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The easiest way to eat less every day is to cut the amount of sugar you chew and drink. What is easier and faster for reducing your daily caloric intake: taking fewer bites of chocolate and passing on that bran muffin in the morning, or running a 5-miler? Both will help you lose weight. Both are great steps toward a leaner you. But reducing the amount of calories you take in, especially from pure sugar, is much easier to manage than intense cardio sessions every day—if your goal is to shift the calories in, calories out.

Too much energy

We are genetically conditioned to love sugar. Take a look at your taste buds. The main one, up front, on the tip of the tongue, is the taste for sweets. We seek glucose; we need it, and love it—because of a simple biological reason. It is fuel for our brain. We can’t survive without it. Carbohydrates provide this fuel in various forms—from quickie chocolate munchies to sweet fruit to more slowly digested, fiber-rich lentil soups. But we love it too much. Many more products than we care to count either have sugar or high fructose corn syrup added to them. We may take in teaspoons upon teaspoons of sugar without realizing when enough is enough. We even get addicted to it when we need a quick energy fix, craving soda and chocolate for our mid-afternoon snacks instead of fiber and fruit. If you want to know how many teaspoons of sugar you are consuming, by the way, divide what the nutritional labels says in grams by four. Not a pretty discovery for most of us.

Unfortunately, for the same simple biological reason, our bodies process sugar like evolution intended, not like our culture wants us to consume—storing excess as fat when our energy needs are met—to be used in times of scarcity. The problem is that we rarely reach that scarcity, and carry the excess on our bodies to show it.

Confusing hunger signals

Besides the obvious implications on our waistline, the irregular outbursts of insulin our body produces to deal with all the extra sugar wreaks havoc on our body’s hunger signals. When your blood sugar levels fall suddenly, you are going to be willing to devour anything in your way, especially sweet, to get your level of satiety (and blood sugar back up to normal. It tends to result in overeating and poor food choices. I’d grab a Twix over an orange if readily available any second, even while knowing, like most of us, that the better choice is that bright fruit staring at us waiting to be peeled. But it’s so much easier to unwrap a Twix.

Out of sight, out of mind

Don’t keep sweets around, and you’ll be less likely to indulge. We are not as strong as our temptations. Moving temptations out of our sight, physically, helps tremendously to get them out of sight mentally. So walk that jelly bean bowl away from your desk and your immediate area. Buy extra dark chocolate instead of milk—you won’t overeat it. Seriously. Would you walk to the supermarket just to get a chocolate bar? Would you be tempted to grab a couple of Hershey’s Kisses if they are not freely available next to your desk, but in another office five floors down? Not likely. So forget about willpower and make sure simple sugar is hard to find. It works.

Substitutes

Fruit

Nature packs a plethora of sugar-rich and satisfying foods for you to enjoy. They are wrapped in protective coating and portion-sized. They are called fruit. Bananas, oranges, grapes, apples—you name it, nature has it designed. The natural sugar you get from eating fruit will be absorbed by your system like nature intended—in little spikes of energy to be digested with the accompanying fiber.

Honey

Even though honey is one of the most calorically dense foods on the planet—about 100 calories per teaspoon, honey has a multitude of healthy qualities your body would only welcome. Plus, you wouldn’t eat honey by teaspoons, would you?

Now how about that orange? And pass on the cookie, unless you plan to sweat it off in a hard workout requiring all that energy.

Julia Timakhovich

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