This 3rd post of the “Sugar Series” addresses sugar as the “trigger” to craving-eating, binge-eating, and weight-loss stalling – and a quick word on sugar and mood cycling.
We talked Monday that the desire and enjoyment of sweet taste is hard-wired into us as human beings. And how the simple act of eating a bite of a sweet item increases our desire to continue eating/drinking something sweet, mainly because of the “feel good” chemical reaction happening in the brain.
But one very important fact to consider is: every bite, sip after the first one is a diminishing return. Like any addictive substance, that first hit is the best. How many times have you taken that first fork full of ______, been in heaven, and then what seemed like a second later, the plate is empty and you barely remember the rest of the portion? It’s like after that first hit, your brain turns off unless you work hard to eat slowly and mindfully to full appreciate the treat. This is especially true of our “sweet comfort foods”. For me, the first bite of softened, salt caramel gelato (hey, if you’re going to do it, do it right!), is sublime, but the last spoon on the bottom of the container is just delicious. I liked it but was it really necessary?
You still get the enjoyment of the taste combination you’re craving, but just enough to appreciate it without over-indulging.
And – think about this for a minute – do you really have to finish the whole thing? It’s ok to leave part on the plate. The Dessert Police will NOT rush you and hover until you finish the last bite!
Sugar As A Primary Trigger:
Now these tips are helpful for moderating your “treat” sugar intake. They are ways to slowly reduce the amount and frequency of high octane sugary splurges. But one important question remains here: for so many of us, sugar is a primary trigger. It’s our “Gateway Drug” and a large part of the yo-yo dieting cycle and the pattern of “weight loss-gain it all back plus some” that I and possibly many of you have and may even now be battling.
Question: When you’re trying to lose weight do you drastically reduce or completely cut out sweet foods/drinks, only to go right back to them after you’ve lost the weight? And then find the weight starts creeping back on pretty quickly?
Question: When you eat something sweet, do you find yourself craving more sweets?
Question: Is “only just one” an impossibility for you? Do you give into a sweet craving and end up eating much more than you planned, raiding the fridge/freezer, going out to get more items, finishing the pint (quart)?
These are all indications that sugar may be your trigger food. If you’ve gone around and around the wheel of weight loss, tried and failed more times than you can count, there is a strong possibility that sugar is the culprit. It opens the door to the whole gammit of other high calorie foods and can quickly undue all your hard work.
*A Sad Fact of Life: Some of us may need to -permanently- strictly limit – or even eliminate sugary foods in order to maintain our weight loss.*
This sounds very difficult, especially if we’re hooked and our drug of choice is literally EVERYWHERE!! Our culture, media, family, friends, and of course practically every store (ok, not Home Depot!) encourages us, manipulates, sometimes even blackmails us into wanting and eating these types of foods. Holidays (Halloween, Christmas, Easter, Dia de Los Muertos, etc.) are practically built around food. Birthdays usually include some varient of ice cream and cake, and simple social dinners typically include a dessert. It doesn’t take a genius to realize that just “saying no” is going to be a challenge of pretty significant proportions.
But, like with everything else, Baby Steps! Start with your morning beverage – do you really need that Starbucks mocchachino?? Can a cup of coffee with light cream and a splenda fit the bill instead? Can you put a cutoff at first with sweets – nothing after 5? That means if you want a treat, a sweetened yogurt, some fruit, you enjoy it earlier. Can you substitute? A strongly flavored tea can actually nix sugar cravings and also be quite satisfying – Good Earth’s sweet and spicy original teas with an added cinnamon stick work for me. And it keeps me away from the 9 PM granola/milk sugar whammy! If you do have to have a treat, can you use plain powdered or liquid stevia in the mix instead of sugar? There are tons of recipes out there to let you have your cake and eat it too without the level of trigger that a full sugar treat contains.
If you are sensitive to sugar, you probably already know it, or hopefully something said here lit a light bulb. Eliminating as much added sugar in your diet as you can will help you in maintaining weight loss. And although our bodies require glucose to function, there will be enough in much of the healthy foods you eat to ensure your health and well being. A quick final note: without the blood sugar spikes from sugar, you may find your mood is more stable. Using exercise and other positive coping skills instead of sugar during a depression may also help you deal with it better and lessen the depth and duration of the episode. We will cover mood in much more depth in tomorrow’s post.
Hopefully, I’ve given you a bit to think about today and, as always, support you stretching out to learn more on your own. Remember: you are the Captain of Your Ship!