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Sugar Isn’t Toxic. But Our Mindset About It Can Be.

I recently wrote about three foods that curb sugar cravings — one of which was an actual donut. Because most of us could probably loosen our grip and give ourselves permission to eat freely. Unfortunately, we live in a time where it seems like if you’re not on board with the latest nutrition program or challenge, you’re a nobody. Take the demonization of sugar, for instance. While blood glucose regulation is incredibly important, the problem with sugar isn’t that it’s toxic or addictive. It’s that we believe we can’t be trusted around it. We believe that giving in to a sugar craving is a sign of weakness.

This results in a classic cycle of restrict-binge-guilt. After all, when we’re told we can’t eat something, we typically want it more. In fact, we usually can’t stop thinking about it.

Over time, we can get trapped in a cycle where we sneak around and try to get our sugar fixes. In the process of sneaking around, we learn to numb emotions, ignore physiological cues, overeat, and throw our hands up in despair.

We polish off the tray of brownies or dig too far into a carton of ice cream until we can say, “See? I told you I have no self control!”

The most interesting part is that we put bandaids over the situation in the name of health. All better, right?

Those bandaids might look like vowing to quit sugar, repeatedly going back to a nutrition program that restricts intake, or engaging in a quick-fix diet.

While those things might serve us for a season, the root of the problem still remains: we believe we can’t be trusted.

This distrust in our ourselves ultimately leads us to rely on other people (coaches, trainers, strangers on the internet) to tell us what and how to eat. We believe we’ll fail if we take on the seemingly gargantuan task of feeding ourselves.

Since birth, your body has given you information and physiological cues about what and how to eat— hence the term “intuitive eating.” A really interesting report in the Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience refers to intuition as involving an “informed judgment in the context of discovery” as well as a “vague perception of coherence which is not explicitly describable but instead embodied in a ‘gut feeling’ or an initial guess.”

Your body is constantly in the process of delivering and discovering information. But when we muddy this exchange of information by constantly relying on outside sources (rather than our own intuition), we begin to believe we aren’t capable anymore.

Yes, learning from other people about nutrition is important — monumentally so. But nutrition knowledge isn’t worth it’s weight in kale if you can’t also pair it with the intuitive wisdom you’ve had since birth.

You CAN be trusted around sugar.

You CAN be trusted around food.

Resist the urge to crowd out your intuition with constant outside feedback.

The truth is that craving and indulging your sweet tooth is nothing to be ashamed about. In fact, it can be a really pleasant experience once you learn to savor your food and recover to your intuition. You’ll likely find that as guilt and shame about food slips away, so will the need to binge or restrict.

Wellness enthusiast. Kindred spirit. Certified health coach. I teach people how to eat with grace instead of guilt. Instagram: @vanessa.bradford

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