You can probably relate: 3pm – no focus, lack of energy and the insatiable need for something sweet! Don’t worry! You are not alone!
The majority of people are ADDICTED to sugar! Hi my name is Chantal and i was a SUGARHOLIC! I am not using the word addiction lightly here; I am actually serious!
Stanford, Berkeley and UCSF (to name a few) have spent a lot of time and money researching the effects of sugar on the brain, with one of my favorite professors, Dr Robert Lustig, heading the crusade against it!
Addiction to sugar is real; it is not a dietary fantasy to scare people off it; it is an actual biochemical reaction in the body that stimulates the same parts of the brain as drugs like cocaine.
I should know; I spent almost 18 years of my life, consuming sugar in all its forms, without even realising. Even when I thought I was making “healthy” choices, I was feeling my sugar addition instead.
I wanted to badly be in control, but the truth is that, unless you are aware of sugar and make a conscious effort to tackle your addiction, it takes hold of you and it is not your fault. For start, sugar is in everything we buy in stores, and manufacturers have enough freedom to hide the word sugar so that if people are not aware they are consuming it. Also, sugar has only now been clearly linked to obesity and cardiovascular issues; it got away with murder for over 40 years, having Fat take the blame for all sorts of health problems.
Ok so, what is the best way to tackle sugar cravings so that we can move on from addiction?
The answer is not straightforward but the steps are practical and implementing them can have a wonderful effect on our overall health, energy levels and aesthetics!
As a holistic practitioner, I like to focus on both dietary changes as well as lifestyle to help with this issue!
- Know your Sugars: Sugar has many forms and some of them are not as harmful and addictive as the usual suspects! A little education goes a long way here. Complex carbohydrates are sugars too; the body transforms them into glucose and uses it as energy; but complex carbohydrates also come with an array of goodness like fiber and other nutrients, which feed the body and not just stimulate the pancreas to release insulin to control the sugar in the blood. Also, one needs to know how to eat carbohydrates and pairing them with protein always helps, as protein takes longer to digest and more energy; so it slows down the carbs breakdown and need for insulin! Adding complex carbohydrates can really help craving simple sugars , the ones that immediately gives us a high (candy bars, cereals, white flour and all other sweeteners like High Corn Fructose Syrup). Unless there is a health issue to be taken into consideration, like gluten intolerance, coeliac, digestive problems or candida, whereby grains, or at least gluten containing grains need to be avoided, wholesome ones can be very helpful to help cut sugar cravings as they still give the brain that sense of satiety and calm. There are links between carbohydrates and serotonin, hence why when we are stressed we look for them. Root vegetables are one of my favorite solutions; as they are starchy and hearty but also slightly sweet. You can imagine, however, that they come with an array of nutrients and plenty of fiber so the body responds very differently here. These vegetables are: sweet potatoes, all sort of squash, parsnips and carrots for example. Things like white potatoes I suggest consuming in moderation, as they are High GI and do stimulate immediate release of insulin in the blood.
- Avoid Processed foods: Anything in packaging will most likely contain sugar. It is essential therefore, to cut out anything that is processed and premade. By just ditching the packaged foods and relying on fresh produce, you will feel a lot better and feel the difference. One of the problems with processed foods is that sugar an be masked under one of its aliases and unless you are aware, it may be hard to identify. Also, most processed foods use simply carbohydrates which, again stimulate fast insulin release in the blood and of course that momentary great feeling as you get the sugar in whatever form, in the body.
- Boost Serotonin naturally: Serotonin is a “feel good” hormone found I the brain and gut. Carbohydrates and sugar can stimulate it, but a better way to get serotonin released in the body is exercise, eat a balanced diet that heals the gut and sleep well and enough! Think abut this for a minute, if you sleep poorly or little and don’t exercise, the body will immediately give you a signal that it needs stimulant to cope with the tiredness and those are usually caffeine and sugar! If you nurture and nourish the body correctly, none of those things will be required,
- Heal your gut: All problems start with the gut, including sugar addition. This is a bigger topic, but just to lightly touch on it, it is essential to find out if we have parasites, candida or an unbalanced bacterial flora In the gut. Any of those things can create cravings. Fungi, like candida, bad bacteria and parasite feed on sugar and that is what they use to grow so a lot of the times the cravings are theirs and not yours. Scary right? Speak to medical or holistic practitioner about analyzing the status of your gut so you can start working towards a healthier you. Following a regime where you are cutting out processed foods, sugars and adding in plenty of fresh vegetables and some fruit will really help with cleansing anyway and adding a good strain of pre and probiotics will also support cutting the cravings
- Add fermented foods to your routine: In order to support your gut flora, you can also add fermented foods that contain pre and probiotics too. Drinking apple cider vinegar first thing in the morning, eating Kimchi, Sauerkraut , Kefir water or coconut Kefir are also amazing.
- Eat plenty of greens: All vegetables are fabulous but when it comes to nourishing the body and cutting cravings nothing beats green vegetables; both leafy and cruciferous. They have a great amount of fiber and micronutrients and reset the brain’s chemistry! This works especially well if you are cutting out processed foods and simple carbohydrates. If you want to drink your greens in juices that is fine but do not add fruit. Even fruit is sugar and of course without fiber, it does spike sugar levels quicker and can stimulate cravings too.
- Add in healthy fats and proteins: Combining food with healthy fats (olive oil, olives, avocados, seeds, nuts, coconut oil etc..) and protein (pulses, tempeh and fermented soy products in moderation, Spirulina etc…) is a huge support to cutting cravings, They allow the body to feel full longer and use the energy from the complex carbohydrates to be used for digestion (especially protein)
- Don’t skip meals: This may seem obvious but skipping meals is a huge cause of cravings! If your body is hungry and wants energy, it will ask for glucose and the fastest way is to get it from simple sugars! Have you ever heard that we should never go to a grocery store on an empty stomach? Research shows that a lot of shoppers who were hungry when purchasing groceries end up eating sugar to feel better and burb cravings.
- Drink a lot of water: most times cravings mask thirst and instead of hydrating our bodies we give it food, and sugar on top of it! Drink enough water each day to get your body perfectly hydrated and you will see a huge improvement in your cravings, but also, you will start being familiar with the sense of hunger instead of just eating because your body needs something there and then. Needless to say drinking more water and cutting sugar will make your skin glow too; worth a try!
- Yoga and Meditation: Exercise is a fantastic way to increase serotonin and stop cravings. But the most powerful form of exercises, physical and mental are Yoga and Meditation. Yoga is essentially a form of dynamic meditation. Unlike other forms of exercise, it promotes focusing on the breath and being aware of the body. This focus allows the parasympathetic system to kick in and it helps digestion and stress release, which help with cutting cravings. Meditation has the same effect plus it teaches us to be mindful; which means we can make better choices, with awareness and knowing why we feel in a certain way.
After making all those changes, is there space for sweetness in your life or are you saying goodbye to your favorite treats? Good news! You can satisfy your sweet tooth naturally and with real and nourishing recipes! Self control and mindfulness will always play a role as you can have too much of a good thing too; but you can enjoy amazing desserts without guilt or addiction and if you make having treats an occasional pleasure, whilst 90% of the times you follow a nourishing lifestyle and diet, you will not crave nor binge on sugar anymore feeling a whole lot better for it!
Check out my Guilt Free Desserts