Valentine's Day is tomorrow which probably means a little bit more indulgence in champagne and chocolate. Trust me, I'll be indulging myself but starting Wednesday, I'm kicking sugar for a while! You've heard me say it here before, but sugar is a tricky little monster. However, when you are free from sugar cravings, you'll notice an immense difference in your energy levels, sleep, brain power, weight, anxiety and so much more. Today, I want to talk about how the right approach can help silence those sugar cravings and make it easy to resist that after dinner cookie. 

First off, lets go back to cave man times and talk about why our bodies are even wired to seek out sugar in the first place. As hunter gatherers, we were programmed to seek out the sugar in fruits like blueberries, apples and dates as well as honey as a way to stimulate the hormone insulin which signals to our bodies that it needs to make and store fat. This is an innate trait in all human beings as a way to prepare our bodies and survive winter. This was great way back when we lived in huts and had to hunt for our own food, especially in the dead of winter. Now, all I have to do it Postmates Smitten ice cream down the street when my sweet tooth strikes. Sugar is everywhere but our bodies are still programmed the same. We innately seek out sugar to help us fatten up to "survive". 

With that, it's important to be gentle with yourself when you begin eliminating sugar because it is like a drug to the brain. In one study, scientists found that, "intermittent, excessive intake of sugar can have dopaminergic, cholinergic and opioid effects that are similar to psychostimulants and opiates, albeit smaller in magnitude." In whole, it can be really hard to go completely cold turkey on sugar given its powerful effects on the brain; it takes time and requires that you do some rewiring in the brain. So my recommendation here is to focus on your overall progress rather than seek complete perfection. 

Eat More Fat

Include health fats in your diet. Our brains are wired to crave sweet and fatty foods, so rather than give in to the sweet, give in to the fat! Health fats that is. High quality fat gives you the steady energy that you need throughout your day to stay focused and awake while also balancing your hormones. Healthy fats like nuts, avocado, olive oil, wild salmon and coconut oil are creamy and luscious which also make us feel like we are indulging in decadent, rich foods. 

Avoid Artificial Sweeteners

Artifical sweeteners like splenda and aspartame are not only incredibly damaging to the body but also reinforce our sweet tooth. It's important to remember that our taste buds change, so when you consume a lot of sweets, you continue to crave and seek out sweet foods. This goes for sweeteners like stevia, honey and xylitol too. Although they are considered "healthy" sweetener alternatives, they still hit the sweet spot on our tongue. As you slowly faze out sugar, you will notice that sweets you used to eat all of the time will now be wayyy too sweet for your liking. 

Add Spices Into The Mix

Trust me, cutting out sugar doesn't have to mean blanched, steamed, boring broccoli. Spices like cinnamon, nutmeg, garlic powder, cayenne, curry powder and paprika excite your tastebuds and add full flavors to your dishes. Also, try adding vanilla bean or coconut butter to dishes for full flavors or spice up a veggie dish with gluten free tamari. There are so many options! 

Reduce Your Stress

When you are stressed, your adrenal glands release the stress hormone, cortisol. Cortisol increases appetite and may even increase your overall motivation to eat. In a recent study at Harvard, scientists said that stress also seems to affect food preferences; physical and emotional stress causes us to reach for foods high in sugar and unhealthy fats. The study also said, "Meditation may also help people become more mindful of food choices. With practice, a person may be able to pay better attention to the impulse to grab a fat- and sugar-loaded comfort food and inhibit the impulse." 

Stay Hydrated and Get Some Sleep

We live in a society of dehydrated zombies and it's killing us. Dehydration can cause you to crave sweets and unhealthy foods, so before you give in, chug a big glass. Chances are, you're totally dehydrated. Lack of sleep also really revs up our cravings for sugar. When you don't get enough sleep, the hormones that regulate your appetite get suppressed AKA your circadian rhythm gets totally screwed up. A study out of UC Berkeley links poor sleep to greater appetite, "These results shed light on how the brain becomes impaired by sleep deprivation, leading to the selection of more unhealthy foods and, ultimately, higher rates of obesity." 

With Valentine's Day just around the corner, enjoy your sweets but start to implement 1-2 of these suggestions and begin kicking that sweet tooth to the curb. All it takes is small steps in the right direction and before you know it, that Butterfinger won't even taste good anymore! 

 

Sources: UC Berkeley, JAMA Internal Medicine, Harvard Health, US National Library of Medicine

 

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