Let’s talk about sugar cravings.
I’ve been making a conscious effort to reduce my sugar intake during the day – the last, stubborn remnant of my previously poor eating habits – but when that post-lunch slump hits me around 2:30 in the afternoon it becomes incredibly difficult to avoid. I do all the right things with my diet otherwise, yet to this day I crave something sweet immediately after dinner. After all, for most of our lives, dessert follows hard on the heels of dinner, as though eating a meal was just the stepping stone to the main event.
It occurs to me that some of you might be struggling with the same thing. After all, sugar is a highly addictive substance, and to make matters worse, it holds a key place in our hearts. When we’re children our parents reward us for a job well done with something sweet. They console us after an unpleasant visit to the doctor, or a stressful performance, with something sugary. They treat us to ice cream on a hot day, cake on our birthdays, and candy at the movies. Going on vacation, a theme park, or the zoo means finding new ways to enjoy sugar, and going to grandma’s house probably means enjoying whatever dessert is particular to your culture or family traditions.
It’s no wonder we love it so much. Our connection to sugar is deeply rooted in memory, and our experiences with it are often emotional, nostalgic, comfortable.
These days, when I do go for sweets I still make sure they’re comprised of whole foods and have come from my own kitchen, but natural sweeteners like honey and maple syrup can still do damage if eaten in large quantities. They might be healthier and more nutritious, but they’re still sugar.
It’s the little changes, added up over time, which make the difference between a successful change in diet, and an unsuccessful attempt at one. It’s important to consider the difference between changing one’s diet, and being on a diet. One is a lifestyle that is sustainable, while the other is temporary and potentially harmful.
For example, I stopped putting sugar in my coffee several months ago, and on that first day I wanted to throw my cup out the window. Honestly. It was bitter and it was nothing like what I had come to expect from my morning coffee.
The second day was a little better. I still felt like my coffee was lacking an essential something, but it wasn’t completely unpalatable. So I persisted, and in less than a week I got to the point where I not only liked the taste of unsweetened coffee, but preferred it.
I then started making my own nut milk (another small change), with a touch of vanilla, and it’s 1000 x better than what I was drinking before. My coffee now seems luxurious, and the freshly made milk complements the flavour of the coffee (which I can now taste) rather than masks it.
Becoming more healthful can seem overwhelming to even the most knowledgeable, dedicated, and conscientious person, but making one small change every day (or week, or month) is something everyone can do. Eventually those small changes add up to a big improvement – one which would have seemed impossible to achieve standing at the starting line.
Just remember to accept where you are on your journey and set realistic goals. Don’t berate yourself for the mistakes, or the indulgences, or for how far you still have to go, because that will ultimately serve as another roadblock to your success. It’s hard to make good decisions when we feel unworthy of them.