03 January 2011

Winning the age-old battle against sugary treats

I'm proud to say that I didn't gain the dreaded 'freshmen 15' in college. Nope, not me...I waited until I got out of college and started my first real job to reach that milestone! Working at a busy orthopedic outpatient therapy clinic, we were fortunate to have many grateful patients walk through our doors every day. And just how does the grateful patient show their appreciation? Through food of course! The break room of the clinic was always stocked full of danishes, muffins, bagels, cakes, cookies, brownies, pastries, you name it. If it had sugar and flour in it, it was in our break room, and it had my name all over it. It wasn't until a fellow co-worker remarked to me one day, "You're getting a little belly there, Lori" that I realized what my untamable sweet tooth was doing to me.

Even while training for my first marathon, I managed to gain weight (and I'm not talking about muscle folks, I'm talking about fat). I would like to say that I was quickly snapped back to reality and banished my sugar addiction, by putting a quick end to it right then and there. But that wouldn't make for much of story. Instead, I experimented with the grapefruit diet, the cardiac diet, the high protein diet, the 'skipping breakfast diet' and even the Kellogg's diet (this was my favorite, you ate two meals of Kellogg's cereal, and then one large meal of regular food each day for two weeks and you were 'guaranteed' to lose at least 5 pounds!). But none of these worked in the long run. It wasn't until I changed jobs that I was able to drop my 'freshmen 15'. I was out of the war zone and I wasn't forced to fight my temptations on a daily basis. But I knew deep down I hadn't really won, and it was a battle that I would continue to fight. So far I figured it was Sugar 1, Lori 0. But eventually, I came out victorious...

My transition occured when I started eating more nutrient rich foods, and focused on what I should eat, rather than on what I SHOULDN'T. The good stuff began to crowd out the bad, until one day I walked by my favorite cookies at Whole Foods and realized that I truly didn't want to rip open the bag and devour them. Yes, this was a pivotal moment. It wasn't just self control or mind over matter. It was a true transformation in my taste buds. I realized just how far I had come this past December when in one day I was tempted with the ghosts of sugar past, multiple times. I am a practicing home health PT, and my first client of the day offered me a nice warm cup of hot chooclate, complete with those tiny marshmallow-like sugarladen things on top. No thanks, I said, and I really meant it. There was nothing tempting to me about that drink, even on this cold (read: 60 degrees and sunny) winter day in Southern California. Next stop, I was offered a large peanut butter filled chocolate bar. This used to be my downfall...peanut butter and chocolate! But to my surprise my body didn't even tell me this processed candy sounded appetizing in the least. This was a true miracle, coming from a girl who used to take a spoonful of peanut butter and dip it into a bag of chocolate chips for a sweet snack. Now what about by the end of the day, when I was really getting hungry and I walked into my next patient's home to be greeted by the sweet smell of cake, and a moist, decadent looking cupcake being offered to me on the spot? I checked in for a response... NOTHING. I did not have any desire to eat the cupcake!

I attribute my victorious outcome over sugar to a gradual change in my taste buds that happened once I began replacing empty calories, and sugar laden, processed junk with nutrient dense, fiber rich, blood sugar stabilizing foods. I can say with the utmost truth that I do not feel deprived in the least, and I have never felt better. Do I have a little sweet snack every now again? Sure I do. But I don't spiral out of control, nor do I get on the sugar roller coaster with one sight of a chocolate chip cookie. I eat what I want, when I want... but the crazy thing is I want the sweet stuff less and less. Once you realize that you have control over food, and that it doesn't control you, and you can enjoy it soooo much more!

Want to learn how to tame YOUR sweet tooth? Join my 21 day sugar cleanse.

Lori Zito | @LoriZito
Lori is an animal-loving, life-loving vegan who is passionate about spreading the message of better health through a vegan diet. She works as a certified holistic health and nutrition coach, a yoga instructor, and a physical therapist. Learn more at her website Live In The Balance and follow her on Facebook.

Photo credit:cc:flickr.com/photos/sassyradish