This Is What Your Relentless Sugar Habit Is Really About
If you’re health conscious, very busy and a front runner for a ‘Super Woman of the Year’ award, there’s a good chance your sweet tooth is out of control and nothing seems able to tame it.
You know exactly what a ‘healthy’ diet involves, you probably eat well for the majority of the day, and then evening strikes and you can’t fight off the urge to have just one slice of cake or scoop of ice-cream. The problem, of course, is that one always turns into 10. And this lack of control over something so basic (it’s a packet of biscuits for God’s sakes) probably drives you crazy and can make you feel like a failure.
If this is you, the first thing you need to start believing is that your ‘sugar addiction’ actually has very little to do with sugar, and your attempts to fight the cravings aren’t working because you’re focusing on the wrong thing.
I imagine you’re profusely shaking your head at this point. Common sense says the reason you can’t eat one biscuit without devouring the entire packet is because they taste too damn good and your willpower is non-existent.
I’m a big fan of common sense, but on this occasion, it’s leading you astray.
When I first started my health and nutrition consultancy I focused on helping busy multi-tasking women lose weight and eliminate sugar/junk food cravings. But I quickly switched my focus to general optimisation of health and well-being because despite women coming to me with a strong desire to get rid of a junk food habit, the real problem almost always turned out to be a lifestyle that was somewhat out of balance.
The good news is that you can get your eating in control with a few simple lifestyle tweaks.
Start by taking a look at the three common lifestyle problems below, then ask yourself if they sound familiar to you.
If you function under high-pressure – meeting tight deadlines, travelling a lot and putting out a lot of fires on a daily basis – your body is in a constant state of stress. Fact. This means your levels of the stress hormone cortisol are much higher than they should be. And while the increase of cortisol during a stressful episode usually leads to a loss of appetite in the short term, once things have calmed down, the body moves into refuel mode and that’s when you start to eat everything in sight. This is why you barely eat when you’re stressed out at work during the day, but the second you come home and relax in the evening, you devour all the sweets and desserts you can get your hands on.
There’s no quicker way to lift your mood – albeit temporarily – than by reaching for a sweet treat. It’s a universal behaviour. Whether it’s in the aftermath of a blazing argument, a break up or simply a bad day at work – there’s much comfort to be found in a tub of Ben and Jerry’s. We all reach for sugar when we feel low because it acts directly on the brain, causing it to make more of the hormones that makes us feel happy and relaxed – dopamine and serotonin. The problem is – as with all pleasure-enhancing drugs – the feel-good high is short lived and unless the cause of the unhappiness is addressed, that animal instinct to feel better as quickly as possible won’t go away and neither will the siren song of the biscuit tin. This means if you’ve been fighting a relentless sweet tooth for a a while, it may be time to take a closer look at if there’s a long-standing source of unhappiness in your life that you may have grown used to ignoring.
Ever noticed how your desire to eat sugary junk foods dramatically rises the day after a bad nights’ sleep or when you’re up late doing something you really don’t want to be doing (like your tax return for example)? There are two reasons for this. Firstly, when you’re tired your judgement is impaired and your ability to make good dietary choices flies out of the window. Secondly, glucose (ie. sugar) is the primary source of fuel for your brain, which means it’s an instant pick me up. From a physiological point of view, if you’re tired and decide not to opt for the real thing you need (sleep), your body will go for the next best thing – instant fuel in the form of sugar and more sugar.
So if these things are the problem, what’s the solution?
Firstly, stop and take stock of what exactly is going on at the very moment you’re next hit with a sugar craving. Accept that you want to eat something sweet, but ask yourself why. There’s always something else driving the desire for a sugar fix – especially if the desire is sudden, strong and all-consuming.
The answer to that will say much more about how to get in control of your sugar habit than any diet book will.