Now that we have learned about sugar, specifically where it is found, and it’s potentially harmful effects on our bodies, how do we rid it from our diets? How do we deal with “sugar cravings”?
Kicking the sugar habit/addiction can be very difficult. Sugar affects all of the cells within the brain and can even mimic the neurochemical changes that occur during ingestion of certain drugs. Sugar is also associated as a reward, or a symbol of love. We often think of sugar as “comfort food” and crave sugar during times of stress, sadness, frustration, boredom, happiness, sadness…and on and on.
In order to beat sugar cravings, you have to be ready and armed with a structured plan. Listed below are just a few tips on how to cope with sugar cravings.
- 1. Eat regularly: If you skip meals, your blood sugar can drop leaving you vulnerable and more likely to make poor food choices. 2. Incorporate protein into each meal: Protein helps keep blood sugar levels. Ingestion of sugars/carbs on the other hand cause rapid elevations and drops in blood sugar, which in turn, causes us to want to reach for MORE sugar. It’s a vicious cycle!
3. Try replacing sugar (and even sugar substitutes) with natural spices/herbs: You can retrain your taste buds to be satisfied with less sugar by replacing sugar with spices such as cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves. You will eventually learn to appreciate the true taste of foods without needing sweeteners.
4. Read food label and be familiar with terminology: Remember, sugar comes in many forms and has many different names. Additives such as high fructose corn syrup, corn sugar, sucrose, dextrose, honey, agave, molasses, and turbinado sugar are ALL forms of sugar and should be avoided.
5. Increase exercise: Studies show that exercise helps boost energy levels and diminish stress and tension, which may diminish that need for a “sugar fix”.
6. Sleep: When we are tired or fatigued, we often look to sugar as a “pick-me-up”, when what we really need is adequate rest.
7. Keep tempting foods out of sight: If you find certain foods to be a trigger, and near impossible to avoid, keep those foods out of sight…then hopefully out of mind. You may find this particularly helpful as you are starting out in your journey to a healthier lifestyle.
8. Drink plenty of water: Many times what we think may be a sugar or food craving, is actually thirst. Try filling up on water or other low calorie/non carbonated beverages.
9. Be mindful of emotions: Oftentimes we look to sugar (comfort foods) to meet an emotional need that isn’t being met. Try keeping a journal and record not only what you are eating, but why you feel you are eating. Look for those connections to help you determine if you are, in fact, “emotionally eating”.
10. Distraction: The craving strikes and it is near impossible to resist. What do you do? Studies show that cravings usually only last 10-20 minutes and then subside. Try setting a timer for 15 minutes when the craving hits and engage in some other activity that you find enjoyable, or that provides you comfort. Read a book, go for a walk, or call a friend. If you can distract yourself, the craving should pass. The more you learn to do this, the easier it will become. This is how healthy habits are formed.
11. Follow up: Remember, we at Tri-State recognize that sugar cravings/addictions are real. Please let us know if you are struggling so we can provide you with the appropriate help. We offer support groups, as well as behavioral therapy with our psychiatrist Dr. Allison. Follow up is key!