I'm convinced I'm carbohydrate intolerant/addicted, but I'm having a hard time with the idea of giving up sweets. What can I do?
A few things. First, I think it helps to realize that this really is as much a physiological problem as an emotional one -- if you can just find the strategies to get you through withdrawal -- yes, you may go through withdrawal -- and get past the physical cravings, it will get easier.
Here are some strategies:
* Keep your blood sugar stable! When your blood sugar drops, you will crave sugar or other fast acting carbs that will just keep you on the roller coaster. Eat a minimum of 14 grams of protein for breakfast every day, and no high impact carbs -- no toast, no muffins, no bagels, nuthin'. If you like, you might have a serving of low sugar fruit -- a few strawberries, some raspberries, a wedge of cantaloupe or honeydew, perhaps even a half a grapefruit. Not juice!! Breakfast is essential to your strategy, since it is a major determining factor in your blood sugar level for the rest of the day. Since you'll likely find your appetite far less than you're used to, you might eat a bit before you get hungry for the first few weeks, as your body adjusts to your new way of eating. Otherwise you may find your blood sugar has dropped and you're craving again. Have a handful of nuts, a piece of cheese -- something quick, easy, and portable -- with you at work. Pretty soon your body will adjust, and become more efficient at creating what little glucose you really need from protein and, to a much lesser degree, from fats, and you won't have to worry about it.
* Keep sugar free desserts on hand. If you don't yet have my recipes for Sugar Free Chocolate Mousse to DIE For and Strawberry Cups, go now to the website and get them! I've also recently reviewed Sugar Free Fudge Pops, these are quite good, although they do have 9 g of carb per pop -- still better than eating sugar! If you love berries, have berries and whipped cream. (Whip 1 cup heavy cream with 1 tablespoon instant sugar free vanilla pudding powder. Out of this world.) Sugar free gelatin is very low carb if you like it (or even if you don't ;-D) -- you can even buy it pre-made, in single serving cups. You can make sugar free instant pudding with cream in place of the milk -- if you like a somewhat lighter texture, you can use half cream, half water. If you like to cook, buy some of the low carb cookbooks on the market -- I like Fran McCullough's the best -- and try dessert recipes. Again, go to the Library section of my website, and you'll find links to a bunch of low carb cookbooks at Amazon.com.
Some day you may well reach the point where you don't care enough about desserts to bother with the sugar free ones often -- but that day isn't today. Find ones you like and keep them on hand. However, realize that some people stall their weight loss if they eat a lot of aspartame sweetened stuff, so I can't recommend 3-4servings a day or anything like that. If you're eating a lot of sugar free stuff, and you're plateauing, this might be your problem.
* If there's usually some kind of sugary garbage around at work -- donuts, cookies, candy -- take a sugar free dessert with you, for heaven's sake! A good offense is the best defense. Do this when you visit your folks, too, if they usually have a lot of sugary stuff around.
* If you're in charge of the food supply around your house, consider a moratorium on sugary garbage altogether. It's no better for the kids than it is for you. If they desperately want the stuff, let them buy it with their money. I've been told it's amazing how kids' priorities can change when it's their money being spent instead of their folks!
* Learn to say NO. People who urge you to eat stuff you're trying not to eat are not being "nice", they're being jerks, and they deserve to be treated sternly. "Aw, c'mon, just one bite!" is sabotage, plain and simple. If you were violently allergic, you wouldn't put up with this sort of thing. More people die from the long term effects of carb intolerance/addiction than from anything else, so your problem is at least as dangerous as an allergy. Be serious about it. One good tip: I've learned that often it's easier to say, "I can't eat sugar" than to say, "I don't eat sugar" or "I'm not eating sugar these days." "I can't" makes it sound like doctor's orders -- which it would/will be if your doctor has any nutritional savvy!
* Consider having a protein shake in place of a meal or a snack at least once a day. I know a lot of people for whom this satisfies the sweet craving handily. Protein shakes make a great fast breakfast or lunch. ProFormix brand tastes very, very good. Haven't tried the Atkins Shake mix yet, but I'll review it soon.
* Or, consider a sugar free protein bar -- I talk about these below, in the Product Review section. Personally, I think the shakes taste better, but the bars sure are easier to carry with you.
* Take not only vitamins, but minerals. If you're taking a one tablet a day vitamin supplement, the chances are very good that you're not getting enough minerals. Why? Because one tablet a day formulas have to skip something to keep it down to one tablet, that's why! Mineral deficiencies can cause all sorts of odd cravings. Make you cranky, too. Magnesium, in particular, seems to help with cravings for sweets. Don't, however, think that this means that if 500 mgs. a day of magnesium is a good idea, 1000 mgs. a day is a better idea. It's not. You can unbalance your minerals fairly easily. Better to buy a good chelated multiple mineral supplement that calls for 2-6 tablets a day. (Why 2-6? Depends on how big a pill you can swallow, of course!) Make sure that you're getting 1000 mgs. a day of calcium and 500 mgs. a day of magnesium. Look, too, for a supplement that includes chromium and vanadium; these are helpful for blood sugar regulation. If your supplement has these, no doubt it will have enough of the other minerals, stuff like zinc, copper, manganese, selenium, etc. What does "chelated" mean? It means the minerals have been bound to a protein, to improve absorption.
You could, by the way, buy vitamin/mineral supplement that requires more than one tablet a day, instead. Twin Labs makes some good ones -- Mega 6 is a good formula, so is Dual Tabs, although this one is a huge tablet. You're unlikely to find anything satisfactory at the drug store, grocery, or places like KMart or Target. Sorry. You'll have to find a health food store, order online (Puritan's Pride has some good stuff; so does Vitamin Shoppe), or possibly find a friend who represents one of the many network marketing companies putting out excellent supplements -- Life Plus and FreeLife are two I've ordered from. (I actually feel that many of the best formulas are coming out of the network marketing industry. Sadly, however, they tend to be very expensive.)
* Learn to treat yourself to non-sweet foods. Surely there's something you love to eat that isn't a sweet, right? Lobster tail? Macadamia nuts? Imported brie? What ever low carb food you adore, that you haven't been buying because it's expensive -- that's your treat.
* Learn to treat yourself to stuff that isn't food! New lipstick, new software, a great video, tickets to a show, a hot bath and a good book, a phone call to an old friend you haven't talked to in way too long, fresh flowers, new clothes, a personal day -- start thinking of rewards that aren't food related.
* If all this fails, and you're still just obsessed with sugar cravings, you could consider trying a mini-binge program, as outlined in my book or in The Carbohydrate Addict's Diet. This will allow you some sugar, under controlled circumstances. Keep in mind that this diet didn't work for me! I do, however, know many people who have done well on it.