Today, Thursday, August 22, 2019

How to Beat Your Sugar Cravings

For most of us sugar is the first addictive substance we were ever exposed to in life.  It was the carrot that was offered when we had been good or were having a birthday celebration.  Denial of it was the stick that kept us in line and made us behave.  “Eat your vegetables or you won't get dessert.” From an early age most of us develop a problematic relationship with sugar that is perhaps as much psychological as physical.

The Problem with Sugar
If you observe the kids in your life now you can see how they react to sugar.  Pleading for it like junkies begging for a fix.  When they don't get it they often whine, sulk or worse, throw tantrums.  When they do get it, their bodies react with a rush of energy as refined carbohydrates hit their bloodstream, releasing the natural opiates that lead to the sugar high and inevitable crash that follows.

Clearly it's rather strong stuff.  And in fact it may be a far less innocuous treat then we have assumed in past generations. Overconsumption of sugar has been linked to hyperglycemia, heart disease, chronic fatigue and diabetes among other conditions.

And sugar cravings are not only deeply engrained in our bodies, minds and consciousnesses.  They're deeply engrained in our culture itself. 

Sugar consumption in America hit an all time high in 1999 with the average American consuming 158 pounds of sugar annually.  Consumption since then has diminished somewhat but is still much higher than it should be.  Sugar is still virtually everywhere.  Not just in the obvious place like cakes, candy, cookies and ice cream.  But in pasta sauce, ketchup, wheat bread, cereal and most of all in our coffee drinks, many of which are basically chocolate milk shakes with espresso thrown in.

So how do you kick the sugar habit?  If you want to cut back or eliminate sugar you need to beat your sugar cravings.  Here are some helpful tips to help you free yourself from your addiction to sugar.

Cold Turkey

First of all it's recommended that you go cold turkey.  Sugar releases opiates in the brain which make you feel good but also trigger your appetite.  This will always lead you to craving more, and more, and more.  With every bite, instead of being satiated, your sugar cravings will increase.  This will put you into a cycle of craving and prolong the physical and emotional ups and downs sugar is already causing.  That's why if you can muster the willpower it's best to make a clean break.

If this sounds to daunting you can take a half step and switch to fruit juice sweetened treats which are now available in the health food sections of most grocery stores.  Wean yourself onto and off of those and eventually your sugar cravings should start to diminish.

Eat Fruit

Even a mother's milk is sweet to a baby's tongue.  Nature intended for us to enjoy sugar, and in fact it is what our bodies run on.  But really it is the sugar that naturally occurs in fruit that your body needs, not the refined, processed stuff that we crave in candy, cookies and soda.

Without refined sugar in your life fruit will begin to taste more sweet and you may be surprised to find it goes a long way to satisfy your sweet tooth in the same way a candy bar once might have.  But without the continued cravings afterwards!

Some nutritionists even recommend eating fruit before meals as a way to not only overcome sugar addiction, but also to prevent you from overeating.

Eat Breakfast and Don't Skip Meals
Many of us lead a hectic lifestyle.  We fly out the door in a frenzy in the morning with nothing in our stomachs.  This will inevitably lead to cravings just from being hungry.  Unfortunately the places we go to satisfy these cravings are not likely to be good.  The coffee shop, vending machine or break room, are all waiting for us like traps baited with donuts, iced mochas, candy bars and more. 

Eating a decent breakfast that balances your blood sugar and satisfies your hunger will go a long way towards keeping you from falling off the wagon on your coffee break.

Read the Label
Sugar has found its way so deeply into our lives that it's now in many places you wouldn't suspect.  Peanut butter, jelly and ketchup are some of the more obvious places it turns up.  But even purportedly healthy items like soymilk, whole grain bread, pasta sauce and natural cereals contain sugar.

You may have the best intentions possible.  You may diligently avoid all the usual culprits: soda, cookies, candy, cakes and ice creams.  And yet you still might be getting unknowingly dosed with sugar, which will leave you wanting more.  If you want to beat sugar and sugar cravings you have to be alert.  That means always read the label!

Avoid Emotional or Binge Eating
For many of us there is a strong connection between emotions and food.  We've grown up in a society that uses food to both celebrate and mourn, so having an emotional food response is normal.  But don't let your emotions lead you back down that same old road.  If you want to break your sugar habit don't let a bad day lead you to head for the cookie jar.  Retrain yourself, form new habits.  If you need sweet comfort food, try a banana instead.  It's sweet and more filling than other fruits, which can make you feel more satisfied.

Beating the Sugar Cravings
Drinking a lot of water and adopting a diet that is well balanced overall will also go a long way towards normalizing your blood sugar and reducing cravings.  Overtime your palette will change and you will enjoy the sweetness in fruit and even sweet vegetables.  Over a longer period of time sugary treats will seem less appealing.

Thirty or fourty years ago our society tolerated and accepted nicotine in ways that seem almost incomprehensible now.  It's possible that in ten, twenty or more years our attitude toward sugar will change in much the same way. 

Until that time however, if you want to beat your sugar cravings, you need to pay close attention to what you eat and why you eat it.

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