Ah, cakes, pies and ice cream. How delicious they are, but how malicious they can be to your health. While sugar tastes wonderful and even makes us feel good, it is the source of many Americans’ health and weight problems. Here’s the story behind sugar’s appeal, and how you can reduce it’s impact on your figure.
Sugar’s dietary routes
Sugar is a basic form of energy in food. In ancient times when food was limited and starvation was a real threat, sugar cravings helped keep humans alive. While sugar is a form of energy, too much of it can be deadly. The human body countered for sugar’s toxicity by adapting the ability to transform excess sugar into fat.
When humans went through phases of intense food shortages, they benefited from their sugar-generated fat stores. The fat helped to feed early humans’ large brains and sustain their bodies until food was bountiful.
However now, humans no longer face massive food shortages and our access to sugar is almost limitless. Carrots and honey contained the sugar that our ancestors had access to. Only recently has pure sugar become a part of the human diet. Sugar is a constant presence in our lives today, so it’s all the more important to understand it’s impact on us and how to overcome our cravings.
What causes your sugar cravings
Serotonin - When we eat sugar, it triggers the release of serotonin. Serotonin makes us feel elated and happy, and it also has positive impacts on our ability to handle stress. Sometimes sugar cravings represent a subconscious desire to elevate our serotonin levels.
Stress - Sugar consumption reduces biological responses to stress. It helps us reduce our anxiety and sustain our mental functions in the face of difficult situations. In a study, women who consumed sucrose-sweetened beverages after enduring timed math tests showed decreased cortisol levels and increased memory faculties.
Addiction - Sugar is an addiction. If you eat a lot of sugar, you’ll crave sugar. It’s a dangerous cycle. Although some people are able to integrate small doses of sugar into their diets without going overboard, others can’t be tempted. You may want to consider going “cold turkey” on sugar if you have a difficult time rationing your sugar consumption.
How to overcome your sweet tooth
Despite your evolutionary impulse to enjoy sugar, there’s great news! You can overcome them! Here are 9 tricks to outsmarting your own cravings.
Reward yourself -- Change is hard! Whether you’re trying out a new diet or moving to a different city, it’s difficult to embrace the change and kiss old comfortable habits goodbye. When you begin your anti-sugar diet, don’t be hard on yourself. Schedule time for praise and appreciation when you block a craving and stick to your goal.
Hard work should never go unnoticed! Especially when it comes to self-discipline.
Eat, ladies. Eat! -- Starvation and cravings don’t mix. In fact, the more you starve yourself, the harder it will be to overpower your cravings. This is because willpower is finite. Although we can strengthen our willpower through training, there’s only so much a person can resist in the course of a day. If you resist food, work in a stressful situation, and try to avert a sugar craving, something will break. Instead of eating junk, or sugar, choose a healthy meal.
Eat more protein - Protein will keep you satiated, and even better, it’ll keep your blood sugar steady. That means you’ll have high energy throughout the day, so instead of feeling the need to offset yawns with sugar-loaded coffee, or sweets, you’ll be able to maintain your focus without the sugar.
Get up, get out -- Sometimes, a craving is just a sign that your mind and body needs a different kind of stimulation. When you feel the urge to eat a sweet, instead of giving in, hop in the shower or take a walk. The sensations will help your mind move focus on something else.
Processed food, goodbye -- If you seriously want to give up sugar, make it easier on yourself by giving up all food that’s bad for you. If you regularly eat foods with preservatives and fructose corn syrup, your body will continue to experience cravings for artificial energy because your diet is imbalanced. To give yourself a fighting chance of winning the sugar battle, toss your junk food.
Hydrate! -- Dehydration causes cravings of all sorts. In fact, often when we think we’re hungry, we’re actually thirsty. When the idea of something sweet pops into your mind, guzzle a glass of water. Or even better, try this bitter tea recipe: 1 ounce pure lemon water, 1-3 ounces cider vinegar, a teaspoon of yellow mustard. Within ten minutes of drinking the tea, your craving should dissipate.
Avoid temptation -- Okay, so this should be a no-brainer. But it’s worth stating outright. A gym is an okay place to go if you’re trying to avoid sugar. A zoo is alright. Your favorite hair salon...also okay. But guess what’s a terrible idea? Going to a bakery! Stay away from temptation. If that means you avoid a certain coworker’s desk, then so be it. Don’t put yourself in the line of fire.
Nuts and fruit -- In the event the previous tactics fail you, keep a bag of nuts or fruit around to munch on.
Be kind to yourself
As you launch your sugar diet, keep in mind that what you’re doing is difficult and noteworthy. Be easy on yourself if you slip up, and remember to reward yourself for the willpower milestones you achieve on your way to a reduced-sugar life. Good luck!