Sweets top the food pyramid—they sit on that tiny “eat sparingly” point. We know “eat sparingly” is easier said than done. Sugary foods fill way too much of the average person’s diet these days. It’s hidden in foods we buy, we love it, and it’s hard to stop after any amount that could be called “sparing”.
As promised in June 25’s blog, I continue here the discussion of how to stick to those small amounts. I started with a few ideas about buying less, switching to items containing less, and eliminating sugared beverages. Now we turn to the sweets we eat because we want to—whether that’s candy, cookies, pie, or cake. How do you start to say “No, thanks, I’ve had enough” after one piece?
It doesn’t make sense for anyone—skinny, fat, or in-between—to eat sugar in large quantities. So what’s reasonable for you? A small serving per day? Two per week? Three? This is what you can set as your “working to get to” goal. (What’s reasonable if you have a lot of weight to lose will be on the lower end–not only because of the calorie content, but also because of how the sweets may affect your metabolism.) Often people will target something like “one chocolate after dinner each night”, or “dessert on weekend nights”.
Aim for this goal amount. Know that as you begin, you’ll probably want more after you’ve had that amount. Think of how you’ll deal with the desire for more. I’ll describe a couple of possible strategies here. First, giving yourself a time limit before you head back to the cookie plate sometimes works. This kind of scenario might evolve like this:
You’ve decided that what’s reasonable for you is to allow for dessert on weekends, but not on week nights. You don’t buy packaged cookies or ice cream to keep in the house. You go ahead and bake brownies on Friday afternoon to have on hand. After dinner, you get out the plates and whipped cream. You put a decent-sized brownie on the plate (not tiny, not gigantic). You sit down to eat it with a fork. You try not to gobble and rush. You savor it. (Note that here you’re employing some strategies to help reduce the tendency to overeat: setting a plate, eating more slowly.) When you’ve finished, you definitely would like to keep going. However, knowing that you’re trying to learn moderation, you’ve helped yourself out in advance by not keeping the serving platter in view. In fact, the brownie container is already closed and put away. You tell yourself, I’m not going to have another for at least 20 minutes. Then you make some coffee or tea. In 20 minutes you rate your desire for the second brownie. It’s definitely reduced. You decide to wait another 20 minutes. By then, you’re busy doing something else and stopping for a brownie seems irrelevant.
As successful episodes like this accumulate, your ability to stop after one serving will increase. If an episode is not successful, analyze what went wrong. Ask yourself what might have helped. Then try again another time.
A second strategy calls for substituting lower-sugar items and giving yourself some time to get used to those. Here is an example. Peggy learned that her daily blended coffee drink contained 49 grams of sugar. A friend pointed out that this was equivalent to more than three bowls of Froot Loops. Appalled, she nevertheless grew anxious considering a change in the years-old routine that she liked very much.
Peggy began by telling herself that every other day she’d order something else. She thought it would help her to be able to look forward to her favored drink at least every other day. Because it seemed similar, she began to order iced coffee with milk and Splenda. She found that she actually liked this more than she thought she would, though she missed the thicker, more frappe-like consistency of the other. She experimented—iced latte, iced decaf, one Splenda, two Splenda, milk, cream. She returned to the original iced coffee, though, because she liked it well enough. She especially liked that she saved 150 calories and 49 grams of sugar each time. That really made her feel good. In less than a month, her blended drink had become a once-a-week treat. She’d found herself opting more and more often for her new drink, even on the “off” days. It had become her new habit.
The ease of this change surprised Peggy. And while not all transitions will go this smoothly, experimenting, starting again and again where necessary, will usually lead to a new routine. This is all part of finding a place for sugar in your overall diet and life. It’s hard to eliminate it completely, and many don’t even want to. But minimizing sugar’s unhealthy presence, feeling more comfortable with much less, is a goal worth working toward.
To read more about the effects of sugar, go to www.cspinet.org/new/sugar.