Sugar. Oh how I love sugar. I enjoy it in my tea, desserts, cinnamon toast, and even my sweet potatoes. I love everything about sugar, except its impact on my health.
In an effort to improve my health, I decided to stop drinking soft drinks. I initially decided to give up soft drinks because of all the harmful chemicals. This was not an easy decision. I used to drink Diet Coke all day. And anytime I went to a restaurant that only served Pepsi products, I’d have a couple of Mountain Dews. (To be perfectly honest, I didn’t exactly “give up” soft drink. I noticed that I would have about one soft drink per month. And last month was very stressful at work and just plain exhausting; so I had one soft drink per day.) After I stopped drinking soft drink to improve my health, I quickly noticed that I traded Diet Coke at zero calories for sweet tea which is full of calories. (Yes, I’ve tried unsweetened tea, and that is just nasty. I may not have a lot of Southern qualities, but how I drink sweet tea is the one Southern quality I have! And just a tip, South Carolina has the best sweet tea).It didn’t take long for the calories to add up.
A couple of months ago I noticed that I’ve gained about 10- 15 lbs since I got married 10 months ago. I started thinking and praying about what I can do to improve this. I can set goals, but I need to be honest with myself and really take into consideration what goals I can actually meet. A few years ago I lost 50+ pounds, but now my life is completely different and I need to adopt new habits to accommodate.
A couple of weeks ago, my head had a mild but persistent ache. I kept telling my headache to go away. Yes, I talk to my body. As my husband and I spoke on the phone during my lunch break, he suggested to me that I consider fasting as a way to get my body to listen to me. He must have felt my hand give him the Gibb’s slap when I went silent. He quickly added that I don’t have to fast from all foods; just fast from something I really struggle with and this will train my body to listen to me. I start training my body now with small stuff, and in time the body will listen to me when I tell it not to hurt.
As I thought about what he said, I was mentally arguing with him for about a week. For instance, I would remember his suggestion, and then I would reason with him as to why this would never work. I had convinced myself that fasting is just an overreaction. I had also convinced myself that I would fail. How can I give up chocolate for just a few days? How can I give up my ice cream, breath mints, brownies, and so forth?
I started praying about this. I asked God for another option. It was like “come on God, show us there is another way, cuz I’m not fasting from chocolate!” After a few days in prayer God started answering me in a way I never expected. Every afternoon while at work I would have my sweet snack. I usually kept chocolate on me. If I’d run out of chocolate, I would roam around the building to every vending machine possible, even borrow money, just to buy some chocolate. I often joked that chocolate solved all of my problems. And this is when God tapped me on the shoulder.
“Hello my child. Why do you stress? I told you to give me all of your burdens. Why do you run to chocolate, soft drinks, French fries to relieve your worries? I’m right here. I’m only a prayer away. I will never leave you nor forsake you. What can your food do for you?” After this little in depth talk, I realized I need to take action. I’m addicted to food, and I need to overcome this addiction.
Deciding what to give up was only a minor challenge. Diabetes runs in my family, my triglycerides are triple the normal range, and I’m carrying so much extra weight. I realized that I was so addicted to sugar; I would even eat multiple life savers back to back just to suck on the sugar. This is a real problem for me, and my health is at stake.
I have to face this addiction just like an alcoholic or junkie. Sugar has too much power over me, and I need to take that power back. I gave up sugar!
I’m not suggesting that the same plan works for everyone. I know people who are vegetarian, vegan, on weight watchers, or on the Atkins diet. I know women who floss before each meal to trick themselves to eat less so they don’t ruin their teeth. I use a smaller dinner plate to trick myself into thinking my single portion is a plate full. I know women who have had weight loss surgery with much success. I had to find what was right for me! And although my health was a factor, far more important to me is stopping this addiction. I was putting food before God! My relationship with sugar was extremely unhealthy physically, emotionally, and spiritually. And that is why I chose this path. I had to end this love affair with sugar.
What do I do now without all that sugar?
I had no idea how often I added sugar to my food and drink until I made a concerted effort to avoid it. The other night my husband and I were preparing a healthy meal: chicken, sweet potatoes, and steamed broccoli. We chose sweet potatoes over white potatoes for the health benefits. I’ve always added cinnamon & brown sugar to sweet potatoes. This is when it dawned on me; I have to learn a whole new way of preparing meals. I’ve noticed that I habitually go to grab the sugar or brown sugar regularly throughout the day, and now I stop myself (sometimes in midair).
Since I’m not adding sugar to anything, I’ve been looking for healthy alternatives. I drink about 60 ounces of water per day, and there are times when I just want something else to drink. I have replaced my sweet tea with orange juice that has added calcium and Vitamin D. Instead of drinking Swiss Miss hot chocolate “marshmallow lovers” when I get cold at work; I now drink wild orange tea sweetened with honey. The tea actually tastes better with honey than when I used sugar. I found a vegan recipe for chocolate oatmeal cookies that is sugar free. I’m eating more fruit since that is naturally sweet, and my body still craves sweet stuff. I started eating honey almond granola for breakfast in place of cinnamon oatmeal (which I always sweetened with sugar or Splenda). And instead of sprinkling Splenda on my French toast, I add a teaspoon of vanilla extract in the egg mixture, and then drizzle honey over the cooked toast. It tastes pretty good.
I’m no fool though. I don’t honestly believe that I can give up sugar until the day I die. Once I have this addiction under control, I’m considering adding a little dessert no more than once a month on a date night. I can no longer use “I’m on vacation,” “we’re celebrating something special,” “work is paying for it,” or any other excuse to feed my addiction. I just need to maintain my focus on healthy living, and stop worrying so much about what the scales say. As long as my cholesterol is on track, and I stay focused on eating properly, I’m sure that my BMI and waistline will improve!