Quitting sugar sounds hard; it’s harder than it sounds

A sugar addiction can be very difficult to break. (Thinkstock / Getty Images)
A sugar addiction can be very difficult to break. (Thinkstock / Getty Images)

We’re told that readers like lists. There’s a whole science behind this that assumes we process information better in digestible bits, and that we like knowing the time commitment involved in reading (and clicking on) an article.

Here’s an example: “75 ways sugar can ruin your health.”

How about this: “501 simple ways to cut the sugar out.”

I clicked on both, despite the daunting time commitment. I made it through all 75 items of the first list, depressed after answering yes to about a third of them, with the remainder difficult to assess: If I contract polio someday, I will check that off, too.

The entire category of “behavioral changes” is where my ruinous problem centers: Like everyone who’s ever lived, I have an addiction to sugar, with all of its attendant mood swings and mental obsessions.

Sugar is the exclamation point at the end of a meal, a puppy-like compassionate comfort when I’m sad, a stimulant that rockets me off to work in the morning.

In planning a recent weekend road trip to the desert, my mind drifted to those bulk bins at the grocery store that are stocked with chocolate-covered everything – the ones where you have to write down the sku number on the twisty thing – and which kinds of confections would best withstand 100-degree heat (I wisely stayed in the toffee and coconut families).

It’s not that I eat a ton of sweets (I tell myself), but I ensure they are always accessible: I have yogurt-covered pretzels in my desk drawer, ice cream sandwiches in the work and home freezers, dark chocolate-and-sea-salt squares in the medicine cabinet, and a stash of Tootsie Pops in the console of my car.

My cousin’s toddler requested sugar packets at the dinner table recently; I wish adults could be honest like that.

The problem thoroughly diagnosed, I turned to the list on kicking the habit. I did not make it through all “501 ways,” because they all fundamentally come down to one simple strategy: Stop eating so much of it.

Simple, not easy, because practically everything has sugar, including things you wouldn’t expect. I can give up chocolate cheesecake or sugar in my coffee, but that’s not the problem. It’s in food like marinara, teriyaki, yogurt, bread, even balsamic vinegar!

The average woman is recommended to have no more than six teaspoons of sugar a day, which is 24 grams. I looked at the nutritional label of my favorite crackers – something you should never do – only to find that one serving will get me almost to that daily total, and my usual breakfast of granola and yogurt has enough sweetness to send my blood sugar soaring and crashing toward diabetic ruin.


Here’s the really bad news: some studies have shown that sugar is eight times more addictive than cocaine.

My goal this week was to just be average and get under 24 grams. By Day 2 I had chewed away most of the cuticles on my fingernails (zero sugar!). By Day 4 I was snorting packets of Stevia. By Day 6, I stared bleakly out the window at a mother holding the hand of her young child, wondering why it is we bring life into this world when all they will do is suffer and die.

I wish this habit could be solved with a simple list. It can’t.

Like all addiction, the only way is to stir your bland oatmeal and slog slowly through it.

City editor Melissa Evans can be reached at mevans@scng.com.

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