Ah, sugar.

On the surface, I know that if I eat too much of it, it is bad for my health.

Normally, that would be enough for me to simply avoid it altogether. Except…in this instance….it’s just soooo delicious.

Which, again, is the reason for the internal dilemma I face each day, right around mid-afternoon. This is when my sugar cravings start to kick in. This is the time I want to throw all caution to the wind and indulge in that bowl of ice cream…Or batch of brownies…or convince my daughter to whip up some cookies….or really eat just about anything sweet I find laying around my house. I’m not picky, and with seven children at home we generally have these kinds of foods on hand!

Over the next several weeks, we are going to be spending a great deal of our time together talking about the health concerns surrounding a diet that is high in added sugars. We are going to encourage you to reduce your sugar intake. We will even empower you with recipes and tips to help you along the way.

So before we actually begin with all of that, I want you to know that the thought of eliminating added sugars from my diet makes my head hurt.

I don’t want to do it.

Somewhere, deep inside, my 3-year-old self is crying because she can’t have that lollipop. Because I really, really want that lollipop.

I share this with you because sometimes I get the feeling that people think that things like this are just easy for me because I am an advocate for healthy living. That since I enjoy healthy foods, I must not like or miss junk food at all. That maybe I’m just not a “dessert person”….So therefore, I could never understand the struggles they face in trying to make a change to their diets.

Please. Let me be the first to assure you that this is not the case!

For the first 33 years of my life, I paid zero attention to the foods I ate.

I have pretty much always exercised, and never really had an issue with my weight. Therefore, I thought that gave me a free pass to eat whatever I wanted. Because in my mind, the only reason I would even watch my diet in the first place would be so that I could maintain a healthy weight. I, like most teenagers and twenty-somethings, never once considered the long-term health consequences of eating an unhealthy diet.

So I ate whatever I felt like eating.

No really, I did. I worked at Mc Donalds for four years. Every day I’d eat chicken nuggets wrapped in cheese, with a side of fries dipped in ice cream. I drank pop. I loaded my coffee with cream and sugar. I ate all the Twizzlers. I hoarded pink starburst like they were being discontinued.

Then I had babies. With each pregnancy, I developed gestational diabetes.

I didn’t even know what it was.

To be completely honest, even that wasn’t enough for me to really change my eating habits.

Again, because I didn’t have a weight issue, my doctors assured me that the gestational diabetes was likely the cause of a placenta issue and not diet related. After my first three pregnancies, my body quickly returned to normal blood sugar levels soon after delivery – serving only to solidify my beliefs that I could eat whatever I wanted and be completely fine.

Then came Henry. My sweet baby number 4 (no pun intended).

With Henry, my gestational diabetes was so bad that I had to go on medication. He had to be delivered two weeks early because he was SO BIG. Because I didn’t time my medication correctly, I hit a blood sugar low as he was being born and nearly passed out during delivery.

Six weeks later, I was still borderline diabetic. I was told that if I didn’t change my diet, there was no question that I would develop full-blown diabetes before the age of 35.

This was my wake up call.

For the last 8+ years, I have been studying sugar. What it does in the body. Where it hides in our foods. How I can reduce added sugars from my diet. How I can overcome those cravings that hit each and every day.

Sugar isn’t just a physical craving. For me, it is also emotional. It reminds me of a more simple, carefree time in my life. Even though I know the health effects of eating too much, it is still hard to give up. It is still hard not to feel deprived or sad about what I’m missing out on when I see others around me indulge in all the foods I love.

I know I’m not alone in my feelings. But just because I feel a certain way, doesn’t mean I don’t have to do the hard thing that goes along with it.

This is why I am going to spend the next several weeks pushing all of us out of our comfort zones.

Over Lent, we are holding a 40-day Sugar Free Challenge. From February 26-April 12, I am calling on all of us as a Maple Tree Family to encourage and support one another to eliminate added sugars from our diets.

Will it be easy? No. But nothing worthwhile ever is! That is why I hope you will consider joining us. Together, we can do hard things!