Following Roz’s blog about Alzheimer’s and the link to the damage processed carbohydrates and sugars make to the brain, I got thinking about how many people struggle to let go of sugar from their diet. And to be honest how many of us would love to be that person who can walk past the lolly aisle in the supermarket without having to wipe the drool accumulating on our chins?
I have struggled with a sugar addiction for years. Once upon a time I was a $5+ a day girl… Yes that’s right I would spend $5 on lollies most days!!! Sugar addiction is a real thing! A study done with mice, sugar and heroin showed that 48 out of 49 mice had a preference for sugar over heroin. And the brain patterns of someone who eats a lot of sugar looked very similar to those of a heroin addict! As a weight loss coach of 7 years and a self-confessed sugar addict I have been looking for answers to overcoming the sugar addiction for myself and for clients, for a very long time. I have gleaned and discovered oodles of strategies. I’ll touch on crowding out the sugar with food, creating new routines to divert you away from temptation and I’ll talk briefly about understanding the need or addiction.
CROWDING OUT WITH FOOD
I love this strategy. Crowding out is about squeezing sugar out of your life by bringing in better, more nutritious alternatives.
SWEET VEGETABLES – Crowd out with sweet vegetables. Corn, carrots, onions beetroot, kumara, pumpkin and yams. Bake them, roast them, boil them with spices – blitz them in your food processor and make a warming soup or just mash them. You can even cut thin slices of kumara or pumpkin, pop them in your toaster and spread them with avocado – YUM!!!!! Sweet vegetables are great, they taste good, they’re soothing for the internal organs of the body and they energise the mind. And because many of these vegetables are root vegetables, they are energetically grounding, which helps balance out the “spaciness” people often feel after eating other kinds of sweet foods.
PROTEIN – One of the issues with having too much sugar is that it plays havoc with your blood sugar levels. If you’ve gotten yourself into that cycle of blood sugar high followed by an energy crash, the fastest way to normalise your blood sugars is to have some protein – a handful of nuts (almonds have something in them that takes away hunger), an egg or a chicken drumstick. Be mindful of the meats you find in your local supermarket deli, they’re full of nasty preservatives.
YUMMY TREATS – Try delicious bliss balls or raw desserts made from nuts, dried fruit, seeds, cacao. They are super easy to make at home and all you need is a food processor. Or, if you’re time poor, you can now buy these yummy treats at supermarkets and health stores.
My delicious go to treat is a sweet smoothie. I’ve learned along the way, when our nutritional needs are met, our cravings subside. A well assembled smoothie can pack an easily accessible, powerful, cleansing, nutrient punch which can knock those cravings to the kerb, quelling any desire to inhale the contents under the counter at the local dairy, and feed your body with awesome energy. And another great thing about smoothies is you can add all kinds of good things to them.
This is what I put in my smoothie (serves 2):
- frozen berries
- a piece of juicy fruit, like a kiwi fruit or pineapple (or you could use coconut water, or a nutritious herbal tea)
- a big bunch of greens, like spinach or kale
- nuts and seeds (roughly a tablespoon each)sunflower seeds, sesame seeds, chia, almonds, 2 brazil nuts, linseeds, (hemp seeds are apparently awesome too, although I haven’t managed to find any yet)
- and any kind of super food powder you like or think you need.maca, greens, chlorella, cacao, spirulina
We have been hearing a lot about fruit being really high in sugar. And yes it is. But if you’re going to choose between a piece of sweet, juicy, delicious fruit and a highly processed brown thing in a plastic wrapper, it doesn’t take a neuroscientist to work out which is going to serve your body best. A couple of things worth knowing about fruit, fruit is super clever. In that one piece of whatever fruit you choose, it is perfectly packed full of nutrients and enzymes so our bodies can easily metabolise/use the goodies and sugar within. The other thing that is useful to know is avoid eating grains at the same time as fruit, as grains have an amylase (enzyme) inhibitor that stops the digestion of fruit sugars.
BREAKING THE HABIT – CREATING A GO-TO-ROUTINE
A go-to-routine is a strategy that is used to help addicts overcome drug addiction. How a go-to-routine works is when you have that niggling need to service that craving, you create a distraction.
Identify the place you find yourself buying or eating sugary foods – supermarket, cafe, home, work.
And create a new routine or way of being in those places, with a diversion or a distraction – a go-to-routine, something that takes you away from that environment and that old unwanted habit, creating a new habit.
At home, you’ve finished eating dinner, and just feel like a little something sweet… you know what I’m talking about… a cup of tea with a biscuit (or 6!), a couple of squares (or make that lines) of Whittaker’s chocolate…In this moment use your go-to-routine.
- have a glass of water and go for a walk
- weed the garden for 5 minutes
- do a craft (we all know making stuff and sticky chocolate covered fingers don’t work)
- call a friend
- sit somewhere different, a place you don’t associate with your evening tea and biscuit(s)
- you can make this time all about you, do something you love, feed that part of you that rarely gets a chance to be fulfilled.
In the supermarket, buy a fancy piece of fruit. Something you’d never normally buy, because you consider it too extravagant – a passionfruit, mango, a juicy peach, a bag of cherries. When I do this, I don’t want to spend money on lollies because that would be greedy (it’s all mind games!)
Be clever in thinking up go-to-routines that work for you.
THE ADDICTION – UNDERSTANDING YOUR NEED
The body is a complex bio computer – more complex than the Hubble Space station. The amazing thing about the body is, that it never makes a mistake, the heart never misses a beat, the lungs always breath. So, when the body is craving anything, it’s not making mistake, rather it’s trying to create a balance for something that’s not quite right in the system.
You’ve had a crazy busy day at work, you’re tired, your mind is on all of the things that didn’t get done, you unlock you door, throw your bag on your bed, grunt hello at the kids/partner/flat mate (trying to ignore their incessant demands/chatter – no hello hug or kiss), you head straight for the pantry, do that scan for something delicious and sweet, spot the biscuits/ice-cream/chocolate chips for the baking, crack them open and chug back their sweet, mind numbing pleasure.
Think about this, is it a sweet fix you need in that moment? Or is it something else you need – connection with the person(s) you love, a career that is more satisfying, time to wind down, relax and just be, or perhaps you need to pound those pavements to release the stress of the day, to meet your needs of something I call Primary Foods – relationships, career, spirituality or physical activity (I’ll talk more about this in a future blog post). What are you really hungry for? What are you starved of? And how can you meet these things?
As I said the body never makes a mistake. Cravings are your body’s way of telling you something is out of balance and needs fixing. To deconstruct cravings it is necessary to listen to your body’s messages. Take notice of when they happen. What was happening leading up to that moment? Is it happening at a certain time of day, or is it when some kind of life- hiccup happens. Be observant. And take time to honour what your body is saying. What do you really need in that moment? Bravely tweak your life, and let the cravings slip away.
Good luck with letting go of the sugar addiction. Sometimes it happens easily; sometimes it requires patience, determination and a strong vision of what life will be like free of the addiction. When sugar no longer has a place in your life, great health, clear thinking brain, amazing energy and freedom ensues.
Go on! Chase that great feeling!
Rebekah is one of our Chiropractic Assistants at our Mana practice. She also has an advanced Diploma in Homoeopathy, is a weight loss coach for 7 years and is currently studying Integrative Nutrition and Health Coaching.