As someone who has struggled with weight for the majority of her life, I have tried to look at the deeper roots to why we eat and why we eat certain things. One of the hardest things to cut back on is sugar. While there is research out there to prove that sugar itself is not addicting, sweet foods trigger a positive emotion in our brains that encourage us to eat more food in general hence the weight gain.
Sugar isn't addictive, but sweet things are. The hardest part is that these days sugar is being added to everything! It is in your salad dressing, spaghetti sauce, crackers, soft drinks, juice, etc. Cutting out sugar altogether isn't possible or necessary, but cutting out added sugars sure is. Consider that most Americans currently consume over 25 teaspoons of added sugar a day and our recommended intake is 6 teaspoons for women and 9 for men. If we could find ways to cut back, we would be doing ourselves a huge favor.
So what is the difference between sugars found naturally in food and those we add? Fruits, vegetables, beans, nuts and whole grains contain simple sugars. When simple sugars are naturally found in whole food, they come with vitamins, minerals, protein, phytochemicals and fiber. The presence of fiber makes a significant difference because it slows down the absorption of sugar, which moderates its impact on blood sugar. Natural sugar in whole food is a type of sugar that you shouldn't worry about. When any type of sugar is added to foods during processing, cooking or at the table, you consume calories without any nutrients or fiber - ie white sugar, brown sugar, agave, honey or syrup. This type of sugar, called added sugar, is what you want to limit.
So what about those darn sugar cravings?
When you are not eating enough and your blood sugar dips you most likely will crave something with sugar in it. You’ll be tempted to eat something sweet..fast..and you’ll get that quick surge of energy but it won’t last. Sugar literally acts like a drug to your brain. So many foods we eat today have massive amounts of added sugar. My biggest problem has been grabbing a few m&ms throughout the day. One or two might not be a problem, but they add up quickly and keep you wanting more. Clean eating is not about depriving yourself but finding ways to limit or eliminate!
It comes down to the fact that the more we eat something the more we crave it, good or bad. Our body starts to really need it. So, eating chips daily or having ice cream every night actually becomes more like an addiction...something your body wants and needs and NOW. It's not fun. It's not good. And it will lead you down a very frustrating path with lack of results. Sometimes you just need to go cold turkey on a craving that seems to be grasping you tighter and tighter. Yes, it will be hard at first but it will get easier and it's freeing. Once you have a healthier relationship with that food, you can start to add it back in in moderation.
Here are some tips to help you tackle those cravings and take back the control...
- Drink a big glass of water. Perhaps squeeze some lemon into it. I actually like seltzer to help as a drink when I have cravings. Don't know why it works, but it does.
- When I'm craving something sweet after dinner, I head to the freezer and grab a cup of frozen mixed berries. They take longer to eat when they are frozen and the mix of icy burst of flavor and sweetness helps to reign me in.
- If I really want chocolaty goodness, I have taken to making banana "ice cream" with a half scoop of chocolate Shakeology or unsweetened cocoa powder. I always keep bananas in the freezer for various uses and you can mash one up with a fork or whirl it in a food processor. You can use this for most ice cream cravings and there are tons of good recipes out there. If the weather is colder, I will make hot chocolate with non-fat milk, cocoa powder and a little stevia.
- A warm cup of decaf tea or coffee often helps.
- Keep a ton of good foods that entice you and are easy to grab. Fresh veggies can quench a ton of cravings and a little bit of hummus adds some good fat to go with it.
- Do something to get your mind off of it. Find a way to take your mind off the food and you might find that you weren't hungry in the first place.
Well, those are my bag of tricks! That's all I got. Of course I always come back to my WHY and my goals. I have pictures all over my house...on my phone, my computer, in my car, to remind me of why I need to take care of my body. I have 2 little people and an amazing husband that depend on me to be here for a long time. Not to mention, I am a better everything when I feel good in my skin. There is no chip or cookie worth more than that.