Donuts and ice cream and chocolate, oh my! They taste SO good. One bite is never enough. Unfortunately, over-indulging in sweets causes health problems that may be silently killing us.
Aside from making us fat, research continues to confirm that sugar is highly addictive. It truly is “love at first bite” because the reward regions in the brain are activated immediately after sweets hit our tongue. This makes us feel good and causes us to eat excessive amounts of sweets.
Eventually, we build a tolerance to sugar and we need more and more for the same good feeling, similar to the way drug addicts need increased amounts of a drug to obtain the same result.
Kristin Kirkpatrick, M.S., R.D., L.D., states that, worldwide, people consume about 500 extra calories per day from sugar, even though most people know that sugar is not good for them. But the addiction to sweets is so strong and most people look the other way and choose the immediate reward over the long-term consequences.
And research shows that the consequences can be dire. Kirkpatrick highlights in a December 2015 article just how dire. She writes that excessive sugar intake:
· has been linked to heart disease (Journal of American Heart Association, 2013 study)
· promotes belly fat
· causes visceral (abdominal) fat cells to mature in children (2010 Study)
· increases leptin resistance (leptin is the hormone that tells you when you are full; 2013 study)
· may be linked to cancer production and may effect cancer survival (2013 study)
· hides in many everyday “non-sugar” foods, such as tomato sauce, fat free dressing, tonic water, marinates, crackers and even bread
Some people who have opted to stop eating sugar note that once the sugar is out of their system, they:
· feel better and have more energy
· eat less and lose weight
· eliminate or decrease the addiction
· feel more positive and less depressed
· sleep better
If you can’t avoid sugar completely, try to cut way back! Below are some tips to help reduce sugar intake. It is important to understand that what works for one person may not work for another. It may take trying a combination of strategies to see what works for you.
- Try to reduce sugar intake. Eat a small amount of what you’re craving, in example a small cookie or mini candy bar, because enjoying a small amount of what you love can help with the feelings of denial.
- Go cold turkey. For some people, although the first few days are tough, cutting out all simple sugars is the only thing that works.
- Slow down. Focus on your sugar cravings and think about what you’re eating. Plan your meals and try to avoid eating when you’re starving.
- Consume fruit and nuts. Fruit is naturally sweet, loaded with fiber and nutrients that help satiate. And stock up on nuts and seeds. A small amount combined with a fruit help satisfy food cravings.
- Eat regularly. Waiting too long between meals can lead to choosing foods high in fat and sugar. Try eating small meals every three to five hours to help keep blood sugar stable. Spikes and lows in blood sugar can cause irrational eating behavior. Protein-rich foods high in fiber, like whole grains and produce, help keep blood sugar levels stable.
- Move your body. Get up and take a walk when a craving hits to help take your mind off the food. Physical activity boosts mood and self-confidence by activating the body’s natural production of endorphins. Endorphins reduce stress, help ward off feelings of depression, relieve anxiety, and help improve sleep…all leading to better health.
- Drink water. The hunger mechanism is stronger than thirst, so staying hydrated will help eliminate a false feeling of hunger. Since water is essential to every organ in the body (it carries nutrients to cells and regulates body functions), it is important to drink adequate amounts of water every day. It also flushes out toxins.
- Get support. Pay close attention to when cravings are strongest. Many people turn to sweets when stressed or depressed. Seek help from others to identify and plan coping mechanisms when emotional problems arise.
Remember to mix-it-up when trying to reduce or eliminate sugar to learn what works. Perhaps try one strategy one week, and another the next, or a combination of a few. And once you identify the things that trigger cravings, you will be on your way to kicking the sugar habit, which can transform your body, mind and spirit! Good luck!