Unless you’ve been living on Mars, you've probably noticed that the anti-sugar movement is in full force.
You may have even attempted to shunt the refined stuff out of your diet, but still might be struggling with sugar pushers, substitute confusion, emotional eating and social awkwardness.
Here are 7 essential steps to take you towards a more peaceful, balanced and practical low-sugar existence that's truly healthy.
1. Dial down the judgement of people who eat a lot of sugar.
So you got savvy about sugar, but others around you still dig into the M&M's like there's no tomorrow. Occasionally, you even catch yourself passing judgment. This can make people feel uncomfortable, guilty, defensive or upset. (Even if you don’t say anything!)
Tune into your behavior around others when they eat sugar and accept that they'll learn in their own way, and at their own pace. With sugar so strongly tied to emotions and heavily ingrained in our social fabric, some aren’t ready to hear what you’re saying and may get defensive.
Pick your moments carefully and avoid slamming someone’s sugar consumption in front of others. And remember: how you treat other people is a reflection of how you treat yourself.
2. Know that a healthy diet could include sugar.
What?! I know, I said a healthy diet could include sugar. With sugar’s recent demonization, it’s easy to get swept up in totalitarian thinking and get overly militant about eliminating every last gram forever.
Reel yourself in from the day-to-day sugar-free detail and remember the importance of a holistic lifestyle and keeping a healthy attitude to food.
Yes, when you’re re-calibrating your sweet taste buds, keep a close eye on things, but don’t get so caught up in the details that you lose perspective. Look at the bigger picture where you can see a little sugar in a healthy diet if you want.
3. Go easy on sugar substitutes.
With sugar-free being the new black, the internet is going crazy for stevia, coconut sugar, brown rice syrup, medjool dates and anything else that gives that healthy and sugar-free dessert a sweet taste.
Remember, frequency matters the most here — examine what you’re eating multiple times a day.
Prioritize how often you use sugar substitutes over the details of which one to use. Also seek to reduce any regular sweet-tasting dependence you might have.
4. Have patience, particularly with older generations.
Times have changed dramatically. In previous decades, sugar was rationed and limited. As a result, older generations still view sweet treats as kind offerings or signs of love, so rejecting sweets may feel tricky at times. Navigate this by subtly emphasizing savory foods and meals, and other non-food treats that you adore.
5. Make sugar a random treat instead of a regular one.
Our habits provide the foundation of our health and it’s what you do regularly that matters. Try to avoid creating daily habits around sweetness, including sugar and sugar substitutes.
Instead chose to indulge in a more random way (e.g. the odd special occasion or a spontaneous decision to make something you normally wouldn't).
6. Continue to build non-food emotional coping mechanisms.
You may have overcome emotional sugar eating, but find yourself tearing into the tub of almond butter instead. I should know because I did exactly that.
Moving away from mass chocolate emotional eating is an impressive feat, but be honest with yourself if you’ve switched to using a healthier sugar-free food for the same purpose.
If so, continue to build non-food stress and distraction coping mechanisms into your lifestyle like regular work breaks, meditation or taking a walk to reduce your general emotional dependence on food.
7. Measure your success in terms of self-trust.
Living low-sugar long-term isn’t about the number of grams you eat day to day but about the level of self-trust you feel around a substance that previously held an unhealthy grip on you.
Switch your mentality to measure your success by the amount of trust you feel around sugary food compared to 3, 6 and 12 months ago.
Feeling empowered, in control of your choices and unrestricted is the end goal to this low sugar game and it's what will bring you a lifetime of peace with sweet food.