For those struggling with your weight and love of carbs like most of us, be comforted that research shows that, yes, sugar is addicting. It really is in your head! That sweet substance wreaks havoc on glucose and insulin levels which triggers more hunger which then influences our pleasure centers in the brain. That’s why it’s hard to deny thoughts of, “so hungry (and stressed)…I must have my sugar fix!” We’ve seen the continued rise in obesity and type 2 diabetes, so I know it’s hard to go cold turkey off sugar, so here are 5 steps to start treating sugar addiction:
1. Measure your carbs. If you tend to love breads and pastas, focus on portion control. An easy built-in measuring device is your own hand. Eat no more than the size of your fist. We all have different hand sizes, so it’s proportional to your body size.
2. Keep healthy snacks nearby. Cheese, fruit, vegetables and raw nuts are great to snack on. These healthier foods won’t raise your glucose so high and will curb your cravings. If you don’t fill your kitchen (or workspace) with junk food, then you won’t put them in your body! Anyone else crave a sweet espresso drink and a cookie whenever you’re near a Starbucks? Maybe you should change your driving route to avoid those tempting coffee shops.
3. Eat protein with every carb. Snack on celery (complex carb) with peanut butter (protein). Or an apple (complex carb) with raw almonds (protein). Proteins will help slow the sharp spike in glucose. Sugar triggers big insulin spikes which lead you to feel hungry sooner. The more refined a carb you eat, the bigger the sugar spike like in a sugary drink or pastry. Add a protein and your blood sugar is better regulated which satisfies your hunger cravings longer.
4. Think small. If you’re still craving sweets, promise to limit yourself to 1 or 2 small pieces of organic dark chocolate. It’s ok to have a small amount sweets, but this can be a slippery slope because willpower never works and 2 pieces of chocolate can turn into 2 chocolate bars.
5. Don’t rely on willpower. I’ve mentioned this before and in previous blogs. It doesn’t work. If you’ve been exerting your mental energy all day to be healthy, sometimes the stress of a long day will lead you to say, “screw it, it’s been a rough day, and I deserve to feel good.” Why can’t we just crave kale? Well because it has a low glycemic index (doesn’t spike sugar very high) plus it doesn’t alter your dopamine brain chemical like sugar does. There’s a chemical process going on with “sugar on the brain” and willpower by itself usually isn’t strong enough.
There are more ways to stop the sugar madness. Certain supplements and medications can help as well, so talk to your health care provider about this. Sugar addiction is real. Keep these tips near to your heart as well as your brain and stomach and you can break the habit.