Addicted to Oreos.... Confessions from a Dietitian...
Ever been addicted to something? Couldn't go the day without that thing? Maybe it's a cigarette or your morning coffee? Maybe it's just the need for something sweet in the afternoon... say around 2pm? A cookie goes so well with that afternoon coffee pick-me-up, right?
Well, let me tell you my story...
I had no idea how lack of sleep would (or could, to be honest!) affect my sugar cravings, when my daughter was born 3 years ago. For reasons I won't go into, my little one needed to be fed every 3 hours the first month of her life - doctors orders. That translates into this mommy only ever getting ~ 2 hours of sleep at a time, assuming our feed took less than an hour, which for the first few weeks took 1.5 hours, and she wasn't taking a bottle! Side note - I'm so thankful for my amazing lactation consultant, Anne-Marie Desjardins, who really helped me and baby become efficient at breastfeeding.
I was never as ravenous as I was when I first started breastfeeding... I could eat A TON!... and I was always hungry. Which is fine and normal. Breastfeeding requires a lot of energy from the mama's body. But by the evenings, when baby was asleep and hubby and I would curl on the couch to watch something on the TV... well, I was munchie... and hmm... wouldn't something sweet be nice? It started off so innocently! 'Hunny, could you get me some oreos!' I asked. Oreos were my favourite, and a treat would be nice. Of course, my amazing hubby couldn't deny this new mama, so off he went to the grocery store and in less than 20 minutes, he was back with a box of oreos and some milk for me (almond milk, at the time - I can't eat dairy). Well, of course, instead of mindfully eating my oreos and enjoying every bite, I ate them in front of the TV. First a few cookies were eaten, then a row, then the second row. "Oh! I need to stop! that's a lot of sugar!" I thought. So I closed up the box and put them in the cupboard. Well, didn't they come out the next evening? and wasn't the box finished by the end of the second night! A few nights later, guess who had the same cravings in front of the TV! So, didn't I ask hubby if he wanted anything from the grocery store (baby was sleeping on his chest, and I needed to get out of the house!) and off I went! And came back shortly with my box of oreos...
Without realizing it (believe me, there are a LOT of things you miss in that sleep-deprived, first month of new baby)... I was regularly eating 2 boxes of oreo cookies per week. Yes, its true. Full of trans fat and sugar. I was putting that stuff into my body regularly. By the time I realized I needed to stop eating so much sugar, I was full-blown ADDICTED. Every night, and even some times during the day all I wanted was sugar; and I wouldn't feel satisfied if I didn't get it! Sugar in my tea, and I'd even try to have 'better' store bought cookies around the house instead of oreos. To eat when I had cravings - which was constantly.
I tried quitting cold turkey, but in my sleep deprived state, that wasn't successful. I'd cave by noon... (huge success, eh?!). Hmmm... eliminating them from my diet wasn't working.... so after a few failed attempts, I decided to try a new tactic. I was going to MAKE cookies. I started with regular chocolate chip cookies because goodness knows I needed chocolate!! I made 1-2 batches every few days, and slowly adapted the recipe to have less sugar, then no sugar but mashed banana or applesauce in place of sugar, then also changed it from wheat to almond flour or coconut flour (I was experimenting with my new discovery of the paleo diet at this time). I always allowed myself to have a cookie IF I WANTED IT... over time, eventually, I felt "oh, I actually don't want one right now". Believe me! It was a SHOCK to me when I felt that way for the first time after an extended time of regular cookie eating.
And you know what? It took 3 months to wean myself off sugar. yes, a WHOLE 3 MONTHS! But by reducing sugar SLOWLY OVER TIME, my addiction and cravings started to subside. And I didn't go through withdrawal symptoms of the sugar addiction.
This is an example of why I don't encourage "dieting" and "deprivation". I encourage ADDING healthy food to what you are already eating, and over time, SLOWLY reducing the unhealthy food. Not only do you have a better change of being successful, but this is also sustainable!
So that's my confession of sugar addiction. As always, if you have any questions, send me a note at firstname.lastname@example.org!
Wishing you the best of health, Eliana