Friday, April 18, 2008

0 How to Conquer A Sugar Addiction

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I'm not going to deny it. I love sweets. Most people do.

However, I also realize that if I were to eat a diet high in refined sugars, I wouldn't exactly be doing myself any favors either.

Of course, the trick is to eat it in moderation.

Too much sugar over prolonged periods of time can have deleterious effects upon your health & physiology, as most of you already full-well know. It can wreak havoc with your skin (i.e., prematurely aging it!), teeth, and waistline, etc., to name just a few areas of the body. And of course, there are more serious medical consequences, like diabetes and reactive hypoglycemia. Refined sugar has even been linked to increased risks for various diseases and cancers.

So, it's clear that regulating one's refined sugar intake is a crucially important health matter indeed. Even regulating one's intake of natural sugars is equally important in maintaining health. The point is not to replace a "refined sugar high" with a natural one, but to find balance in your dietary plan. And that's such an essential key to health & well-being. After all, they don't call it a balanced diet for nothing. ;-)

It's not exactly an earth-shattering conclusion to recognize that most health problems, and life problems in general, are caused by imbalance. So, it makes sense that the more balance in your life, the healthier & possibly even happier you will hopefully be!

But I'm not here to scare you witless; I'm here to offer some helpful suggestions & alternatives.

[I loathe fear tactics: Giving people a good scare rarely usually only has a temporary effect upon people's consciences, unless they are facing immediate mortal danger, like a serious health crisis, etc. Rather, my point is this: Why wait until it gets that dire? (Physicians, and people in general, need to put more emphasis on practicing preventative medicine!)]

So, if you know you are eating way too much refined sugar in your diet, it's probably worth reconsidering your eating behaviors & making a concerted effort to limit (note, I didn't say completely eliminate!) the amount of sugar in your diet, so that you can enjoy good health & stay on this earth for as long as possible.

The big problem is that many people find eating refined sugar incredibly addictive. And like a junkie, it takes greater & greater concentrations of the substance to achieve the same effect.

In specific, there's been a lot of recent debate over whether or not high fructose corn syrup (or HFCS as it's mostly commonly called) is really the "crack of all sweetners" out there. It's been linked to increased sugar cravings & also an increase in obesity (as per studies done of female & male subjects in the United States).

But putting all of that aside for a moment, let's just focus upon a common sense point: HFCS is a molecularly-altered, chemical compound not found in nature. And do you really want to put something into your body that we still apparently doesn't know that much about?

Some of you might hedge your bets & take your chances, but I'll stick to eating whole foods as much as humanly possible, thank you very much.

Of course, I'm certainly not immune from the "sugar addiction" phenomenon either, but I've worked out a "deal" with myself so that things don't get out of hand. So to keep the sugar cravings in check, I have a "weekend fun food" guideline, where I allow myself the weekend to indulge in "reasonable amounts" of sugar/sweets. When the weekend ends, so does the bulk of my sugar/sweets-eating. While I'm not always successful in keeping the "deal" -- it honestly depends upon my larger motivations -- it certainly does help immensely to have a food "guideline" for managing the cravings. Note, I didn't say food "rule," which would imply an immutable rigidity. ;-) When I'm not in training, this weekend guideline might also include an occasional alcoholic beverage as well.

Realistically, I know that sometimes it's not always possible to always eat organic, whole foods especially when I'm not the person preparing the food & cooking meals. But I'm still going to try to do my best.

Basically, if I were to have an "eating credo," the tenets would be the along the following lines:
(1) To eat a full & balanced diet of whole organic foods, rich in lean proteins & Omega complex fatty acids, non rBST (i.e., bovine growth hormone) dairy foods, legumes, vegetables, fruits, & whole grains, etc.
(2) To eat consciously, slowly savoring my food -- & to enjoy the experience of eating. This means that when I eat, I am ONLY eating, not simultaneously watching TV or reading.
(3) To eat whole organic foods & to avoid putting chemicals in my body. After all, the body is a temple. ;-)
(4) To eat consciously & free myself from the crazed notion of having to be a "health-food saint" 24/7 & instead enjoy the occasional treat (i.e., french fries, chocolate, etc.). At times, I give myself permission to eat what I want & not just "what I think I should eat." This doesn't mean that I consume unlimited amounts of food, but rather that I've got some established guidelines concerning portion sizes, to help maintain nutritional balance, as well as a healthy weight & body fat percentage.
(5) To create meals & original recipes that follow the above guidelines, to serve as a complement to my nutritional/health goals. ;-)

So, in keeping with tenet #5, you'll notice that I frequently feature recipes on this blog that use healthy alternatives to refined sugar. Yes, you might occasionally still see a recipe here or there that happens to contain refined sugar -- usually in limited amounts, but whenever & wherever possible, I will also include suggestions for sugar substitutes & ingredients which are "natural sweeteners" like honey, stevia, etc.

You'd be surprised how yummy recipes can taste with other naturally sweet ingredients. If you tasted these recipes without knowing the ingredients beforehand, you might not even notice the difference! You'll find it hard to believe that they contain not a smidgen of refined sugar. Yes, my new catch phrase for this post is "I can't believe it's not sugar!" ;-)

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