How to break a sugar addiction – it’s easier than you might think
I’ve craved sweets for as long as I can remember. As a kid, I loved candy bars and prepackaged baked goods. Treats like Hostess Cupcakes, Twinkies, and Moon Pies were staples in my childhood household. As an adult, I no longer eat that stuff but the fix is in. I never feel like a meal is done till I have something sweet, and I’ve always had a hard time resisting free pastries and candies at the office. As you might imagine, trying to get fit and having strong sugar cravings don’t really mesh well. Read on to find out how I broke the cycle.
Maybe you’ve heard that abs are made in the kitchen, or that you can’t out-train a bad diet. I’ve found both of these statements to be true in my own life. Whether I like it or not, I’m at an age where I can no longer easily burn off the empty calories I used to enjoy from sweets and alcohol. If I want to be healthy, I’ve got to be smart about what I put in my body. I’m not quite ready to give up beer (I love me some good IPA), but sugar? I think I can live without it.
Yes, you read that right, chocolate. Hear me out before you judge.
I figured that cutting sugar outright from my diet was going to be extremely unpleasant, and difficult to stick with for the long term. I further reasoned that I would have a higher chance of success if I could wean myself off sugar gradually. To make this work, I needed something that I could easily acquire in varying levels of sweetness and keep with me at work and at home. Chocolate bars fit the bill perfectly – they’re available in varying amounts of cocoa vs sugar, they store easily, are readily available in any grocery store, and don’t spoil.
I’m not sure if this is common knowledge or not, but as the percentage of cocoa in a chocolate bar goes up, the amount of sugar in the bar goes down. I started out with bars made of 60% cocoa, and whenever I felt the need for something sweet I broke off a small piece of a chocolate bar rather than reaching for a pastry. After a week, I went up to 65% chocolate. Another week, 67%. Then 71%. And so on, until I reached 85% cocoa, which is considered extremely dark chocolate.
The step-ladder increases over time were necessary in order for me to get used to the increased bitterness in the chocolate without the added sugar to compensate. By the time I got to 85%, I found I had learned to really appreciate the taste of dark chocolate, and I could discern flavors in the chocolate that I never knew existed. Much like good coffee or wine, the taste of dark chocolate varies widely depending on where it’s from and how it was processed and can be a very enjoyable way to expand your taste palate.
The health benefits of cocoa are well established, so replacing sweets with dark chocolate has the added advantage of replacing a bad habit with a good one as long as you don’t overdo it. There may be less sugar in dark chocolate than in donuts, but calories are still calories. Go easy, and learn to savor the flavor of dark chocolate as it melts in your mouth rather than scarfing it down.
If you need a recommendation to get you started, try this variety pack of six bars made by Equal Exchange chocolatiers. I’ve had their chocolate and it is good. My current favorite is Taza Mexican chocolate, the beans are stone ground which leaves much of the original flavor intact, although the stone grind process gives the chocolate a slightly gritty texture that some people don’t like. You don’t have to start off with 60% dark like I did, you can start lower if need be. But get started! Don’t let a sugar addiction get the best of you, you’ve got this.
Have you been able to break a sugar habit? If so, how did you do it? Sound off in the comments below with your suggestions.
Donut photo by PowerRabbit
I'm a software product manager with a full-time job, family, and a desire to stay strong, mobile, and fit. I separate fact from fiction to find the most effective and affordable options for home fitness. If you'd like to build your own home gym, start here.
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