How to Conquer Your Sugar Habit
Swedish Fish Fat-Free Fig Newton Girl: That was the nickname given to me my senior year of college by the man who managed the small convenience store below my apartment building, where each week I would buy bags of, yes, Swedish Fish and Fat-Free Fig Newtons. The American Heart Association says 24 to 36 grams (6 to 9 teaspoons) of sugar per day is a safe quantity. I was having about 140 in snacks alone.
While I may have kicked my Swedish Fish and Fat-Free Fig Newton habit post-college, I still found myself eating a lot of sugar, mainly in the form of refined carbohydrates. A typical day would be a granola bar or bagel for breakfast, chicken wrap with chips for lunch, and pizza, pasta, or tacos for dinner.
I wasn't overweight-I wasn't eating a lot, just a lot of sugar-but about a year ago, I began to develop gastrointestinal/digestive issues as well as cystic acne flare ups. Visits to my gastroenterologist and dermatologist determined that my diet was a large contributor, and both doctors told me to cut out the sugar by going on a low-glycemic index diet.
And I did, but it was like watching an episode of My Crazy Addiction. The more I knew sugar was forbidden, the more I craved it. I would stand in front of the dessert stand in the cafeteria in my office building with my bowl of barely dressed greens, eyeing the cupcakes and brownies. By week two, I was gorging on sweets that I had never even eaten prior to the new diet. When my co-worker saw me polish off the last piece of the five-pound bag of chocolate-covered Swedish Fish, she handed me I Quit Sugar an 8-week sugar detox plan and cookbook by journalist Sarah Wilson (Clarkson Potter).
Wilson wrote the book after quitting sugar three years ago in an effort to combat an autoimmune disease and also because she hated the feeling of not being able to get through the day without sugar.
There was the 10 a.m. cinnamon roll, the apple pie after lunch, and the chocolate in the afternoon, all of which left her feeling exhausted, foggy headed, bloated, and physically and emotionally imbalanced. Since taking sugar out of her diet, she's lost 30 pounds, stabilized her appetite and metabolism, evened out her moods, and decreased the symptoms of her thyroid disease. "I'm on one-tenth of the medication I was on before I quit sugar," she says.
Wilson's guide isn't meant to be a diet. Instead it's about what you can eat and should eat more of. Her main emphasis is replacing sugar with lean quality protein and wholesome, unprocessed fats, i.e. cheese! So much cheese!
And there is sugar in there too. It's just not the kind of sugar (fructose) that messes with your hormones, metabolism, and brain chemistry. Wilson uses brown rice syrup, a fructose-free slow-releasing carb, to sweeten recipes like Chocolate Coconut Nut Balls, Chocolate Nut Butter Cups, and Crunchy-Nut Cheesecake.
I've been doing a low sugar diet for about five months now. I haven't cut it out entirely. When I'm at a restaurant I get whatever I want, but I've cut way back when I'm eating alone. I am definitely more aware of how much sugar I'm consuming. And in the end, I'm less sluggish and more mentally alert throughout the day, my acne has cleared up, and my digestive issues have calmed down; the benefits of this sugar free diet have proven to be pretty sweet!