My father had a sweet tooth. He loved apple pie and custard, toffees and barley sugar, and ice cream. He kept a box of choc-ices in the freezer and a tin of sucky sweets in the car.
I must have inherited a ‘sweet tooth’ gene as I also like sugary treats – bars of chocolate and puddings of every sort.
Our family had a ‘Sunday chocolate’ ritual, meaning that along with the Sunday newspapers my father bought us a large bag of chocolate bars. Every week my mother ordered bottles of fizzy drinks like Lemonade, Limeade, Cola, Iron Bru. When we were thirsty this is what we drank.
I remember a school friend whose mother filled a drawer full of sweets – they were carefully rationed but it was normal to have some every day at tea-time.
My mother used to meet friends for coffee and took me along pre-school. I was allowed to dip sugar lumps from the silver bowl into tea and suck on them. Over and over again.
Sugar! It was an important part of my childhood
Tooth decay was also a normal part of life.
What about you? Was sugar a large part of your childhood?
Try as we might to reduce the amount of refined sugar in our diets, many of us are irresistibly drawn back to the sugar bowl.
Can acupuncture help?
We need the sweet taste in our lives – just as we need bitter, and salty and pungent foods.
But we don’t need refined sugar and we certainly don’t need such a lot of it.
In Chinese Medicine the desire for too much sweet food means an imbalance in the Spleen energy.
The Spleen is an important energy system with more functions than the biological spleen which mainly filters blood. It regulates digestion, and menstruation; it helps our bodies convert food into energy. It balances our emotions and allows us to feel caring and cared for. It helps us feel at home in our bodies and our lives. It connects us to natural rhythms such as appetite, sleep, rest and activity.
When the Spleen energy is out of balance there is tiredness
And poor digestion, menstrual problems, excess weight, doing too much for others and not looking after ourselves.
What things damage the Spleen energy?
Too much studying or computer time, too much information that we can’t absorb, a poor diet, eating when stressed, eating too much, living in a damp home, feeling unloved or lonely.
Feeling unloved can play havoc with the appetite – have you ever stopped eating because you are unhappy? Or eaten too much? Or told yourself that you need a treat and so turned to sugary food?
When your energy is low, you eat more sweet things and weaken your vital energy even more.
What can you do to support your ailing Spleen?
Treat your Spleen with love and kindness. Eat good food in a calm and mindful environment. Make meal times special. Put out flowers, light a candle, use a table cloth and a napkin and create a new rhythm to your eating.
Eat more fresh healthy food and seek out the most natural foods you can find that are grown locally if possible. Go food shopping with an eye for freshness and vibrancy and let your body respond with a yes or a no about eating it.
Of course sometimes your body will say Yes to a doughnut or a chocolate bar. Accept this too and eat them with full awareness rather than zoning out and eating a whole bar of chocolate without noticing.
Eliminate as much refined sugar as possible from your diet. Get sweetness from honey, dates, raisins or sweet vegetables. Let your body tell you when it wants sweet and offer options rather than automatically turning to refined sugar.
Avoid artificial sweeteners like the plague. Don’t let them past your lips. If you are going to have sugar, have sugar and be done with it.
Meditate before eating. It doesn’t have to be a big drama. Just do something simple like three breaths and a smile as recommended by Thich Nhat Hanh
It will get easier to resist cravings. You don’t have to stop sugar for the rest of your life. The idea is to change your dependence on it and to allow your body to express what it really wants and needs. If you actually need sleep and you are eating sugar to give you energy, you need to sleep more and stop treating tiredness with the wrong medicine.
Acupuncture can help strengthen Spleen energy and support you in this new way of life. We all grew up with sugar as a powerful emotional reward system and we need to be kind and loving and understanding about how important it has been in our lives. Eating less sugar is a new choice, not a punishment for old mistakes.
The great gift that the Spleen can give us when it is functioning well is that we can truly come home to our bodies. Your body is your true home on this planet so give yourself the gift of feeling loved, nourished, nurtured and energized at home in your body. This is the best present you could ever receive.
What part has sugar played in your life?
Please share your memories in the comments section.
Has anything helped you reduce sugar in your diet?