If you crave sugar, you’re definitely not alone. It has been proven that sugar is more addictive than cocaine – one of the most harmful and addictive drugs known today! When rats were given the choice between sweetened water and cocaine (those poor rats), sugar was the clear winner with a whopping 94% going for the sugary stuff – including those that were already addicted to the drug.
It may seem crazy to be comparing sugar to addictive drugs, but they both stimulate similar parts of the brain related to emotion, memory and reward. And sugar in particular triggers the production of your brain’s natural opioids, which are addictive.
In addition, when you ingest sugar or refined, processed foods that turn into sugar quickly, the rapid rise in blood sugar causes your body to release insulin which removes excess sugar in the blood stream. If your body is responsive to insulin, it will do a very good job at eliminating all of the excess sugar from your blood to the point of becoming hypoglycemic – meaning low in blood sugar. Your brain receives this panic signal and in turn sends a signal that will make you crave more sugar yet again!
This is an overly simplistic explanation, but it explains why you might be a sugar addict. In essence, sugar makes you crave more sugar shortly after consuming something sweet or refined. And it is this continuous yo-yo cycle of high and low blood sugar irregularities that can leave you feeling drained and fatigued, and unable to lose unwanted body fat.
Have you ever noticed how certain foods like chocolate and even breakfast cereals can make you hungry in as little as an hour? Or how about the energy crash in the afternoons that make you reach for coffee or sweets? This is why it is so critically important to maintain normal blood sugar levels to avoid cravings and optimize your overall health.
Here are 4 steps that can help you normalize your blood sugar and kick your sugar addiction:
Eat Frequently - Every 3 to 3 ½ hours
This translates into eating breakfast, lunch, dinner, a mid-morning mini-meal/snack and an afternoon mini-meal/snack.
Not only will eating frequently maintain your blood sugar levels, but it will also keep you energized all day long, boost your metabolism, and allow your body to achieve physical change – whether it is to gain weight or lose fat.
Eat Supportive Meals & Healthy Snacks
A supportive meal should consist of a lean protein source, a natural slow release complex carb, and a fibrous carb. For example, a baked fish with a side of brown rice and steamed broccoli or an egg omelet with spinach, mushrooms and tomatoes.
It is also important not to forget your essential fats (i.e. seeds, raw nuts, extra virgin olive oil, etc.) and 2-3 fruits per day for their vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. These also make great snacks in between your main meals.
Eliminate Sugar & Refined Foods
Refined foods like white bread, white rice, white pasta, processed breakfast cereals, and sweet treats will cause your blood sugar levels to spike and crash, leaving you to crave more sugar shortly after. In light of this fact, the best way to eliminate sugar cravings is to avoid sugar and refined foods altogether. It may seem drastic, but if you consider yourself a sugar-junkie, do your health a favor and try it for at least one week, and better yet, two weeks.
This week, many of you took the 1-week sugar detox challenge. I am looking forward to knowing how you all did and how you felt by the end of the challenge.
Since elevated insulin levels contributes to food cravings, reducing your insulin levels can make your sweet cravings disappear. One of the many benefits of exercise is that it makes your cells more receptive to insulin, thereby helping you curb cravings. In addition, I always find that exercise makes me want to make healthier food choices, which I believe will work for you too.
What to Do When a Sugar Craving Hits?
After adopting the steps mentioned above, you should notice a huge reduction in cravings. However, it is only natural that we still get the occasional sweet craving – after all, we’re only human! So when that sweet craving does come along, here are some tips that can help you get through it without guilt or bingeing.
- Drink water and wait it out. Often times, dehydration can be mistaken for hunger and cause cravings.
- Distract yourself. Go for a walk, call a friend, or read a book. Do something that will get your mind off of junk food and emotional eating.
- Ask yourself if you are hungry and if so, eat a proper meal. When my kids get hungry, they become little candy scavengers and ask for sweet treats. It’s always a sign that they are hungry.
- Eat fresh fruits and berries. Fruits are full of sugar but they also have many beneficial nutrients making them a great substitute for the not-so healthy options you might be craving. Just keep in mind how many fruits you are eating and keep it to 2-3 per day.
- Just have it! If you’ve adopted healthy eating habits as mentioned above and exercise regularly, then allowing yourself a sweet treat on occasion will not only satisfy your craving but keep you sane and happy.
The Bottom Line
I realize that cutting out sugar is easier said than done in this day and age. Especially when there are so many triggers that can cause cravings like watching a chocolate commercial on TV, smelling it as you pass by an ice cream shop, or even emotional triggers like boredom, loneliness, or happiness.
Hormonal imbalances, Candida/yeast bacteria, and chronic fatigue are also known triggers, but it’s important to recognize that sweet cravings are most often triggered by the very same foods that you crave most. Acknowledging this fact can make it easier on you to make the conscious decision to eliminate these foods from your diet altogether because the cycle is self perpetuating.
Supportive eating every few hours combined with exercise and good quality sleep can help balance out the whole equation and break that not-so-sweet habit.
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