Chocolate chip cookies, M&M’s, chocolate cake, free donuts, (sooo many free donuts).... The list of sweets that I was consuming every day last fall semester was never-ending; not eating sugar was not an option. How could I turn down giveaways of MDining brownies and other treats that were advertised as finals survival food? I NEEDED all the sweets and desserts to survive and I didn't even have to pay for them. After finals season was over and holiday season hit, nothing changed: my mom baked cookies, my aunt baked banana bread, my cousin brought home bags of Lindt chocolate truffles. I indulged left and right and it started to make me feel sluggish, unhealthy, and overall not good.

Making a Change

Something needed to be done. Second semester began and I walked into my first class meeting of Health Psychology. After going over the rest of the syllabus and course expectations, our professor introduced the “Health Behavior Change Plan.” For three months, I had to introduce some health intervention into my own life to improve some aspect of my overall health and wellbeing. Seeing this as a perfect opportunity, I decided to limit the amount of added sugar in my daily diet to try to improve my relationship with sugar. Hopefully, I could gain a sense of control in what I was eating rather than inevitably binge eating whenever sweets were offered to me.

The Plan

Grace Miller

Theoretically, this was a good plan. The American Heart Association recommends that an average woman not eat more than 25 grams of added sugar a day. My plan allowed myself 25g of added sugar the first month and then restricted down to 12g a day for the rest of the time. I could still consume natural sugars in fruits for example so I was really trying to target my candy and baked goods consumption. 


I was mostly successful in reaching my weekly goals for my added sugar intake. However, these numerical goals put pressure on me to limit my sugar intake and created feelings of food guilt. And being around people who were eating cookies, candy, chocolate, ice cream, and sugary drinks made it incredibly difficult for me to stay on track, especially when they would offer them to me. I started to lose motivation to maintain such a low sugar intake and the stress of life and school was calling sugar’s name. Nevertheless, my skin cleared up, I felt genuinely cleaner, and I even lost some weight unintentionally. I rarely had intense sugar cravings and felt healthier overall.


Grace Miller

I had always known that in theory it is not always healthy to completely cut things out of your life cold turkey. Moderation was definitely my solution to added sugar. Allowing myself some sweets every day helps me avoid feeling like I am completely depriving myself of things I truly do love and enjoy eating. And tracking my sugar intake so strictly was not beneficial for me, a person with an affinity for numbers.

Why take away something that made me so happy especially when in smaller quantities it's really not so detrimental to my physical health? I continue to remind myself that health is holistic and mental health is just as important, so if that piece of chocolate or one cookie will give me joy, I am going to continue to let myself enjoy them.