I have a confession. I am a junk food junkie. I hate it about myself, but I love absolutely every type of sweet out there.I love chocolate, I love peanut butter (with chocolate),I love Starburst, and Skittles, and cookies and brownies. I love sugar no matter how you serve it.Sugar has been a downfall in my weight loss journey; I can get a veggie sandwich, or eat a salad for lunch, fruit for breakfast. I can snack on cheese, and apples, and rice cakes and carrot sticks. But on a daily basis my body craves sugar. Sugar to me, is like crack. My body needs it, my mind thinks about it especially when I try to tell myself I’m not allowed to have it. So I started doing a little research to help me with my addiction and here’s what I came up with. Biological: One of the reasons we crave sugar (or caffeine) is because of low adrenal function. The adrenals are hormone glands that sit above the kidneys. Amongst other things, one of their jobs is to secrete epinephrine (better known to some as adrenaline) which provides us with energy. They also secrete cortisone when there is inflammation present in the body. Thirdly, they replace the function of the ovaries in the production of the female hormones estrogen and progesterone when women get close to their menopausal years. When everything is functioning well and everything is being nourished properly, there is no problem. This hormonal transition takes place smoothly. What can interfere with this? Stress, first and foremost. Of any kind. When we’re stressed the adrenals secrete adrenaline as if we were preparing to fight tigers in the jungle. They don’t know the difference between the stress of facing a tiger and the stress of facing an irate boss, a bouncing checkbook or rush-hour traffic. They just jump into gear and adrenaline flows.Inflammation can be caused by many well-known factors such as injury and diseases like arthritis etc. What is less known is that food allergies can also cause inflammation. If the allergen is something that is eaten frequently such as wheat, we can have consistent low-grade inflammation going on almost all the time. (Dairy is another common food allergen). The adrenals are consistently under pressure to produce cortisone to keep the inflammation under control as much as possible.So now that we understand how and why, how about what we can do to control this?? I found some helpful hits on WebMD that I’ve decided to start following:If you’re craving sugar, here are some ways to tame those cravings.
- Give in a little. Eat a bit of what you’re craving, maybe a small cookie or a fun-size candy bar, suggests Kerry Neville, MS, RD, a registered dietitian and ADA spokeswoman. Enjoying a little of what you love can help you steer clear of feeling denied. Try to stick to a 150-calorie threshold, Neville says.
- Combine foods. If the idea of stopping at a cookie or a baby candy bar seems impossible, you can still fill yourself up and satisfy a sugar craving, too. “I like combining the craving food with a healthful one,” Neville says. “I love chocolate, for example, so sometimes I’ll dip a banana in chocolate sauce and that gives me what I’m craving, or I mix some almonds with chocolate chips.” As a beneficial bonus, you’ll satisfy a craving and get healthy nutrients from those good-for-you foods.
- Go cold turkey. Cutting out all simple sugars works for some people, although “the initial 48 to 72 hours are tough,” Gerbstadt says. Some people find that going cold turkey helps their cravings diminish after a few days; others find they may still crave sugar but over time are able to train their taste buds to be satisfied with less.
- Grab some gum. If you want to avoid giving in to a sugar craving completely, try chewing a stick of gum, says nutrition advisor Dave Grotto, RD, LDN. “Research has shown that chewing gum can reduce food cravings,” Grotto says.
- Reach for fruit. Keep fruit handy for when sugar cravings hit. You’ll get fiber and nutrients along with some sweetness. And stock up on foods like nuts, seeds, and dried fruits, says certified addiction specialist Judy Chambers, LCSW, CAS. “Have them handy so you reach for them instead of reaching for the old [sugary] something.”
- Get up and go. When a sugar craving hits, walk away. “Take a walk around the block or [do] something to change the scenery,” to take your mind off the food you’re craving, Neville suggests.
- Choose quality over quantity. “If you need a sugar splurge, pick a wonderful, decadent sugary food,” Moores says. But keep it small. For example, choose a perfect dark chocolate truffle instead of a king-sized candy bar, then “savor every bite — slowly,” Moores says. Grotto agrees. “Don’t swear off favorites — you’ll only come back for greater portions. Learn to incorporate small amounts in thediet but concentrate on filling your stomach with less sugary and [healthier] options.”
- Eat regularly. Waiting too long between meals may set you up to choose sugary, fatty foods that cut your hunger, Moores says. Instead, eating every three to five hours can help keep blood sugar stable and help you “avoid irrational eating behavior,” Grotto says. Your best bets? “Choose protein, fiber-rich foods like whole grains and produce,” Moores says.
- Skip artificial sweeteners. Artificial sweeteners may sound like a great idea, but “they don’t lessen cravings for sugar and haven’t demonstrated a positive effect on our obesity epidemic,” says Grotto, author of 101 Foods That Could Save Your Life.
- Reward yourself for successfully managing sugar cravings. Your reward could be large or small. Remember why you’re working on it and then reward yourself for each successful step.
- Slow down. For one week, focus on your sugar cravings and think about what you’re eating, suggests Chambers. Diet mayhem often results from lack of planning. So slow down, plan, “and eat what you intend to eat, instead of eating when you’re desperate,” Chambers says.
- Get support. Many people turn to sweet foods when they’re stressed, depressed, or angry. But food doesn’t solve emotional issues. Consider whether emotions are involved in your sugar cravings and whether you need help to find other solutions to those emotional problems.
- Mix it up. You may need more than one strategy to thwart sugar cravings. One week you may find success with one tactic, and another week calls for an alternative approach. What’s important is to “have a ‘bag of tricks’ to try,” Gerbstadt tells WebMD. To tame sugar cravings, you really need to “figure out what works for you,” Neville says.
These are some great ways to start on the right path – what do YOU DO to avoid sugar cravings??