Why You Don't Have to Quit Sugar to Be Healthy
Have you quit or detoxed from sugar yet? Haven't you heard sugar will kill you?
It's toxic, dangerous, and poison. Right?
Here's the honest truth: I'm a dietitian who eats sugar, nearly everyday.
Yup, you heard me - real sugar.
I'm healthy - and happy - at least a lot happier than I was on an anti-sugar kick.
Yes, I tried to ditch refined sugar for a month or so in the past, but it never worked for me. I don't believe refined sugar has much to offer us (because of its lack of vitamins & minerals), but I know that treats are an enjoyable part of my life. Whenever I tried to quit sugar, it ended up backfiring and kicked my sweet tooth into high gear. I realized that only by giving myself unconditional permission to eat anything - yes anything - that my sweet tooth no longer felt out of control.
I realized that my sweet tooth really kicked up during a few times:
1. When I let myself get stressed to the max!
If I have a long day of clients and don't give myself time for breaks, my body and mind go into overdrive. By giving myself time during the day - walks, a lunch break, or a mid-day yoga class - my mind and body are able to refresh during the day. If not, the stress builds...and sugar cravings come roaring.
2. If self-care is lacking.
It's the same concept as above - when I don't take the time for ME, my emotions and needs build up. Personally, that's when I crave sugar because it CAN calm me down for a few moments. Yet, I can prevent crazy cravings by doing daily self-care - meditation, moving my body, eating well-balanced meals, sleeping, etc. - and taking time to feel my feelings.
3. Before that time of the month ladies.
Getting in tune with my hormones & cycle has been amazing! Seriously, I love talking about my period and fertility with friends. I know that the few days before WILL bring cravings for chocolate. It's okay - I'm always prepared with a bar or so in the freezer and cacao powder in my cupboard for smoothies and other goodies. I also take more time for self-care and rest during this time - my body needs it!
Here are 5 things to Know about Sugar:
1. Sugar in whole foods is perfectly natural.
In the summer, I crave fruit! Delicious, fresh berries and crisp watermelon...mm, I could live on it. Yes, there is "sugar" in fruit, but it's also loaded with vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, fiber, and exuberant amounts of flavor. By trusting your body, you'll crave fruit along with a whole bunch of other foods. I know that I crave more fruit in the summer and crave more starchy, root veggies in the winter.
2. Refined sugar is found everywhere in the food supply.
It is a good idea to check out how much sugar you are actually eating. Start reading ingredient labels for hidden sources of sugar - ketchup, salad dressings, granola bars, cereals, peanut butter, etc. You may be surprised by how much sugar you're eating, even if you're not eating candy or sweets often. By eating mostly whole foods, you'll avoid a lot of refined sugar.
3. Eating well-balanced meals can help curb sugar cravings.
When you eat balanced meals full of real foods - carbohydrates, fiber, fat, and protein - you'll fill your body with tons of nutrients and keep your energy and hunger hormones stable. You'll also want to be sure to eat enough food throughout the day. When you have meals with mainly carbohydrates or sugar alone (think soda), your hunger will be out of control, and you'll need a constant supply of sugar to keep going.
Yes, a lot of people may not agree with me, but I'm not convinced one study on rats (not humans) where rats choose sugar over cocaine is convincing enough. As I've mentioned, sugar cravings are totally normal, and investigating them can help you figure out what your body needs. You could legitimately need more fuel, balanced meals, have a hormone imbalance, or an emotional need to address.
5. Sugar tastes delicious.
A cookie tastes delicious straight, but the out of control feeling you get around sweets isn't from a sugar addiction. If you're telling yourself NO to sugar, things may be great when happy and feel good! What about when you're stressed out and have a terrible day at work? Yeah, you may feel out of control and eat the whole box. Not because you're addicted to sugar but because you're trying to meet an emotional need with food.
Yes, sugar doesn't have much nutritional value, but life isn't about trying to optimize your health as much as possible. It's about feeling good, and being healthy in the body and the mind.
When you start to trust your body, you can learn what makes both your mind and body feel good.
You'll also start to really enjoy the food you eat without that terrible guilt and shame that may lead you straight into a binge or trying to control yourself. Stressing out about everything morsel of food you eat may be worse for your health than actually enjoying food you love.
I would LOVE to hear your insights about eating sugar. Comment below with the answer to one (or more!) of the questions below:
- When do you most often crave sugar?
- Why do you crave sugar? Get specific, and see if you can figure out what's causing your sweet tooth to go crazy!
- Do you need to give yourself permission to allow treats into your life?