by Suzanne Golub
Sugar is a complex part of our diet – we know we should limit our intake, but how do we give up the taste we love so much? We turn to sugar for all the wrong reasons – for energy, for comfort, out of boredom, and when we’re stressed, but we also consume a large amount of hidden sugar. The typical American diet is filled with hidden added sugars, including most processed and pre-packaged foods. Sugar has been shown to increase the risk of Type 2 diabetes, metabolic syndrome, obesity, cardiovascular disease and certain cancers. Then why do we find it so hard to give it up?
Natural sugars, such as those occurring in fruit, contain water and fiber, which slows the digestion in your body. Processed sugar contains no fat, fiber or protein, so your body absorbs it instantly (that’s why we get that sugar rush). When you eat processed sugar, the pancreas releases insulin to take the sugar out of the bloodstream. If you are eating a regular diet of sugar and processed food, your body is used to it, so when you eat sugar, the pancreas overcompensates and secretes a little extra insulin. That is when you experience a crash. So the high of the sugar rush and the low of the crash is the blood sugar roller coaster that wreaks havoc on your energy, your mood and your cravings, and keeps you coming back for more sugar. When insulin removes the excess sugar, it can deposit it in three places – the brain, the blood cells, or the muscles. But if your regular intake of sugar has these receptors already full, then where does the sugar go? Unfortunately, it’s stored as fat and shows up on your abdomen, your hips and your thighs. And as long as you continue to eat sugar, that fat is not going anywhere.
So, how do you quit sugar once and for all?
- Most of us reach for sugar out of habit. The first step is to eat mindfully and be in touch with whether you are actually hungry and if not, what is it that you are craving? Sometimes we just need some sweetness in our life, not actual sugar. Do you need a hug? Someone to talk to? Time for yourself? Drink a glass of water and wait a few minutes before you reach for that candy. Take a moment to be sure you are not just reaching for it out of habit.
- So often our cravings occur because we are dehydrated. You need a lot more water than you think. You should be drinking half of your body weight in ounces every day. Dehydration can make you feel tired, cranky and crave sugar.
- Check your protein – are you getting enough? A high protein snack, like an apple with a tablespoon of peanut butter or a handful of almonds will cut your cravings. Be sure your diet includes enough high quality protein.
- Are you a coffee drinker? Coffee can mimic the symptoms of sugar – feeling energized and then crashing. Coffee is also dehydrating. Limit caffeine intake to one cup in the morning and then switch to herbal or green tea. Are you a soda or other bottled beverage drinker? These are the worst culprits for added sugar. Cut back on your intake each day and replace with water with a slice of lemon or lime until you have eliminated all soda. Start drinking green juices. Loading up on fresh veggies helps cut sweet cravings.
- Replace sugar with sweet veggies, fruit and spices such as squashes, peppers, strawberries, pears, and cinnamon. If you are desperately craving something sweet, try an apple or a bowl of sweet berries, or a couple of dates or apricots. Even a cup of sweet herbal tea can knock out a craving.
- You will be amazed at the hidden sugar you find – yogurt, bottled sauces and dressings, low fat cookies, cereal. Take the time to read labels when you shop so you can make healthy choices.
There are many health benefits to eliminating sugar from your diet, including lower blood pressure, reduced risk of cancer, a sharper brain, clearer skin and fewer cravings. Take an inventory of how much sugar you are consuming. Slowly replace the sugar in your diet with healthier choices. You will be amazed that your cravings begin to disappear.
Suzanne Golub is a Holistic Health Coach and owner of Life in Balance in Saratoga Springs. She has a Masters in Psychology from Southern Connecticut State University and is a graduate of the Health Coach Institute. She is also a Reiki Master Teacher and owner of Shaanti Energy Healing. She has been practicing Reiki for over 20 years. Suzanne offers a holistic approach to health and healing and helps clients lose weight, eliminate cravings, gain energy, manage stress and create new healthy habits. She is also a contributing author to the book, What We Talk About When We’re Over 60. She can be contacted at: firstname.lastname@example.org, or visit her website:http://www.lifeinbalancecoaching.net.