Just kidding, nothing is easy, especially when it comes to breaking cravings and addictions. The "sugar bug" has a strong hold on us. Studies have shown that in America, the average person consumes about 21 teaspoons of sugar a day. We eat sweets to get an energy boost, comfort ourselves, reward ourselves, celebrate, and even calm ourselves down. Heck, half the fun of a birthday party is getting to eat cake! But with a lot of motivation and persistence, you can beat the sugar bug.
Recently on one of my social networking pages a woman wrote in about her 6-month-old granddaughter whose doctor suggested the baby NOT eat fruits or vegetables because she will grow to have intense sugar cravings. The doctor suggested rice cereal as the only option. WHAT? Beware of misinformation.
"When you eat carbohydrates, either simple or complex, your body breaks them down into sugars, which are absorbed into the bloodstream" (from, How Do Carbs Affect Blood Sugar?*).
As you read the strategies below, you will find the culprits that cause a sweet tooth, and perhaps you will discover how the little bugs found their way into your lifestyle.
10 easy strategies to curb a sweet tooth:
1. Be aware of too much salt and processed foods
We crave and need dietary salt or our body won't function. A lack of salt can cause fatigue and stimulate overeating and cravings for animal protein. With so many natural salts available, it's quite easy to lose track of how much we eat. Craving sweet foods is one of the most reliable indicators of excess salt in your diet.
2. Eat little or no animal protein
Animal protein is the Holy Grail of the American diet, but the meat-and-potatoes mentality is so... yesterday. Extensive research shows excess animal protein can
lead to colon and prostate cancer (according to The China Study** by T. Colin Campbell and Thomas M. Campbell). Limit your menu to three or four servings per week (maximum), as opposed to having meat daily. Like sugar, animal protein creates cravings that can be curbed.
3. Don't stuff yourself
Overeating can cause fatigue and sluggishness. Sugar is a quick-fix "pick me up" that temporarily stimulates energy, or so our body is tricked into thinking. Eat frequent small meals and allow your body to use fuel more efficiently without weighing it down.
4. Don't forget to eat
Waiting too long to eat slows metabolism and the delivery of glucose to the blood, therefore causing your blood sugar to drop. By the time you manage to eat, you will probably grab for a simple sugar. Protein bars are nothing but glorified candy bars, so be careful not to get lost in that cycle. Sometimes hunger is so overdue, we end up overeating with fatty foods to compensate for the sugar fix. Eating every 3-4 hours is key. Not a big meal, think light.
5. Avoid big dinners before bed
If your body is too busy digesting when it goes to bed, it will never get sufficient rest. You will likely awake groggy the next morning looking for a caffeine and sugar fix to jumpstart your day. Try eating lighter dinners 2-3 hours before bed time.
6. Simply avoid sugar
This may seem like a "no-brainer," but knowing that eating simple sugars causes blood sugar to drop and stimulates a need for more sugar may help you understand the vicious cycle. Even though fruit is considered a simple sugar, switching to fruit is a good choice. Always eat the skin of the fruit because fiber slows blood sugar elevation.
7. Eat whole complex carbohydrates
If your daily diet mainly consists of whole grains (brown rice, quinoa, oats and barley) and vegetables (root tubers, leafy greens, squashes and cabbages), then you'll find you already crave less sugar. A plant-based diet is balanced and thus helps to reduce cravings. Emphasizing sweet vegetables such as carrots, beets, cooked onions and corn can add just enough natural sweetness to meals.
8. Exercise consistently, not necessarily intensely
Daily exercise increases circulation and naturally increases your sensitivity to sugar. When you are more sensitive to sugar, eating it makes you feel bad. This naturally alleviates cravings. Brisk walking, biking, dancing, or light jogging for 20 to 30 minutes a day, 5 times a week should be enough to get you out of the sugar bug blues. Make sure whatever you do, you enjoy it. Exercise should not be a chore, it should be fun. Exercise also raises serotonin levels that can help you with emotional eating.
9. Don't stress out
It is not healthy to suppress your feelings, which doesn't mean you have to broadcast every emotion, unless that's how you like it. When we hold back our feelings we tend to reach for comfort foods. That's why people find themselves crying over a carton of cookies-and-cream ice cream. Sugar provides a temporary sensory pleasure, much like a drug, providing mental and emotional relief. However, long-term relief is further out of site as your coping mechanisms are hindered by decreased energy and mental clarity.
10. Don't get triggered
A lot of how we feel about food has to do with our upbringing and childhood memories. Certain foods have emotional and psychological associations for us that are ingrained in our history. More often than not, we will make poor food choices that feed our nostalgia. Beware of family associations, movie rituals, familiar restaurants, childhood habits, and know that the lollipop after your visit to the doctor was just a bribe, not a treat to get you through your vaccination shots.
In health and love,
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