For as long as I can remember, I’ve had a ravaging sweet tooth. I think my sweet tooth stems from growing up in one household that always had homemade baked goods like cookies, cakes, and brownies (my mom’s) and another household that had an unlimited supply of Oreo’s and Chips Ahoy cookies at my disposal (my dad’s). I was raised to believe that dessert after both lunch and dinner was totally normal, and I can remember going to school with slices of homemade cake and cookies in my lunch box.
Little did I know that one day I would start to care more about what I was putting into my body, and this sugar addiction would come to bite me in the butt. Although I’ve tried over the years to kick the habit of having something sweet after every meal, I’ve never been successful…until now!
Why is it so hard to quit sugar?
As you (probably) know, I work in health and wellness PR and part of my job requires me to read the latest research about diet and fitness (I know, I’m incredibly lucky and it’s really cool). I remember last fall a study came out showing that sugar is more addictive than cocaine. Crazy, right? In the study, researchers gave rats the choice between water infused with cocaine or sugar. Not only did the rats choose the sugar water over the cocaine water, but when the researchers monitored what was happening in the rats’ brains they found that sugar activated “significantly more neurons” than cocaine.
Sounds crazy and yet, it makes sense. Have you ever had something sweet, and then instantly wanted 10 times more of it? This happens to me sometimes if I haven’t had chocolate in a while. I will eat one little bite, and suddenly want all-the-chocolate. Sometimes you have the best intentions of just eating a little sugar, and then it backfires and you wind up eating way more than you wanted because that’s how our brains are wired. So annoying.
My sugar habits before
In the past, I’ve always needed a little something sweet after lunch and dinner.
After lunch, I would usually indulge in sweet prunes, Fig Newtons, or Hershey Kisses. In my head all of these were fine, because they were either a) still sort of nutritious or b) portioned out small enough that I felt ok about it.
In actuality this was not ok because of how I felt about the sugar. It wasn’t optional – I needed it. If I didn’t pack something from home or have a stash of sweets in my desk, I would almost always walk downstairs to CVS to pick something up.
The same thing would happen after dinner; I would always need some sort of “treat” like a low fat Jello pudding cup with chocolate chips or a small scoop of mostly healthy ice cream.
Again, I would trick myself into thinking this was ok because it was a small portion and was usually low in calories and fat. I still think these treats are perfectly fine, but my relationship with them was not. If I didn’t have something sweet to eat after dinner, I would dig around the cabinets searching for chocolate chips. Not ok.
My sugar habits now
These days, I don’t find myself craving the sugar quite so much. Days will go by without any sort of treat in my diet, and although I certainly haven’t eliminated them altogether (nor did I ever intend to) I really feel like my relationship with sugar has changed. I can eat lunch without wishing I had a Hershey Kiss, and I can eat dinner without turning to the cabinet for sweets afterword. Yes, every once in a while I will still have a handful of chocolate chips after dinner, but it’s down to about once a week now, which is a big improvement for me.
As for how I did it, it actually wasn’t too hard. I just decided to cut out all the extra sugar.
At first, I considered paying for this go sugar free course. I had read awesome things about the course from Kristen at Iowa Girl Eats, and was seriously considering joining. Then I read a little bit about the course and saw that the creator went cold turkey on sugar in 2012 and never looked back. While I was never planning to eliminate sugar altogether, I knew I had the strength to cut it down myself and didn’t need to pay for a course, so that’s exactly what it did.
Truthfully one thing that really helped was having surgery on my foot earlier this year. I made the decision to cut down on sugar as a casual New Year’s resolution, and having surgery in early January really helped. Because moving around was so difficult after surgery, it made it hard for me to get up and get a quick treat after lunch and dinner. Of course I still could have managed, especially since so many people brought me candy and treats during my recovery, but this really did help me stick to my goals.
Other tricks that really help me when I’m craving something sweet are to drink a big glass of water, brush my teeth, or munch on some sugarfee gum. Sometimes when I’m craving sweets my mouth is actually just bored, and changing up the taste helps a lot.
It also helps to remember that after eating the sugar I’m only going to feel worse, and it’s really not worth the calories.
Then again, sometimes the treat is worth the calories, and that’s ok. I still enjoy sugary treats when I decide it’s worth it, like when I visit my mom and she has baked some crazy delicious concoction or when I’m celebrating a special occasion with family and friends.
Sometimes I’ve just had a hard day at work or I’ve eaten really healthy all day and just want a little something sweet. That’s ok too! The name of this blog is Chelsea Eats Treats for a reason, and I don’t intend to change that anytime soon. What I did intend to change was my everyday gotta-have-sugar mentality, and I think I’ve finally done it. Hooray!
Question of the day: Do you struggle with eating sweets? If so, how do you overcome it?