Recent studies are quick to compare sugar’s affect on the brain to heroin, nicotine and alcohol use. The word ADDICTION is being used to describe the CRAVINGS one may have with sugar consumption, as opposed to the softer and more descriptive word as I see it, HABIT. The word "habit" seems to offer the opportunity for us to take responsibility for our behaviors. It implies we can change if we are willing and able by creating strategies to help ourselves walk away from the habit of consuming too much sugar whether it be in the form of soda, cake or cookies, or in the less obvious processed foods like spaghetti sauce and crackers.
Calling sugar an "addictive" substance is alarming. My concern is this allows for a sense of defeat, validation for it, and excuses to continue caving to the craving and hitting the Oreos, or fill in your blank for whatever food or drink drives this example for you, and then, possibly the remorse of wishing you didn't.
I want to acknowledge that your cravings are real. I am not denying that you may feel out of control sometimes. In return, I would ask that you acknowledge that you know what to do to break this cycle. There are suggested action steps below to help. In addition, I offer the idea that if you lay off the sugar for a few days, your cravings will subside.
Whether you believe sugar is addictive or not will be dictated by a few factors, and two are most significant:
1) Your past experiences with sugar
Your feelings are unique and built upon your life experiences. If you associate drinking a soda with happy childhood memory that made you feel good; like going to the park with your dad, then your neurotransmitters, or your "happy chemicals" have built those connections. Coke will play on that memory in their ads, and seeing a Coke for the sake of this example, will be your cue and you will find yourself wanting a Coke.
2) Your present consumption of sugar both measured in quantity and frequency
If you have created the vicious cycle for yourself consuming sugar laden processed food, then you know it tastes good, it makes you happy, and then you crave it again. Sugar is in more than the obvious foods such as in kids breakfast cereal, soda, candy, cakes or cookies. It can be less obvious and in most processed foods such as spaghetti sauce, crackers, sugary "yogurts", trail mix, added to dried fruits, granola bars, and then starches such as white bread, pasta and so on, break down into sugar. The list goes on.
When you consume sugar (a class of molecules called carbohydrates), your taste receptors are activated and the signal goes to the brain and activates the brain’s reward system. Dopamine is a part of this reward system and associated with our food cues. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter and important chemical in your brain that is released when you consume sugar, and connects to the receptors on your brain.
With a bite of sugary food, your brain says Yummy! Yippee! Do I want to do that again? YES!!!!!!! Reward. It is interesting to note that dopamine is also released with sexual behavior, socializing and with drug use. It makes us feel good! Some studies show, for example, that the more sex you have, the more you will want. That makes sense with what we know about dopamine. Experience, once again, being a significant piece of the puzzle.
The reason studies are suggesting that sugar has addictive qualities is that dopamine is also released with heroin, nicotine or alcohol. Although with drugs, the dopamine release goes into overdrive and the response is much more violent and volatile than with sugar and creating addiction and out of control behaviors and subtle cues that make an addict go searching for more drugs; sugar is the one "food" that science has found to be associated with dopamine release with the consistent reward response.
Compare sugar to the consumption of a healthy balanced meal. The healthy meal may increase dopamine levels at first, but it will balance out over time which explains a little about why we get bored with the same foods. If you rarely eat sugar or do not eat much at a time, the affect of dopamine is like eating that balanced meal.
However, if you consume sugar often or in large quantities, you are creating the desire to have more because with sugar consumption, the dopamine levels do not balance out and it continues to feel rewarding. Because sugar is in so many processed foods, you may be consuming more sugar than you think and that keeps the vicious sugar craving cycle alive and well. With more sugar consumption, we are essentially developing a tolerance to it, and want more and more and more. Those are those cravings that you just cannot seem to escape!
Action steps to break your sugar cravings:
1) Know what you are eating
3) Get plenty of rest. Studies indicate that sleep deprivation helps us hold onto extra weight
Know that if you can get one day under your belt without consuming any added sugars, you are well on your way. That is one more day than yesterday. Do it again on day two, and then three. After that, you will already have the hang of it. If you feel a sweet tooth coming on, choose what you will have and limit the amount. You have full control when you know that you do.
Let me hear from you on FB our comment on my blog. I want to know if you are going to try this for a few days and if you find it is working for you. I can offer suggestions if you like. Another option is to call or e-mail me to schedule a coaching session if you would like help finding your way to conquer your cravings. Go to my Inspiring Services page and fill in your contact information.
“We need dirt,” he said. “What? Why do we need dirt?” I asked. My 13 year old son replied, “We need dirt for our backyard so I can make (bicycle) jumps.” Ohhhhh….I thought as I now understood where he was coming from. I then said, “Sure, we can look at that.”
Although I decided to make the calls and investigate bringing in dirt, I was mostly thinking, “That’s my guy…keeps my hopping, never a dull moment, and man… that child likes to spend some money!…On dirt this time! I think I will try and discourage him.” There I am…the supportive mom.
A couple of weeks roll by and he mentions it again. My husband and son go outside to look at the greenbelt behind our house. It is full of trees and needs to be cleaned out. They were discussing and designing where the dirt should go. I am still thinking… “Really…dirt?”
One of the things I consistently teach is that we have everything we need right now to take the next step in the direction we want to go. We allow inevitable challenges and obstacles to become the reasons of why we don’t finish something (yet) and accomplish little or nothing. Many times these “obstacles” are nothing more than a thought we allowed ourselves to think. A reason or excuse of why we haven’t done something. That happens sometimes, doesn’t it?
Rather than waiting on dirt, waiting on me to visit Home Depot and asking for the dirt guy list of numbers, calling the dirt people, getting the estimate on dirt, who is delivering it? Really? I really do not want to spend my money on dirt.
In the meantime, my son and his friend got to work. With our shovel, ax, hoe and their desire for and willingness to work to create bike ramps; they cleared a path in the greenbelt. They collected sticks and branches that had fallen from trees and piled them horizontally in one nice stack until it reached a reasonable height for a ramp. They found a piece of plywood and angled that plywood on that pile of branches. In another spot, about 15 feet in front of that, they found some large stones (probably from my garden), and used a smaller piece of plywood to create the first and smaller ramp.
I was so proud of them. They used the resources they had, worked for what they wanted and created some jumps! Free! Complete! Now they can enjoy their jumps and feel amazing for making it happen; the reward for their efforts. Not to mention, saving the mother her time and money.
Imagination. Creation. Accomplishment. Achievement. Success. These things can be measured in many ways. Some of those measures are not what you would normally think of. Those measures are that you kept your commitment to yourself, you stayed the course, you created your reality and did not allow something you made up in your head, a thought, keep you from doing what you wanted to do.
You know what you need to do. Take that step, then the next, and the next. Take one day at a time, and get one in a row, then two and so on. Control what you can and understand that you can’t always control outside factors, yet you can control what you do to move forward. Most importantly you can control your thoughts. You may have heard the saying that if you believe that you can’t, then you are right. Stay peaceful, stay on track, take a deep breath and look at your choices when a challenge arises. What will you choose? Chip away. You can. Build your ramps. Those will take you where you want to go.
The real you is waiting. You know you are in there! You know how good it feels when you are doing your best, feeling purposeful and when everything is clicking in your life. Keep that feeling, self awareness, joy, happiness and connectedness by practicing these 5 ACTIONS to the REAL YOU.
Take time to stay in love, in kindness, in prayer, in gratitude and on your path. We all benefit from this.
Not everybody practices the rituals of the Lenten season. Lent is observed by catholics and many Christians, and is a time to reflect and make positive changes in their life for the better; through prayer, fasting and charity. Lent means "spring" or "new birth."
It is so often that we “give up” something for the 40 days between Ash Wednesday and Holy Thursday, and then we go back to the same routine.
Many people during the spring season engage in the same behaviors as those observing Lent, or vice versa. Many of us make springtime goals to be better, more organized, nicer to to our families, lose some weight, start an exercise program, stop drinking coffee, no more wine, no bread...essentially “give something up”. The desire to make yourself better and practice more control of your choices is good. Writing down the necessary action steps for success and having your response prepared when obstacles occur; even better.
Create a new habit:
I have been writing about habits and behavior change since 2008, and believe that habits dictate most of what we do. Growing up with a father that touted repeatedly “30 days to make or break a habit”, sinks in over time. Change requires willingness to change, self discipline and simple, achievable steps. We tend to take extreme paths that are not sustainable. We fast, cleanse, and diet in preparation of summer, or after the holidays. The energy, time and money it takes us to get our brains wrapped around starting a “new program”, starting, achieving the goal and then somehow coming full circle is the definition of insanity. You may have heard that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.
Doing things repeatedly the same time everyday helps create a habit. If you typically grab a diet soda in the afternoon, replace that with green tea. If you are not drinking enough water, then find a time that you will add 8 oz. to your day, if you are drinking too much coffee, then drink one less each day this week and go from there. If you have been enjoying a high calorie snack in the afternoons, replace that with a healthier choice, like an apple. You might discover these actions are more your habit or routine rather than your true desire to have whatever it is. Use Lent or spring as the time to create those new habits that will last a lifetime.
Change one thing at a time, be specific with your goal, make it measurable, achievable, realistic, and time bound. That is a S.M.A.R.T goal. It is formed in the positive frame of what you will do, not what you won’t do; i.e., not what you are “giving up”. Here are some of examples of S.M.A.R.T goals:
Delay immediate gratification:
I agree it is way more exciting to see 5+ pounds come off in one week! It is not way more exciting to hear about the toll that takes on your physical body, body chemistry and organs…yo-yo dieting is not helpful. It is harmful; both physically and mentally. Changing one thing at a time may take more time for results, but the results will show up. The benefits of your achievement go far beyond the physical.
The “I can’t have that” extreme diet plan takes the fun out of dining with friends and not allowing yourself to enjoy one glass of wine or one piece of bread with your healthy meal. One piece of bread or one glass of wine, paints a picture of moderation. One of anything, and only sometimes (depending what it is), is the right practice. It is a good approach for all of us; (one cup of coffee (not 3), one glass of wine (not two or three), 6 baby carrots (not chips-except at Friday lunch, for example). Life is about choices. We cannot have everything all of the time, and we certainly should enjoy the good times, and practice moderation, and moderation in moderation at times.
So, if you are planning for your spring renewal, whether through Lent or in your regular spring ritual, play for life this time. Take baby steps and make it sustainable. Ultimately, the picture is bigger than your summer body. It is truly about your health and wellness....and of course, your summer body;), that lasts through the seasons!
See more of my blogs on this topic for encouragement. Ready for change? Dive in!
The overarching umbrella to all other things are principles. Living by principles tells the story of who you are. It certainly feeds our emotional, intellectual needs and even our spiritual needs. It affects our relationships for better or for worse. It is the very soul and conscience of who you are and who you want to be. The peaceful feeling, knowingness and energy you will have tells you that you are living right by your principles.
Making decisions based on correct principles cultivates wisdom, integrity, trust, sincerity, honesty, confidence, perseverance and dependability. All good things. We are all busy, and have life demands, circumstances and situations that test us. Reacting to those situations isn’t peaceful. Living and practicing a principled centered life is essentially “doing the right thing”…and we all know that is sometimes the hardest thing to do. Here are some great reasons to stay on track and live right.
10 Benefits of Living a Principle Centered Life:
10 Actions to Peace:
Have you ever asked yourself, “Why is it so easy to start a bad habit and more difficult to stop one?” You are not alone, and actually, you shouldn’t be alone. Evidence shows that having a buddy to engage with and hold you accountable for health, nutrition and fitness habits and goals is helpful.
Over the holidays I had been contemplating that my one glass of wine almost every night was easily turning into two. One, while I was cooking dinner, and two when my children started driving me crazy (in a good way of course!); God love them. Because I am a rule follower, most of the time, I understand the moderate alcohol consumption rules according to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, is up to 1 drink per day for women and up to 2 drinks per day for men. In addition to that rule, it is not recommended to begin drinking if you do not already for the potential health benefits. On the other side of that coin is the potential increased risk of breast cancer among other less than appealing potential things.
At a Christmas dinner party in December 2012, my friend, Jennifer, said she felt she was drinking way too much wine over the holidays and that in January she was going to dry out. I was thinking the same thing. However, I was already half way through January keeping my same habits until I spoke with another friend, Leah, that was “on the wagon” with Jen for the month of January. KABAM!!! The buddy system! That was exactly what I needed to hear!
My two friends decided together that they were not going to drink at all for the month of January and they hadn’t! I told Leah I wanted in on their game, which of course for me was way easier since there were only two weeks left in January. Less suffering! Yea!
In conversation, Leah said she would resume after January, drinking only on Fridays and Saturdays and her major boundary was to have one glass only. She noticed her trigger to pouring herself a glass of wine was when she started cooking dinner at night (Oh my gosh! Me too!), and she replaced that with a glass of water with lemon for the sake of ritual (I chose green tea). She reported that Jen was having equal success with no alcohol in January.
I improvised and made my own rules for my January two weeks of pain. I decided that I would not drink at all Sunday through Thursday and I could have one glass of wine on Friday and one on Saturday. I have had great success. The fact that I had been thinking about reducing my wine intake in combination with having two other friends doing what I wanted to accomplish, pushed me over the edge to achieve. There is something to the buddy system, and these two friends live in another city! I texted Leah everyday, “One day down”, “two days down”...and so on. For me it was the idea that I was not alone and it provided a cheering section.
As I continue my new good habit, I have allowed myself some normalcy and flexibility here. There have been occasions where I am invited to grab a drink after work. My goal was for my new normal to be not drinking during the week.
There are other benefits that come with this healthier habit:
What healthy habit do you want to work on? Consider the buddy system; grab a buddy, make it fun and achievable!
My passion and purpose is helping people reach their full potential and master their wellbeing.
Disclosure: Always consult with your physician or other qualified health care provider before beginning any diet or exercise program and ask whether you are healthy enough to engage in a diet and exercise program. Never disregard, avoid or delay in obtaining medical advice from your doctor or other qualified health care provider concerning your overall health and wellness, including your physical, mental and emotional wellbeing. If you have or suspect that you have a medical problem or condition, please contact a qualified health care professional immediately. It is your choice to follow the suggestions, opinions and advice given by a Health Inspires wellness coach.