The picture for this blog is my husbands bedside table: couple of books, a pen, and a Purdy’s chocolate Santa. Nothing that unusual I suppose except we are now past the next dreaded holiday for the chocoholic, that being Valentines Day…AND THAT CHOCOLATE SANTA REMAINS RIGHT WHERE I PUT IT ON BOXING DAY!! Forgotten and ignored (except by moi of course). As long as that Santa stays on HIS side of the room UNOPENED then it is relatively safe from me.
What is it about chocolate and sweets that makes them so irresistible to some people? With my daughter away I currently live in a home dominated by males and never do I hear the wail ‘Ohhhh I need chocolate!!’…except when it escapes my lips. From my experience, and this is a purely unscientific observation, the craving for this particular carb seems to afflict more women than men.
I truly believe that we all exist on a teeter-totter type continuum in terms of sugar and sweet cravings. Some people have no desire for sweets (that would be my husband…level 0.5 ) and others peak at level 10. Most of us are probably somewhere in between. I would put myself at 6.5. What I find is that if I don’t start eating sugar I am ok, however once that drug (and many experts do classify sugar as a drug) hits my body/bloodstream/brain…the craving for more starts.
There are so many theories behind the cause of this, just google ‘sugar addiction’ and the results are endless and alarming to say the least. One theory I read that I found interesting in terms of sugar addiction (and in this case women) comes from Dr. Mariam Asuku of Toronto. She is among many who believe that this addiction is related to levels of neurotransmitters and receptors in our brain. Chocolate increases the levels of the ‘feel good’ neurotransmitter serotonin and many women experience lowered serotonin levels in the ‘pms’ stage of their menstrual cycle…and hence the craving for anything chocolate.
That is only one theory there are countless. There is a fascinating study though done by Dr. Serge Ahmed, a scientist with the University of Bordeaux in France which shows that when rats were given a choice of sugar or cocaine a whopping 94 percent of the rodents wanted sugar not cocaine! (I’m imagining a conversation between lab rats…’Algernon that lucky b*stard gets picked for the sugar/cocaine study and I get the Parkinsons!!’)
So that’s all great to ponder, but what can we do about it? Because of the awful effects that sugar can have on our bodies (insulin resistance, heart disease, type 11 diabetes, cancer, obesity…not to mention rotten teeth to name just a few in a very long list) we have to start somewhere. Personally I suggest for most people, start with ‘baby steps’. I think that when we put something in the ‘no fly’ zone it can make it all that more seductive and hard to resist. Below are some ideas that I’ve put together, both my own and from experts that may help in dealing with sugar cravings:
- Be aware of hidden sources of sugar, read labels. So called healthy foods like granola bars, instant oatmeal, breakfast cereal, yogurt to name a few, can be chock full of sugar
- Avoid processed foods, cook ‘clean’ whenever and as often as possible
- Reach for fruit; you’ll get fiber and nutrients and natural sweetness
- Get moving: go for a walk, take your mind off the food you are craving
- EAT REGULARLY. This helps to regulate your blood sugar and prevents the highs and lows that can make us yearn for sweets
- Boost your serotonin levels naturally by getting plenty of sleep, exercising regularly and enjoying a healthy diet
- Don’t have sugary foods/treats in your home, car or work place…if you can’t resist ’em don’t buy ’em!
- Drink lots of water: sometimes a craving for sugar is actually masking signs of dehydration
- Chew gum (sugar-free duh! :))
Do your best every day and don’t beat yourself up if you relapse. Some experts suggest going ‘cold turkey’ saying that after 48-72 hours once the drug, sugar, is out of our system we won’t crave it anymore. From speaking with several patients who have done this they report that this is true: after they get through the first rough bit (and many experienced side effects of withdrawal such as headaches and irritability) they no longer craved the stuff. Others suggest as I mentioned, the ‘baby steps’ approach. Really it has to be whatever works for you. Clearly though with all the research out there we HAVE to limit the amount of sugar we are putting into our mouths and the drive to do this HAS to come from our awareness of what this drug does to our bodies.
Oiy…and I just realized…Easter is just around the corner :(:(. I’m going to try if you’ll try ok?? Personally I’m going to take the baby-steps approach and my first steps are going to take me right upstairs to my husbands Santa and its going in my mouth…I MEANT THE GARBAGE…PROMISE 🙂
Yours in Health and Happiness,