Sugar is hidden in almost everything, and more pervasive now than ever before. It is almost unbelievable when looking around an eatery setting (restaurant, picnic tables, social gatherings, and workplace cafeteria) how much of the foods we eat on a daily basis is laden with sugar. Why have we become a society of such sugar consumers? We are taught to even feed our little ones a 4-course meal of sugar (chocolate milk, boxed cereal or breakfast bars, crackers, pancakes with syrup, gummy and fruit snacks with yogurt, sauces, juices) and call it "healthy." It's no wonder that sugar is called our modern day recreational drug and compared to "crack" as being addictive. Dopamine (which makes people feel the sense of pleasure) is released in the brain when sugar is consumed. And both the brain and body like this, which creates a greater desire for more sugar. This stimulant reaction also occurs when the body is using morphine and heroin. Even worst, is the epidemic of progressive nations, where heart disease, diabetes, and blood pressure leads the mortality boards.
The following are ways to kick the sugar cravings that often seem to rule our daily food and lifestyle choices.
Eat closest to Mother Nature, and you will be able to see how your cravings begin to naturally shift. Whole, living and natural foods are filled with enzymes, macro, and micronutrients, vitamins and minerals that are bioavailable to our living bodies. When foods products are consumed that are processed, these live "good-for-you" body-boosting nutrients are zapped, stripped and artificially added back in (along with fat, sugars and sodium). Keep to what Mother Nature intended for our bodies, and choose organic, local and in season whenever possible.
Give your cupboards and refrigerators a makeover. Remove all artificial, processed, sweet laden foods out of sight and out of mind. We are visceral beings, and what we see and smell sends hunger and intense craving messages to our brains. Since our bodies are designed to choose the fatty and sugary foods, we must take extra steps to wisely place healthy, whole and natural food and snack choices for ourselves and our families. If it is there, it is a choice. Make those choices the best you can.
People tend to reach for sugars and carbs when our bodies lack vitamin B12 and protein. Vitamin B is usually best obtained from animal sources, so if you are living a vegetarian or vegan lifestyle, choose almond milk, coconut milk, non-GMO tofu sources, soybeans and nutritional yeast. Otherwise, yogurt, dairy products, cottage cheese and eggs are a good source. When choosing meats, select organic, non-GMO meats free from artificial additives, low sodium, and fat.
Adding more flavor (not sodium) to your dishes can help to boost up your same-ole' vegetables. Buy, or better yet, grow your very own herb garden and have fun experimenting with flavors by adding them to your meals. Try cooking with essential oils such as dill, oregano, basil, wild orange, lime, ginger, cassia, and fennel. Add wasabi to more than just your occasional sushi dinner date and use more chili pepper. Your taste buds will do that happy dance and may start to avoid the screaming of sugar at every meal and snack.
Yes, that is not a typo. I am talking about healthy fats, such as those found in avocados, seeds, nuts and coconut oil. A few teaspoons of flaxseeds, hemp seeds in your dishes and smoothies, as well as cold, pressed extra virgin olive oil drizzled over some lightly steamed vegetables is the perfect way to get more of these healthy fats. Sometimes, intense sugar cravings may point to a lack of these oils in the body. Regular consumption of these oils will also make your skin and hair glow. Who doesn't want that?
Research has determined that people who stay up past their body detoxing hours (between 12 am to 3 am) are more likely to gain weight. People who skimp on sleep, or those who work night shifts or call themselves night owls may, over time, start seeing their waistline increasing. Sleepless nights stress the body out and that stress turns into bad fat. Guess what that fat is telling the mind? Yes, I need more energy and reserves to stay awake, and in survivor mode, our bodies go for caffeine and sugar. So cut the caffeine after 2 pm, get to bed at a reasonable hour, turn off your electronics and get to bed.
Write down and track your mood and food triggers when you feel intense urges to have sugar. Understanding why you crave what you do and when is a great opportunity to set yourself up for success and avoiding sugar binges. For me, my food triggers are peanuts and chips. Though these two do not typically contain sugar, I know that if I have one, I will end up eating much more than I wanted to, so I avoid them altogether, or have them with something alkaline and better for my body, such as celery and avocados. If you are craving ice cream, get a small spoon and have a bite. Put the carton away. Do not sit in front of an iPad or television and mindlessly eat. Which brings me to my next point: Intention.
I love this one, because too many of us are in a rush, eating standing up at the kitchen counter, in the car, on the way to the car, while at the computer or worse yet, forgetting to eat altogether. Giving attention to our foods, breathing in the foods and chewing slowly is a great way to eat mindfully. When we do this, we are much more aware of what is going into our mouths and bellies. Being more mindful will allow for better decision making, and for each of us to better nourish ourselves by selecting healthy foods. So give thanks to your food and eat with intention.
We have all heard this one before. Many times when we are eating and reaching for the on-the-go (not-good-for-you-sugar-snacks) foods, we are actually thirsty. Keep a glass bottle with you at all times and sip on fresh (not bottled) water throughout the day. Add in some essential oils (citrus) or slices of cucumber, orange, watermelon or lemon for more flavor. Sorry, but teas, coffees and sodas do not count as "water."
I am always encouraging body movement no matter what your age, gender or physical limitation. Moving your body so you can feel your heartbeat booming throughout your chest so that your breath becomes audible is a great way to beat sugar cravings and addiction. Endorphins are released from the brain and give bursts of elation. People who are happier have been shown to take better care of themselves, which means staying away from processed and sweet food products. Try yoga, walking around your neighborhood first thing in the morning, or after meals or engage in resistance training. Whatever it is, move that body!
I am a huge fan of positive attitudes and affirmations. What you are brewing and thinking in that complex mind of yours will resonate far beyond what you think. We act and feel exactly what we are thinking, and our everyday attitudes. Don't you want to have a higher vibration and frequency that attracts kindness, love, light, and beauty? Believe it or not, our minds and attitudes do have a huge effect on what we choose to nourish ourselves with and how we take care of ourselves. Whatever you choose to spend your day doing, do it with a positive mind and with a smile on your face so the negativity becomes smaller and smaller! Your strong sugar cravings and waistline will soon follow!