Cravings. We all get them. Those insidious little visits from our brains to our stomachs that beg for… chips! Or chocolate! Or cheese and some of those tasty crackers that I know are in the cupboard. And those cravings can be responsible for a lot of the sugar and empty calories we consume throughout the day. They’re persistent when they come sneaking around demanding to be satisfied, but they can be beaten!
Trim & Slim
Sugar has been directly linked to weight gain for both men and women. It is also the hidden culprit behind cravings. As we consciously change our diets and lessen the amount of sugars we consume, cravings too will subside.
One of the often overlooked causes of anxiety, panic attacks, and mood problems is imbalanced blood sugar. As sugar levels swing high and low, the body blasts out adrenaline (epinephrine) and cortisol to balance blood sugar levels so the brain doesn’t starve of glucose. By balancing sugars levels, in this case by limiting the amount we consume, adrenal hormones adrenalin and cortisol levels don’t bounce us all over the map. This also allows the adrenals to rest and lessens anxiety due to high levels of adrenaline circulating the body.
Panic attacks and anxiety are very common especially when blood glucose (sugar) levels are low, since it’s the adrenaline and cortisol that raise levels to safe levels. As we eliminate sugar from our diets, we eliminate the spikes of adrenaline and cortisol that counter the sugar crash.
Sugar comes in the obvious form of refined sugar and hidden as fructose in many prepared foods and as starch in carbs like potatoes, pasta and bread. Even high carb grains and legumes possess starches that break down to sugar. Sugar is present in everything from ketchup (each tbsp packs about 1 tsp of sugar or 2 cubes worth) to tomato soup (the whole can contains the equivalent of 7.5 tsp or 15 cubes worth) and of course muffins (which pack on average, 10 tsp or 20 cubes worth). It’s important to read labels and educate yourself about where you’re getting your sugar. Maybe you’re not a junk food person, but maybe you’re picking up sugar from other sources you didn’t realize contained it.
You can find out more about sugar consumption and nutritional advice from Cynthia Sass, MPH, RD in her article Nutrition Guidelines: Are You Eating Too Much Sugar?
It takes a little bit of commitment and some preparedness to do battle with sugar and your cravings but they can be beaten. So here are a few tips to keep you on the road to healthy eating and kick those cravings to the curb once and for all.
Replace your cravings with healthier food. Gotta have a snack? Grab some baby carrots or an apple, maybe some strawberries. Fruits and veggies are low in fat and generally lower in calories than meat and junk food.
When you feel a craving coming on between meals, wait 10 minutes. Most cravings last only a few minutes and then fade.
Replace your craving with an activity to occupy your mind. We of course recommend a hike but take the dog for a walk, dig in the garden or just get out of the house and run some errands.
Just don’t buy that stuff! Don’t bring junk food or other sugary foods into your home. If you don’t have quick access to it, it’s likely you won’t eat it.
Read the label. Educate yourself about the food you’re consuming and what it contains. You’ll be surprised what you find!
Use alternative sweeteners. When cooking, baking or making coffee, replace refined sugar with natural sweeteners like agave syrup, maple syrup or honey.