5 ways to reduce sugar cravings with Jenny Phillips
We’ve teamed up with registered Nutritional Therapist Jenny Phillips to bring you some helpful tips on how to reduce your sugar cravings. Jenny offers retreats and workshops to help you kick the sugar habit whilst filling up on delicious foods and exercising. Bliss! Read more at https://www.inspirednutrition.co.uk/
So, you’ve decided to cut down your sugar intake – well done you! Remember that your taste buds change really quickly, studies show if you keep off the sweet stuff for just 6 days then sugar cravings dramatically recede or stop.
Before even thinking about strategies though, reflect on your current diet and make sure that you are eating good food regularly. For most people 3 meals a day is a good start point, no snacks! If those compulsive feelings for food come between meals then here are tips to make your transition easier.
Drink more water
Often our perception of hunger is actually thirst and can resolve by simply drinking a glass of water. In a study of overweight ladies who increased their water intake by 1.5l per day, improvements were seen in weight loss, body fat reduction and also reduced hunger.
Though the mechanism for this is not fully understood, there is evidence that increased water intake activates the sympathetic nervous system (you feel calmer) and increases resting metabolism by up to 30%. Have a jug or a sports bottle to hand, and also consider a cup of hot water as an alternative to tea or coffee to improve your hydration.
Avoid artificial sweeteners
One reason that you might be cutting sugar is to lose weight, and it may be tempting to think that cutting calories with ‘diet’ products and artificial sweeteners will be helpful. However, sweeteners do not reduce your appetite. Any small upside in calories saved can be quickly wiped out if accompanied, or followed, by a binge. This is probably why a meta-analysis of studies into sweetener consumption shows a nil to modest reduction in weight.
Sweeteners also prolong your craving for sweet tastes rather than allowing you to break free. So instead choose low sugar but tasty and nutritious desserts or cakes and enjoy them in moderation. We challenge you not to be impressed with the chocolate cake recipe in our Rewards cookbook!
Get more sleep
Here’s the dilemma. When you’re tired you crave a quick sugar fix, yet sugary treats end up making you feel even more tired. If you’re not sleeping well then this may be familiar ground for you. Lack of sleep is known to upregulate the part of the brain involved in food cravings and reward.
When you bite into a sugary chocolate bar, cake or biscuit, you get a pretty instant rush of sugar into your blood stream which makes you feel a little better, for a moment. But then your insulin levels quickly rise and send sugar levels crashing back down, leaving you tired, listless and fed up. This is a protection mechanism, as high sugar levels wreck damage on your body. Your cravings get worse and before you know it you’ve eaten the whole packet of biscuits.
So, a good night’s sleep can help you to be more in control and make better choices. Simple tips are to consciously plan your bedtime and avoid stimulating activity just before – avoid using technology for an hour before bed. Make your bed comfortable and adjust the covers to be the right temperature. Take a leisurely bath in the evening with lavender and some bath salts containing magnesium. If possible, aim for at least 8 hours every night.
Reduce stress levels
Many of us reach for sugary treats when we feel stressed and there is a good reason for this. Sugar boosts our dopamine levels, a hormone involved in our feelings of reward and motivation. In fact, brain scans show that sugar ‘lights up’ or activates the same parts of the brain as recreational drugs.
The trouble is that the feeling is not sustained, and we crave more and more sugar with negative effects on our health and energy levels.
The good news is that there are alternative ways to handle your stress. One is to take a few moments out and focus on your breathing. When we’re stressed, we shallow breathe – instead taking long, slower breaths help your body to calm down. Yoga is particularly helpful in rebalancing stress levels, reducing cortisol levels (a stress hormone). It helps by improving blood pressure and reducing resting heart rate. Also consider meditation; there are lots of resources online (such as Headspace) or you may find groups or classes locally.
Get more exercise
After exercise, we tend to feel more victorious and positive about working towards our goals, meaning we won’t want to get home and undo our hard work. Exercise inspires us to be healthier and changes our behavior towards sugar-laden food. The more you exercise, the more you’ll feel like this, meaning you’ll be reducing your sugar consumption with ease.
If you like the community spirit then Park runs might be worth checking out locally. Taking place across the UK every Saturday morning, you can walk, jog or run a 5km circuit with hundreds of others. And if 5k seems impossible now, try downloading the ‘couch to 5k app’ – with small progress over a period of time, what once felt impossible can become a reality.
Take the quiz
So, how sweet are you? Take our free Sugar Quiz to see how well you’re doing with your sugar cravings by clicking on the link below…