How much is too much sugar?
I hear it all the time, “But I am addicted to sugar!”
Many of us feel that if we tried to cut out sugar, we would fail because of our addition. Speaking as a former addict myself. I can tell you that it is very possible to cut it out even if you feel you are addicted. It is also very possible to at least CONTROL the amount you are consuming. I am not saying it is always easy, but it is possible. Sometimes the best things are the hardest things.
About 15% of the calories in the American adult diet come from added sugars.1 That’s about 22 teaspoons of added sugar a day. We are consuming altogether too many sugars! The American Heart Association https://www.heart.org/en/healthy-living/healthy-eating/eat-smart/sugar/added-sugarsrecommends limiting sweeteners to no more than 6 teaspoons for women and 9 teaspoons for men per day, on average. That includes all sources, whether it’s agave, sugar, high-fructose corn syrup, or anything else. That means we are eating 2-4 times as much sugar as we should be!
Is Sugar Addictive?
It is true that there are some addictive properties to sugars. Our bodies have appetite centers in our brains that are triggered when we eat something delicious. It creates “feel good” chemicals that teach our bodies to desire more of that substance. The two most common culprits are fats and sugars. That doesn’t mean you are doomed to fail, it simply means you may need to work a little harder to suppress the urge to eat those foods.
What does God Say?
The bible talks a lot about the concept of self-control. When we talk about it in relation to diet, we call it willpower, but essentially it is the same thing. Sometimes we say things like, “well I can’t follow that diet, I don’t have any willpower.” Or maybe, “after trying so many weight loss plans, I don’t have any willpower left.” If we look at willpower from a biblical perspective, we see that we are actually commanded and encouraged to learn, practice, and adopt self-control behaviors.
1 Peter 1:13 discusses self-control and that it begins in our minds. It says, “Therefore, prepare you minds for action; be self-controlled; set your hope fully on the grace to be given you when Jesus Christ is revealed.” https://www.blueletterbible.org/esv/1pe/1/1/s_1152013Peter discusses not being distracted by the things of this world, and that includes food. As food is now overabundant and always present, we should keep our focus and not be distracted by its lure. What do you THINK about your food choice? It is likely that what you are thinking will become your reality. There is a famous quote that says, “If you think you can, you will. If you think you can’t, you won’t.”
Part of our calling is to be self-controlled. This applies to our relationships with all kinds of things on this earth. Our enemy is constantly trying to entice us with things that we will love more than our God. One of these things can be food. Do you love food more than your God?
The bible also tell us what it looks like to not have self-control. Proverbs 25:28 tells us that “A man without self-control is like a city broken into and left without walls.” https://www.blueletterbible.org/esv/pro/25/1/s_653001When we live in this world without self-control, this Proverb is telling us we will leave ourselves open for harm when we do not practice self-control. We actually see a very real picture of that as carrying too much extra weight impacts many different health systems.
Strengthening your Muscle
Practicing self-control is like strengthening a muscle, the more you practice it, the stronger you will be. It is also like a muscle in that, when you use it too much, you can fatigue it and it will fail on you. There is a balance here.
When your diet includes a list of too many “no no’s” you will likely fatigue your self-control muscle. Consider what you know you should cut out or cut down on. I encourage you to think about sugar here. This week, strengthen your self-control muscle to say no to added sugars. Cut out desserts and other sweets for this week. It is one week, you can do this! You can use the natural sugars like fruit and honey to sweeten your foods instead. Use one of the verses above to remind you of your motivation and what God says about self-control. Memorize it. Write it on your heart. Love God’s commands and know they are not only good for your soul, but for your body also.
- Sweet Stuff: How Sugars and Sweeteners Affect Your Health https://newsinhealth.nih.gov/issue/oct2014/feature1. October 2014.