Friday, February 15, 2008

Sugar: Why is it so Addictive?

Fighting Cravings for Sweets

"So I've always wondered why I crave sugar so much especially after I eat a meal. I have not gone one day without finding something with sugar in it to satisfy my urge. Some days I get a little carried away.

Why does this happen?

I've tried to eat grapes or something sweet when I get that urge however it doesn't cut it so then I end up eating some candy canes (which I am totally addicted to) or something sweet. I know I should clean my house out of all of the bad food and I have a whole lot but my kids still like to have their snacks."
~ Amy

Amy, you are not alone. Many women encounter this all too familiar battle day in and day out.

Sweet cravings come about for a number of reasons. In order to defeat these cravings, it is important to understand why they occur.

1. Part of your cravings exist due to habit. You must have satisfied this craving in the past - following a meal with something sweet. Then suddenly it becomes a part of your mindset. After every meal must come dessert. The good news is ALL Habits are learned, so this habit cam be unlearned as the result of practice and repetition.

2. Your cravings will continue to exist if you eat simple, refined carbohydrates or high sugar foods. The day you cut out the sweets is the day you take control and stop the cravings. Cravings exist because we feed them and allow them to exist. Yes, it is an addiction, but one we choose to have.

Take a peek at what is happening inside your body when you do make this choice. My hopes are that you will think twice before giving in.
Eating simple carbohydrates causes a spike in your blood sugar for these foods are quickly absorbed into the blood stream. This in turn gives you the temporary sugar high - it feels good....however, our body does not like this imbalance and a series of hormonal responses take place.

Your body produces an increased amount of the Insulin - a storage hormone. In order to facilitate this rush of insulin, glucagon - a release hormone - is diminished.

What does this hormone game mean to you? Each time you consume simple sugars and refined carbohydrates, you are doing nothing more than locking in fat.

Even worse? This cycle will continue for once your blood sugar levels hit bottom. You will Crash due to the excess insulin. Your body reacts once again for at this point your energy level bottoms out, you have trouble thinking clearly and you end up with cravings. You will inevitably crave sweets as these foods will raise blood sugar the quickest, getting you out of your slump.

The blood sugar High/Low cycle repeats - again and again and again...

Think of a roller coaster. This is what is happening inside your body every time you eat sweets.

The only way to stop the to get off the ride.

Strategies to Eliminate your Sweet Tooth

1. Clean out the Kitchen.
Keeping sweets in the house will actually sabotaging your chances to be successful. Replace the junk with supportive options. For example, fresh fruits and vegetable, nuts, string cheese, high fiber crackers, etc.

2. Keep a Food Log
Are you eating every 3 to 4 hours? Skipping meals will cause your blood sugar levels to drop. Be sure each meal and snack includes the right balance of protein, fats and carbohydrates. Sometimes a craving occurs due to a lack of protein and/or fats in your meal and snacks. Simply eating an apple is not enough. Pair your apple with a handful of nuts or some diced cheese cubes.

3. Wait it Out
Did you know a craving lasts for about 15 minutes - then it goes away. Make a list of things you can do to distract you for 15 minutes. When a craving hits....grab a bottle of water and get to that activity - you can even set a timer. Once you hit 15 minutes...your cravings are gone and you are EMPOWERED!

4. Are you Stressed?
Some cravings are STRESS related. Practice other ways to cope with stress - go for a walk , spiritual connections, a cozy fireplace, hot baths...all these stimulate neurochemicals that activate regions of the brain that stimulate pleasure associated with eating something sweet.

5. Break Old Habits.
One way to take control and make a change is to keep a journal - sure enjoy a big glass of water or cup of hot tea - but do so as you write down what you are craving...why you are craving it....give the craving a name and talk to it....find out what it wants....tell it why it is not welcome at this time....I know, sounds corny - but does help you gain insight and control over such thoughts and beliefs - then you have the power to change them.

By simply "doing" something different after dinner, you can overcome this habit. After dinner, brush your teeth, chew on a piece of gum, sip on some hot tea that has a naturally sweet taste (this one has been my lifesaver....a licorice based tea has a wonderfully sweet flavor).

Remove yourself from the environment where you normally had your sweet dessert or treat. If you normally eat it while watching TV - turn off the TV and distract yourself with a good book, play with your children, listen to some music, write in your journal....

You will be amazed at how powerful a few little lifestyle habits will give you the control you need to deal with and overcome those nagging cravings.

From the ClubFYM Forums:

"I have set my mind that I don't want to do anything to hinder getting ready for the bikini season and I am going to do whatever it takes to get there. I guess I have convinced myself that I just don't want sweet stuff. It also helps that I am seeing results and I don't want to take a step backwards. Usually when I do fall off of the wagon it doesn't taste good to me anymore (my taste buds have definitely changed) and it just wasn't worth it so that has also made it easier to avoid."

"I just found something else that squashes my sweet craving thought I'd share. I read that Drew Barrymore using this trick to feel like she is eating a cookie and I tried it and it worked ! LOL Put 1 almond on top of a dried apricot...thats it. Doesn't sound to great I know but the sweetness of the apricot and the crunch from the almond make it feel like you are eating something special."
~ Carrie

Where Yummy-ness Happens

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