We've all suffered through it: that mid-afternoon urge for a candy bar, or the blues that make us reach for a cupcake or brownie.
Sugar cravings can lead to that one moment of weakness, but I know that you don't want to give in and that's what this article is all about.
We've known for a while that sugar is a dieter's worst nightmare, but everyday we're learning more about how sugar is actively working against your health and wellness goals.
For instance, table sugar:
- Is immediately stored as fat in the body, leading to weight gain and obesity.
- Causes blood sugar spikes, increasing the presence of insulin in your blood which can lead to diabetes.
- Communicates with your brain to make you crave more of the simple sweet stuff which leads to overeating and weight gain.
Researchers have determined that the chemicals in sugar communicate with the same parts of the brain the same way morphine and heroin do. In fact, some studies actually indicate that sugar may be more addictive than cocaine!
The reason we suffer from such strong sugar cravings comes down to a hormone called leptin, which regulates your craving for sweet foods. Basically, when sugar is metabolized and stored as fat, it releases excessive amounts of leptin into your blood. Too much leptin, and your body becomes resistant to it. Once that happens, your body struggles to tell your brain that you aren't hungry so you're always battling cravings.
Now combine that with sugar telling your brain that all you want is a Twinkie or a Doughnut your co-worker brought into the office, and you end up eating even MORE sugar, which is stored as MORE fat, which releases MORE leptin, and so on, and so on, and so on.
You have to stop the cycle!
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Beating those strong sugar cravings is essential to living a healthy life and not only achieving your goals, but maintaining them for the long-term. With that said, if you've ever been addicted anything, be it drugs, alcohol, work, cookies, pizza...then you know how hard it can be to break free.
While it certainly isn't easy, it is absolutely possible and it happens A LOT quicker than you might think, so here are a few tips to help you on your way to being sugar-free...
- Say no to "low-fat" or "fat-free": When trying to overcome sugar cravings, you need to be nutrition label conscious. Pay extra attention to the sugar content of your favorite low-fat and fat-free foods. They may be doing you more harm than good. How? When fat is removed from these "foods", so is all of that good flavor! To compensate for the lost flavor, manufacturers add chemical "flavors" - like the all encompassing "natural flavors" ingredient you can find in most store-bought products. This is extremely bad for your health and your weight loss efforts. If you don't know what it is, you shouldn't be putting it into your body.
- Don't "sweeten" anything: The goal is to retrain your palate not to want sweet things. So adding artificial sweeteners or natural sugar, is self-defeating. Avoid overly sugary foods, anything that is artificially sweetened like diet cola, and even naturally sweetened foods until your body has stopped craving them. Once you have kicked the cravings, you can slowly start incorporating safe and natural sweeteners, such as raw, unfiltered honey, pure stevia, pure maple syrup, and fruit.
- Exercise!: The endorphins released by exercise give you a feeling of well-being, similar to what you might experience popping a handful of M&Ms in your mouth. The only difference is the high you get after exercising is real. Plan your workouts for when you typically crave a sweet snack to start replacing snacking with exercise. Find ways to make your exercise routine fun!
- Make sure you eat: The best way to handle strong sugar cravings is to head them off at the pass. Eat balanced meals at regular intervals. For your mid-morning and mid-afternoon snacks, go for a handful of nuts and some berries, or your other Beyond Diet approved snacks. The berries provide a bit of natural sweetness - not to mention fiber and antioxidants - while the nuts contain protein that will keep you fuller, longer.
As you know, living a healthy lifestyle and maintaining a healthy diet can be hard. It requires careful attention to the details of what you're putting in your body. If you suffer from particularly intense cravings for certain foods - chocolate, for instance - it's possible you're suffering from a vitamin deficiency. Start by making sure you're eating a balanced diet and you're halfway to kicking your strong sugar cravings for good.
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