We are probably all well aware that cravings for sugar are incredibly common and extremely hard to fight. The more sugar we consume, the more we want it and so the cycle continues. This makes it incredibly difficult to stick to any healthy plan to lose weight as an iron resolve is needed to beat these cravings.
So what's going on?
When we eat sugar in the form of sweets, biscuits, cakes or fizzy drinks (high GL foods) - the reaction in the brain is to stimulate the release of dopamine in the brain - dopamine is the neurotransmitter that makes us feel pleasure. The brain recognises this and makes us crave more. This reaction is not much different to some addictive substances, as the same receptors are being stimulated in the brain.
What happens in the body is that as soon as our blood sugar goes up to too high a level - as happens with the consumption of these high GL foods - insulin, the hormone responsible for bringing down our sugar level, comes into the bloodstream and excess sugar will be stored as fat. As this cycle continues the body loses blood sugar control and weight gain becomes inevitable.
British Medical Journal (BMJ) Research
It's no surprise that research carried out by BMJ shows that there is a direct correlation between an increase or decrease in sugar consumption with an increase or reduction in body fat percentage. What we are now finding is that the focus on low fat diets has actually contributed to us becoming fat. This paradox has occurred because products that have been labelled as 'low fat' often have lots of sugar added, for example, a low fat yoghurt may have up to 4 teaspoons of sugar added - the calories may be low but the effect of the added sugar is to raise your insulin level and that is the reason why you both gain fat and find it impossible to get rid of those cravings. We have also been told to stay away from 'good fat' foods such as avocado, nuts and seeds and butter. On the contrary, the body and brain needs fat.
Other effects of sugar addiction:
When we are on the roller coaster of sugar addiction, we may also suffer from tiredness as our bodies are working overtime to cope with the imbalance in blood sugar. We may also experience low mood and concentration. These feelings alone are enough to make you reach for a pep me up.
How to put it right:
During the first week of a zest4life programme we will be working hard to help you kick that sugar habit as our primary aim is to set you on the track to maintaining habits much more effectively and easily. Here are 7 easy steps to help you break the sugar craving cycle, take them one at a time over a week and reflect on the benefits:
1. switch from white carbohydrates to brown, for example brown rice instead of white, wholegrain bread instead of white bread. Add quinoa, sweet potato, beans and lentils to your meals.
2. include a small handful of nuts combined with berries, apple, or an orange between meals instead of crisps and sweets
3. eat a protein rich breakfast - oats, eggs, smoked salmon, yoghurt with berries and pumpkin seeds fill you up and keep blood sugar even for longer
4. include a portion of oily fish twice a week (choose from salmon, tuna, mackerel, tinned sardines)
5. get your sugar fix from whole fruit (not juice) and go for low sugar fruit - apples, pears, oranges, berries. If the craving is strong, choose a couple of squares of high cocoa chocolate which is low GL. We can recommend some more low GL snacks for you to try out
6. when you feel a craving coming on ask yourself - what am I craving? Would a cup of tea or a glass of water be ok? Am I hungry? - when did you last eat a balanced meal or a snack? Would a walk help to distract you? Often cravings come and go like a wave and allowing some time to pass really helps this process.
7. read the label: often sugar is disguised as fructose, high corn fructose syrup, honey, maltose, treacle, dextrose - if any of these ingredients are first on the list of ingredients, then you can guarantee it's mostly sugar! There's 4g in a teaspoon so read the section 'carbohydrates of which sugar' this tells you how much is in a portion. Some yoghurts contain 4 teaspoons and always read cereal labels as they can have 3-4 teaspoons of sugar per serving.
Finally for killer cravings that just won't go away, try some cinnamon but please be safe with supplements for blood sugar, check first with a nutritionist especially if you are taking medication and under the care of your GP.
The primary focus is on what to include in your diet - not what to exclude.
Of course, there are many more steps you can take (foods, exercise, supplements) to get your blood sugar balanced, however by putting these initial 7 simple steps into place, the next stage will get easier.
Let me know how you get on and I am happy to help you achieve any further health or blood sugar goals! Email me to arrange your free 20 minute health and energy check.Go away armed with 3 top tips to get started! Good luck!