Ask Amy Amy Dickinson, Ask Amy

Amy Dickinson is a general advice columnist.

DEAR AMY: I am a young teen who has a bad addiction to sugar. When I have tea, I put way too much sugar in it. I eat a ton of chocolate. My parents keep telling me to cut back on the sugar and candy. It's not because I'm overweight, it's just because they say it's really unhealthy. I hate this part of me, and need to find a way to end my sugar addiction. Any ideas that I can try on my own?

-- Sugar-crazed

DEAR CRAZED: First of all, you're a good kid. I love that you're eager to tackle this on your own.

One great way to change a habit permanently is first to measure your habit and then alter it gradually. The taste of sugar does seem to increase the desire for sugar (it also seems to trigger a desire for salty foods). One reason you love sugar so much is because you consume so much sugar.

Perform an experiment. Put sugar into a clear container so you can visualize and measure your usage. Do you typically use a cup of granulated sugar each week, just in your tea? That's about 26 pounds of sugar a year! Sugar typically comes in five-pound bags. Line up five of those bags -- and picture all that sugar inside of your body. Gross, right? Start by cutting down on the spoonfuls you heap into your tea. Eventually, substitute honey for all the sugar in your tea. These steps alone will cut your overall sugar consumption by a huge amount. (Mint tea is already sweet -- you might enjoy this with no extra sweetener.) Dark chocolate is more filling (and healthier) than chocolate candy. Break off one square and eat it slowly. Nibbling, vs. gobbling, is a great way to reduce consumption.

Good luck, and let me know how it goes.

DEAR AMY: A friend of mine was living in his car in Colorado, in below-zero conditions. I told him he could stay in my extra room while he got on his feet. Four months later he is lying in bed, literally 23 hours a day, getting up only to go to the bathroom and eat. He doesn't think this is a problem. I worry I am helping facilitate his depression and that because of my help he doesn't have to address his problems or make any attempt to get back into society. Should I ask him to leave? Set boundaries with a deadline ... or bring him another blanket?

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-- Dan

DEAR DAN: Your friend seems to have underlying problems that have likely contributed to his becoming homeless in the first place.

You acted ethically by offering him shelter. Now you should further honor your friendship by researching the social service safety net in your area. Accompany him to your local housing office and see if you can get a social worker to help him with benefits, etc. Total honesty and transparency on your part, combined with boundaries and a firm deadline to move, are called for.

Realistically, you should expect that until your friend's depression is dealt with, he may end up back in his car. You do not have the power to fix him. I don't think of your actions as "enabling" so much as offering warmth during a very cold winter. Though I think this is kind and commendable, you've learned something important through this episode: You cannot truly help him until he is ready to help himself.

DEAR AMY: "Wrap-proachful" complained about being asked to wrap gifts that her mother-in-law shipped to the kids. Yes, she is being a total unappreciative grump. She needs to understand just how lucky she is to have a mother-in-law who is thoughtful and caring. My brother's wife and I not only happily wrapped the gifts from my mother, but we also purchased them with the money she set aside for birthdays and Christmas -- and we were happy to do it. Not only were the children surprised by the gifts, but so was she!

-- Missing a Wonderful Mother DEAR MISSING: Losing your generous mother puts this very much into perspective. Thank you.