You know the feeling… you’ve made it to mid-afternoon at work and then the sugar craving hits. You head to the vending machine to snap up a chocolate bar, bag of lollies or can soft drink to get your fix.
With all the talk about sugar taxes the ever increasing incidences of Lifestyle diseases due to overconsumption of sugar, is it about time we took accountability of our health and food choices we make.
But are you hardwired to seek sugar or are the treats just a bad habit? And more importantly, how can you beat these sugar cravings for good? From Mr Metabolism himself, Mr Matt O’Neill creator of the SmartShape and Metabolic Jumpstart programs, follow these three steps to beat your sugar cravings.
Step 1 – Reduce your biological cravings
Humans are chemically programmed to seek sweet food because sweetness comes with the calories we need to survive. The reward for sugar is the release of serotonin (the feel good hormone) and dopamine (the addiction hormone).
Whether it’s a hit of energy or a feeling of happiness, we naturally feel better after consuming sugar. This is the main reason why doctors give toddlers a lolly after an injection.
It’s hard to know how biologically susceptible you are to sugar’s lure. You may be a hyper-responder with a strong chemical drive for sugar.
Beat biological sugar cravings by:
- Starting your day with starches at breakfast to reduce levels of another craving chemical called NPY (neuropeptide-Y).
- Include lean proteins at main meals to help feel fuller for longer between meals.
- Eat nutrient-rich as much as possible to minimise any nutrient imbalances that may trigger the desire for sugar.
- Satisfy your sweet tooth with naturally sweet foods, including; fresh and dried fruit, yoghurt or milk and even roasted onion, peppers or beetroot.
- Be careful with sweet diet foods, as they may not satisfy a craving.
- Be keenly aware of your hunger signals to avoid becoming ravenous. This is when the craving chemicals take over!
- Keep a glass of water in your hand or on your desk to avoid the temptation of grabbing a chocolate bar instead.
Step 2 – Reprogram your bad habits
Bad eating habits can keep the sugar-cycle spinning at full speed. If you were always rewarded with lollies or candy as a kid, chances are this reward routine has become a simple yet powerful automatic response programmed into adulthood.
Bad habits can be broken with awareness and positive alternative behaviours.
Beat bad eating habits by:
- Logging your eating triggers and reactions to become more aware of your negative eating patterns.
- Keep tempting treats out of the house and only bringing home small quantities of sweet treats on weekends.
- Plan a new and better food choice, like a handful of dried fruit, and have it ready with you for when a craving strikes.
- Distract yourself when you feel a craving coming on. Go for a walk and the craving may dissipate.
Step 3 – Rethink your big emotions
In some cases sugar cravings can feel out of control, particularly if devouring sugar is used as a short-term fix for some bigger emotions.
Beat big emotions by:
- First deal with any biological craving and bad habits by using the strategies above. This sets you up for success.
- Name your emotions – be it stress, boredom, anger or anxiety. Then ask yourself, “What other than food do I need to make me feel better?” Work towards satisfying cravings with non-food rewards.
- Be patient and know that it takes time to work through emotions. Be your own best friend rather than beat yourself up. Slip-ups are allowed!
- Talk to someone you trust about your feelings or challenges.
- If it’s too much, get professional help from a counsellor. Their expert advice and guidance may be just the breath of fresh air you need.
Sugar cravings are not always based heavily on emotions, but knowing the sugar-feelings link is there in some way will better equip you to make a breakthrough and beat sugar cravings for good.
Do I need to go sugar-free?
Banning sugar from your diet is not the answer, nor is it achievable. Fruit and milk are nutrient-rich foods that contain natural sugar – fructose in fruit and lactose in milk.
People who claim to have gone “sugar-free” will have also cut out chocolate, pastries, ice-cream and other Extras that also contain fat.
Its added sugars you should target by checking food labels to minimise the sugar content and examining ingredients lists for the tell-tale signs of sugar, including; sucrose, honey, molasses and corn syrup.
Now, I hope you feel more confident to tackle those sugar cravings.
With a little effort to address the biological cravings, bad habits and any emotions, the results are fantastic!