Kicking the sugar habit

sugar-is-addictive

This is the time of year that can be particularly difficult if you’re on a diet or a recovering sugar-holic. With Halloween around the corner and the festive season not too far away, it’s virtually impossible to avoid sweet treats so I thought I’d look at ways to fend off sugar cravings. But before I begin talking about ways to stop you from giving into your sweet tooth, I must admit that sugar is my weakness when it comes to food so I understand firsthand how hard it can be to give up this sweet addiction. I say addiction because scientists have acknowledged that sugar has addictive properties which can make it extremely difficult to give up.

While there’s nothing wrong with having something sweet on the odd occasion, making it a regular habit isn’t great for your waistline or your health. There’s no sugar-coating it, over indulging in sugary treats can contribute to obesity and tooth decay and as you may be aware, refined sugar is high in calories and has absolutely NO nutritional value (yep, none whatsoever!). So next time you reach for that chocolate bar, remember there’s no real benefit in getting that sugar-fix other than a temporary ‘high’ which will soon fade, leaving you feeling pretty crappy. So as someone who is trying to wean themselves off sugar, I have found some ways to help you kick sugar-cravings to the curb:

Eat regularly: Eat three meals and two snacks or five small meals a day. For many people, if they don’t eat regularly, their blood sugar levels drop, they feel hungry and are more likely to crave sweet sugary snacks.

Prepare for withdrawal symptoms: I know this sounds crazy but sugar addictions are real and if you have become sugar dependent, you may possibly experience withdrawal symptoms (no, I’m not joking). Research has shown that sugar affects the brain the same way that morphine and other opioids do, and quitting cold turkey may lead to symptoms such as anxiety.

Understand your cravings: When you have a sugar craving your body might be trying to tell you something. You might just be hungry, tired or lacking an important nutrient (just to name a few) so listen to your body.

Know your emotional triggers: I don’t know about you but when I’m stressed, I’m more likely to chew on a Mars bar than when I’m not. Knowing your emotional triggers is important so you can address the reasons behind your cravings and find alternative ways to cope.  Tip:  Instead of reaching into the cookie jar, grab a handful of raw nuts or fresh berries to munch on to see if this satisfies your sweet tooth.

Go for a walk: If eating a sweet treat has become part of your daily routine, then try going for a 10 minute walk when you feel the urge to indulge. I can almost guarantee that you won’t feel like that cupcake/cookie/chocolate bar when you get back.

Why you should rethink your drink:

Would you consume 16 teaspoons of sugar in one sitting? Most of us would answer this question with a flat out ‘NO’ but we wouldn’t hesitate to guzzle down an iced cold bottle of soft drink on a hot summer day. Well, 16 TEASPOONS is the amount of sugar in a regular bottle of soft drink (Yes, you read that right). I have to admit that I was once a soft-drink addict and while I knew soft drinks were bad, I would never have imagined that one bottle contained SO MUCH sugar.

This is where many of us go wrong. While we focus on eating healthier, we tend to forget to keep track of the amount of sugar we consume through the beverages we drink on a regular basis. Even the drinks that many of us consider “healthier” options like flavoured water, sports drinks and fruit juices (yep, even freshly squeezed) contain high amounts of sugar.

So if you want to drink yourself fat, then sugary drinks are definitely the way to go. They lack nutritional value, are full of empty calories and don’t really quench your thirst (which drinking is essentially about, right?). What’s more concerning is that overconsumption of sugary drinks can lead to obesity, and increases your risks of developing chronic illnesses such as heart disease, type 2 diabetes and some cancers. Consuming sugary soft-drinks has also been linked to tooth decay and erosion, as well as premature ageing. Alarmingly, Australians are one of the biggest consumers of sweetened beverages and in 2006, Australia was among the top 10 countries for per capita consumption of soft drinks.

So if you have a weakness for sweetened beverages, I’d say now is the right time to give up your sweet poison. Remember that consuming excessive amounts of sugar in any form can wreak havoc for your health and if you are looking to quench your thirst, water is best.

TIP: If you can’t resist the urge to drink sweetened beverages, try mixing a splash of 100%fruit juice with sparkling water. That way you can significantly reduce the amount of sugar in your drink and keep the calorie count low.

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