Phew. That was hard to type. I can only imagine how hard it will be to do. If you know me at all, you know that I have similar tendencies of a sugar addict. In fact, I'd say that I'm dangerously close to being one. Nilla wafers, chocolate covered raisins, peanut butter cookies, cake batter ice cream... I love the stuff. And I would gladly give up any meal of the day to indulge in all of the above. Most of the time, however, I manage to resist the alluring temptations of sugary treats, but on the rare (or not so rare) occasions that I simply can't, the concept of moderation goes right out the window the moment I sink my teeth into my first Oreo. Let's face it, people. As much as I try, moderation just doesn't seem to work for me. If you're one of those people who can nibble on a Snickers Mini and be completely satisfied, or stop after a couple bites of chocolate cake, I truly commend your wicked self-control. But you see, I'm no nibbler. When I allow myself dessert, it takes all of my strength not to devour every sugary thing in sight. I guess you could say I'm an "all or nothing" kind of girl, and on days when my sweet cravings get the best of me, this particular mindset becomes my worst enemy.
I tried wiping sweets from my diet once before, when I was a junior in high school. I was so caught up in the physical results that I took things a bit too far. By obsessively counting calories and cutting all of my portions in half, I began losing weight that I never needed to lose. The thing is, I didn't understand the (huge) difference between being skinny and being healthy, and this common misconception pointed me down a dark road of major consequences that I sometimes feel like I'm still facing. Since then, however, I've realized that overall wellness has nothing to do with having the tiniest waist or reaching a certain weight on the scale. It's about nourishing the body and giving it what it needs, all the while making an effort to be active and stay hydrated. Which is why filling up on wholesome, energy-fueling foods instead of processed junk is an essential step in the right direction.
Now, I'm not going to lie. I've heard time and time again that moderation is key. But after three years of desperately trying (and failing) to incorporate life's most difficult concept into my eating habits, I'm more than ready to throw in the towel. Some might think that I'm crazy for attempting a no-sugar regime in today's sugar-swamped world, but I truly believe that my health depends on it, and I'm willing to give it a shot for multiple reasons. Besides the most obvious—that consuming too much sugar is basically asking to become victim of high blood pressure, obesity, diabetes, and heart disease—the white powdery stuff also rots the teeth, weakens the immune system, causes bouts of depression, and triggers acne flare-ups. Not to mention its seemingly harmless yet strangely addicting effects that can leave a girl drained of energy and full of guilt after a Saturday night date with Ben & Jerry. Seriously, you guys. This stuff wreaks havoc on our emotions AND our waistlines. No bueno.
So there you have it, about 10 straightforward reasons why I'm quitting. Put simply, I'm ready to become the healthiest me I've ever been, even if that means omitting my favorite go-to comfort foods. But you might be wondering what I mean exactly when I say that I'm "quitting sugar"? Because let's be honest—sugar is in EVERYTHING, and it would be absolutely impossible to stay away from it completely. Which is why I'm giving myself a little leeway in distinguishing the good sugars from the bad sugars. Hear me out. Not all sweeteners are created equal. In fact, some natural sweeteners (like honey, agave nectar, maple syrup, etc.) are good sources of antioxidants and other nutrients that aid in digestion and overall health. When eaten in moderation (there's that pesky word again), they are much better alternatives to the processed, nutrition-less sugar that we all know and love. Personally, I like to add no more than a spoonful of honey or agave nectar to plain yogurt, unsweetened oatmeal, or hot tea whenever I need a boost of flavor. Fresh fruit also contains natural sugars—about 16 grams in a medium-sized apple, for example—but these sugars are a small price to pay for their plentiful amount of nutrients.
With that said, I'm going to try to limit my consumption of added sugars—the ones hidden under fancy names like evaporated cane juice, high-fructose corn syrup, maltodextrin, etc.—found in breakfast cereals, granola bars, flavored yogurt, fruit juice, bread, and salad dressings. Of course, I'll be completely cutting out the beloved dessert foods that are made with refined sugar and/or white flour like cake, candy, cookies, and ice cream. Last but not least, I'm saying goodbye to all artificial sweeteners—most of which are even more dangerous than sugar—with the exception of Stevia, a naturally sweet and calorie-free herb derived from the South American Stevia plant. (I don't know about you, but black coffee just ain't my cup of tea.)
If you're a dessert lover like me, you may be thinking that life is too short to deprive ourselves of certain food groups. (As if sugar is a food group.) But I take comfort in knowing that smarter health-conscious people than me have come up with delicious and nutritious desserts that help the body instead of harm it. Just take a look at these scrumdiddlyumptious cookies, creamy frozen yogurt, or moist fudge cake recipes—all of which are sure to come in handy when I'm in the mood to bake. Plus, I'm not ashamed to admit that I'll be keeping a secret stash of extra dark chocolate in the pantry for emergencies.
The bottom line? Deprivation is not what's happening here. On the contrary, I'd like to think of this challenge, difficult as it might prove to be, as an opportunity to treat my body to a variety of healthy foods (think nuts, seeds, fruit, veggies, whole grains, etc.) instead of slowly poisoning it with sugar. Unlike what I've tried in the past, this is not meant to be some intensive diet that leaves my stomach growling every night, but rather a lifestyle change that will result in a happier and healthier me. I'm certain that my body will thank me for it in the long run. Who knows? Maybe after a few months or even a year of watching my sugar intake, I'll be better equipped to indulge in sweets moderately. But for right now, I think it's safe to say that I'm doing myself a favor.
***I'm fully aware that not everyone is going to understand why I'm taking part in this seemingly unlikely feat. Many of my friends and family will think I'm silly for trying and will encourage me to give up sooner or later. Some will expect me to fail miserably in no time. And I'm not 100% convinced that I won't fail miserably. I am human, after all. But I think what matters is that I'm trying. Not necessarily to change the way that I look, but to alter the way that I feel—physically and mentally—all the while striving to prevent a rocky future of heart problems and high blood pressure that runs in the family. I guess you could say that I'm writing this blog post as a sort of plea to those closest to me. Even if you don't understand my decision, please try to support it. Because when it comes to my success, that's going to make all of the difference in the world.