Sweet “treats”, when they get out of control, are one of the most powerful ways to wreck your likelihood of reaching your fat loss goals. In this article, I’ll explain why – and I’ll follow up soon with over 20 tips on how to control your sweet tooth.
You Need Carbs – but Not Carbs From Simple Sugars
Fast food and processed food carbs offer convenience – and poor nutrition that’s sabotaging the willpower, health and dieting efforts of many Americans. There are alternatives, but most people aren’t educated about slow-carbs, and haven’t learned to incorporate them regularly into their diets.
Make sure you read our article on the slow-carbs. It may change your life, and will certainly change your physique if you incorporate its concepts into your lifestyle. Sugar (glucose) is necessary to the formation of body fat, so to reach your fat loss goals, it’s really helpful to understand more about how our bodies metabolize sugar.
Understanding Sugar In Our Bodies
Sugar makes you want sugar – especially when it’s consumed as simple carbohydrates (think baked goods, cola or candy) with no protein or fiber. You’ll get a short term energy boost which triggers endorphins and brain chemicals which are experienced as good feelings (think brain reward), followed by an immediate physical and emotional crash. The crash drives us to seek out more sugar, which leads to eating, snacking and “treats”, even if we’re not really hungry and don’t need the calories. And those extra calories get stored as fat – the body does that with any sugar it gets when it has no immediate need for the energy.
That spike of feeling good followed by a slump of feeling tired actually gives sugar an addictive aspect. Eating sugar makes us want more sugar – over time, our brains actually become addicted to the natural opioids that are triggered by sugar consumption.
“Part of the reason it’s so hard to kick the habit is that over time our brains actually become addicted to the natural opioids that are triggered by sugar consumption. Much like the classic drugs of abuse such as cocaine, alcohol and nicotine, a diet loaded with sugar can generate excessive reward signals in the brain which can override one’s self-control and lead to addiction”.
– Dr. Frank Lipman
If you try to quit sugar “cold turkey”, the first two to three days will be the toughest, and you’ll get a real sense of how your body is being manipulated by this chemical reward system. It may be easier to taper down your sugar consumption over time. Like any other addictive substance, do what works best for you. I’ll give you some practical tips on reducing sugar cravings in my next article.
Sugar Consumption in America
Americans over-consume – averaging about 22 teaspoons of sugar per person daily. That’s over seventy pounds of sugar per person per year. The American Heart Association recommends limiting sugars to 6 teaspoons per day for women and 9 for men.
Prize-winning chef Jamie Oliver’s TED Talk about eating in America shares powerful stories from his anti-obesity project. If you’re a parent, you particularly need to know this information. If you don’t have time to watch the whole thing, try to find time to watch his visual display of the wheelbarrow of sugar that the average America child gets, just from sweetened milk in school. It’s in the two minutes from 12:10 to 14:10.
Psychological Aspects of Sugar in Our Diet
Psychologically, we have learned to associate sugar with treats and rewards – as a symbol of love and nurturance. Parents offer sweet treats as rewards for good behaviour, and romantic partners offer sweets as proof of affection. Sugar becomes a “comfort food”, and we learn to self-medicate with it to boost our mood. Try to be aware of your behaviour and associations around “treats.”
Sugars are Sneaky
Learn to recognize hidden sugars, if you want to reach your fat loss goals. Sugar is added to many processed foods, including breads, yogurts, juices and sauces. Sugar, corn syrup, and high fructose corn syrup are the worst health threats, but dextrose, sucrose, honey, molasses, turbinado sugar and brown sugar are still sugars.
In the book Salt Sugar Fat – How the Food Giants Hooked Us, author Michael Moss talks about how many breakfast cereals are over 50% sugar! Have a bowl of that, or feed it to your kids, and you’re set up to crave sugar all day. The one-trillion-dollar per year industry that produces processed and convenience foods knows this, and plans for it. They even know you may be trying to eat healthier, and will offer you any number of alternatives if you start shopping for them, but be careful – many of those are spiked with lots of sugar too, hidden under names we’re less familiar with. Some of them may sound healthier, like “high fructose corn syrup”. The industry spends a great deal to calculate the “bliss point” at which sugary foods entice us and our children most. If they can’t hook us with sugar, salt is usually the next unhealthy ingredient that gets pumped up.
Over the long term, learning to read a food nutrition label can save your health and that of your children. Come back soon to learn tips on how to deal with sugar cravings.