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Sugar Isn't All That Sweet!

Jul 10, 2013

Do you start your day with a sugary mocha latte and danish, have a salad for lunch with a sweet tasting dressing topped with sweetened dried cranberries, curb your craving mid-afternoon with a candy bar and cup of coffee and creamer, and wind up the day with a dinner of pasta, bread, and dessert---maybe even followed by a midnight snack of chocolatey goodness?

If this sounds like you, you are addicted to sugar. Don't you just love how it makes you feel to get your lips wrapped around something sweet? That calming, almost utopian feeling of wonderful-ness...yup, we can all recall how that feels. The problem, as you know, is this is not something that's helping you in your fat loss and healthy lifestyle journey. The other problem? It's confusing to know what to do to break ourselves of this seemingly uncontrollable addiction.

Here are the problems we encounter when trying to beat a sugar addiction:

  1. Sugar is in everything! It’s not just the obvious pastries and candies and baked goods that are full of sugar. We are bombarded with products containing different forms of sugar. Take a look at barbeque sauces, condiments, pasta sauces, even things like deli meats—sugar is used in a myriad of processed foods.
  2. "Sugar-free" is just a marketing ploy. You think you’re doing well by buying products marks “sugar-free” when this simply means that the manufacturer has removed any caloric sweeteners (i.e. actual sugar or corn syrup) and has replaced them with artificial sweeteners made of chemicals that are sweet without the calories. The fact is that the food is simply processed and artificial sweeteners are worse for your body than the real thing. Plus, you’re not teaching your brain to not crave sweet—even if there’s no calories attached to the sweetener used in the product.
  3. "Natural" sugars are still sugars. Products like honey, maple syrup, and agave may be “natural” sources of sweetness, but the body and the brain still recognize them as sugar when all is said and done. These products still stimulate the need and want for more sweetness, thus, not breaking the bad habit. Translation: You will find it hard to burn fat and drop pant sizes if you choose to use these things on a regular basis, and your sweet tooth will still remain.
  4. Stress makes it difficult. Being stressed causes us to crave immediate sources of comfort—usually in the form of sugar. When we are stressed, our bodies produce a stress hormone called cortisol—what’s considered the “fight or flight” hormone. When cortisol is high (like when you are under stress), your body responds by craving a quick source of energy, doing what it thinks it needs to do in order to get us through that stressful event. Chronic stress causes a constant urge to eat sweets.
  5. Yes, even fruit, can contribute. Your brain doesn’t differentiate the sweetness from candy versus the sweetness of an apple. All it knows is that what just crossed your lips is something sweet. This sweet sensation contributes to the vicious cycle that is your sweet tooth. At the same time both the candy and the apple cause elevations in blood sugar, a phenomenon that makes it challenging to burn fat—the candy obviously has the greater elevation, though. Fruit is not bad for you (it contains vitamins, minerals and fiber), but if you’re looking to beat your sweet tooth and burn fat, you need to consider cutting back on your intake.

Here’s a few ways to combat the addiction and eventually break it:

  • Look at labels. If the item has any form of added sugars, put it back on the shelf.
  • Don’t even think about “sugar-free” items. Bypass these highly processed fake foods with artificial sugars.
  • Train your taste buds. If you’re a coffee or tea drinker, start ordering unsweetened varieties and use liquid stevia extract—the least offensive non-caloric sweetener. Gradually use less and less until you can tolerate your beverage without any added sweetener.
  • Use fruit as a condiment not as a meal. Think mango salsa or blueberries as the sweetener for your blended protein shake.
  • Find a healthy stress coping mechanism. Use another tactic to combat stress, i.e. taking a walk outside, instead of downing whatever sweet thing you can get your hands on.
  • Focus on quality sleep. Go to bed at reasonable time in a dark, cool room. Lack of sleep will also drive cravings.
  • Eat your protein and healthy fats at every meal. Being satiated will keep your blood sugar levels stabilized and will prevent the urge to snack on sugary treats.
  • Don’t indulge until you’re confident you can remain in control! Treats aren’t an issue when that’s all they’ve become. If you treat yourself after every workout, that’s a problem. Save indulgences for important events and occasions and don’t overdo it.

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