Oh dear, I need to write this blog in front of a mirror. That way, I can look up every few minutes and ask myself, “You talkin’ to me?” Authenticity is the mission, so here goes. I was an absolute sugar-aholic. That’s a real word, right? Either way, it’s a real thing. Back in the day, during the low to no fat craze I was ecstatic, because that meant I could eat all of the fat free candy I wanted. Roll out the Twizzlers®, Skittles ®, and Jujyfruits®!
The problem is, I would get the worst brain fog after indulging. I’ve never been a big alcohol drinker, but sometimes after eating a lot of candy at night, I would wake up with a serious sugar hangover. It took me quite a while to realize the connection. One time, while dancing on tour in London with our Clipper’s Team, I ate over 20 insanely delish English caramels at once. To this day, I can still recall the awful feeling I had afterwards. My brain was so fuzzy and my eyes couldn’t focus properly. I remember us performing a routine to Madonna’s “Vogue”, dancing up and down the aisles of the convention center, while visions of sugar fog blurred in my head. (It’s like The Night Before Christmas Story…only not)
Sugar is highly addictive. It’s a reality check we might wish to ignore, but the research is undeniable. What are we to do? It’s so darn delicious and quite frankly, we love it. Let’s first discuss the research, and then we can consider alternative options.
Dr. Mark Hyman, Chairman of the Institute for Functional Medicine has a great deal to share on the subject of sugar addiction. He speaks about the science behind teenage pre-diabetes and diabetes. In one study between the years 2000 and 2008, the rate of teenage diabetes in the U.S. rose from 9% to 23%.(Pediatrics Volume 129, Number 6, 2012)
Even more alarming, “In 2015, an estimated 1.5 million new cases of diabetes were diagnosed among U.S. adults aged 18 years or older.” (National Diabetes Statistics Report, 2017).
This is heavy stuff when we consider the additional health problems associated with diabetes. They include heart disease, obesity, and pancreatitis. But we know this. I have known this for years and I teach about it.
One moment, while I pause, to look in that mirror…..
Moving on. Would you believe there was even a study done on rats who were addicted to cocaine and when given the choice between a cocaine dropper or a sugar dropper, they chose…you guessed it…the sugar?
Here’s the deal. I am in no way going to advise people to never eat sugary foods again. This is simply not realistic and as I’ve experience in the the past, the act of denying ourselves foods that taste great and makes us happy is a problem in itself. Deprivation leads to overindulging, which leads to frustration and perhaps even depression in some. Let’s discuss a real solution.
The great news is, we have yummy options! There are some delicious, naturally occurring sweet foods that can help curb our sugar cravings and avoid that awful crash. We can have chocolate! Seriously. Take a look at some of my favorite sweet recipes made without refined sugars and my list of favorite ingredients to cook or bake with. I can also suggest products I purchase at local health food stores for an easy sweet treat minus the refined stuff. I promise, our tastebuds can and will be retrained when we eat real food. Real food, that happens to be sweet. Here’s a quick peak at some better choices in the order I use them most.
- Maple syrup
- Pureed bananas (awesome for baking)
- Date sugar
- Coconut Palm Sugar
- Brown Rice Syrup
- Sorghum Syrup
- Unsulphured Molasses
As I finish this post, I want to make an authentic claim. I am one of you. We have all had those days when we just want a Snickers® bar, and nothing else will do. How many times have you eaten 5 other things trying to avoid the Snickers®, (or donut, glass of wine, or…insert your delight here)? No doubt by then it wasn’t even enjoyable because you felt full, gross, or guilty. Sometimes you just need to eat it first! We must avoid playing mind games with ourselves. Whatever you choose, eat it slow and enjoy it.
There are many many blogs about health and nutrition. Some of them are amazing and others are depressing. Honestly, I read about this stuff all of the time and when I find a blog that tells me about everything that’s going to kill me if I keep eating it, I get such a sense of doom that I turn in my olympic gold medal hamster wheel wondering what I can eat. Let’s not do this. Listen to your body. Yours is different than mine, but it’s smart. We may not be doctors or even expert nutritionists, but we are kings and queens of the one body God has given us to take care of.
We can do this. One “Step” at a time.