This year, I made a strategic error during the holiday season.
For this special time of year, I decided to let my kids indulge moderately in some sweet treats. They found chocolate in their stockings. They ate cookies at Grandma’s. We even made healthy homemade chocolate and marshmallows!
But to my 5-year-old, there’s no such thing as moderation. She cannot enjoy just “a little” of a sweet treat. The first taste fuels the desire for a second or third or fourth, till the carton is empty, the bar is demolished, the carton is poured out, yet she’s whining and begging for more. Her body is screaming for more sugar. When it comes to sweets, her body doesn’t seem to have an “off” switch.
Unfortunately, her body shows a remarkably low tolerance for sugar. I’ll spare you the details, but symptoms of misery follow closely behind what does in fact seem like a “reasonable” portion of a sugary treat. Moderation doesn’t work for her.
I want her to be able to enjoy an occasional sweet treat–especially for occasions like these–and moderation seems like such a reasonable approach. But it doesn’t work for her.
This shouldn’t surprise me because I’m the same way. Like my daughter, my body doesn’t seem to have an off switch when it comes to sweets. If I consume any sugar, my body will mercilessly beg for more. And more. And more.
When I finally eliminated all sugars including artificial ones from my diet, the cravings stopped. I don’t have a sweet tooth anymore. It’s so much easier to never eat sweet treats than to eat them sometimes. And I wasn’t surprised when the same strategy worked for my kids.
When I tell people I’ve chosen to forego sweets, they unfailingly chide me for my “extreme” approach. They think I’m depriving myself, and tell me moderation would be a much healthier–and happier–choice.
But that’s nothing compared to the reaction I get when I tell people our kids don’t eat sweets either! When I say that my kids don’t eat sugar, they are horrified. My kids are surely missing out on childhood/doomed to a life of depravation/headed for an eating disorder/just plain hungry.
We do make the occasional exception, especially around the holidays. But I tell you truly: I am nearly always sorry. Because for several of my kids (and for me), there’s no such thing as moderation.
Maybe your weakness isn’t sweets; maybe it’s chips or crackers or jalapeño poppers. Not everyone is necessarily happier abstaining, but if you consistently find yourself having a terribly hard time backing away from whatever your weakness is, you might want to think about whether you’d be happier skipping it altogether.
Just give it a try. See how you feel. And if you turn out to be a moderator after all, I have a wonderful chocolate recipe you can try.
Discussion (45 Comments)
I can completely relate, our whole family doesn’t have an off switch, It’s funny I wrote about the same thing on my blog today! http://www.eco-babyz.com/2013/01/on-sugar-and-grain-addiction-cure-tooth.html
Unfortunately, my in-laws just don’t get it. They are the ones who will bring store-bought cheesecake and they will say “Well it’s not like there is sugar in it, it’s cake”. Bwahahahaha! At that comment I had to really try and keep myself from bursting out with laughter just out of respect. It drives me up the wall! There was probably more sugar in one slice of that cheesecake than my kids have consumed in two months. We visit them every couple of weeks and occasionally they come over, ugh, I love them, but I hate this ‘sugar is good’ attitude. 🙂
You wouldn’t give a child cocaine. Don’t give them sugar.
They’re both physically addictive, they have similar effects, side effects, and withdrawal symptoms.
One is legal, because it makes certain “powers that be” very wealthy
One is illegal, for the same reason
Neither is good for the body, especially a young developing one
I eat whatever I want in moderation, and it works really well for me. I want my kids to learn how to do the same. If I told myself that something was off-limits, I think I would be more likely to overindulge when I had the chance. Since I don’t see anything like that, I never have that urge.
I think if you’re doing what’s right for you and your kids, then keep it up. People who think happiness can be found in food have their own issues! 🙂
Growing up, there was constantly soda in my house. It was pretty much all my mom bought. Once I moved out, I never drank it again. I still only drink carbonated beverages on rare/special occasions (it’s frustrating when I get thirsty at the grocery store, and my only choices are soda and energy drinks!). However, when I diet, I do find it’s much easier to just cut something out, like Ben and Jerry’s ice cream, or cheese (I really do drop a lot of weight when I stop eating cheese. I don’t regularly eat that much, either). However, I have a mild addiction to caffeine, and I can’t live without a pot of coffee a day.
This is true for me. After going Paleo about 1 1/2 years ago, this is something that I’ve struggled with. The fact is that, I don’t feel deprived when I don’t eat sugar. I suffer more if I do eat it- anxiety, cravings, bloating, blood sugar rollercoaster. I become miserable when all I was doing was giving myself a paleo-fied treat. It’s never worth it. My daughter (2 1/2) has more tantrums and outbursts when she eats too much sweet stuff- and for her that’s fruit/dried fruit. For her I keep fruit limited- berries mostly now. It is hard when we are around others though. I know that I’m doing the best thing for her and that we will always talk about and treat food as healing nourisment for our bodies, because that is really what it is. It’s not just for pleasure, which is what our society teaches us.
Thanks for this post, Anne. I’m actually contemplating eliminating sugar in our house, too. I’ve struggled with the decision though: 1) My husband is not on board at all (this is the man who, before he left for college, thought he had to have ice cream before he could sleep, and 2) I’ve heard so many tales of kids gorging themselves on sugar when they are always kept from it. On that note, a funny story. My oldest boys were visiting my in-laws one weekend, and when I went to pick them up, my father-in-law said, “I had a bowl of M&Ms on the counter, but I finally had to put them away because the boys just wouldn’t stop eating them.” The response in my head was, “Duh!” What I actually said, “Well, I just don’t have that kind of stuff in the house.”
Ain’t it great when people tell you that your choices for your family are making your children unhappy? Leave my kids’ food alone!
There, now that I’ve got that off my chest, I have to say Anne that I am right there with you on not having an off-switch, although for me it’s pepperoni pizza. I don’t want to eat it until I’m full; I want to eat it until it’s gone. And that’s exactly what I used to do. I’m better at it now and can actually enjoy just a couple pieces without continuing all the way around the pizza box to finish them all off.
I don’t have kids, but I know there is no such thing as moderation for me either. People say “Oh, it won’t ruin your diet to have a couple hersheys kisses here and there if you need a chocolate/sugar fix” But it does ruin your diet if you eat the WHOLE BAG in one, maybe two nights, which is what always ends up happening to me. I have found though that the higher the sugar content of an item, the harder it is for me to “just have one or two”. If I get a really good dark chocolate (such as Theo) then I can moderate myself alot easier. I bought a theo chocolate bar the other day, broke it up into 6 portions and put each portion in a plastic baggie. I’ve been pretty good only having one per day, and I break the portion into even smaller pieces and slowly melt them in my mouth, rather than just crunch, crunch, swallow like I do with every other candy.
Kirsten, that’s me exactly: “the higher the sugar content of an item, the harder it is for me to have ‘just one or two.’ ” EXACTLY.
I’ve never tried Theo dark chocolate. I’ll keep my eye out for some (and I promise not to eat the whole bar at once!)
I grew up in a sugar free house too, but am not a sugar addict as an adult (nor are any of my siblings). We have all been more sugar-nazi types with our own kids, wanting to avoid the damage caused by the excess that most children in our world today exhibit. My brother would get asthma attacks from any sugar or wheat, so we just didn’t have it in the house. We later found out it was a candida overgrowth problem with him, but we were all grown by then. It has also given my brother amazing amounts of self-control in all areas of his life as an adult, the likes to which I’ve never seen in anyone! Our daughter (3) cries over every little thing and also wets herself (night and day) alot more whenever she has sugar. It also takes about 3 days to clear it from her system to get our happy, sweet & dry girl back again. It’s just not worth the few moments of pleasure! Plus, I’d rather splurge on a wild salmon at the grocery store than a few Twinkies any day. And the budget just doesn’t allow for both!
The picture makes me want to eat a whole plateful of cupcakes.