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Tuesday
Nov112014

How to Lose a Sweet Tooth

Most of us have been there at some point.

You somehow find yourself barefoot in your kitchen at midnight eating ice cream out of the container. Alternatively, the mid-afternoon energy slump has landed you in front of the vending machine pining for a package of Skittles. And, by the way, is that whole sleeve of cookies really gone?

How is it, despite our most valiant efforts, a sugar craving can so easily break our healthy way of life stride? For some of us, a seemingly minor speed bump turns into a snowball of uncontrollable cravings that may last for days - or even weeks. Too often, what we tell ourselves will be an occasional indulgence becomes, in fact, a daily habit.

However it manifests itself in your routine, a sweet tooth isn’t only detrimental to your waistline: it’s linked to your risk of diabetes, heart disease, and even cancer. While we all have varying levels of sugar tolerance, one thing we have in common is this undeniable principle: our consumption of sugar and sweets doesn’t move us toward optimal health. In fact, it sabotages our other lifestyle efforts. Are you ready to lose instead of indulge your sweet tooth?

Get a handle on the basics.

First things first. Give yourself a reality check in the hydration, protein intake and movement departments. Are you hydrated—reallyMany Americans are not. By the time actual thirst sets in, we can often mistake it for hunger and reach for the nearest cupcake. Naturally, if we’re using sugar in an inadvertent attempt to resolve physiological thirst, our “cravings” will not be satiated. Secondly, optimize your protein intake to help stabilize blood sugar spikes and crashes, which cause an energy level roller coaster and an endless cycle of cravings for sugar and carbs. Many of my clients are shocked to learn their true protein needs and are pleasantly surprised when they're liberated from the need to eat every two to three hours. Lastly, don’t forget about movement and exercise. Sure, a walk will distract you from the vending machine fare. More important, however, you’ll enjoy the non-sugar-induced serotonin boost. Add some sun exposure - especially during the midday slump, and you’ll feel naturally invigorated.

Ditch “healthy” labels.

Every nutrition choice either moves you toward health or away from it. Choose wisely. From my experience as a dietitian, most foods plastered with flashy labeling and elephant-sized font proclaiming their “health” qualifications are anything but. Processed foods that are unrecognizable to nature (and usually labeled “natural”) are typically high in carbohydrates and grossly lacking in hunger-busting protein and fat. The processed carbs certainly will give you a temporary high (likely fueling your sugar addiction), but what goes up must come down. You’ll be left where you started: undernourished, cranky, and channeling way too much mental energy towards obtaining the leftover donuts in the break room. Opt instead for a handful of cashews, a couple hard-boiled eggs, or Greek yogurt topped with grain-free granola. Bottom line: man-made “food” rarely provides nourishment. Stick with unprocessed, natural foods whenever possible.

Arm yourself with adequate sleep.

Are those late night hours worth the out of control cravings the next day? Research shows when healthy adults are sleep deprived they tend to crave carbohydrates and display changes related to insulin resistance. To top it off, inadequate sleep can disrupt normal blood sugar regulation. This means your body is even more apt to add that sugary intake directly to your midsection. The number one reason I hear for not catching the appropriate 7-8 hours of sleep is T.V. watching. Aim to power down your TV (and other devices) at least an hour before bed.

Retrain your taste buds.

A whole saga could be written about the added sugars that seem to saturate the American food supply. One of the Life Time Weight Loss Support Groups I am involved in found added sugars in everything from gravy mix to canned mushroom soup, and I am confident that those specific foods don’t taste overtly sweet to the average American. Our “sweet sensors” require much more sugar now than they ever have before to actually register the "sweet" sensation. The answer, however, isn’t simply transitioning to chemically-fortified “sugar free” alternatives to enjoy at liberty. While a stevia-sweetened dessert is okay as an occasional treat, any dessert food - whatever the sweetener - shouldn’t take up a substantial portion of your diet. While it may sound extreme, going cold-turkey on sugar can go a long way in turning down those taste buds to their natural subtlety. You might even find yourself fully satisfied with the silky sweetness of roasted beets or the vivid taste of fresh summer raspberries. Believe it or not, the taste of a diet soda may actually become sickening over time. That’s a very good problem to have. 

Supplement strategically.

Ensure that you're benefiting from core supplements for foundational health and blood sugar control. Consult with a nutrition coach or dietitian to consider adding others such as Dual-Source Chromium or 5-HTP when appropriate.

You shouldn’t have to exert chronic willpower over a sweet tooth to reach your long-term health and fitness goals. While taking ownership of your decisions is a critical part in getting there, treating the root cause of your cravings will allow you to finally surrender them.

Thanks for reading, everyone. Talk with a dietitian today for a personalized plan that will help you address cravings and establish healthier eating routines.

In health, Samantha Bielawski, Registered Dietitian

This article is not intended for the treatment or prevention of disease, nor as a substitute for medical treatment, nor as an alternative to medical advice. Use of recommendations in this and other articles is at the choice and risk of the reader.

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