I’m overweight, and I constantly think about snacking. When I open a packet of cookies or a chocolate bar, I can’t just eat one or a piece; I have to devour the whole thing. Afterwards I feel disgusted with myself, but I can’t stop.
Believe me, you are not alone. Many people suffer from the ill effects of excess sugar consumption. Not only does it lead to weight gain, but it can seriously affect our health. It’s now widely accepted that sugar can even be addictive. This is because sugar rewards the pleasure centres of the brain and some people can crave that sensation, finding it hard to break the cycle because it gives them a temporary mood boost. This is usually followed by a crashing ‘sugar low’, prompting those hankerings you mention.
There are a number of things you can do to try to wean yourself off excessive sugar consumption.
Start by clearing out your cupboards of the ‘treats’ and stop buying them. I know it sounds like simple logic, but you’d be surprised by how much the subconscious guides your food buying habits. Replace the processed refined sugar found in the sugary treats you describe being hooked to with small portions of fruit when a craving strikes. Having a variety of fruits prepared and looking visually appealing will help you to avoid reaching for the chocolate bars, cookie jar or sodas. Opt for lower-sugar fruits such as berries and citrus and mix in some raw veg for an extra boost.
Focus on preparing healthy meals from scratch, so that you can avoid all of those ‘hidden’ sugars found in processed foods. Always take the time to read labels; sugar can be hiding in all manner of products.
It’s vital to also give yourself time to adjust. Habits are not broken overnight, in fact they often take over 30 days to break, so it’s important to accept this and also accept that you are likely to have some slip-ups along the way. If this does happen, I think it’s important not to be ‘disgusted’ with yourself. When you’re trying to make changes, positivity and resilience are important. Pick yourself up and keep going if you do give in, because this is about the long-term health benefits you will gain when you learn to moderate your sugar intake.
One note of caution – don’t replace sugar with artificial sweeteners. These can be just as bad and prompt those pleasure centres in a similar way, preserving a sweet tooth rather than curing it.