TOP Tips To Break The Sugar Habit And Prevent Cravings

kick-your-sugar-habit

Nx86xdrewssexybody-3Written by: Sarah Lawrence

Don’t waste another minute struggling with sugar!

Let’s talk about the SUGAR struggle for a minute, baby and you’ll realize that you’re not alone in this fight.

Many of us have a love/hate relationship with the sweet stuff. I see it all the time as a professional Holistic Health Coach… whether it’s a spoonful in a cup of tea or coffee, the occasional soda, a sweet treat, restaurant food, a packaged snack, etc… it doesn’t matter. Sugar is everywhere and there’s a solid reason WHY you want it and WHY your body responds to it.  

The WHY:

Blame your brain chemistry. A study in the journal Neuroscience & Biobehavioral Reviews found that sugar meets the criteria for a substance of abuse and may be addictive to people who binge on it.

Sugar does this by affecting the chemistry of the limbic system (part of the brain associated with emotional control). What’s wild is that the study also found that even a now-and-then relationship with sugar can cause problems; “intermittent access to sugar can lead to behavioral and neurochemical changes that resemble the effects of a substance of abuse. 

Both drug addiction and sugar addiction are driven by dopamine (the neurotransmitter that controls the pleasure and reward circuit in your brain). Fortunately and unfortunately, the pleasure/reward circuit is reinforced everyday when you do and experience things you like and enjoy.

According to Dartmouth professor Bill Kelley, Ph.D,  with dopamine, whatever behavior is happening when the reward circuit is triggered, is what gets reinforced. So, a little sugar intake cues that reward circuit and you are brought back to the feeling of fuzzy slippers, cozy snuggles by the fire, that first kiss, your puppy, the feeling of home, etc. It’s no wonder sugar is such a challenge!

Where We Are In The U.S.:

  • In the United States, the overall sugar consumption is more than DOUBLE the recommended allowance. The average man consumes 12.7% of his daily calories or 335 calories (about 21 teaspoons) of added sugar each day. The average woman consumes 13.2% of her daily calories or 239 calories (about 15 teaspoons) of added sugar each day (check out these stats and more here).
  1. Men: 150 calories per day (37.5 grams or 9 teaspoons)
  2. Women: 100 calories per day (25 grams or 6 teaspoons)

 

What You Can Do, Starting NOW:

If you’re ready to outsmart your body chemistry and break the cycle of sugar addiction, then press on!

Here are 3 secrets from a health coach to conquer common sugar problems.

Secret #1:  Do A Clean Sweep And Swap.  

Take a look at what you eat and drink. Literally sit down and make a list or do a food journal for a week so you get a good picture of what you’re consistently consuming.

Once you know, flag the items that are sugar bombs and swap them out for better choices.

Here are the top 10 sugar bombs and some smart swaps:

1. Soda –  Plain seltzer or seltzer with a squeeze of lemon juice or splash of fresh fruit juice.

2. Fruit Juices –  Dilute half and half with water or seltzer for a lighter option.

3. Specialty Coffee Drinks – Ask for 1 pump of syrup in your favorite latte or try brewed coffee with a 1 pump of syrup – or even better, opt for raw honey instead of syrup!

4. Some Fast Food Choices – Check out the nutrition info for your favorites and look for healthier alternatives; swapping grilled for fried, keeping dressings on the side, going bun free… be creative.

5. Processed/Packaged Snacks – Fresh, whole fruits and veggies are the ultimate quick snack.

6. Fat-Free Foods –  When manufacturers remove fat, they usually add sugar to make their product palatable. Read labels. Full fat choices that are low in sugar and high in fiber are your best bets.

7. Baked Goods – Glazes, fillings and sprinkles are all sugar bombs! Choose wisely.

8. Candies – Pure dark chocolate squares; a pitted date stuffed with an almond or small amtount of nut butter; a piece of dried ginger dipped in dark chocolate…

9. Natural Syrups – Agave, rice syrup, sorghum syrup, maple syrup, etc. Use less while adding a sweet spice like cinnamon so that you don’t miss out on great flavor.

10. Salad Dressings And Marinades – Fat-free versions are usually high in sugar, but many store bought varieties also contain high fructose corn syrup! Read labels or play with some recipes at home.

Swapping out sugar bombs helps you get off the sugar train. Always read labels or check nutrition facts online to get a handle on sugar content. When possible, steer clear of packaged foods altogether.  

The “clean sweep” approach helps you become aware of what your sugar bombs are while encouraging you to push them aside for healthier options. If your pantry and fridge are stocked with healthy options and little to no bad stuff, then you’re less likely to encounter sugar sabotage. Set yourself up for success!

Secret #2:  Tame Your Sweet Tooth.  

Try a little supplemental help and nutrition shifting to get relief from crazy cravings.

Here are some examples of some great helpers for you:

1. Bitters – Mix a few drops of bitters into sparkling water and sip to counteract the craving. DIY bitters are easy to make (this is the recipe I use).

My favorite commercial product is Organic Citrus Bitters from Urban Moonshine. When your brain senses the bitter/sour taste, there is a break in the signal calling for sugar. If you can’t get bitters, try fresh lemon juice for a similar effect!

2. Gymnema – Mix 30 drops of liquid gymnema tincture with a few teaspoons of water. Swish this mixture around in your mouth for 30 seconds and then swallow it. You can repeat this every 3 hours as needed to curb sugar cravings.  

Gymnema works wonders on the sweet sensing receptors on your tongue. Researchers aren’t 100% sure how this works, but basically, your brain doesn’t get the reward message and dopamine release, so you don’t crave more sugar like you would if you weren’t using gymnema.

3. L-Glutamine – This amino acid has been found to reduce and even eliminate sugar cravings by helping to stabilize blood sugar. Experts suggest adding 500 milligrams three times a day with meals. You can add an extra dose when a craving hits.

Stop your intense sugar cravings in their tracks by mixing powdered L-glutamine with a little water. Down the hatch and down with the craving!

4. Protein –  Protein helps prevent fluctuations in blood sugar that can promote cravings. Stable blood sugar is very helpful for mood and energy, which may help keep you from seeking those sugar bombs like coffee drinks and packaged snacks!

Your body also has to work harder to break down and metabolize protein, unlike carbohydrates, which are more easily utilized. So, a diet rich in protein is less likely to promote sugar cravings than one that focuses on carbs.

If you’re having trouble with sugar, consider shifting to a plan that has more protein and fresh vegetables at each meal (plant based protein sources like hemp seeds and beans are just as good as animal based sources!).

Secret #3:  Work On Your Stress!  

Ever wonder why you can’t say no to that candy bar or ice cream when you’re stressed? Wonder no more!

Stress promotes habit-formation (both good habits and bad habits!). When you are stressed, your brain favors immediate solutions to problems rather than long‐ term goals. Basically, the value of things that provide an immediate reward increases.  

If you have ever had a pleasurable experience with food and that food is an available option, then your brain will send you signals like a flashing neon sign reading “eat cookies” or “eat chocolate cake” or “mac n-cheese now, please!” When you eat that pleasurable food, you trigger the release of dopamine and *BING* your reward circuit lights up and you physically feel better.

Your brain is not thinking, “kale is a better choice, because it’s rich in nutrients and fiber.” Sensing stress, your brain goes into quick-solution gear, prioritizing quick fixes to get you back in balance and out of the stressed state. It’s a good thing and a bad thing.

If you’re chronically stressed and you get pleasure from unhealthy foods, then you’ve got some work to do.

Here are a few ideas to get you started on changing those habits:

1. Re-Wire Your Reward Circuit – Tap into non-food related fun. Sing, dance, draw, paint, exercise, write, meditate, pray, whatever. Schedule this activity on your calendar for at least 21 days.

When you’re doing it, make a conscious effort to affirm the pleasure you get from it, i.e. singing makes me SO happy. When I sing I feel better. By doing this, you are creating solid associations for your reward circuit AND lowering your stress.

2. Make Healthy A Habit! – A habit is an automatic response to improve well-being. It’s an autopilot system that doesn’t require conscious action. When faced with stress, habits can be very helpful. Habits are learned and maintained by reward and they can be a behavior, thought or emotional response.

Roll out of bed in the morning and take joy in stretching. Put the kettle on and open your tea box; inhale and deeply enjoy the aroma of the tea before you brew it. Write a favorite saying on a post-it note and stick it on your dashboard or mirror; read it and smile.

By consciously creating habits that make you happy, you not only lower your stress, but also form reward connections that you can tap into when you are stressed.

It’s all about alternatives, right? You have a choice. With a little effort, you can crush the sugar bombs in your life and conquer your sugar problems.

Your homework… Try out the action items in the 3 secrets you learned here. They give you tools to increase your awareness of your sugar bombs, help you handle immediate cravings while you lower your sugar consumption and to establish new patterns for long term success!

Make a commitment to yourself for 21 days and report back with your successes and struggles. You’ve got this, friend!

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Sarah Lawrence

Sarah Lawrence

Certified Holistic Health Nutrition Coach at Sarah Lawrence Health
Sarah Lawrence is a Certified Holistic Health and Integrative Nutrition Coach, Speaker and Reiki Master based in Southern NH. Sarah creates lifestyle transformations by coaching her clients to shift from their current habits into healthier ones. Her philosophy is that small changes, over time, can yield big results. By developing a technique that leverages the benefits of whole foods nutritionals, seasonal detoxification, reiki, aromatherapy, meditation and life coaching, Sarah artfully combines her knowledge from years of study in the fields of chemistry, nutrition and energy healing.

Sarah leads clients from frustration due chronic health issues to elation by attaining and sustaining balanced health. Her intuitive style supports true healing on all levels. Sarah studied at Fairfield University and the Institute for Integrative Nutrition; she is pursuing her Masters in Clinical Nutrition and is dedicated to continuing her studies so she can provide the best support for her clients.
Sarah Lawrence

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