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How Reducing Sugar in My Diet Has Helped Me as Someone on the Autism Spectrum

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I am addicted to sugar.

That statement may seem pretty typical — sugar is an addictive substance! But here’s a statement that’s not quite as typical to those who have known me my whole life: I no longer consume added sugars or sweeteners. And I do not have diabetes.

Back in the summer of 2018, I went from eating about a gallon of ice cream each day (and other desserts on top of that), to skipping dessert indefinitely. My main reason for the drastic change was because I was worried that I was developing diabetes from my unhealthy diet. I have always been really picky as someone on the autism spectrum, and sensory issues with certain foods haven’t helped either. But after watching a documentary called “That Sugar Film,” I decided to cut back on the sweets. And while the “diabetic” symptoms I was experiencing turned out to be due to a severe allergic reaction to a new medication I had tried, the benefits of reducing added sugar proved to be worth the challenge.

At first, it was torture. I had to learn how to properly read nutrition information, and understand exactly which ingredients were considered to be added sugars. (The folks from That Sugar Movement were super helpful with this part!) I also worried that my already limited diet would essentially become non-existent. There are a lot of foods that contain added sugars! But instead of eating less and less, I actually found myself craving foods I never even liked before. Certain brands of natural peanut butter tasted better than ever. I tried new flavors of soups and started preparing simple meals at home. I had grown tired of yogurt as a teen. Now, for a treat, plain yogurt (flavored ones usually contain added sugars) has been like my new ice cream!

Not only has reducing added sugars helped to expand my palate, but it has also improved my mood. I know if I eat a large bag of flavored chips, for example, I will feel lousy over the next few days. My focus has improved a bit as well. Instead of sugar highs and crashes, I feel a steady, medium level of energy. I’ve even cut out the need for my therapy lamp I’ve used for clinical depression!

There are certainly still times I crave added sugars. If I see a cupcake, my mouth waters. On a hot summer day, it’s hard not to want a scoop of ice cream. I will probably always be addicted. And it wouldn’t kill me to have a small bite. However, I feel much healthier and happier now that I’m not giving in to those cravings. I feel more in control of myself mentally.

Getty image by Lana Sweet.

Originally published: January 8, 2020
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