5 ways to change your relationship with sugar

If pressed to define their relationship with sugar, many people would say, “it’s complicated.” A 2018 study found that 70% of American adults are concerned about the amount of sugar they consume, suggesting that many of us struggle with a toxic internal monologue when presented with cakes, cookies, and other desserts.

Why do many of us have a confusing connection to sugar and how do we heal our relationship with it?

Why many of us have a complicated relationship with sugar

If diets had their own Disney princess movie, sugar would surely be the villain. “It’s hard to have a positive or neutral relationship with something that’s constantly labeled as bad or addictive,” says Claire Chewning, RD, certified intuitive eating counselor. “In addition, many of us have likely followed restrictive diets that demonize sugar and tell us to eliminate or strictly limit our carbohydrate intake. “This type of restriction can lead us to feel out of control with sugar.”

Feeling like we’re not in the driver’s seat when we’re, for example, eating birthday cake, can lead to enormous panic about how much sugar we’re consuming. “It is true that eating ‘too much’ sugar is not good for your health. But actually, eating a little sugar every day is perfectly fine,” says Emily Van Eck., RD, by Emily Van Eck Nutrition and Wellness.

Telling ourselves that sugar has no place in our diet can actually make the ingredient feel “forbidden” and lead to binge eating when presented with dessert. For example, maybe today you will eat an entire sleeve of cookies so you can start your sugar-free diet at home tomorrow.

“If you’ve ever felt out of control with sweets or like you can’t stop eating them, consider how dietary rules or restrictions might have played a role,” says Van Eck.

1. Resist the temptation to label foods as “good” or “bad”

Van Eck points out that the language we use to talk about sugar tends to worsen our relationship with it. “Labeling foods as ‘good’ and ‘bad’ keeps you stuck in anxiety about every detail of your diet,” says Van Eck. “Labeling foods as ‘bad’ can cause us to rebel against our own rules and eat them in amounts that are not in tune with what our body really wants.”

Take a moment to reflect on how you currently think about sugar. Does it bring up fear or anxiety? Does it make you feel out of control? What ‘rules’ do you have about this? See if you can change your thoughts to be more neutral about the ingredient. For example, try saying to yourself, “Sugar is just one of the many types of foods in my diet.” While it may be difficult to rewrite your internal script all at once, sending yourself neutral messages about sugar can decrease sweet-related stress over time.

2. Understand the vital role glucose plays in your body

“(Sugar) is the body’s preferred energy source,” Chewning says. “The body breaks down carbohydrates found in grains, dairy products, fruits and vegetables and converts them into glucose, a simple sugar, which serves as fuel for cells.”

When we deprive our body of glucose, it does not function properly. “The preference for sugary foods (carbohydrates in general) is deeply programmed into human physiology, since many of our body’s processes depend on carbohydrates to function properly,” says Van Eck. “It makes sense that it would be tremendously disruptive to try to deprive our bodies of a central macronutrient.”

Glucose is especially useful for people who love activities like walking, hiking or running. In fact, the National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM) recommends consuming about one gram of carbohydrate per kilogram of body weight one hour before a workout to help you perform at your best. For example, someone who weighs 155 pounds, or about 70 kilograms, should consume about 70 grams of quality carbohydrates before exercising. Pre-workout supplements or whole food sources like whole wheat bread, nut butter, or bananas are great options to achieve this goal while respecting the role sugar should play in your body.

3. Eat full meals

“If you don’t eat enough overall, you can end up craving foods you wouldn’t want if you were fed properly,” Van Eck says. Serving meals that include protein, carbohydrates, and vegetables will help you feel full. Over time, this style of eating can help you regain confidence in your body. You respond to hunger cues with nutritious foods; Your body gives you the energy to show up cognitively and physically in your life.

And of course, make sure you eat. enough for the whole day. “Undereating could be another reason you become obsessed with sugar or feel out of control, so make sure you eat enough throughout the day,” Chewning says. “For most people, this will be several meals with one or two snacks in between as needed.”

4. Practice conscious eating

Yet another way to reconnect with yourself at mealtime is to practice mindful eating, says Van Eck. “Pay attention to how your body feels during and after eating. The more you can observe your body without judging the outcome, the easier it will be to make the changes you want,” he says.

While this practice may seem challenging at first, it will eventually help you detect hunger and satiety cues and enjoy the flavors of what you’re eating even more. If you find it overwhelming to focus on food for an entire meal, challenge yourself to do it with the first bite, then the first three bites, and so on. Start small.

4. Combine sweets with other foods

Instead of telling yourself you can’t have sugar when you crave something sweet, try combining a cookie or piece of chocolate with other ingredients. “Practice allowing yourself to eat sugar whenever you want, but also keep in mind that your body will likely feel better, especially on an empty stomach, if you also consume some fiber and protein. For example, if you like chocolate in the afternoon, pair it with some fruit and nuts,” recommends Van Eck.

Combining your sweets with other foods will not only help you feel satisfied, but it will also help you realize that all foods can fit on a plate. In other words, fruit, nuts, and chocolate are neither “bad” nor “good”; They are just elements of your diet, each with a role to play.

5.Make small changes

If you’ve ever followed an exercise routine or tried to meditate, you know that Rome wasn’t built in a day. Improving your thinking about sugar takes ongoing work, so Van Eck recommends choosing one of the tips above and focusing on it before moving on to the next.

“Healing your relationship with sugar won’t happen overnight, especially if this can be a decades-long struggle,” she says. Be patient and remember yourself because First, it was important for you to reshape your relationship with desserts.

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