There are so many how-to’s for quitting sugar the industry must be very proud of itself, but nothing is quicker or more satisfying—and doable—than just quitting.
It seemed like a simple idea at first: check out the latest thinking on how to curb sugar craving. Google threw listicles at us like kids throw the first snowballs of winter—all of them significantly different.
Before clicking on links, which you will find in the usual place at the end of this blog post, it occurred to us to contact our friend Cynthia, in Portland, Oregon. Cynthia knows a thing or two about the subject because he has not ingested refined sugar in more than seven years.
Here’s what Cynthia had to say:
Whatever’s in those listicles, I can tell you without clicking that I tried them all. What no one told me was that the way to stop the craving was to stop eating sugar. But not only is that the only thing that has ever worked for me, it works great! I vaguely remember that the idea, obvious now, seemed shocking at first.
Back when I thought—was sure—that I couldn’t live without sugar, happily anyway, I knew it was the problem. The negative effects of refined sugar – joint pains, spikes and sudden drops of energy – are too clear for even me to deny. I took seriously, if in a grumbling kind of way, the idea that refined sugar was, or was the equivalent of, a drug, a toxin—a carcinogen, even. Now I no longer even read articles about it.
Don’t get me wrong. Getting off refined sugar is a process of detox, no doubt about it. So it’s different for different people, particularly in terms of the duration of the discomfort. But the detox is, compared to that of other substances, relatively quick.
It requires only one thing, but nothing else will do: resolve. Every time I say this I’m afraid I’m going to get some instant karma kickback from Nancy Reagan, but the truest words she ever said were “Just say no.” And, of course, then don’t. No matter what.
What nobody tells you is that you notice the benefits at the same speed you feel the pains of detox lessen. The joint aches leave in a day or two, moods and energy levels even out in a matter of days, you sleep better and—and this may be the thing you notice most—the change in your mental acuity is striking. Your thinking is clearer; you forget less. So you get positive reinforcement right away.
Even better, these things increase, and it’s impossible not to notice that it’s the foods with refined sugar that were gumming up your system. If you’re lucky, as I was, those foods quickly look like harmful, not pleasant things.
Having quit smoking too, I’d say they’re exactly alike. Three days off and you’re through the worst of it. A month and you’re pretty stable. Month two and you have a deep aversion to smells and other nastiness of cigarettes. But you can’t lose your resolve. Have “just one” at a party, and I can guarantee you that you won’t think about anything else for the next week, whether you succumb or not.
I don’t ask you to believe this until it happens to you, but I can almost promise you that the dependence on sugar--even the interest in sugar--will vanish.
I belong to a twelve-step program that’s super strict about sugar and flour, and although each of us has an individual experience of the process, what we all say—and wonder at—is that with just one trick, we get to the point where we can walk past the bakery counter and through the impulse counters by the grocery-store checkout lanes and not even see what once would have been irresistible temptations.
We start to identify the things that don’t work for us, or harm us, and simply call them “other people’s food.” Becuase it;s not like they're not there. But you wouldn;t likely linger in the kosher section if you were not Jewish or in the halal section if you were not Muslim. All I can say is that it works, and a short time, you can sit at table with people gobbling desserts and no only not be tempted but not see their desserts.
The thing is, once you decide “no.” every no thereafter, out loud or to yourself, becomes easier, more affirmative. And it eliminates the fundamental problem: thinking. In the end, calculating how much sugar you can have, in what form, when, and how, is exhausting. You can lose a day circling a donut or you can say no and move on.
The freedom is in losing the sweet tooth in the first place. Sugar is a little like makeup on a prostitute; it enhances the naughtiness factor. It’s not a flavor but a quality, and it’s a bossy one, too. It’s the Wicked Witch of the West that says, “We’re all going to die; always eat dessert first.” Dispense with sugar and you’ll be amazed at the orgiastic treat of a fresh, ripe tomato.
But what about artificial sweeteners?
Do you really like them? Some are more convincing than others, but almost all of them leave a chemical, even metallic aftertaste. Care to guess why?
And if you wonder what doctors think about them, all available opinions are out there, waving their little flags in scientific self-confidence.
Most approved diets for people with type-2 diabetes do make allowances for fruit—certain fruits—and if the list looks conspicuously lacking in mangoes, have faith. When your sweet tooth has calmed down, less rambunctiously sweet fruits will seem fully satisfying.
Of the alternatives, simply quitting sugar is easiest.
If you’re encountering that thought for the first time, it’s likely to seem jsut plain mad. But the millions of people do it will be happy to support you with their experience that cutting refined sugar out of your life will give you back your body, your mind, your peace of mind, and large sections of clothes in the far recesses of your wardrobe.
But “giving it a try” may not work. It takes resolve, but, looked at positively, it’s a decision you only have to make once, not every time you’re standing at the bakery counter, trying not to be noticed.
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