We are passionately Paleo, and at the same time, we do like our Sweets. We don’t repress that. But we know from experience that a little trickle of sweetness can quickly turn into a flood, so we’ve developed strategies for keeping the Sugar Dragon under control. Here are 10 techniques which I hope you’ll find useful for keeping your own Dragon at bay.
10 Ways to Keep the Sugar Dragon Under Control
1. Be Informed.
They say that acknowledging the existence of an issue is the first step towards its resolution. When it comes to Sugar and Sweeteners, we need to admit to two things. Firstly, the desire for ‘Sweet’ is part of our DNA and one of our survival mechanisms and therefore will never go away. Secondly, by it’s nature, ‘sweet’ is addictive, and therefore must be treated with caution and respect. Find out about why Sugar and Sweeteners are addictive by reading articles such as my last two posts. Information equals Empowerment, and the more you know, the more you will be motivated to reduce your sugar consumption.
2. Re-educate the Tastebuds.
A big part of our cultural sugar addiction comes from the fact that, from infancy, we are habitualised to an intensity of sweetness which is over and above anything found in nature. By gradually reducing your sugar consumption (I started by ceasing to add sugar to my coffee), and then starving the Sugar Dragon for a long time (at least for one month), you’ll re-train the tastebuds. Apples will become about as sweet as you can handle, anything sweeter will be sickly.
3. Clean out the Pantry.
If it’s not around, you’ll be less likely to think about it. Forget about the existence of refined white sugar. (I keep a little raw sugar for visitors to put in their coffee.) When sweet treats arrive, such as in a Christmas Hamper, give them away and feel joyful.
4. Avoid Empty Calories like the Plague.
Refined Sugar and Alcohol provide no nutritional benefit. Whilst other natural sweeteners are not necessarily nutritionally dense, they at least have their good sides. Honey, Dates, Figs, Sultanas, Muscovado Sugar, Molasses and Maple Syryp all contain good sources – in varying respective quantities – of mineral salts, phosphorus, calcium, magnesium, potassium, iron and manganese, as well as various Vitamins. Apples, Bananas, Pumpkin and Sweet Potatoes also provide sweetness and health.
5. When You Need to Snack, Reach for Fat.
When you’re feeling munchy, your body is asking for fuel, so give it a quality energy source, rather than a cheap and nasty insulin rush. Go-Go Balls, Fat Bombs, Bounty Bites, whatever you want to call them – make a batch on the weekend and have them on hand. Always, always have in the fridge a jar of Paleo Mayoinaise that you can dollop onto a boiled egg or a can of tuna or use to tart up a simple lettuce leaf. Olives, green or black, pitted or whole, however you like them. And coconut, of course, in all it’s wonderful forms.
6. Limit your Sweet.
This is not about Never. It’s about Being in Control. It’s about reminding the Sugar Dragon who’s Boss. Be aware of how often you are seeking to satisfy that urge, and set limits. I do my best not consume sweet more than twice a day. That might mean a sweet treat after lunch, and mid-afternoon a dried fig and a date. Some days I’ll go without. I used to not even notice that I was reaching for sweet the umpteenth time in a day: now, I am fully conscious as to when and how and how often.
7. Don’t eat Sweet on It’s Own.
Like, don’t just down four tablespoons of blackstrap molasses on an empty stomach. Eat your sweet with carbs and protein whenever you can so the body is receiving well balanced, slowly assimilated nutrition instead of an intravenous hit. A minimally sweetened dessert, such as a Chocolate and Almond Torte made with ground almonds, eggs, 85% dark chocolate and muscovado sugar is going to have far less impact on your system if eaten after dinner than if eaten alone.
8.Do a Whole 30 Whenever the Sugar Dragon Gets Pushy.
The beauty of the Whole 30 is that the rules disallow any kind of Paleofied sweetness. No baked treats, no bliss balls, no no-bake slices, not even a protein bar if that protein bar is likely to set off the dopamine and opiod receptors. No Paleomantic Pancakes, no Paleo All-Day Biscotti, no sugar-free whatever. Yes, even a Frozen Banana is regarded as Sex With Your Pants On in the Whole 30 rule book. It’s a psychology thing. It’s about reminding yourself that a sweet treat is exactly that: a treat. Not an indispensible part of your nutrition. Think about it: back in our parents or grandparents days, refined sugar and refined flour were only ever used for refined occasions. Baptisms and Weddings and the like. Not a dietary staple. We find that 30 days is enough to re-establish a healthy relationship with our resident Dragon. Yours might need a little longer.
9. Be Your Own Adult Supervisor.
This is harder than it sounds, and it’s very deep. The ego – or the mind – is infantile. Most of its habits were formed in infancy and childhood, and from there it has ceased to evolve. If you start looking around (you could start with politicians) you’ll see that many, many adults are really just children in a grown-up’s body. They’ve simply substituted grown-up looking toys for their old ones. The power games and conflicts are still the stuff of play-ground temper tantrums. It’s mine! He’s got what I want! It’s not fair! I’m right, he’s wrong! When it comes to Sugar Addiction, the psychology is further complicated by the neurotransmitters and chemicals that are involved. Whenever desire or craving sets in, take a step away from your ego, and summon your higher, mature, observant self. Treat your ego as a child, and explain the situation in a calm, compassionate and reassuring manner. When she’s settled down, offer her a fatty treat – but only if she’s genuinely hungry. Your ego (and the Sugar Dragon) are the babies here. You’ve got to be the grown-up.
10. Strike the Balance between Stability and Flexibility. This is a yoga concept, one which I encourage my students to apply to all areas of life. If the pendulum swings too far in either direction, trouble will rebound. Too much flexibility with regards to Sweets will see the Sugar Dragon rise to the fore. Too much rigidity will make you hard-headed, which risks developing a sanctimonious and judgemental attitude towards others. That tension of continual vigilance and resistance will take its toll in other areas of your life, or lodge itself in your body. Give in every now and again. Of course, this doesn’t apply for those who have real allergies or serious issues. But for those of us who are trying to improve upon or maintain a current state of health, giving in every now and again will probably not set off a wave of inflammation, and it can be lovely for all concerned. For me, it means I don’t always have to fight to explain. It means I can sometimes be invisible. Not having to draw attention to myself because of what I choose to put in my mouth is a way of avoiding tension. Allowing myself some flexibility means I don’t suffer the guilt of transgression. This is Stress Management, and it forms a big part of the picture. Flexibility is also about good manners. Sometimes it’s simply the right thing to say, ‘Thankyou’, and graciously accept that piece of cake. And sometimes it’s wonderful to relax and enjoy and partecipate in your family’s traditions and cultural events. This is healthy living.
I hope these 10 points give you some Sweet Food for Thought, and some techniques to put into action. I would love to hear how you keep your Sugar Dragon under control – I’m sure we all have our ways and means. I know some of you are really fighting a serious battle against the Sweet Drive, and I wish you so much strength and perserverance. I really hope you can get it to the point where you can indulge every now and again, without letting loose the monster. Your stories are so important for everyone who is on the road, so please share.
Thanks for your time here at Paleomantic, and thanks so much for sharing on Social.
Best Wishes, Good Health