By Kelli Calabrese, MC, CSCS
Are you trying your best to stick to your diet, but a nagging sweet craving rears its ugly head after each meal. It’s not completely all in your mind. Sugar is an addiction as much as caffeine, nicotine and even heroin. Your body craves something sweet to take the edge off.
What happens over time is that the sweat treat, has to get sweeter and sweeter in order to take the edge off. For example, a baby would find strawberries and bananas to be sweet. As a toddler is introduced to ice cream and cookies, the strawberries are no longer sweet enough and even have a bitter taste. When young children consume candy, sweetened juices and snacks with high fructose corn syrup, they raise their tolerance for sweetness. Before you know it, one Hershey kiss isn’t enough and half the bag is consumed before you feel satisfied.
Americans are consuming 160 pounds of sugar a year – that’s 20 teaspoons a day! People are conscious to eat less fat, but in order to make food palatable, manufacturers have loaded it with sugars.
The trade off is not paying off. New research shows disturbing links between sugar and obesity as well as inflammation which is linked to all chronic and acute disease. Sugary foods provide very little energy and are more likely to settle in your abdominal region or hips than be burned as fuel.
Here are 10 ways to fix your sugar fix:
1. Eat on a schedule – those who have a plan for eating meals at scheduled times (every 3 – 4 hours) rarely get hungry and in response grab convenience foods which are high in sugar. Instead they plan for nutritionally balanced meals which leave them satisfied.
2. Balance your meals – Each meal should contain a lean protein, fibrous carb or starchy carb and a low (natural) fat. For example, an omelet with vegetables and oatmeal. Or tuna with a 12 grain bread and a salad. Nutritionally balanced foods keep your body balanced and satisfied.
3. Choose wholesome and nutritious foods – choosing “real” foods that were live at one point (fish, meat, fruits and vegetables, grains) is what your body was designed to eat. Your body digests them the best and they provide the most energy. You will also find you can eat more food because the foods are lower in calories.
4. Detox – the less you eat sugar, the less your body will crave it. The cravings from sugar come from bacteria in your intestines. A high fiber diet will help to cleanse your organs and reduce cravings.
5. Clean out your pantry – eliminating temptations is always a wise decision. How good can you be when you open up the pantry and see chips and snack cakes? The kids don’t’ need them either so stop making excuses. Pack up the sugary and processed snacks and get them out of the house.
6. Have healthy foods on hand – always have a bowl of fresh berries at eye level in the fridge. Occasionally you will want something sweet. Berries are low in sugar and high in anti-oxidents and phytonutrients. They can take the edge off of a sweet tooth. They will not cause a spike in blood sugar
7. Prepare for events – if you know you are going to a party, offer to bring fruit so you know you will have a dessert option. If you must have a piece of cake, have it after a healthy meal. Never go for a long stretch without eating and then have high sugar foods. That will send your blood sugar through the roof, causing an insulin spike and inhibiting the release of fat.
8. Start the day with a balanced breakfast – skipping breakfast is a mistake. Missing any meal, especially breakfast leads to cravings later in the day. Be sure to get protein in at your very first meal. For example, if you want cereal, have it with eggs or low fat yogurt or peanut butter.
9. Engage in calming activities – eating when you are stressed causes your body to push sugar into your cells at a rapid rate. The next time your stress levels are climbing, instead of reaching for treats, try going for a walk, calling a friend, taking a bath, meditating, and getting away from the kitchen at all costs.
10. Cut back a little at a time – Start reading labels. If the yogurt or cereal you are choosing is high in sugar, begin switching to lower sugar brands. You can do this gradually until you acquire a taste for naturally sweetened foods. If you put 2 sugars in your coffee, try one, then ½ then none. You may not want to drink coffee again – which is not a bad thing.
If sugar is making you fat, its time to grab hold of your cravings and gradually switch to cleaner eating. Ultimately you will notice an increase in energy and the excess fat will slowly begin to leave your body. Calories from sugar are empty and you will not miss them. Making one change to your diet, by eliminating processed sugars, you can make a significant improvement in your life and avoid excess fat.
About the Author
Kelli Calabrese MS, CSCS – Kelli is the author of Feminine, Firm & Fit – Building a Lean Strong Body in 12 Weeks. She is the 2004 Personal Trainer of the Year and former lead fitness expert for eDiets and eFitness.
She is a wellness coach helping clients both online and over the phone. She is also the editor of Personal Fitness Professional Magazine and on the board of advisors for The Personal Trainer Business Alliance. For more information, go to www.kellicalabrese.com or e-mail Kelli@KelliCalabrese.com