It is 3:00 pm, and I am craving something sweet, not to mention a nudge of energy to get me through the rest of the day. If I am in my home office, I usually opt for a piece of dark chocolate, a handful of almonds, or a cup of green tea. But, if I am in between meetings, traveling, or not prepared with snack options, my eyes and mind wander to other things such as scones, specialty coffees, or candy.
The lure of instant gratification gets me every time – I crave sugar; therefore, I need it now and who cares about the after effects… Yes, even as a health coach, I am taunted by the Sugar Queen (picture the Snow Queen from the Chronicles of Narnia).
Is Sugar Really that Evil?
Sugar has been in the news a lot, lately. A lot of the news claims that sugar not only makes us fat, but can also make us sick. In fact, recent studies have shown a clear correlation between the sweet stuff and cardiovascular disease. According to a study published in 2014 by JAMA Internal Medicine, sugar is now considered an independent risk factor in Type 2 diabetes, liver cirrhosis, dementia, and all cardiovascular diseases (heart attacks, strokes, and artery disease).
And yet, despite the hype around sugar consumption and its link to chronic diseases, illness, and obesity, it is not easy to avoid. The Sugar Queen is everywhere, showing up in many of our favorite (processed) food items and often thinly disguised under other names (this article lists 30 different names!) In fact, it’s not unusual to see several different sugars on a label, which ends up making them seem less prevalent when they’re broken out into smaller amounts.
What can you do?
Any Internet search will pull up myriad ways to deal with a sugar addiction through various diets or programs. While some of these programs may work initially, what they often focus on is deprivation, which may not be a sustainable solution for many of us. When I work with clients who are trying to eat less-to-no sugar or to understand their cravings, the first thing we do together is look directly at lifestyle habits. I start with simple suggestions, things they can easily implement in their daily routines and lives.
Here are a few of my top tips and tricks for beating the Sugar Queen
- Drink more water
Often, we mistake the body’s cues, thinking we are hungry when we are actually dehydrated. TIP: Drink one to two full glasses a water when you wake up the morning. Before a meal, drink another glass of water to help aid in the digestion process. Craving something sweet? Drink a glass of water!
- Add more healthy fats to your diet
This is especially helpful for those of you who tend to grab an apple for a snack and then find yourself hungry 30 minutes later. Add a nut butter or a handful of nuts to your ritual snack and you will balance your blood sugar and have the stamina you need before your next meal.
- Talk back to your sugar temptation
Yep, that’s right, ask questions or make statements out loud. Sometimes hearing our own voice causes us to listen and respond differently. Try asking yourself questions like, “Why do you need to eat that muffin right now?” or making statements like, “Stop. Take a deep breath.” Keep in mind, cravings are not necessarily a bad thing. When we listen to our cravings, we can begin to understand what is really affecting our decision to reach for sugar as a quick fix to a deeper-seated issue.
- Avoid the break room sweets
It doesn’t matter where you work or what you do for a living, the infamous candy dish or baked good treat of the day will show up at some point. Don’t get me wrong, l like these things as much as the next person; but, I have learned to practice moderation and, in some cases, complete avoidance. If you are trying to stick to a low sugar or no sugar diet, then you will need to walk away when temptations are in your line of sight.
- Keep the easy snacks off the counter
As with the break room, the more accessible the easy snack is, the more likely we are to reach for it. Keep the chips and cookies stored away in the cupboards and have a bowl of fruit on the counter instead. Trust me, it works. This is especially important if you have kids, who will reach for the easiest, quickest snack available. Make it a banana.
- Shop the perimeter
The majority of processed foods are stocked in the inner aisles. The two worst culprits are the aisles with all the snacks and cereals, which contain the most sugar and calories by weight. Either avoid them, or get in and get out. Also, shopping with a well-itemized list will reduce your likelihood of succumbing to the indulgent impulse purchases.
- Pause, breathe and repeat
We live in a culture that has easy, ongoing access to food, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Plus, we are always racing to the next activity or meeting. Eating becomes something we do without even thinking or feeling. We just grab it and go. Try pausing, feel your feet on the ground, rooted and strong; take a deep inhale and a full exhale; remind yourself that you deserve to put something in your body that has healing, nutritious value to it.
- Be prepared
I would say 80 percent of the time (no joke!) we make bad choices because we are not prepared. Believe me, I have mastered the tactic of running out of the house and taking care of everyone else but myself. I know it takes time and energy and, quite frankly, some planning, but as with having a good shopping list, preparing your food for the day is one of the best ways to optimize your health and make good choices. Bringing a wholesome lunch is going to be way better for you than fast food. Plus, it will give you more energy to get through the afternoon without wanting that sugar hit at 3:00 pm.
Photo Credit: 123RF