If you’d asked me a few months ago if I’m the kind of person who loves sweets, I’d have said no. And even though I didn’t know it at the time, that response would have been a big ol’ lie.
I would’ve answered “no” because I’ve always been able to walk right past a bowl of candy without hesitating. Even a plate of cookies won’t break my will. Chocolate fudge? Nope, I can do without it.
Upon further investigation, however, it turns out that yes – in fact, I am a raging sugar junkie even though I don’t crave what we traditionally call “sweets.”
Here’s the thing: Sweets aren’t just for Skittles anymore. Sugar is everywhere. On my quest to drop about 10 to 15 pounds before the unforgiving arrival of swimsuit season, I’d been carefully counting calories but didn’t pay attention to sugar.
And it turns out that sugar had been kicking my diet’s butt.
Before we go farther, let me assure you I haven’t turned into one of those annoying people who brag about broccoli, preach the gospel of green tea and act disgusted when we mere mortals talk about eating a slice of pizza. I still love pizza, especially the thin crust of a hot, cheesy slice of pepperoni, and a “once in a while” dance on the dark side isn’t going to wreck anyone’s health or figure, in my humble, non-expert opinion.
But I’ve given up one of my favorite things in the world – Dr. Pepper. And it pains me to say it because I’ve started my day with a cold Dr. Pepper for as long as I remember. It’s been nearly a month now since I’ve sipped from that familiar maroon can and no one is more surprised than me.
It was my friend and Pilates teacher Jodi who convinced me to try giving it up. I was sure that one little miniature can of Dr. Pepper couldn’t possibly be the thing keeping my stubborn bathroom scale stuck at one number. Knowing I’d need hard cold facts to convince me, Jodi sent me dozens of links to research and news articles that spelled it all out.
Whether I want to admit it or not, sugar is my weakness. I might not have been eating it in jellybeans and brownies, but I was definitely scarfing it down in breakfast cereals, soft drinks, sweet tea, and packaged foods – some of which sound healthy but often have an alarmingly high amount of the white stuff.
Even harmless-sounding things like Raisin Bran have an eyebrow-raising level of sugar in them. Sugar was the ninja ingredient that was sneaking up to karate chop my progress, despite my best efforts to limit calories and get more exercise.
Sugar hides out near the bottom of most food labels where it attempts to play the sweet wallflower, so you really have to look for it and figure out how much is too much. I was amazed and more than a little sad when the research articles said that most women should only have about 6 teaspoons of sugar a day. Food labels don’t list it by teaspoons, so it’s important to know that 1 teaspoon equals about 4 grams of sugar, which means women need only about 24 grams a day. You can get more than that amount in one 6-ounce cup of Yoplait vanilla yogurt.
Perhaps one day, when I’ve detoxed from the extra sugar and I’ve learned better self-control, maybe I can sip a cold Dr. Pepper once in a blue moon without falling back down the sugary rabbit hole. But for now, I’m keeping an eye on those sneaky sugar ninjas and, slowly but surely, inching back down to a more bathing suit-friendly shape.
Gwen Rockwood is a mom to three great kids, wife to one cool guy, a newspaper columnist and co-owner of nwaMotherlode.com. To read previously published installments of The Rockwood Files, click here. To check out Gwen’s new book, “Reporting Live from the Laundry Pile: The Rockwood Files Collection,” click HERE.
Photo credit: Lisa Mac Photography