I grew up in Thailand where people eat rice and savory sides for all their meals including breakfast: rice with eggs, veggies, soups, curries, fish and other meats.
Sometimes it’s rice noodles with steaming garlicky broth, or noodles with chili pastes and steamed veggies. There are many many varieties of Thai breakfast meals.
Not in our house, we didn’t eat those traditional Thai meals. My mother gave us mostly desserts for breakfast: cakes, sweet breads, toast and jam, fried dough with condensed milk for dipping, and yes, occasionally donuts.
She claimed that she wanted to make sure that we would drink milk (easier to pair with sweets than rice, I guess). In the 70s, to raise healthy kids, one must give them milk and cod liver oil.
Did you experience this?
From that pattern of eating, I ended up hating milk and loving sweets.
I also ended up thinking that breakfast foods have to be sweet to be satisfying. I ended associating the sweet taste to feeling nurtured and cared for.
To this day, I simply believe that sweets, especially homemade baked goods, make me feel good.
My brother who had all the same experiences did not become a sweet tooth. He’s one of those take it or leave it kind of guy. Same mom, same breakfasts, different lasting habits. Interesting, isn’t it?
Over the years, being a sweet tooth hasn’t give me much trouble, thankfully. I just noticed that I might just like sweet things, baked goods, desserts and the like more than some people.
The more I learned about how sweets and sugar impact our brain and body health, the more I became aware of my habits, the more I became frustrated with how I feel and act around sweets.
So, I tried different ways to break the sugar habit.
I took a whole year break from chocolate. I stopped eating all sweets for weeks or months. I created challenges to follow for myself and my community.
With each attempt and endeavor, I would feel SO good about myself AND how I felt physically.
But those challenges were just that – momentary fleeting changes. I didn’t sustain the new habits long enough before I would go right back to feeling out of control around baked goods, and desserts.
What always followed were self judgment, guilt, shame and now…real physical discomfort as my body ages.
The same old broken record of trying again and again and again got really tiring.
I got tired of not liking this part of myself.
I often wondered – if I am smart and successful at other things in my life, why can’t I overcome the sugar challenge?
For as long as I can remember, everytime I meet someone who seems completely at peace and ease around sweet things, I am in awe of them. I immediately want to be like them: I am envious of their freedom around sugar.
But there was one particular time when I was truly intrigued and inspired.
We were invited to our friends’ Dave and Jamie’s house in Newton, Massachusetts for dinner. They have twins, we have twins. So it was going to be dinner for 8.
I was so excited to bring a beautiful lemon cake from my favorite bakery to add to the dinner party. I even got fresh red currants to decorate the top of the cake. It was one of those almost-too-good-to-eat situations.
After a scrumptious dinner, I unboxed the cake in front of the crowd. Everyone ooh and ahh-ed. I cut it up into 8 pieces, and dished them appropriately.
Jamie thanked me for bringing the beautiful cake, and politely said no to her piece.
I was totally taken aback.
What? Wait? What?
Thankfully, I didn’t say those words out loud, but inside I was both offended and perplexed.
And so very envious.
She’s one of those people!!!, I remember thinking.
Later, after the cake was devoured by the rest of us (I may have eaten Jamie’s piece, to be honest), plates were cleared from the table, I went up to Jamie.
Nonchalantly, I asked her if she avoids sweet things in general (by the way, Jamie is a psychiatrist and is well aware of the gut-brain connection for mental health).
“No,” she said, looking up, smiling at me as she put away dishes.
“I just don’t have it very often,” she added.
That was it. I was sold. What if I could be like Jamie and have that freedom around sweets without any drama?
What if I can eat sweets, just not very often?
That would be freedom – an ultimate way to self-care.
From that moment onward, I became determined to reach that place of eating less sugar, but without all the drama for myself. I don’t want to not have sweets in my life, but I also don’t want to depend on it, be obsessed about it, feeling out of control around it.
I know it is possible to have peace around sweets and want to help anyone else who is ready to do the same.
What if it’s as simple as deciding that we are in charge of how we feel?
What if we are like Jamie, and feel at ease living a life with just enough sweets?