I Want Candy: How I Battled My Sugar Cravings

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Days 14-30

Day 14 -- Crave-o-meter: 5

I'm having lunch, peanut butter on a whole-grain rice cake, and I'd like to put a little jam on it. Just a little. I know jam is sugary, but I'm cutting back, not quitting cold turkey, right? So I survey the jars in my fridge and am surprised by the range: One has 13 grams of sugar per tablespoon, another has five, and another, which boasts that it is sweetened only with fruit-juice concentrate, has six. The best choice, though, would be to cut up some fruit and top the rice cake with that, for fiber with no added sugar. So guess what? I put the jam away and get out some strawberries. The berries do the trick, cutting the salty taste of the peanut butter. I think I'm getting the hang of this!

Day 19 -- Crave-o-meter: 8

Uh-oh -- setback! My husband brings home a pint of my favorite fancy ice cream. If it had gone into the freezer without my seeing it, I think I might have been fine. But I've had such a bad day that when I see the carton, it's like one of those movie moments where the set goes dark, music swells up, a white spotlight shines on me and the ice cream and everything else falls away. I'm a goner, and so is half the pint and a whopping 44 grams of sugar.

I'm no stranger to emotional eating, using food to soothe, but there is a physical aspect, too. "Feel like screaming after a stressful day at work? Low blood sugar, cortisol, and serotonin may be driving your edgy mood -- and your sugar cravings," says Dr. Teitelbaum. The key is to vent the emotions or dispel your stress with a walk or a bath, which may dampen the chemical cravings for sweets. Next time.

Day 23 -- Crave-o-meter: 3

Finally, my cravings are much weaker, and it's easier to distract myself from them. If I can't shake a craving, especially at night, I'll have a diet soda or an ice cream with aspartame in it, even though artificial sweeteners may make it harder for your taste for sweetness to adjust, some experts say. The jury is still out on that one, but I feel fine about having a little aspartame or stevia. In a dessert, okay, but I've stopped putting artificial sweeteners in my coffee and am down to one diet soda a day.

Day 27 -- Crave-o-meter: 2

When I get hungry, it's no longer the crazy, ravenous feeling I had when I was eating more sugar. I think my taste buds are finally calming down, too. I had a bite of my daughter's butterscotch sundae yesterday and honestly felt like it was throat-closingly sweet. I never, ever thought I'd say that.

Day 30 -- Crave-o-meter: 1

I've lost five pounds. I didn't count calories, but I suspect I've been eating a lot fewer. It might also be that because I ate less sugar, the insulin in my bloodstream could do its job, and there was little left over to be stored as fat. With a lower insulin level, my body could more efficiently metabolize the food I was eating and turn to stored fat for the rest of its energy.

So my experiment is officially over. No one would know if I decided to run out and celebrate with the chocolate-covered caramels I love. But the real victory is that I don't feel the need. My craving is gone. I think I'll take my daughters for a walk to celebrate. Just to be safe, we'll avoid the route that goes past our favorite doughnut shop.

Originally published in Ladies' Home Journal, May 2011.


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