In light of the season’s marathon of sugary holiday goodies and my post yesterday about Waking Up to Wellness, it seems like we should have a little sit-down discussion about sugar cravings. Specifically, how to shake them before they get the better of us, leaving us tired, stressed, achy, overweight, and at risk for a slew of serious health problems down the road.
Some people seem to glide through life heedless of sugar’s temptation, while others—lots of others—really have to work at keeping their cravings in check. Sugar has a way of making a body feel powerless to its siren call. But it’s not a matter of mere weakness, and it’s not as simple as the proverbial “sweet tooth.”
Research is mounting that proves a critical connection between sugar and brain chemistry. As explained in the book, The End of Overeating, sugar can trigger the same effects in the brain as highly addictive drugs like amphetamines and cocaine—and, sadly, countless people in this country are hooked on daily, if not hourly, sugar intake. According to a recent study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, the average American’s yearly sugar intake has skyrocketed from 26 pounds to more than 135 pounds in the past 20 years. Not surprisingly, most of that sugar is coming from processed product additives like bleached white cane or beet sugar and corn syrup, which are far more addictive and health-harming than any sort of sweetness found in nature. The bottom line: sugar can lure you into seemingly unbeatable cycles of craving, overeating, and suffering. You feel helpless to stop once you get hooked on sugar’s instant pick-me-up, even though it ultimately leaves you down in the dumps again.
Research is great for validating what we often know instinctively, but gut-level gumption is the key to putting positive change in motion. So if you’re ready to shake the sugar habit, then it’s time to tap in to your inner strength, take up the reins, and begin retraining your body to resist the constant need for sugar.
Break the Cycle There is an honest-to-goodness quick fix for breaking the sugar cycle: stop eating sugar, period. Note, I said “quick” fix, but I didn’t say it was easy. The thing is, once your body is out-of-whack in terms of sugar cravings, moderation doesn’t work anymore. One bite inevitably leads to 20, and you’re back in the trenches. The only surefire solution is stopping cold turkey. The silver lining? Overall deprivation is neither required nor recommended by the experts. Don’t stop eating; just stop eating sugar. One of the best ways to avoid sugar (and a host of other unhealthy additives) is by avoiding processed and packaged foods, soda pop, and committing to coffee and tea without sweetener or maybe a bit of honey or stevia. Again, not easy, but it’s a new year and a new you. Grab a pencil and paper and get ready to make a plan.
Plan and Prepare
Planning is crucial to eating “outside the package.” You can drastically increase your shot at success by planning specific meals and snacks throughout the day. Too much flexibility can lead to serious moments of weakness, spurring you to choose a quickie snack that contains sugar. So instead of winging it, write up a little meal plan of “safe” foods, then make sure they’re handy all the time so you never get too hungry. I keep walnuts and bananas handy (chilled in the fridge)—banana bread substitute! Almonds wrapped like a burrito in a slice of unsweetened dried mango—a naturally sweet snack. Yesterday, my grandgirls were out. After several rounds of hopscotch (I gave them chalk to “decorate” my painted concrete floors), it was time for snacks. I put out bowls of frozen blueberries (great ice cream replacement) and then I grabbed a hammer and cracked some walnuts, handing them off to the girls to fish out the walnuts (checking their piles before I let them eat any to make sure they’d discarded all the shells). Sugar-free but fun and festive eating.
For snacks, think crunchy raw veggies, apples and peanut butter, plain yogurt with unsweetened berries, toasted almonds, cheese, jerky, and hard-boiled eggs. A fantastic bread to have on hand for toast and sandwiches is Food For Life’s Ezekial sprouted grain bread (www.foodforlife.com). It’s sugarless and made entirely from sprouted whole grains, so it won’t spike your blood sugar like flour-based breads.
When a craving strikes, quell it with a quick glass of water. Or try the old trick of brushing your teeth. Sounds silly, but it works!
Avoid Artificial Sweeteners
One word of caution: don’t try to break your sugar habit by relying on sugar-free foods that contain artificial sweeteners like sucralose, aspartame, and neotame (a new synthetic sweetener that is being used in food products, often blended with other sweeteners). These chemicals are associated with multiple health risks, and they seem to interfere with your body’s metabolism, making it so you end up gaining even more weight!
Focus On the Future
It can be excruciating to break your ties with a continual intake of sugar. Many people have grown up associating high-sugar foods with comfort, happiness, even love. But, like all relationships that compromise happiness, it can be equally exhilarating to let go and liberate yourself. Before you know it, your palate will become sensitized again to the delicious array of flavors, including subtle sweetnesses, within foods that truly nourish your body and spirit.
So True! You just have to stop and wait it out for about 3 weeks for the cravings to ease and disappear. It is interesting that once you stop the sugar, it becomes so over powering when you go back to things like a piece of cake or cookies. Living without sugar is complicated even if you don’t abuse it because so many wonderful things that we enjoy in life have sugar:birthday cakes, Christmas treats, chocolate etc. I have found that a better strategy for long term is to eliminate over processed sugar foods, soft drinks, and keeping focused on the big goal of a healthy lifestyle that includes regular exercise, lots of fresh foods and wholesome grains, sleep, no smoking, and alcohol in limited amounts. Oh, and lots of MJF!!!!! grin
I was so addicted to sugar and in Oct I decided to stop eating it along with gluten and salt. It was really hard but I knew I could do it. 12 months ago I stopped smoking after 37 years and I knew if I could do that, nothing would stand it my way in the future from kicking other bad habits. I was told I needed to have both knees replaced. I am active, my husband and I have 3 market gardens and he has Cerebral Palsy so I am the one who does the walking, planting, etc. I ended up getting gel shots in the joints of both knees. They last a year in controlling the pain. This gave me time to get my weight, my life back. From eating sugar at every whip stitch to living a life without sugar and gluten. I drink Bragg’s vinegar 3 times a day. I eat a lot of fruit and I’m learning how to like veggies. I’m learning how cook all over again, but so worth it. I have lost 38 pounds and am down 163 points in my cholesterol and I am taking a class at the local collage so I can live out one more dream of mine. Sugar controlled my life, my whole life, my mood, my energy, everything. Now I am in control of me and my body.
What amazing fortitude Jane. You’re an inspiration!
Getting rid of sugar is a great plan and I believe it will improve a persons quality of life! I just wanted to suggest that initially I would recommend eliminating fruit, tomatoes and carrot from your diet as well, as they are very high in sugar. I realize it is a natural fructose, but it still sends that euphoric message to your brain just like chocolate. After about three weeks, slowly start to introduce them back into your diet. That goes for dairy as well. Try coconut milk or almond milk:) If you are worried about calcium, eating extra greens will fix that!
I also, believe there is a yeast connection and if we have an overload of yeast within our bodies it will create intense sugar cravings. With that said, it is important not to eat foods that have a fast tendency to mold such as peanuts, melons, and mushrooms. Check out The Yeast Syndrome by John Parks Trowbridge, MD and Morton Walker, D.P.M.
You’re right, yeast overgrowth is often the result of too much sugar. When that happens, it’s like an alien inside dictating what you’ll eat. The road to good health is an ongoing journey for everyone but with the internet we finally have easy access to life-changing information. No two people are ever in exactly the same place on that journey. It’s important to honor where a person is on that journey. I think back where I was 20 years ago and just shake my head. I’ve come a long way! But I know I still have a long journey ahead of me. Now, time for my green juice drink before bed!!!!
Four years ago I had lost 35 pounds and was very proud of myself. Since then, my job became more sedentary and the stress went through the roof. I immediately turn to sweets for a shot of instant comfort. Bad idea! I am now back to being addicted to them and find myself feeling helpless and bit low.
Resurfacing from the doldrums can be pretty tough but I’m working on it. My husband is helping me and I am bound and determined to kick my sugar habit. We are going to be starting our own self-sufficient farm in upstate NY this year and you know what? Eating all that sugary stuff gets expensive! There will be less money (which I’m actually glad of), less sugar (thankfully) and more physical labor (which I miss dearly) on my horizon. I’m hoping from the bottom of my heart that 2013 will be the year I make some serious strides at becoming the best version of myself.
Thanks for posting this. It is an epidemic and needs to be talked about more as one.
2013 is going to be YOUR year. Sounds like your farm in upstate NY will be just what the doctor ordered. Stay in touch and let us know your progress.
Nice post, we should re-read it every year! 🙂
This is a great article! Wonderful suggestions to break the sugar cravings. I’ve started eating different varieties of apples to help with my sugar cravings. It’s fun to discover the taste of something different than a Ref Delicious for a change.
First time I have read raising Jane. I loved the information