The most awkward speaking engagement I’ve ever done was a few years ago. I was asked to speak at a nurse’s retreat on the topic of nutrition and stress management. Because, apparently, learning how to eat healthy is stressful.
I spoke just before lunch, and then was invited to stay and eat with the group. A fast food company catered the event.
Imagine. One minute, I’m telling them all about how to eat a plant-based diet that is low in saturated fats and fried foods. The next, the room is filled with the sweet smell of salty, greasy food.
I could tell they couldn’t wait for me to leave.
Nutrition is a touchy topic! No one wants you to mess with their food. Ever since the serpent used food to tempt Eve in the garden, it has been a weakness for us. We want to eat what we want and let that be the end of it.
I understand. In fact, for most of my life, I never really gave much thought to the foods I ate. I had a HUGE sweet tooth.
Yes, you read that right. I couldn’t get enough sugar. Ice cream, cookies, chocolate….I indulged in them all! I have been an avid exerciser since the age of 5, so I used that as an excuse to eat whatever I wanted.
This all caught up to me during my pregnancies. I have been diagnosed with gestational diabetes a total of seven times. Sometimes, my blood sugar was so out of control that I had to go on medication to try and control it. My babies were always born a few weeks too early and looked like tiny linebackers. After each pregnancy, I continued to struggle with dramatic highs and lows with my blood sugars. After my fourth child, I was diagnosed as a boarder line diabetic.
This was when I finally received my wake up call.
It took that diagnosis for me to realize that my health was important. Just because I exercised, I didn’t have a free pass to eat whatever I wanted!
I started to realize that eating a diet rich in sugary foods was not just impacting me physiologically, but physically and emotionially as well. I noted that when I ate high amounts of sugar, I would feel more fatigued. I would also be moody. I experienced constant cravings for more sugar. My joints ached in the mornings.
As a mother of young children, I knew this was not how I wanted to live my life! So, I took charge of my health. Being a nerdy researcher, I studied all I could about sugar. I learned that sugar contains no nutrients, no protein, no healthy fats, and no enzymes. It is not a food group. It is just empty calories that are quickly digested. As it is digested, it actually pulls minerals from the body, creating a hormone cascade that begins a positive feedback loop in the body that makes it crave even more sugar. It can increase cholesterol and triglycerides, contributing to Leptin Resistance, weight gain, cravings, sleep troubles, and an addictive response in the brain.
This led me to do something drastic.
I cut all sugar out of my diet. Cold turkey.
Yes, I almost died.
BUT, I got my blood sugar back under control! I also lost a bunch of weight and had more energy than I have had in years. My mood improved. My joint pains were gone.
That was nearly 7 years ago. Of course, I have had some slip ups here and there. Honestly, I couldn’t imagine my life without Graeters Cotton Candy ice cream every once and a while! But for the most part, I have maintained a sugarfree lifestyle.
That is all to say that this is DOABLE!! There is life after sugar!! A pretty sweet life, if you ask me! (See what I did there?)
Maybe you have been thinking about reducing your sugar intake. Here are some tips things that helped me, and I hope they will help you as well!
1. Go cold turkey. Yes, the initial 48 to 72 hours are tough. Really tough. But, that is what it took for me to diminish my cravings. You see, I'm generally an all-or-nothing gal. Why eat one cookie when you can have a whole box? So little bites here and there would never cut it for me. I'd never be satisfied with simply reducing my intake and trying to manage that. It wouldn’t work for me, and I would bet that if you are still reading this, it won’t work for you either. Cold turkey is the only way!
2. Grab some gum. If you want to avoid giving in to a sugar craving completely, try chewing a stick of gum. Sugar free, of course. But it really works!
3. Reach for fruit. Genesis 1:29 reveals that God gave us every seed-bearing plant and every tree that has fruit in it for food. Some people get hung up on natural sugars, and use that as an excuse to avoid fruit. But naturally occurring sugars are balanced with enzymes and are easily digested. Further, they are full of fiber and important vitamins and nutrients, so enjoy! The natural sweetness is sure to kick your craving to the curb!
4. Get up and go. When a sugar craving hits, walk away. Take a walk around the block or do something to take your mind off the food you’re craving. In 5 minutes, you will have forgotten all about that cookie!
5. Drink Ice Water. It sounds crazy. But I have found that drinking a full glass of ice cold water does wonders for my cravings! It also gives my belly the feeling of fullness so that I don’t overeat on something else while I’m trying to avoid sugar and rehydrates me! Win, Win, Win!
Good luck! You totally got this!