Although I grew up in another country, I was always somehow connected to America. My father used to travel to the United States for business frequently, so I grew up hearing stories about his adventures in America. Whenever he came back from his trips, I would stay awake just to see what presents he brought me. Don’t get me wrong, I wanted to see him too, but, secretly, it was all about the candy.
The U.S. has many wonderful things to offer, which is why people all over the world dream of coming here. For children, however, the appeal of the United States is the unmeasurable number of toys, candy and Disney World. When I first came to America, I was still a child at heart, so I went crazy every time I entered a Walmart. There were so many things to see, and, most importantly, so much candy to eat.
Needless to say, I gained like a million pounds thanks to the variety of sugar sources found in this country. Of course, that isn’t the country’s fault, but my own. I let myself go every time I saw any colorfully-wrapped treasure on the shelves. Sweets brought back childhood memories of back home, and I craved those feelings.
Most people have developed unhealthy eating habits based on how certain foods make them feel. Sugar is number one when it comes to making people feel good, so their bodies crave it. In fact, there is a biological reason for this.
First, sweets raise our blood sugar, which results in a quick energy boost. However, the energy boost is short-lived and followed by a crash, and then we need more. Second, sugar delivers serotonin to our brain. Serotonin affects our mood, among other things, and it makes us feel happy. The positive feelings fade quickly, and we need more sugar to get the same effect. This can lead to a cycle of dependence that is very similar to other addictions.
Breaking free from our sugar-dependence is not easy, but it can be done. Understanding how sugar affects our bodies might help us be more committed to eliminating it from our diet. Sugar makes us hungry, moody, sluggish, and fatter. It also leads to a myriad of health issues including diabetes and high cholesterol. Because of that, I believe that quitting sugar is key to becoming healthier.
To eliminate sugar from our diets, we need to identify whether a product has sugar. When looking at ingredients, be wary of these terms: high fructose corn syrup, malt sugar, or organic cane juice. These are sugar sources. Also, try to avoid artificial sweeteners. While they do not contain calories, they can increase your cravings for sugar and fat. Lastly, increase your protein and fiber intake. These can help you experience fewer cravings.
Most importantly, you should know that you have the power to reset your sweet tooth. However, it takes time and a lot of commitment. My recommendation is that you focus on achieving smaller goals. Baby steps can take you far, so begin by removing at least one teaspoon of sugar a day. Eventually, you will be able to skip the sugary snacks for a week, then two weeks, and then a month. Something that helped me with the cravings was replacing unhealthy snacks with fruits; fruits also contain sugar but in fewer quantities. Whatever you decide, be kind to yourself and your body, and know that it is okay if you fall off the wagon. When that happens, don’t beat yourself up over it, don’t let it send you spiraling out of control. Get back up and try again; consistency will get you to where you want to be.