times to do so, but I always go back to eating sugary snacks and treats every single day.

My nutritionist calls sugar a “true addiction.” There’s some debate in scientific circles about whether or not sugar is addictive, but I’m certain that in my case, it’s true. I’m addicted to sugar.

I buy organic sugar, telling myself it’s “healthy,” but it’s not. Refined sugar is a terrible, cheap food additive that damages the human body, mostly by causing inflammation. Sugar tastes great (at first), but it makes me feel ill when I eat too much of it, as I often do.

The first few bites of a sugary treat (gluten-free cream-filled cookies come to mind) are incredibly delicious, but in short order, my addiction kicks in, and I can’t stop myself from eating more and more sugary treats. Pretty soon, my body and head ache, and I start feeling bloated and ill.

This is a vicious cycle that’s been going on for decades. I’ve kicked sugar for weeks, even months, but something happens — a holiday or a birthday where I’d feel left out if I didn’t eat sweets. Or an unpleasant event occurs, and I start eating sweet things to make me feel better, to console myself, to give myself a lift. And the cycle begins again.

For the past few months, I’ve felt pretty crummy, partly from the stress of going back to work after a long absence, and partly from all the sugary snacks – cookies, chocolate, desserts, ice cream – that I’ve been eating because I feel tired from all the new changes in my life.

So, how to stop eating that Demon Sugar? I’ve tried many times to stop eating sugar, and I always fall off the wagon. Why will this time be different?

There’s one reason: I’m older. I’m healthy now, but I don’t know what’s coming. More days are behind me than are ahead of me.  I can’t put it off any longer.

So, I’ve come up with a plan. It will probably change, as most plans do, but here’s what I’ve been doing since starting my latest effort (three weeks ago!) to kick sugar out of my life:

1) Like any addict, I’ve pledged to  take it One Day at a Time.

2) I allow myself to eat up to 18 grams of refined sugar a day (that’s the limit my nutritionist says an adult can eat and not become harmed by said sugar).

3) I create low-sugar or sugar-free versions of the sweet desserts and treats I love to eat. (How? That’s an ongoing challenge. Stay tuned….)

4) I use a few natural sweeteners–in small amounts–to add flavor in baking, including honey, maple syrup, coconut nectar and date syrup.

5) When I’m craving sugar, I eat protein–cheese, eggs, meat, nuts–or I drink stevia-sweetened coffee or chocolate oat milk.

For a long three weeks, I have managed not to eat any of the cookies, cakes, chocolates, ice cream, etc. that I love. It’s not been easy.

I had a nightmare last week: I dreamt I’d eaten a bunch of cookies, cakes and candy, and could not stop eating them.  I was relieved when I woke up and found it wasn’t true.

There are definitely challenges. I was shopping a few days ago with my daughter when she handed me a bag of my favorite cookies. “You like these, don’t you, Mom?”

I did want to eat those nice sugary sweet cookies! They taste great! But…One…Day…at…a…Time. I put the bag of cookies back on the shelf.

The benefits of kicking sugar are plenty. I feel a lot better, even after a few sugarless weeks. I’m less achy, less bloated, sort of “lighter” feeling, even though I haven’t lost any weight. I don’t have the headaches that I get from eating too much sugar.

A colleague gave me a candy bar as a gift right after Easter. I thanked her, and put the candy bar in my desk drawer, where I see it every day, a reminder that I can easily pop it into my mouth when I’m tired or hungry or have had a bad day and want a sweet treat to give myself a teensy emotional boost.

But I know that a single candy bar can spiral into a lot of candy bars (all natural, gluten free, even organic, but they’re still filled with refined sugar), so I close the drawer and eat something else.

Springhouse Turtle Eats

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