When E.J. and I started our Whole 30, I read a lot about sugar and what it does to our bodies long term. I guess I always knew that sugar was bad for me, but I always thought it was kind of like caffeine – something that was bad, but not going to kill you long-term. In fact, growing up, so much emphasis was put on low-fat foods that sugar was considered the lesser of the 2 evils. But when you start reading about Paleo and Whole 30, there are some things that you’ve observed with your own experiences that just seem to make sense all of a sudden. Here are some truths I’ve observed personally over my journey:
- Sugar is everywhere – like, in way more places than you think it should or would be. Finding any type of processed foods that don’t contain some form of sugar (dextrose, corn starch, corn syrup, cane sugar, etc) is really hard, and requires careful reading of labels.
- Sugar is addictive – as in cocaine-like addiction. Seriously.
- Sweet (ANY sweet) feeds the Dragon
Ok, that last one is really hard to admit until you have actually tried a Whole 30, but I swear it’s true. ANY sweet, and that means artificial sweeteners, honey, coconut sugar, maple syrup, and other sweeteners that you can technically have under Paleo & Primal will feed the Dragon.
Call it a sweet tooth, a sugar craving or whatever you like, but Whole 30 introduced me to the term “Sugar Dragon” and I think it’s spot on for me. And mine is such a monster, I decided to call him George. George and I have a long and sordid history together, and even when I am able to banish George for short periods of time, he’s always there lurking in the shadows.
This past weekend I was describing our diet to some friends who are starting to dabble in Paleo and were asking questions about sweets. I explained that the beauty of Paleo is that there is pretty much a Paleo version of any food out there – most are not going to be exact replicas, but often are very tasty in their own right, so they’re easy to transition to. So of course, I was challenged to make a Paleo chocolate chip cookie… oh hell yes, challenge accepted! (And I had already had a couple of glasses of wine which (duh) also becomes sugar, so I had primed the pump, so to speak)
Good news, I found a Paleo chocolate chip cookie that is absolutely TO DIE FOR. Bad news, it fed George, and I found myself craving cookies all day the next day. For me, it seems I can handle sweet better when it’s paired with savory – like honey & mustard glazes or a little balsamic vinegar with pork, but the minute I start having dessert-like sweets, even when made from better sugars than refined sugar, I have to watch out for George. And George is a beast – I mean dreaming about donuts and waffles bad. The only cure is to banish the sugars from the diet again for a few days and the cravings go away, but it’s that first 24 hours that is the slippery slope towards going back to my old habits.
Good news again is that I’m getting better at recognizing George and knowing how to tame him when he appears. You see, while E.J.’s strategy involves restricting temptation as much as possible and trying to have a mindset of NEVER eating certain things again, I’m taking a much more practical approach. There will be days when I am going to choose to eat something off-diet, or borderline off-diet (like this salted paleo fudge and paleo thin mints which are also really good). But if I can learn to recognize the ledge and step back from it rather than assume I’m already falling and I might as well hit the ground, then I’m just that much closer to a happier, healthier me (both mentally and physically).
I may not ever be able to slay George completely, but maybe he and I can learn to live together with a healthy mutual respect.