Sugar is bad for us. Fact. Research tells us that sugar causes serious illnesses such as heart disease, diabetes, stoke and contributes to some cancers. It also increases our risk of kidney disease. Sugar is responsible for problems with memory and cognitive functioning, and has been linked to dementia and depression. Too much affects our hormones, our skin and rots our teeth.
So, how do we avoid over- indulging? Just how can we manage those cravings? Read on to discover some innovative tips to help you take control and stop you consuming too much sugar this holiday season.
ONE – Educate yourself – get savvy
There is no excuse these days for ignorance. We all have to take 100% responsibility for ourselves and our health. There is a wealth of information out there available to all of us and the internet makes this so easy to access. Whilst there is some contradictory research, you don’t need a degree in nutrition to establish the facts. The common denominator in the top four most serious illnesses in the western world is sugar. The steady growth of these illnesses over the past 50 years can also be linked to sugar consumption. It’s no surprise that this corresponds to an increase in processed and convenience foods.
Two – Check packaging on processed foods
Get into the habit of reading the small print on food labels. Sugar comes in all different guises. Sugar is added to foods to make what would otherwise be bland more palatable. Some foods, such as savoury items may at first glance seem ok, however it may surprise you that two wholemeal slices of bread contains ten teaspoons of sugar!
Be aware that food companies are very clever at marketing and this is no different on the labelling. There are a number of different names for sugar: Sucrose, Fructose, Glucose, Lactose and Maltose are the most common. Sucrose is the kind you find in the bags on the shelf which comes from sugarcane. Other names for sugar are Galactose and Xylose.
Three – Do not buy sweet sugary foods – look for alternatives
If possible buy whole foods and cook from scratch. Now this may sound like too much hard work, especially when you are at work all day and you’re too tired to cook when you come home. Or, you may not think you can cook. There are a number of easy to follow cook books on the market and there are even a few home delivery companies that have taken out the thinking and stress of cooking by preparing everything for you – the ingredients and the recipe.
Try cooking in batches and freeze portion sizes. Or pack a salad with some nuts into a Mason jar and have handy in the fridge or take to work. Have simple healthy snacks available at all times such as nuts and seeds, berries (fresh or dried) or olives. This will prevent you from reaching for sugary snacks.
Educate yourself on sweet alternatives such as dates and honey, or sweet vegetables such as carrots, beetroot and sweet potato. Experiment adding these to foods instead of sugar.
Four – Do not fall for clever marketing
Be careful not to fall for clever marketing techniques that advertise ‘low sugar’. These products are likely to have added alternatives such as aspartame which are toxic to the body. They may also have increased amounts of salt or chemicals which have other harmful effects on the body. Also, be aware that sugar comes in all manner of names and guises so although it may not say sugar on the label, it may still contain high sugars in other forms. Know that sugar is added to make the food more palatable, so where the product is advertised as being low in fat, it is likely to have more refined sugar added.
Five – Never shop when hungry
This is a classic but very good advice. Shopping when hungry will find you putting more items into your basket and more to the point, you will find more unhealthy items in there too. There is a psychology behind this. The mind and the body systems work together, decide you are hungry and release certain hormones into your body. Your eyes will see foods on the shelves, transmit this image into your brain which signals to your body. Your body then releases the hormone Ghrelin and you will find your tummy rumbles, your mouth salivates, and all self-control goes out of the window.
Preparing a shopping list for items you need and making sure you eat before you shop will ensure you do buy only what you need and make much better healthy choices. Bonus – this could save you some pennies too!
Six – Keep a food diary, record times, feelings, emotions, how you felt before food/after food, record WHY you’re eating
Try keeping a food diary for at least 30 days. Record what you eat and what time of the day. Write down why you ate. This may sound silly, you always eat because you’re hungry right? Well, if you start writing down why you ate, you may find that there are times that you ate for other reasons. For example, one lunchtime you may have just eaten because it is lunchtime and that’s just what you do. You may not have been particularly hungry, but you ate at that time because it’s the time allotted for eating lunch and you know you won’t be able to eat anything until you get home later in the day. Make sense?
Also write down how you felt before eating and afterwards. For example, you may have felt really hungry but then not satisfied after eating. You may have felt so full you couldn’t move, or you may have felt guilty because you did have that slice of cake.
It’s very important to understand the feelings and emotions around eating. Many of us do eat to satisfy our emotions and help us to feel better. We can associate feelings to eating such as relaxation or contentment.
You may also wish to record what you are drinking as well and not just alcoholic drinks. Coffee and tea can affect our emotions due to the amount of caffeine flooding our body, stimulating our adrenals. Juices, fresh and concentrate can also be very high in sugar causing a spike in our blood sugars.
Alcohol is also full of sugar, so note down how much you are drinking and the times of the day.
Keeping this diary over 30 days will help you to see patterns of behaviours and then make the changes required. Changing your patterns and mindset will help you to form new, healthy habits.
Seven – Set an intention
Be strong. Set an intention every day that you are going to eat healthy foods. Look at yourself in the mirror in the morning and tell yourself that you are beautiful, that you respect your body and you will only put foods into your body that will keep it healthy. The more you do this, the more this will become a habit and will sink into your subconscious mind.
Eight – If going to a party, eat before you go so you are not hungry on arrival
Eating healthy food before you go to a party will limit your desire to eat sugary unhealthy foods. You could still have a few nibbles, but you are more likely to choose healthy options such as carrot or celery sticks because your body will be satiated. If you do choose to have a sweet or perhaps some chocolate treats, you are likely to have much less, again because your body is satiated. Just be careful not to drink too much!
Nine – Count to 10, Decide if you are hungry or not – you may be thirsty. If hungry choose something healthy rather than sugary and see if that fills you
Often when we think we are hungry, we’re not. It is not uncommon to confuse the feelings of hunger and thirst, so before you reach out for the closest snack, take a step back, slowly count to ten. If you still have the feeling, drink a glass of water and then count to ten again. If the feeling is still there, then it is likely that you are hungry so make a conscious decision to have some healthy food. If the feeling is gone, then you were not hungry in the first place.
Ten – Eat mindfully
Our busy lives often dictate to us when we can eat. Break times and lunch times are often set at work or we just keep working while we’re eating and not taking a proper break. All of this interferes with our natural body systems.
Be strict with yourself and with your workplace. You are entitled to a proper break. Step away from your desk or work station. Make the time to eat and only eat. Don’t be tempted to do anything else while eating. Eat every mouthful consciously. Notice what you are putting in your mouth, take your time and chew thoroughly. Notice the taste and the texture in your mouth. Think about why you’re eating, what you’re feeling.
Just following these ten top tips will help you to become more aware of what you are eating and make healthy choices. If you find you are still struggling then, you may wish to try hypnosis which will support your subconscious mind to change the way it thinks about sugary food, creating new healthy habits.
Written by Jacqueline Carson, Clinical Hypnotherapist and founder of The Sugar Addict Rescue System.