Today we have a special guest blogger for you! One of my dear friends, Elizabeth Dixon from Bite an Elephant, is sharing her best advice on combatting the never ending sweet tooth. She always has great advice when I reach out to her with the “I’m about to eat a whole cake” texts and always responds back with suggestions that are doable.
“Is sugar toxic?” the headline asked back in 2012. I wanted the answer to be a quick and confident “no”, because let’s be honest – sugar is delightful! The sneaky thing about sugar is that it is in much more than we would expect. A cake, we would assume has sugar, but ketchup? Salad dressings? Peanut butter? Chips?
The trouble identified in the 2012 research from Sanjay Gupta is that sugar is linked to diseases including Obesity, type II diabetes, hypertension, and heart disease.
Does that hit you like it hit me? A sweet, fluffy innocent cupcake could contribute to obesity, type II diabetes, hypertension and heart disease?
That is serious business.
I believe it is important for us to understand the reality of the situation and be responsible. Being responsible doesn’t necessarily mean that we should hand out carrots at our child’s next birthday party, but it does mean that we should be aware of how much we currently consume on a daily basis and identify how we can best improve.
- Identify where you are: A recommendation to be able to responsibly know where you are is to download an app like My Fitness Pal and track your eating for a week (but don’t suddenly be super healthy because you are tracking it. The goal is to identify where you really are currently so you can make small changes that will yield a significant return).
- Once you know where you are, here are two tips for improving:
In order to feel great energy and avoid the life taking diseases of obesity, hypertension, heart disease and type II diabetes, here are some tips to think about for both moderation and replacement:
- Moderate: During pregnancy I had a motto “moderation now, deprivation later”. By that I meant – I could give in to my “cravings” and eat junk now (which is so funny because of all times to be healthy it would be when there is a precious life growing and developing inside) and then have to pay for it after the baby comes by being very restrictive on what I ate in order to lose the “baby weight”. I prefer to avoid the deprivation category because it is like someone saying, “don’t think about a polka dot elephant” – suddenly all you can do is think about a polka dot elephant!
- Replace: There was a season of life where I needed to eliminate two foods from my lifestyle: Honey Nut Cherrios and Cracker Barrel biscuits. I did not have the self discipline with those foods to eat a healthy / moderate portion size. I wanted four biscuits in a meal, not one. I wanted to use the big cereal bowl for those delicious O’s, not the normal one. For me, it was the best plan to temporarily eliminate those items from my lifestyle by replacing them with something else so that I could get to the place of being able to moderate. In order to successfully eliminate them I found that it was much easier to replace. Back to the polka dot elephant example – if I said “I can’t have…” then that is all I want. Instead it is about finding an alternative that is more healthful but that we can still enjoy.
A way to think about moderation is the 80/20 rule. 80% of your day eat healthful, whole foods and 20% of the day enjoy a treat of processed foods. When grocery shopping you will find the healthy and whole foods typically on the perimeter of the grocery store – you just have to hop past the bakery.
Here are some practical replacement ideas based on what type of sweet tooth you have:
- Cookies & Milk – a small handful of chocolate chips, almonds and some milk
- Oatmeal with sugar – use a half of a banana mashed instead of the sugar
- Icecream – Greek Yogurt (be very careful to choose a flavor that is not filled with sugar – Chobani and Trader Joes have some good options)
- Sweet tea – split your cup half and half with sweet and unsweet tea
Remember the battle is fought at the cash register – whether that is in the grocery store or in a restaurant. If we don’t buy it we can’t eat it. If we bring it in our home, all bets are off – the battle has already been lost.
Are you in a place to be a moderator or a replacer? It is worth it so you have energy today and you don’t have life cut short by disease tomorrow.
In 2012 Sanjay Gupta reported on sugar and the serious toll it takes on the body. For more info, check out the 60 minutes video or various articles written on the topic.