Should You Cut Out Sugar From Your Diet?
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Should You Cut Out Sugar From Your Diet?

Have you ever eaten a cupcake, then inhaled another, and could barely stop at a third and thought to yourself, “That’s it. I feel disgusting. I’m addicted to sugar and I’m giving it up completely. I’m never eating processed foods again. They make me feel awful.”

(*I’m raising my hand, since I have definitely thought that a million times!)

So, what’s the consensus? Should you cut out sugar from your diet?

cut out sugar

If you’ve been following my blog for any length of time, you know I talk about the diet mentality quite a bit. It’s the Law of Dieting (as I like to call it)…if you make a rule to cut something out, follow a rigid food plan, or go into restricting, there is an equal and opposite force that will cause you to end up overeating/binging.

Let’s look at an example.

So, I freaking LOVE brownies. Ghirardelli brownies (the ones you make from the box!) are like the best things on earth. Let’s say I said to myself, “ok, Jenn. No sugar for the next 14 days. You absolutely cannot have cookies, candies, processed foods, and you especially can’t have those Ghirardelli brownies your Mom is going to make for your Aunt’s birthday. No if’s, and’s, or but’s!

I’d potentially be able to spend a day without thinking about them. (I feel smug, like I have the most will-power ever, and virtuous that I refused the brownies). But then…

My mind wanders to the brownies. I start to think about them a few times a day. I fantasize about the smell of freshly baked brownies coming out of the oven. I wonder what just one bite would taste like. I keep telling myself, “NO! You aren’t having them”.

Now in the old days, I would have done this, lasted maybe 3 days and then binged on all the sugar I told myself I couldn’t have.

But now, I know the diet mentality tendency. If you create a rule for yourself, if you force yourself to follow some restrictive plan…it always ends up in overeating or binging.

So, my short answer to the “Should you cut out sugar” question is don’t do it. BUT…you can look at ways to gently cut down your sugar intake if you feel like it’s an issue (more on that in a second). 

I want you to think of sugar less from the standpoint of “I have to cut it out completely” and more from a “what’s an appropriate dose for me”.

Everything in life is best consumed in moderation. Even if you’re looking at sugar as a drug (there have been studies that say yes, it is a drug and other research that says there’s more to addiction then meets the eye), you can still view it as “what’s the right dosage?”

I mean, Nyquil is the greatest “drug” ever invented, and if I’m REALLY battling insomnia, I’ll take some. It knocks me out in 3 seconds and I get an incredible sleep. However, I’m not going to take Nyquil every night for the rest of my life.

The same goes for Tylenol. I am not big into taking pills, but I’ll take Tylenol every once in a while.

Even the things that are “good” for you have an appropriate dose. Vitamin D. Zinc. Vitamin C. You wouldn’t take massive quantities of these every day for your life, either.

Everything has an appropriate amount that works for you and your body. Some people are more affected by sugar than others. The key is to learn what works for YOU.

3 ways to cut out sugar without making it a diet:

  1. Throw out your “junk” food. Keep nourishing treats and snacks around.

This isn’t about restricting, but about setting yourself up for success. If you have Oreos and Doritos in your pantry, 3 gallons of Rocky Road ice cream in your freezer, and a dish of M & M’s sitting out on your counter, what do you think you’ll reach for when you’re hungry?

If you have fresh veggies cut up in your fridge, crackers and cheese to snack on, a bowl of fruit on your kitchen table, and trail mix when you open your pantry, what do you think you’ll turn to when you want something to eat?

This isn’t to say never to bring sweets into your house. But if you consistently wrestle with wanting to turn to sugary sweets, then do yourself a favor, and create an environment that makes it easier for you to resist temptations 🙂 There are enough temptations in the world without having your house be one of them!

  1. Sit down and savor (eat mindfully!)

If you want to eat a sweet treat, put it on a plate, sit down, savor each bite, relish in the flavor and enjoy the heck out of it! When you’re tuning in to what you’re eating (and not in mental food battle of “I shouldn’t be having this, I’ll only have a bite, I swear I won’t have more than one…”) and you are truly enjoying it, one cookie or cupcake will be enough.

Bring in more mindfulness and awareness to the treat you’re eating and you won’t need to eat the entire plate or bag!

  1. Focus on how it makes you feel.

If you think you’re eating too much sugar, pay more attention to how it makes you feel when you eat it. If you have a donut for breakfast, does it keep you full? Does it leave you hungrier later in the day? If you eat a candy bar from the vending machine every day at 3, is it an emotional need? Does it leave you fatigued or lethargic?

You change habits by focusing on how you feel. As you become more aware of what a habit, a food, a thought or a pattern does in your body and in your life, you become more likely to change it. You naturally engage in something that FEELS better for you.

Sugar doesn’t have to be an “evil substance” that you swear off forever. You can look at the role sugar plays in your own life and (gently and lovingly) shift any patterns/habits that may not be working from you.

It’s your turn-how do you feel about sugar? Have you tried to cut it out? What has the result been? What can you do this week to be less “restrictive” about it? Share in the comments below 🙂

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  • I gave up “added sugar” and sugary foods for Lent last year (I’m agnostic, but hey, it was an excuse for a challenge!). I made it the whole 40 days with only a few slip-ups and the result was actually a “resetting” of my palette, which I appreciated. Baby carrots ended up tasting sweet to me! So I can appreciate that when you eat less sugar and really enjoy what you do have, you don’t need as much.
    Unfortunately, once the 40 days were over I went back to my usual ways, my consumption and my “tolerance” level went right back to where they were before.
    I’m worried about diabetes and I know that my sugar consumption is excessive. I like your simple tips to set yourself up for success and enjoy in moderation with a loving (not harsh and judgemental diet-voice) way.
    I wonder why the QUANTITY of what I consume in a binge is so important and not the quality. It’s as if I think I’ll get 6 times the pleasure from eating 6 cupcakes than I would just eating one. How do I get to the point where one is enough?

  • I usually like sweets in two ways. If I’m.working or tired I look at sugar as a pick me up. Sometimes I don’t want sweet I want salty and look for potatoes chips. But, I don’t buy them and keep in my house. I do try to keep vegetables and fruit in the house instead. I do think not having them in the house helps a lot. You have to cook which really I think cooking your meals are much better.

  • Hi Carolyn! I totally agree…the resetting of the palette is awesome, but many people just end up going right back to their default after it wears off. I think sometimes the quantity “helps” in the suppressing whatever we don’t want to feel. It’s like it doesn’t matter what it is, it just matter if it’s eaten so fast that it “makes” the situation go away. Of course, we realize this never works after. Slowing down can help…and sometimes it’s about habit. Making it a habit to sit in that uncomfortable place where you want more, but know it won’t work!

  • When I am stressed out, I turn to sweets. I feel like I need them to cope with my day. It’s a similar relationship with coffee. Today I didn’t bring coffee to work (just club soda and water) and I brought 3 mini Reese’s peanut butter cups. My heart is aching, I am feeling the pain full force but I’m not totally immobilized.

  • I think everyone in America uses coffee to cope with their day… yes, sometimes feeling the pain of the emotion is HARD. And SUCKS. Even now, there are times I wish that I could just eat a brownie and my disappointment or sadness or uncertainty would go away. Because eating seems easier than feeling the pain. But you know what? Getting through an emotion shows you how strong you are, how much courage you have, and how unlike most of the population, you AREN”T using a substance to numb/cover up. And that is pretty amazing 🙂

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