For a time, I got away with it. But after two kids, poor snacking habits left me 20 pounds heavier than I should be. I might just as well have applied those desserts straight to my hips!
Conventional nutrition information tells us to employ will power, eat more protein, drink water to feel fuller, choose fruit over pastries and candy and just say “No” to white (flour, sugar, rice, and potatoes). While all these are true, why don’t we do it? Why do we crave sweet snacks?
Nutrition experts attribute most cravings to mood. Whether we’re bored, tired, stressed, short on time, or just plain missing affection, we use food to replace what’s missing. I’ve found it’s more about what your brain wants, than what your body needs. And according to Mark Hyman, MD, sugar is eight times more addictive than cocaine or heroin.
So, if it’s fixing your mood, why should you worry about sugar cravings? Because in addition to unwanted weight-gain, sugar contributes to cardiovascular disease, diabetes, arthritis, osteoporosis, and elevated cholesterol. Over time, it weakens your eyesight and makes you look older.
It doesn’t deliver the energy or excitement you were looking for either. After an initial boost of energy, you experience a rapid crash that leaves you feeling more lethargic than before. Worse yet, indulging makes you feel weak or bad about yourself! How then can you break out of this vicious cycle (and not feel deprived)? Because, let’s face it. Sugar tastes good.
Fortunately, there are five very practical steps I’ve used to help myself and my clients understand and manage sugar cravings.
- Eat Real Food and Track It. Eat 3 square meals each day, drink plenty of water, keep healthy snacks available at home and at work, avoid artificial sweeteners, eat fruit, complex carbohydrates, healthy fats & lean protein, and don’t go to out hungry. There’s no way around it. Eating real food means that your body will be sated. Healthy snacks are tasty and have more nutrient bang for your calorie buck! Fruit has fiber to help you feel full, and nuts and dried fruit have protein and good fats to keep you feeling satisfied. Log what you’re eating, when and why in a food journal. Understanding patterns and triggers enables you to change your response.
- Escape Temptation. When the afternoon slump hits, forgo a coffee at your desk in favor of a refreshing 10-minute walk outside. Gentle exercise releases feel good hormones, boosts your metabolism and takes your mind off food. If you can’t physically leave, close your eyes, take some deep breaths and meditate on a relaxing thought or motivating image.
- Celebrate Your Food. If you just can’t resist, put that snack on a plate, sit down at the table and really enjoy it. Pay attention to its aroma, texture, flavor and how it makes you feel after you’ve eaten it. Too often we sneak a treat or gobble while multitasking and then can’t remember anything about it. If you’re gonna eat it, make it memorable.
- Invest in People/Adventures. Reduce your ho-hum experiences. Plan a vacation (and imagine wearing great clothes or doing physical activities.) Catch up with a friend. Get/give hugs and kisses or take up a new hobby. When you’re busy and fulfilled, you don’t have time for snacking!
- Get your ZZZs. Sleep is more important than most people realize. You need 7-8 hours of sleep each night for body and mind repair. When you fall short, your body has trouble tolerating glucose and responds by releasing stress hormones. Over an extended period of time, it adds weight around your middle, not to mention makes you grumpy.
Research shows that it takes about 21 days to create new habits. Try these practical strategies and you’ll feel more satisfied and well on your way to managing those cravings!
If you’d like further information and ideas for curbing your cravings, check out my website MooreBetterFood.com for more healthy ideas and how we can work together to help you achieve your nutrition and lifestyle goals.