We are a week into the New Year—the time when a lot of those resolutions begin to slip by the wayside. I know, I’ve been there, thinking to myself, ‘I’ll start that clean eating routine…tomorrow’ and ‘I’ll get back to the gym…tomorrow.’
But this year is different. I didn’t set resolutions, like I’ve done in the past. Instead, I set five intentions that I hoped to achieve for myself. One was to eat better. Eating properly and I have a long and sordid history. It has been something I’ve always wanted to do to feel like the best version of myself, but after a couple of weeks, I usually get lazy and return to my bad habits of skipping meals and replacing them with junk food as my sugar levels crash.
However, after following the low iodine diet in November for my thyroid scans, I started to notice something. I didn’t miss sugar. While you can eat sugar on the low iodine diet, I had to be careful about commercially prepared foods—which meant that I couldn’t just pick up cinnamon buns from the bakery or donuts from Dunkin Donuts, like I normally would have. I had to make conscious choices about the food I was eating, which meant cooking more for myself, skipping my daily coffee, and banishing my 3 o’clock snacks.
I had always told myself that my body “craved” sugar or “needed” sweets, but after more than two weeks without so much as a piece of dark chocolate, I realized that my body not only didn’t miss the junk food, but never needed it in the first place. Sweets were a crutch for me to use when I thought I needed a pick-me-up.
After the low iodine diet was over, I was determined to stick to my junk food-less life. I noticed a tremendous improvement in my skin, diminished redness, and fewer muscle aches (especially after working out). That all makes sense considering that sugar can lead to inflammation in the body.
So, how do I cope when I feel like I ‘need’ something sweet? For starters, I found a great local vegan and gluten-free bakery. I love that I am able to ask the owners and bakers questions about which ingredients they used to prepare what I’m about to purchase. While most of their baked goods still have sugar, I feel better knowing that I’m cutting out a lot of unnecessary ingredients that are used in commercial bakery products—and I still feel like I’m treating myself. I also keep clementines with me during my workday, and when I feel like having something sweet, I peel away. If all else fails, I make sure that I have a chocolate sea salt RXBAR on hand, which tastes like you’re having dessert, but is packed with nutritious ingredients like egg whites, cashews, almonds, and dates that will keep you feeling full until your next meal.
I realize now that a lot of my cravings stemmed from boredom during the day, lack of meal planning, and failure to bring proper snacks with me. It all hit home when I started to feel better without sugar—I had fewer mood swings and headaches, and more energy throughout the day. It was the light bulb moment I needed to continue to make better choices for my body, and it taught me that sugar no longer had the hold I thought it once did over my dietary choices.