Fact: The average person eats between 1/4 and 1/2 a pound of sugar a day–mostly without knowing.
It’s alarming, I know. I stumbled across this issue quite by accident. I was mousing over some news articles when one popped up claiming that doctors are arguing that sugar is bad. I’ll admit; I didn’t read the article, but I quickly googled the effects of sugar on the body and the benefits of limiting your sugar intake. That was three days ago. Since then, I’ve wandered through blogs and articles discussing this topic. Nearly every single one of them said the same thing:
Sugar is an addiction and should be considered as serious as drug and alcohol abuse.
Before you roll your eyes and exit out of this post, take this short quiz:
- Have you ever used sugar as a reward for something?
- Have you ever used sugar to change your mood (when you are sad, tired, or when you need a ‘boost’)?
- Have you ever eaten sugar when you weren’t hungry/do you eat sugar when you’re not hungry?
- Have you even had a bite of something sweet and felt compelled to finish the whole thing?
If you answered yes to any of these questions, you may be addicted to sugar. Don’t be ashamed of this, though; I answered yes to all of them! I am a sugar addict, and I didn’t know until yesterday.
But, this is understandable considering that sugar is listed as a main ingredient in most of our foods–even the ones claiming to be healthy (No, seriously. Go look at your Special K brand cereals and snack bars–go look at the NatureValley brands; you’ll be amazed and alarmed.) Don’t even get me started on all of the sugary, fizzy drinks we are all addicted to (see what I did there?) But even though that the world as we know it is laced with sugar, and now that I’m aware of my problem (since sugar addiction is a really big problem that not many people are aware of), I’ve decided to take steps to correct it and prevent any long term side affects.
What long term side effects does sugar give you, you may ask? These:
- Weight Gain. Most of the sugary stuff that we eat and drink are laced with ’empty calories’ that build up over time (and more rapidly depending on how many empty calories you eat). This produces fat that can build up around your internal organs.
- High Blood Pressure. Let’s face it; people with high blood pressure are always agitated and frustrated, and it’s extremely dangerous to your heart and arteries.
- Higher Chance of Contracting Disease. I’m not talking about just diabetes but heart disease, stroke, and obesity–which is more dangerous than just weight gain. Obesity contributes to you becoming at rist for Type 2 diabetes and cancer. Didn’t know that, did you?
With these looming in my future if I continue to be addicted to sugar, I’ve begun to completely turn around my diet. After scanning blogs, support sites, and dietician websites, I’ve begun to figure out how to limit my sugar intake (and yours if you’re interested.) I’ve compiled my findings into a list:
- PURGE. First of all, you need to get rid of all unnecessary sweets in your living area/work place/car (I used to have a stash in my center console.) It sounds heart-wrenching and emotionally painful, I know, but the results are worth it.
- READ LABELS. Now that you’ve purged yourself of the temptations sitting in your space(s), try not to eat it when offered to you, and be sure you don’t accidentally eat it in your regular meals (remember the statistic at the beginning of the post?) All you have to do is read labels on everything that you buy. Just see where sugar falls in the ingredient list since the lists are made according to the amounts of ingredients from most to least. If sugar isn’t listed, look for honey, syrup, glucose, fructose, maltose, sorbitol, or corn syrup–just because it’s made from corn doesn’t mean that it’s good for you. If sugar (or other listed sweetness) is in the top 5, put it back on the shelf and hunt for something else. The sneakiest places that sugar is lurking are in snack foods (even ‘healthy’ ones) and drinks.
- LAY OFF EXCESSIVE CARBS. Carbohydrates are chemical compositions in food that turn into sugar one you’ve eaten them. I mean stop eating chips just because they are there (since you may not have purged them when you were hunting for sugary things). Stick to a healthy diet (I don’t mean the term that people use now-a-days that limits what you eat. I mean a daily regimen of food that you should eat.)
- EXERCISE! It burns off unneeded calories and the fat you may have gained eating empty calories in the past. It doesn’t even have to be hard–try your hand at yoga, or just go walking every other night (down the street, at the mall or supermarket–you name it!)
- KEEP A POSITIVE MENTAL ATTITUDE! Don’t tell yourself that you can’t have sugar. That only makes you want to have it more. And, don’t make a big deal when you do eat sugar. If you make a big deal about eating sugar (like a piece of cake at a party, etc.) you feel guilty and are prone to eat more sugar to feel better (remember the quiz?). All you have to do is be sure that you burn the calories that you ate by walking (or whatever your exercise is). No biggie.
- EAT A PROPER DIET (THAT’S NOT LADEN WITH SUGAR). If you look at labels when you shop and refrain from indulging every time you get the chance, this shouldn’t be hard at all. Recommended serving sizes are as follows:
Veggies–1 cup raw, 1/2 cup cooked
Fruit–1 medium fruit (an apple, orange, etc.), 1/2 cup canned/chopped fruit. (if you get the canned, be sure that the fruit is in water and not sugary syrup.)
Whole grains–1 slice of bread, 2/3 cups of cereal, 1/2 cup cooked pasta/cereal (like oatmeal), 1/2 cup cooked beans or lentils
Dairy–1 cup of low fat/2% milk
Don’t worry; you aren’t alone in your endeavor to limit the sugar in your life. There are other people out there who are attempting to do the exact same thing as you (for example, here’s a blogger who even has a blog dedicated to her fight for a sugar-free life.)
If the thought of living live without sweetness discourages you to even try to live sugar-free, you can always use sugar substitues. But before you go out and buy the most convenient substitute, be sure you read up on the stuff. For example, know that Splenda has potential side effects. For more information specifically about Splenda, see this website. Here’s a quick site I found for the best (and healthiest) sugar substitues.
There are plenty of books and programs you can join that will help you limit your sugar intake. My particular favorite is the 30 Day Sugar-Free Challenge that was designed by a doctor to break the sugar addiction. There are two versions to this–one you can pay for, and one that is free (I use this one). It signs you up for daily, encouraging emails to help you with your journey. The only thing that I don’t agree with in this program is that the creator says to stay away from grains–even whole grains. Since eating whole grains is how I get most of my fiber, I eat my grains in moderation, but I follow everything else.
However, you should know that if you cut your sugar intake cold turkey (especially if you’ve been eating substantial amounts a day), you will have ‘flu like’ symptoms. I’m going through them right now, but they only last for a week or so. Don’t worry; you aren’t really sick. It’s just your body expelling the nasties you’ve begun to stop feeding your body. For more information, see the bottom part of this blog.
I really hope you don’t go into denial and refuse to admit that you are addicted to sugar (if you are, and you know it.) I hope this post has been informative and inspirational to you all. Thanks for reading!