The Sweet Relief

Most of the people I work with like to have something occasionally sweet in their diet. That might mean a donut in the morning, a handful of candy, or maybe some ice cream after dinner.

None of those options, in and of themselves, is particularly wrong to do.

However, we want to step back and look at the diet as a whole and see if sugar is as big of a problem as some might make it out to be.

Let’s look at two hypothetical clients:

“Ashley” wants to lose fat and has a mostly nutritious diet. She eats lean proteins, eats a salad most every day for lunch and a relatively balanced dinner. However, her “guilty pleasure” is a large caffeinated drink in the morning that has a considerable amount of cream and sweeteners in it. This is her biggest sweet splurge on any given day.

“Sarah” wants to lose fat as well and she eats a diet with more highly processed food options. She drinks a Diet Coke every morning for her caffeine kick (which has no calories) but she opts for a blueberry scone at her favorite bakery. After lunch, which is usually a fast food sandwich, she grabs a handful of Hershey kisses from a container on her desk. She has a balanced dinner with her family each night and gravitates towards a small cup (sometimes a bowl) of ice cream afterwards.

Both of these clients take in messages from friends and social media that they need to reduce the sugar in their diets for better health outcomes and to help with fat loss.

In Ashley’s case, the change could be relatively simple. Since the biggest area of opportunity is her morning drink, she could find ways to reduce the amount of sugar that’s in it, she could opt for a smaller size or she could have the drink less frequently throughout the course of a given week. Remember, this is about reduction, not elimination.

In Sarah’s case, we don’t want to remove all pleasure from her diet but the sweets are more of an area for improvement than in Ashley’s diet. She could select one sweet treat per day that she feels drawn towards and let that be her luxury for the day. Rather than having something sweet at or around every main meal, she can pick one thing that she’s truly craving, savor and enjoy it and save something else for another day. This way, we’re not removing every sweet option, just some of them, and she still has something to look forward to. She’s also far less likely to resent the changes she’s looking to make because she’s making the conscious effort to change something without complete deprivation.

I don’t want to fall down the rabbit hole of “sugar addiction” because I don’t think it’s a helpful conversation to have. Where I could give some credit is to people who notice that every day they have sugary treats AND every day they crave sugary treats. An experiment worth looking into is to break the pattern of daily sweets and see if, after a few days, some of those cravings subside.

Of note, some women do tend to crave sweet foods as they are nearing or are on their periods.

What you’ll hopefully notice is that I’m not going to demonize any food selection. If you want something sweet, have it. If you think that you’re going overboard, try and find ways to minimize what’s happening by taking a moment to ask yourself two questions: 1) What do I really need right now? 2) What’s the least amount that will satisfy my craving?

(Photo courtesy of Wojtek Mich)