Cake, candy, muffins.. oh my!
This is a question people ask quite often, so I thought I’d address it: “How do I control my sugar cravings?”
Now, I am not a sugar addict myself, so I can’t exactly feel your pain. I’m more of a salty/savory kind of girl. But I do know a lot of you cookie monster chocoholic sugar fiends.
Well it is indeed a form of addiction, and new research shows that some of us are genetically more prone to sugar and food addiction than others.
According to WebMD, sugar overload alters the parts of the brain that control how much you eat, keeping you hooked and hungrier for more junk. For time’s sake, I won’t go into the science as to how or why this occurs, but here is a cute 5-minute YouTube video by neuroscientist Nicole Avena on how sugar affects our brains and bodies. She explains that an overload of sugar spikes dopamine levels, activating the same reward system that’s triggered by alcohol, nicotine or heroin. Very interesting..
Watch here: http://youtu.be/lEXBxijQREo
So what are some signs that you may be suffering from sugar addiction? It is likely that you are well aware if you have a raging sweet tooth, but here are a few:
- Uncontrollable food cravings—particularly sweets or refined carbs (things like white bread/rice/pasta/potatoes)
- You can’t stop eating sugar once you start
- Sluggishness/fatigue, due to overeating
- Withdrawal symptoms when you skip your regular “fix”
- You continue the behavior, despite negative consequences
– Dr. Mark Hyman + Kristin Kirkpatrick, MS, RD, Cleveland Clinic
What can you do??
I’ll discuss food pairings in a future post, but try to fill up on satiating protein and fiber-rich foods. This slows digestion and prevents blood sugar spikes. An example would be an apple + 1 or 2 Tbsp. peanut butter.
Try a cleanse.
Reach for healthier sweet options, such as fruit. My favorites are grapefruit, strawberries and pineapple.
That just ain’t doin’ it for you?
Practice a little bit of self-control. Have the chocolate, but keep it to a minimum. Just a bite is enough to satisfy, if you are able to be disciplined.
Rid your environment. Common sense says that you can’t have what’s not there! A recovering alcoholic wouldn’t surround himself with booze. Pitch the Reese’s!
Of course, exercise. Exercise is shown to decrease cravings, and when you exercise regularly, you are more likely to display other healthy behaviors. Go for a 30-minute walk. This will also boost your energy and improve mental clarity.
Hydration!!! So important—I could write an entire blog on the benefits of water and staying hydrated. We commonly mistake thirst for hunger. If you’re having a craving, drink one or two glasses of water first—see what happens.
Something that really works for me is herbal tea. My classmates know I’m obsessed (I turn to tea for everything, really), and they make fun of my old lady mugs I bring to school with me. One in particular is Celestial Seasonings Sugar Cookie Sleigh Ride. It doesn’t even need anything additional, but add a little almond milk, stevia or honey and a dash of cinnamon, and you’re in for a treat. This tea contains milk thistle, which is good for the liver and kidneys, and it’s flavored with orange peel and vanilla bean and smells like heaven. It’s caffeine-free, so I like to have it in the evening. I made this at the fitness center, where I work, one evening, and everyone was like, “Oh my God, what smells like cinnamon rolls!?” Haha.. Oops! This is a holiday blend, so it’s only sold in stores during Christmas, but it is available online year round. 😉 There are so many tea variations—you just have to try and see what you like. We have at least 7 boxes of tea in our cupboard at any given time. 🙂 My other favorite tea brands are Traditional Medicinals and Yogi.
Another good option to keep cravings at bay: Greek yogurt.
So what’s an appropriate amount of sugar? No more than 6 tsp. a day (that’s 100 cals) for women and 9 tsp. (150 cals) for men. This is referring to added sugar (not naturally-occurring sugars). Comparatively, the average American consumes 22 tsp. of added sugar a day. Yikes!
Also, studies now show that artificial sweeteners are not any better. They trick your brain, and you just want more sugar.
Keep in mind that a sugar-laden diet increases your risk for obesity, heart disease, diabetes and cancer.
If you have any tips or tricks that help you and you think would benefit others, please share!
For those of you who’ve been on Spring Break, I hope you had a nice time. For those in the north, hang in there!! <3
Have a great week,