February 01, 2014

Sugar, sugar

“They say it’s harder to give up than cocaine,” said my daughter, helpfully, when I told her I was going to stop eating refined sugar. I haven’t, actually, had any experience kicking a cocaine habit, but after going without sugar for most of last month, I am beginning to think she’s right.

It was last semester when I came to the realization that I needed to stop eating refined sugar. I don’t mean small amounts, like the sugar that’s used as glaze on carrots. I’m talking about the slabs of chocolate I’d eat while grading papers, or the whole cartons of tofutti I could consume in one sitting. I have the theory that my body doesn’t handle sugar well: I get an initial rush from the sugar, and then the crash comes while I am teaching my afternoon class. And there didn’t seem to be any compelling reason why I needed refined sugar.

So I figured I’d treat sugar like any other addiction: I’d take it a day at a time. I give myself a gold star any day that I go a whole day without sugar. Yes, I mean that literally. I bought a packet of adhesive stars at the drugstore.

I haven’t deprived myself of all sweets. I eat fresh fruit every day. I use honey, maple syrup, and other natural sweeteners. I eat unlimited amounts of healthy foods.

And I definitely feel better now in the afternoons. I don’t get that droopy, tired feeling. I don’t know if it’s from eliminating sugar in my diet or whether it’s a placebo effect, but whatever. It’s working.

But still. On the days I work at home, I still crave sugar. I still think longingly of the things I used to eat: squares of dark chocolate, handfuls of chocolate chips, mints pressed between chocolate, whole chocolate bars. I don’t have any of that stuff in my house any more, but I think if a girl scout showed up at my door selling cookies – or better yet, chocolate bars — I’d pay whatever price she was asking.


Lorianne said...

What about organic cane sugar? These organic stone-ground Mexican chocolate disks are wonderful: intensely flavorful but not highly sweetened.

jo(e) said...

Will my body react differently to organic cane sugar? (I love that you sent me to a site where I can buy chocolates by the case.)

Mary Stebbins Taitt said...

I gave up refined sugar ages ago--a long row to hoe, and I still slip when traveling or at holidays--and always pay a price.

Organic sugar is still sugar.

I had to also give up all sweeteners of any kind, and cut back on fruit consumption. Unfortunately. :-(

Lorianne said...

I don't know whether cane sugar "counts" as refined sugar, or how the body processes it. But I find that my cravings for chocolate candy (i.e. highly sweetened chocolate) and the more intensely flavored/largely unsweetened stuff are completely different.

With sweet chocolate, I can't stop myself eating. With the intense stuff, I eat a few squares and then naturally stop: it feels like "enough."

This makes me think (and granted, this is entirely subjective and un-scientific) that when I'm craving chocolate, I'm actually craving sugar, and it's possible to satisfy the chocolate-craving without giving into the sugar-craving.

Michelle said...

The body processes organic cane sugar just like regular sugar (because sucrose is sucrose to the enzymes, regardless of source). Sugars in fruits is subject the moderating effect of fiber...it's essentially a slow release of sugars as the fruit matrix is digested. Which should help with the afternoon droops...

I didn't go cold turkey, but am trying to dial back the fast release sweets and increase the fruits for similar reasons. Good luck!

jo(e) said...

Ah, that explains why my body seems to handle fruit fine.

Anonymous said...

It gets easier. I would recommend dropping honey and syrup before dropping dark chocolate. You will find that you can appreciate much darker chocolate than you used to be able to, and in small high quality amounts. I recommend Green and Black 70-90% dark. You won't need much.

I also eat as much fruit as I want, though grapes are more sugary than apples or cherries. Glycemic index will give you a good idea about what is likely to spike your blood sugar.

Tie-Dye Brother-in-law said...

I thought dark chocolate counted as a healthy food?

Jennifer (ponderosa) said...

I don't have a sweet tooth; instead salt is my nemesis. I could eat a whole box of Cheez-its in one sitting. So I started making myself "savory smoothies": plain yogurt w/ flavored olive oil + crushed mint & spinach leaves ... and salt. I know! No one else in the world would ever like that, right? But I have one of those and I feel healthy (and self-righteous : ) and I get my salt fix and, best of all, the ritual of making one feels special. I think sometimes the specialness is part of the craving.

Lomagirl said...

She'd be asking $4, and I'll mail them to you for free.
Just kidding. I really try not to give addicts their drug of choice.
I gave up sugar and gluten for a month last spring. I did feel better- I thought it was giving up flour, but it could have been the sugar, too. After a month I went back to it, and I can't just have a little.
I'm Lomagirl, and I'm a sugar addict.

Lomagirl said...

Jennifer- sounds like a middle eastern yogurt drink. The mint sounds great.