Oh my dear, beautiful, wonderful Anon. Believe me when I say these next words: I understand.
I struggle against sugar in a way that no one close to me understands. It goes beyond cravings, beyond enjoyment, beyond healthy. It borders on obsession. It gets in the way of my school work, my job and I beat my head against it at home. My husband thinks I’m exaggerating and my friends remain mostly unaware that the problem exists. So when I say I struggle with it, I mean it.
Here are some things from my arsenal in the war against sugar obsession:
- Remove the really bad temptations from the house. Cookies, cakes, pies, pudding and any “just add eggs/water/milk/oil” mixes. Throw them away. Rip open the bags and dump them in the woods and let the squirrels get a sugar high.
- Make a list for when you go grocery shopping and only get what’s on the list. (I avoid forgetting things by having a magnetic white-board on my freezer door and writing down what I need as I realize it. Then, when I go shopping, there is little chance of missing anything important.)
- Create a routine. This may appeal to you or this may sound like the worst idea ever… eat the same damn things every day for all your meals. Create a routine that incorporates all your important foods. If you don’t have to say “hmmmm, what do I want to eat?” then you won’t go flipping through drawers, cabinets, the pantry or the fridge trying to answer the eternal question… only to be side-tracked by the determination that pancakes, loaded with maple syrup, is the best idea for a mid-morning snack that you’ve ever dreamed of. (I’ll give you an example of one of my standard days at the end of this.)
- Sugar (in all its forms) should be slowly removed. Quitting sugar “cold turkey” is not a good plan. Believe me when I tell you this: a moderate decrease over the course of weeks is your best bet.
- Fake sugar is no better than real sugar when it comes to curbing cravings. If anything, it’s worse. Studies have shown that fake sugar doesn’t stimulate the brain in the same way as real sugar, so while your mouth is tasting sweet your brain is asking for more because it still hasn’t been stimulated. This can be dangerous for obvious reasons.
Here is my sample routine day:
Breakfast: 1/2 C rolled oats cooked in 1 C soy milk and 1 piece of fruit.
Mid-morning snack: 1 serving of vegetables
Lunch: 1 Joseph’s flax pita pocket smeared with 2 tsp honey mustard and stuffed with spinach, carrot shreds, tomato slices, cucumber slices, alfalfa sprouts, 1/2 an apple sliced and 1/2 an avocado sliced or mashed. I eat the other half of the apple on the side.
Afternoon snack: 1 slice of cinnamon raisin bread topped with 1 serving of Dark Chocolate Dreams peanut butter.
Dinner: (This is where I allow for more variation in my meal, but still stick with a standard of 1 serving of protein and 2 servings of veggies. I’m not a fan of starches but if you are, add in a serving of potatoes or whole grain something-or-other) 1 serving of Salmon flavored with curry powder, salt and pepper, cooked in a pan lightly coated with olive oil spray, 1 serving of steamed Brussels sprouts halved and topped with 1 Tbsp of low sodium soy sauce and sprinkled with hot pepper flakes and 1 small side salad made with spinach, broccoli, cauliflower, carrots, craisins, sunflower seeds and cheese and sprayed with balsamic vinegar.
Evening snack: air popped popcorn topped with cinnamon and salt. (I put my salt in a coffee/herb grinder to powder it and get perfect popcorn coverage!)
I have several “routine” meals that I shift in and out as I see necessary. But the less deviation there is from the routine, the more successful I am.
Now, I’m going to regale you with a story from the past few months of my life. If you only want to read the advice part of this answer, then stop here. This is my personal struggle that I am sharing and I thought it may be helpful to see that others face similar problems. We all fall and we all struggle to get back up.
I was kicking ass and taking names this year. I got my eating in order, my exercise in order and I was becoming a lean, mean, awesome-machine. Then… my mother ruined everything. (unintentionally, of course.) Easter came and she decided that buying me several POUNDS of marshmallows, chocolate and candies was a good idea. Since then, I have been a disaster. I fell so far off track I didn’t even know how to start again. I fell off the healthy train somewhere in the middle of the deep dark woods and I had no idea how to get out again.
I tried to just get back on where I’d left off, but I failed. I tried a new tactic (stupid idea) and failed. I tried another new tactic (still a stupid idea) and failed. Do you see a trend here? I did too. Clearly, what I HAD been doing, before I fell, was working. BUT… I couldn’t hop back on where I left off. I needed to crawl back onto the tracks of the long-gone health train and start off slowly again. I needed to rediscover why it had worked in the past. It was because I did it gradually. It was because I had a routine. It was because I slowly removed sugar and naughty foods from my life.
I’ve been a disaster for months, struggling against myself and against where I know I was. In the grand scheme of things, the fall was not terrible for my body. My over-all gain was small… between 4 and 5 pounds… but the struggle in my mind has been horrific. Just over the past 3 weeks have I really discovered my old path. I have to be willing to stumble, crawl, crash, bleed, cry, sweat and curse to get back to where I was. Just like the first time I got there.
The key is to never stop. Never give up. Never quit. And don’t give in to quick fixes. They are a lie. Decrease your sugar intake 1/2 a tsp at a time. Next thing you know, it will be a thing of the past. But, like a recovering alcoholic, once you are better, avoid it like the plague. You may not be able to handle the stimulus of sugar. I can’t. I know that now. I’m 3 weeks back into my slow removal and doing well, but I know what it takes to fall and I know how hard it is to get back up. Come to me any time you need, I am always here for you.