Sugar has got its problems; you can hardly come across a health or fitness blog that doesn’t have some post about the harmful effects of sugar. Yet the problem is that sugar is so addictive; the results of one study showed that a greater neurological reward was provided by intense sweetness than by cocaine. In a similar vein, studies have shown that sugar withdrawal has many of the same effects as nicotine, morphine and alcohol. Yet for all of this talk about the addictive nature of sugar, there’s not much that talks about getting over your sugar fix. Yet I recently came across an article that shared seven steps to overcome your addiction:
Don’t replace real sugar with artificial: Manufacturers created artificial sweeteners in a way to help people get sweet food without the calories. Yet a lack of calories isn’t everything; one 2013 study found that artificial sweeteners can alter how the body metabolizes sugar. A 2008 animal study found that rats given artificial sweeteners actually gained weight by eating more calories throughout the day. You’re still getting sweetness, you you’re never taking away the sweet taste, so you’ll eventually return to it.
Start an exercise regimen and add milk to your diet: Sugar has been shown to enhance reward mechanisms in the brain, making it harder to break the habit. But what if you could boost one of your most efficient “feel good” effects through other foods? One study has shown that whey protein (a major protein found in milk) increased serotonin, associated with mood elevation. Other studies have shown that serotonin increases with exercise as well.
Say no to fat-free: While fat-free foods don’t have any fat in them, that’s replaced by sugar. The products aren’t selling sugar-free, they’re selling fat-free. So make sure your peanut butters and salad dressings are full-fat. The monosaturated fats in them will help increase your sense of overall satisfaction.
Improve your sleep habits: A 2013 study found that our circadian sleep cycles have a lot to do with whether or not we take midnight snacks. Another study found that we’re less equipped to resist a high-calorie treat if we’re sleepy throughout the whole day. And a third study found that the reward activation centers in the brain were greater for sleep-deprived people, making it harder to turn down sugary foods.
Keep snacks close by: Keeping healthy snacks close by is a great way to fight a craving for sugar. If you have trail mix at hand, you’ll be more satisfied, and therefore can more easily resist the temptation of sugary foods.
Chew gum: A 2009 study found that people who chewed gum hourly reduced their cravings for sweet snacks. While the study used a sugar-free gum variety, it does nonetheless provide an interesting tactic to lowering your craving for sweets.
Never forget the benefit to your body: All aspects of addiction aside, sugary foods just taste good. Yet even for how good they taste, don’t let yourself forget what sugar is doing to your body. Remain focused and never forget that reducing your sugar intake has benefits beyond losing weight.