The Sweet Life: How to Fight off Sugar Cravings
Sugar is the gift that keeps on giving. Eat a little snack and you get the urge (often uncontrollable) to eat another. So how do you fight off sugar cravings? The challenge is to satisfy the body’s need for a short-term energy boost, but do it in a way that won’t leave you hungry again.
The Original Feel Good Food
Research has shown that the taste of sugar or sugary foods release endorphins in the brain. Endorphins are the natural “feel good” chemicals and the natural high it provides can come in many ways: aerobic activity like working out or running for example. While it’s great to feel good, arriving at that point by ingesting sugar does more harm than good. We’re a culture of second-helpings. The American Heart Association recommends no more than between 6 and 9 added teaspoons of sugar per day (instead of the norm of about 22-25). That’s a lot of sugar and that is in addition to the sugar content present many processed foods.
The Power of Discipline
Ideally it would be great if we could stop our sugar cravings “cold turkey.” Some individuals may be able to pull that off, but long-term success can be better achieved in increments. Instead of 10 cookies in the morning, try eating just two. Another way to trick the mind is by combining something a little bit healthier with your sweet-snack. Don’t deny yourself a block of chocolate but combine it with an apple as well. Mentally, you don’t feel like you’re punishing yourself and you also are eating something nutritious.
If you’re seriously cutting down on sugar, you’ll find the first 48-72 hours are the toughest as the body is deprogramming itself. The trick is to stay active. Try chewing a stick of gum to provide the mental/physical activity of chewing. Another strategy is to eat several small meals or healthy snacks throughout the day. Substitute that craving with something like carrot sticks or fruit. It’s about training your taste buds.
Earlier we mentioned the importance of staying active and there’s a lot of truth to that. When the craving for sugar hits, try to get up and get OUT. Go for a jog, take a brisk walk. What you’re doing is re-routing the body’s need for something (in this case, something sweet). Whatever it takes to get your mind off the snack you are craving.
When You Eat, Eat Right
Another bad habit that makes it difficult to shake off the sugar fix is not following a routine for eating. Skipping meals may seem like a good idea but not if the substitute is a candy bar. Smaller healthy meals or snacks throughout the day keeps the digestion process active, keeps you filled up just enough to satisfy hunger pangs and allows you to fight out those sugar cravings. The best advice is to choose protein, fiber-rich foods like whole grains and produce. Focus on the fine print. You’re not eating big meals throughput the day. You’re focusing on small portions of healthy food.
When it comes to sugar, the mind is its own worst enemy. You may need to continually change your eating strategy as you progress from week to week. But you’ll find that only a few weeks is all it takes to change the body’s habit for craving sugar!