I have been here many times before. I have been on health kicks, yo-yo dieted my way through my twenties, followed nutrition plans and tried to avoid chocolate at all cost because I know sugar is not good for me. The ill effects on health are numerous I know this, yet I relapse. I leave late in the evening from the office, on my way to the tube I pass a newsagent and it’s a physical reaction I have to the thought of chocolate. I start feeling weak, all I can think of is chocolate and yes, I go in and buy chocolate. This surely is a way an addict behaves.
My absolute pet hate are nutritionists who on the pages of magazine dole out “helpful” advise like if you want a chocolate bar, have a carrot instead! No, way is that ever going to placate my brain on sugar. I am not eating sugar laden foods (or treats) because I am hungry. I am eating them because I crave them. I have never stopped to think why? Just because I am a lazy layabout who loves cookies and cake more than anyone? Part of it is psychological I’m sure, rewarding yourself with treats, emotional eating (could write a whole blog post about it) bad eating habits like skipping meals but I never actually thought part of the reason could be physical. This is, I found out, what happens to your body when you eat sugar (I am not talking about the natural sugar that appears in fruit for example, I am talking about the white stuff that makes fudge oh, so, so good…)
In addition this, The Head of The Duch Health Service has declared sugar the most dangerous drug in the world (this coming from a country where drugs are actually legal) citing a study which revealed sugar interferes with appetite unlike any other substance. ( In addition to causing many health problems from obesity to weakened immune system). Sugar blocks the “I’m too full” feeling you get. So, if you had a bag of potatoes, you probably would eat a few and then feel too full. Not so with cookies. Sugar tricks you into feeling you could eat a whole packet and you do and suddenly its 3000 calories later, you on a sugar rush, and when it comes crashing down, you are ready to do this all over again. The cycle has been created. Welcome to sugar addiction.
So, if sugar is a drug, how do I kick the habit?
I know from past experience, cold turkey does not work. (At least for me). It just makes me crave sugar even more. It’s the forbidden syndrome, the only thing you want is the only thing you cannot have. So now I’m trying to reduce my sugar intake in stages. Chocolate was the first one to go. And I suppose we all have to find our own comfort zone and what sugarless means. My aim is not to ever eat sugar again, my aim is to control the addiction.
Stay full. Again, in the past I have started strict detox and diet programs, feeling hungry 24/7. If I’m hungry, I crave any sort of pastry or cookie (what’s wrong with me?! I never think to myself, Ooh…to have some salmon and vegetables!!). If I actually eat enough, I’m less likely to relapse. OK, it is still a challenge but at least I won’t confuse hunger with a craving.
Don’t buy fat-free. This is actually something my Doctor said to me once, and it has stuck with me. Ask yourself, if they take the fat out, what do they put in? Sugar and salt mainly. Both equally bad for you.
This I did not know, but same goes for artificial sugar. (That’s all sweeteners like sweet and lo etc). Dr Kirstin Kirkpatrick writes in her Huffington Post column how research has shown artificial sweeteners confused the brain. Even though you think you are being good by not consuming sugar in your latte, the body thinks you are about to consume a lot of calories, but when you do not, your body is not satisfied, so you may actually eat more throughout the day than normal. I read an interview with Joan Collins once who said she never drinks diet sodas as she only sees overweight people drinking them. Might be a grain of truth in that.
Distraction. Dr Frank Lipman writes a sugar craving will last 10-20 minutes. So if I want to have sugar, I have to wait for 20 minutes, during which time, I can (hopefully) make a rational decision, rather than relying on instinct and old habits. That I can do.
Excercise. Supposed to make you crave less sugar. Something to do with release of endorphins whilst you exercise. Have not tried that yet. Have never encountered any sport related endorphins either.
Caffeine. Increases sugar craving apparently. Well, they are not touching my coffee. You may give this some thought if you are thinking of kicking sugar for good. I think in the end it’s all about finding out what works for you.
So, there. That’s what I’m doing this week. I know it is not a quick fix and I know it’s a long process, but just understanding what sugar does and how it affects you makes me feel for the first time more confident about success.
If you have any experience about this or have any tips or advice, I wold love to hear from you. Just holla via Marhafied FB or Twitter or comment below.