Conquering Sugar Cravings

תוצאת תמונה עבור ‪sugar cravings‬‏

Because of our social conditioning, love of sugar is one of the most difficult harmful food cravings to conquer. Not only is sugar everywhere, it forms part of such cherished memories as Grandma’s cookies, birthday cakes, holiday treats, etc. Therefore, trying to cut refined sugar out of one’s diet, or one’s children’s diet, can get a pretty serious emotional kickback: “Are you telling me we’re going to have a birthday party without a Double Sugar Bomb Birthday Cake? Do you mean to say I can’t take my grandchildren out for an ice-cream?” Just try it, and you’ll see how personally people take it.

In my experience, the number one vulnerability factor that leads people to succumb to sugar cravings is hunger and the low blood sugar levels it evokes. It’s very, very hard to resist a scrumptious glazed cookie when one hasn’t eaten all day. Therefore, the number one defense against sugar cravings is not just to eat on time, but to have satisfying meals that stave off hunger and delight the taste buds. For me this might be a slice of artisan sourdough bread, spread with butter or homemade cream cheese, and a big salad; or a bowl of lentil soup and a platter of fruit; or an omelet made of home-grown eggs and some sliced veggies with a dip.

Even so, merely not being hungry makes no guarantee against sugar cravings. If it were that simple, there wouldn’t be so many sugar addicts. Awareness, distraction, alternative rewards (buying a book instead of a cake) and educating oneself on the dangers of sugar consumption all help, but truly I have no perfect solution – if I did, I’d be very rich (and probably not very popular with the food industry, for whom cheap, easily added, infinitely stored white sugar is a godsend).

I will probably be battling sugar cravings for as long as I live, but I’m in a much better place than I was several years ago, when I wasn’t even aware of how harmful sugar is, given how socially acceptable it is and how its dangers were smoothed over even while I was taking nutrition courses in university. At least now I know what sort of a many-headed monster I’m up against; as soon as I cut off one head in the form of an ice-cream box I don’t put in the supermarket cart, it rears another as my mother-in-law offers me some cookies. But my sword – my knowledge, determination, and wish for better health for myself and my family – is ever ready.

Spring, an exciting thing

I spent some time in the garden this morning (while I really should have been getting the house in order for Pesach, but never mind) and as you can see, the sage is in full bloom and the first beans are hopefully poking their heads up.

My tomato seedlings look a bit puny,but I hope they will improve as we get more sunlight hours.

Moreover, we already have our first two broodies of the season! So hoping for some chicks soon.

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Our neighbor’s dog has had a litter of puppies. My kids are delighted. Here you can see the mother dog looking on intently (but not at all in a hostile manner) as Israel is gently touching one of her babies.

Commitment to healthier cooking

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When I graduated with a degree in nutrition from a prestigious university, I knew a great deal about enzymes, hormones, and dietary regimes for various ailments, from diabetes to kidney dysfunction – but next to nothing about how to make healthier choices for simple homemade food cooked for basically healthy people.

Sure, I knew the basics – avoid over-processed junk, eat plenty of fruit and veggies, reduce sugar and salt. But I didn’t internalize the importance of what comes into the process of making food: organic vs commercially grown produce, pasture-raised eggs and meat vs animals raised in crowded feedlots. I wasn’t fully aware of the detrimental effects of commercially processed oils, or even sugar.

Fast forward a few years. I’m pregnant with my second child, and a friend sends me the wonderful book Nourishing Traditions. I gobble it up, fascinated. Some things I disagree with, but so many more make perfect sense. I discover a wealth of information about the diversity of diet and traditional food preparation techniques. My horizons are expanded, but I’m also discouraged. This is too much for a family who love their triple chocolate ice-cream and depend on the convenience of plastic white bread.

Slowly, bit by bit, I become convicted that health is a treasure in the sense that it makes everything else possible, and that it is my job, as the cook of the family, to make the most effort towards preserving and enhancing health. My means are ridiculously inadequate. I happen to be married to a man who isn’t exactly on the same page; who doesn’t just think that whole grains are nothing more than a nutritional fad, but who requests desserts, foods fried in large quantities of unhealthy oil, etc (we did make some progress there over the years, I am happy to say).

I yearn to exchange all the junk for an invigorating array of fruit and vegetables, for high-quality natural oils and whole flours, and excellent fresh meat, fish and dairy products. I yearn to remove all the temptations from us. I do so wish I could be the one who does the shopping, but unfortunately, this isn’t practical.

More recently, reading Sugar Blues made me more mindful of the effect sugar has on people, especially children. It’s actually chilling. Intelligent people lose all rational thought and consume foul junk like candy and soft drinks as if those were manna from heaven.

So, what do I do? I cook. I cook for my family. The ingredients are often inferior, but here’s what I do:

I cut down on desserts. I’ve realized that I can spend hours working on a fancy layered cake, lovingly decorating it, and what I’m really doing is investing my time in a poison bomb that is detrimental to my family’s health, because I don’t have the whole flour, high-quality eggs (depends on season), healthy oils and natural sweeteners that would make such a dessert even somewhat more nutritious than its store-bought equivalent. So, if I can’t make a dessert or a treat that isn’t an anti-nutrient, I don’t make it at all.

Of course, this has a downside, being that my husband, if he sees I’ve stopped making sweet treats, buys them at the store instead. Then he introduces something that is even more loaded with sugar and unhealthy oils than what I would have made at home. But my protest, in refusing to make such things, creates an echo that really serves to convince my family, bit by bit.

Same goes for white bread. Making bread from scratch is time-consuming, and I’ve repeatedly told my husband I don’t see the sense in doing it if I end up with a product that, nutritionally speaking, is only slightly better than what I can buy at the store (though it does taste better). So more recently we’ve been experimenting with slow-rise breads made partially of whole grain (because my husband still claims that bread made entirely of whole grain is too dense for him).

Of course, I cook a variety of real food – soups, stews, casseroles, quiches, meat, fish, and eggs-based stuff. In short, I’m doing the best I can with what I have, at this moment.

Home business: doing it smart

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Freedom: a shot from our recent beach trip

The Internet, social media and Etsy have opened a whole new medium in which home based businesses and artisans can flourish. Many people are choosing the freedom and creativity of being self employed over the stability (real or perceived) of a monthly paycheck handed over by someone else.

For me, and indeed for many other people, looking into home-based business ventures came out of sheer necessity. I was a mom with two very young kids (whom wand an unstable family income, living in a rural area with no car and with very limited opportunities. At some point I began desperately searching for something I can do from home. I tried nutritional counseling, private lessons and various crafts, all of which were successful to some degree, but ultimately my lifelong passion lay in writing, and it was there that I focused my main energies. I can’t say I have “arrived”, as it’s a long haul, but in the past year or so, working consistently, I am seeing some breakthrough with my books.

I am by no means an expert on home business or making money from home, but I did learn a thing or two along the way as a writer, nutritionist and creative entrepreneur, and my word of advice to anyone just starting out would be: let your business grow organically, take one step at a time and beware of large expenses which may or may not redeem themselves.

Read more in my latest Mother Earth News post:

“At some point you might discover that your homemade hobby actually has business potential. Maybe people have seen your beautiful pottery and asked if you have any for sale. A neighbor of ours has experienced just that – her lifelong passion for pottery has blossomed into a home-based business and, as they had saved money, into a tiny home-attached studio. Maybe you’ve seen some handmade candles at an artisan fair and realized that your own are even prettier, so why not try selling them? Or maybe your home is full of homemade soap you don’t really have much to do with, but making it is too much fun to stop.”

Payhip Protest Book Sale

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For a reason I cannot quite understand, Amazon has removed genuine, legitimate and helpful customer reviews from one of my books and refused to provide any real explanation to this. I know they are tightening their review policy to prevent paid and fake reviews, but I believe authors like me, who never use any paid promotion whatsoever and cherish every genuine review they get, don’t deserve such injustice.

Given this circumstance, I’d like to encourage anyone who might want to buy my books to do so directly via Payhip (unless, of course, you prefer a paper copy, in which case Amazon remains the only option). I am currently running a 50% discount on all the books in my Payhip store. Coupon code is 6318WQ1TAM and it will be valid until the end of the month.

Thank you, and you are very welcome to share this on your social media and/or blog.

PS: To those who have been asking me about my next planned book, The Basic Guide to Backyard Livestock, it will take quite a bit of time yet, but I’m having a lot of fun working on it.

The garden is coming to life!

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After a long time asleep, our trees are finally coming back to life! This week I was excited to see these beautiful snowy-white apricot blossoms. It is a young tree, only about 4-5 years old, but last year it bore excellent fruit. Other trees are stirring awake as well, the rosemary and sage are in bloom, and I have a bunch of tomato seedlings started indoors, from seeds we had never tried before, which promise especially large tomatoes (I don’t recall the exact name at the moment. It’s written on the packet). We ordered some and thought we might as well give it a go this year.

Overall, spring is here in earnest: a beautiful and exciting season, full to burst with juices of life but, alas, also of necessary chores such as getting the house in shape for Pesach, which prevents me from being outdoors as much as I would have liked in this glorious weather.

Why sugar addiction is so hard to beat

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Of all the changes one might try to make to improve one’s nutrition, eliminating or reducing the intake of added sugar is probably one of the hardest (but also one of the most crucial) things to do. Here are some reasons why:

  1. Sugar is everywhere. It is ever-present and very socially acceptable, being used as part of every gathering, food treat, or celebration. Children get candy as a reward for good behavior. Almost every occasion, from birthday party to wedding reception, is impossible to imagine without cake. Furthermore, many alcoholic drinks – another social convention – are heavily sugar-laced.
  2. The love of sugar is biologically ingrained. On a biological level, sweet taste allows one to assess the ripeness of fruit, therefore helping choose the ones which offer most nutritional benefits – as in nature, sugar is a component of nutritionally dense foods. The consumption of sugar is chemically rewarded by the brain – it acts on the pleasure-center and triggers the release of serotonin, which in turn floods our bodies with pleasant sensations. The problem is, this kind of biochemical high is also addictive – when the consumption of sugar is over-indulged, on attempting to break it one might literally find oneself feeling and behaving like a junkie on withdrawal.
  3. Commonly used in food industry – sugar is one of the favorite ingredients of food industry, and do you have to ask why? It’s cheap, has a pleasant taste and an almost infinite shelf life. It is used, therefore, to entice innocent people, cover up for bland taste inferior ingredients are responsible for and, in short, to line the pockets of the food conglomerates.

I have stated before that I am an acknowledged sugar addict. I’m not saying “recovered” or “former”; I will probably struggle with this affliction for as long as I live, but eating well, resting well, and being aware of the problem helps quite a bit. One interesting book I am reading now is The Carbohydrate Addict’s Diet. It isn’t a new book, and some of the things they recommend and/or allow are outdated, but overall they have an interesting approach. Their attitude, in a nutshell, is reducing hyperinsulinemia by limiting carbohydrate-containing meals to one per day. Other favorite reads of mine are Sugar Blues and Beating The Food Giants.