Confessions Of A… Sugar Addict
Photography by Unsplash
Keen to axe sugar from your diet for the month of November or even longer?
Here’s what it’s like to go sugar-free…
The Guinea Pig: Amy Ebedes, 30, Sweet Tooth
“I’ve got the world’s worst sweet tooth – nothing is ‘too sweet’ for me,” admits former Magazine’s online ed. “I’m very active and yet have always struggled to lose those last few kilos – and I’ve always known it’s due to my indulgences. I figured that the challenge would be the motivation I need to take charge of my cravings.” Amy’s game plan to steer herself away from sugar: cutting out pretty much everything that comes in a packet or box and focusing on eating natural sugars like those found in fresh fruit.
Here’s a double-sugar threat that you may not have been aware of:
1. Eating too much sugar can stoke your appetite rather than satisfy it;
2. It’s one of the primary things we crave because it activates brain pathways that reinforce our desire to keep eating it.
When we eat sugar, the pancreas releases insulin, which helps our cells use the glucose as fuel, explains endocrinologist Dr Wayne May, executive committee member of the Society For Endocrinology, Metabolism and Diabetes of South Africa.
However, if we scoff loads more sugar than our bodies can deal with, insulin instructs our system to store it as – eek! – fat.
“It was a tough journey initially. I didn’t recognise how often I have a sweet treat – I thought it was every now and then, but I realised it was daily, if not twice a day,” says Amy. Once she was aware of her sugar-fix frequency, it was easier to tone it down. Water, exercise and delicious snacks helped. “I stockpiled date balls. They’re natural, raw and sweet enough to give me the fix. There’s no point in having food that’s unappealing – you’ll just fall off the wagon.”
In the process, she reduced water retention: “My face is less puffy and the bags under my eyes have completely disappeared. I must stress that I attribute this to the fact that by cutting out added sugar, I was by proxy cutting out a lot of dairy, gluten, preservatives and other processed food too.”
Stick With It
Eat Whole. Fresh fruit like apples and berries can temper sugar cravings. They’re loaded with fibre and antioxidants, says dietician Elisa Zied, co-author of Feed Your Family Right!
Train Your Tongue. According to a 2010 study published in Appetite, it takes at least 10 attempts to get used to a taste. So if going sugar-free isn’t appealing initially, just wait it out. Or adjust slowly – for instance, sweeten plain yoghurt with pieces of fruit.
Don’t Skip Meals. Make sure you eat regularly, because skipping meals can cause your blood sugar to drop too low, triggering a craving for something sweet.
Low Fat. Be wary of this label! Low-fat foods often use sugar to enhance flavour.
Thinking of giving up caffeine as the warmer weather approaches? Check out what happened when our deputy editor ditched her coffee habit.