We need to rethink our relationship with sugar. I have counseled patients on reducing their sugar intake for over a decade now, and I have come to this conclusion … if we dread the idea of giving up sugar, if we are frantically searching for sweetener alternatives, and if we look forward to consuming sugar daily, WE NEED TO CHANGE THE WAY WE THINK ABOUT SUGAR. Let’s start by realizing that sugar is everywhere in our lives — in our habits, our recipes, our celebrations, our workplace, and our homes.
- Just because food companies place sugar in their products does not mean it is a good idea.
- Just because we have access to sugary foods 24 hours a day and 365 days a year does not mean we should consume them hourly, daily, weekly or EVER.
- Just because we encounter an abundance of sugary foods at work, in meetings, at parties, in our refrigerators and cupboards (basically anywhere and everywhere we find ourselves congregating) does not mean it is good for us.
- Just because our family celebrations and rituals revolve around foods loaded with sugar does not make it less harmful to our bodies.
- Just because sugar is hidden in many foods that we consider healthy (or health food) does not make it nutritious.
Sugar has become such an everyday and acceptable part of our lives that when I counsel patients on eating less or eliminating it, I often see fear in their eyes. Many are panicked and want immediate alternatives. Are artificial sweeteners okay? How about raw organic cane sugar, it’s organic? Evaporated cane juice? Agave Nectar? Coconut sugar? Frustrated and exasperated, we demand, “There must be an acceptable sugar!“
Fact is … we are addicted to sugar. We are addicted to the sweet taste, to how it makes us feel, and to what is does chemically in our bodies. And when we contemplate taking sugar out of our lives, we feel deprived, restricted, and pissed off; that’s a clear sign that we are hooked! Sugar-related illnesses, like obesity and type 2 diabetes, are at an all-time high in both adults and children. Perhaps more surprising are the links being discovered between an elevated sugar intake and heart disease, cancer, high cholesterol, metabolic syndrome, mental illness and the list goes on.
The dangerous combination of sugar being available at every turn and sugar’s own addictive nature has resulted in an uphill battle in the fight for our health. I can counsel someone to cut down his/her sugar intake, I can recommend giving up sugar completely, and I can advise eating sugar only on rare occasions, but the truth is we all struggle with breaking the vicious hold that sugar has on us.
The reality is that when we continue to feed our sweet addiction with sugar and “sweet tasting” alternatives we do nothing to break its hold. I believe that we need to firmly reject the sugar culture and make a commitment to eat and drink less “sweetened food” and, in turn, foster a liking and desire for all the other delicious tastes and flavors abundant in whole foods. When we break free from the prison of sugar, it is surprising how flavorful and tasty food can be.
We need to rethink how much sugar we want in our lives and in our bodies. What is acceptable to us and what is not. We are the only ones who can do this, we can’t count on the folks making our foods. I’m afraid sugar is not going anywhere, it’s here to stay for the foreseeable future. We have to take a stand and not let the food and advertising industries tell us what is best for us … like how, what and when we should eat. We are on our own in this fight for our health; we make the ultimate decision of what we put in our mouths and our bodies. Stand up to sugar, and rethink if you want it in your life.