Sugar makes us feel good, it gives us the boost we need when we are feeling down. The worst part about this is that sugar is addictive. In this article from Patrick Holford, we get a closer look at how we can stop the sugar habit.
Kicking the Sugar Habit
In case you hadn’t noticed, sugar is addictive and if you’ve tried to eat less, but failed, and keep finding your hand gravitating towards sweets you are probably hooked.
There are very clear biological reasons for this. Sugars stimulate the dopamine pathways in the brain that make you feel good, and also give serotonin a boost if you are feeling low – which is a trigger for eating something sweet in many people.
Also, a dip in your blood sugar, either because you haven’t eaten anything for a while, or as a ‘rebound’ low from your body over-producing insulin after a carb snack or meal, can trigger an insatiable appetite for something sweet. Either way, you end up in the same place – craving sugar.
I recommend following my low GL diet strictly which is explained in full in my GL Diet Bible, with more recipes and the basis ‘rules’ in the GL Diet Cookbook. This really helps to even out your blood sugar, which means no dips, which means less craving. At a seminar a few years ago I asked the audience ‘has anyone been on my low GL diet?’ Various people raised their hands and I asked them how much had they lost. “14 pounds” “28 pounds” “30 pounds” they said. Then one lady said “Nothing” (she looked slim) “I am a sugar addict and have been for more than 10 years. After 10 days, for the first time, I wasn’t craving.” She said.
So, the first step is follow my low GL diet – precisely. You might also want to try the Burn Fat Fast Alternate Day Low-GL. Some people report that this has really helped them to understand the difference between ‘hungry’ and ‘tired’. Dr Ellie Dow said “The alternate day fast also really helps me understand why I eat. Now I know I would often eat for fatigue. I can differentiate between eating for physical hunger while I was previously eating when mentally fatigued.”
Supplement chromium with cinnamon. Chromium makes the insulin-receptor work better. Cinnamon also helps stabilise blood sugar, which reduces craving. But you need the right dose. Most people respond to 400mcg of chromium plus the equivalent of 3 grams of cinnamon (Cinnulin®, which is a 20:1 concentrated extract of cinnamon, so 150mg is the equivalent of 3 grams, which is about half a teaspoonful.)Chromium comes in 200mcg strength, sometimes with Cinnulin. Take one, twice a day, before your top craving times. If you snack on sweets in the morning take it with breakfast. If in the evening, take it with dinner. You don’t have to take chromium with a meal. It is easily absorbed.
Supplement amino acids. Now, you won’t need to do this for long, for most people 2 to 4 weeks suffices. The two key amino acids are tryptophan (or 5-HTP) and tyrosine.
If you crave something sweet when you are feeling low this is an indication you may be low in serotonin, the neurotransmitter associated with mood, and made from tryptophan or directly from 5-hydroxytryptophan (5-HTP). You need 100 – 200mg a day.
If you feel like your get up and go has got up and gone and you crave or use sugar when feeling tired then you may be low in the stimulating neurotransmitters dopamine, adrenalin and noradrenalin. These are all made from tyrosine. You need 1,000 to 2,000mg a day for an effect. This is best taken twice a day, morning and midday, away from food, or 15 minutes before. Caffeine and stress also deplete these.
Also helpful are various co-factor nutrients including B vitamins, vitamin C and zinc, usually provided in a high strength multivitamin. You can get these amino acids individually or look for a formula designed to support good mood, containing them all. For many people 2 to 4 weeks taking amino acids is enough to help restore deficiencies, provided a person improves their diet, reduces stimulants and is not stressed out.
Find alternatives. Hardliners would say ‘no sugar’ – but the reality is we all like the taste of something sweet. My view is that it is better to wean yourself off the level of sweetness of a food. For example, if you are used to 1 teaspoon of sugar in your tea, have a half teaspoon. If you drink juice neat, try with half water instead.
By switching to sugars that taste sweet, but don’t affect blood sugar that much, you have the double benefit of less overall sugar, but much less overall effect. Of course, in the first few days your body fights back and you may feel mentally foggy and a bit listless. These sugar withdrawal effects rarely last more than one to three days.The best sugars in this regard are xylitol, agave syrup and stevia, although stevia has a weird aftertaste so not so many people stick with it. Apparently coconut palm sugar has a low GL but I am suspicious about this. There’s only one GI/GL analysis so far, from the Philippines, who have a vested interest in selling it. I am waiting for independent verification. It certainly tastes good.
If you are used to eating sweets maybe find something with less sugar. Look for bars, for example, that don’t use dates, raisins or sugar in their top three ingredients. Raspberry nut bars are quite good for GL. I sometimes munch dark chocolate with some peanuts. Even better would be to snack on berries, cherries or plums, all high in GL. Or have a slice of low GL bread or toast, with a nut butter and a tiny spread of sugar-free jam. If/when you eat chocolate go for the strongest dark stuff and have with some nuts since carbs plus protein means more stable blood sugar and less sugar cravings. Ration yourself to a third of a bar, or share half with your partner and put the rest a long way away!
Drink water and have a low GL snack. Whenever you find yourself dreaming of something sweet first have a glass of water, then have a protein/carb snack as I specify in all my GL books. Then see where you are at. The craving may have subsided.
What are you really lacking? When you crave something sweet it is good to check in with yourself and ask what are you really lacking, craving or missing? Just close your eyes for a minute and pose this question. You may find you need to sleep, or are tired, or upset about something, or even need a cuddle, in which case is there a cat nearby, if not your partner! If you are upset about something how can you attain peace? An option is to go for a walk outside, which often helps you think things through, then have a real meal first. You may find your craving subsides.
These are my favourite six steps to lessen cravings. Practice them for a month and you may find you are out of the grip of the evil white powder!