We’re hit with more and more bitter news: our favorite sweets are toxic and addictive. As science explores obesity and metabolic syndrome, we’re getting the message that less is more when it comes to those sweets. The news can overwhelm us—for eliminating sugar can seem impossible. It’s added to all kinds of foods. We love it. And it’s hard to stop eating.
My last blog touched on abstinence vs. moderation. In other words, do you try to cut down, learn to “eat just one”, or go eliminate sweets completely? For most of us, reducing sugar’s presence in our households and on our plates makes a sensible and solid first step. It needn’t necessarily involve eliminating whole categories of foods. Habit changes, and health benefits will accrue nevertheless.
As you begin this process, let “practice, not perfect,” guide you. Try to treat the “not perfect” gently. Beating yourself up for imperfections won’t help, and might even hurt. Panicking, or turning sweets into “forbidden pleasures” won’t help either. Start with a few household changes now, and you’ll get to a better place in time. I list here some beginning ideas.
1.) check labels on any foods you eat regularly that come in cans, jars, or boxes. If any contain unexpected sugar, look for a similar type or another brand that doesn’t. Or, eliminate the food if practical.
2.) check labels on store-bought or take-out sweets (for example, cereals, doughnuts). See if you can find other items that you like that contain fewer grams per serving (for cereals, aim for under 5g per serving).
3.) think about all the times you eat sweets during the week. Try eliminating one.
4.) again think of your weekly sweets intake. Are there any that aren’t particularly special to you? Could you let those go?
5.) if you drink soda or other sweetened beverages, experiment with replacements. Diet drinks aren’t nutritious, but they do cut sugar intake. If you don’t like those sweetened with Aspartame, try one with Splenda. Beyond diet sodas, lemonades, and iced teas, think of water, seltzer, vitamin water, herb tea, seltzer with a splash of juice. Any of these substitutions can radically reduce your overall sugar intake.
6.) if sweets in the house lead to grazing or binging, try buying fewer, or even none at all (in other words, you’ve got to go out to get the stuff).
7.) keeps lots of good fruits and berries on hand. Use these for snacks and desserts more often. You’re likely to develop more desire for them as you enjoy them more.
Family discussions can help ease any or all of these changes. You won’t have to wrestle so much with temptation if others don’t insist on keeping stores of cookies and candy. The idea of improving nutrition and forming better habits can appeal even to kids, and reaching goals rewards everyone.
Give yourself plenty of time to get used to reductions and replacements. New habits take weeks to stick. Once they supplant the old, though, you’ll feel better for it. And the good news from science is that future changes come easier once you’ve made the starting ones.
Dr. Katz’ workbook, Eat Sanely: Get off the Diet Roller Coaster for Good, is available in paperback, or as an ebook for Kindle, Nook, or ipad: www.eatsanely.com/order-the-eat-sanely-weight-loss-workbook