By Sarah O'Neill, Feb 26 2018 11:38AM
Women's Health Magazine asked me to come up with 5 research-based life hacks to help readers quit sugar - a really common struggle for so many of us. Here are my top tips (and an unhelpfully delicious looking platter of cupcakes....):
1. EAT BEFORE YOU FEEL TOO HUNGRY
The old adage about eating little and often definitely applies if you want to quit sugar. Leaving large gaps between meals or snacks can cause blood sugar levels to dip, meaning you’re more likely to reach for a pick-me-up. Don’t leave more than 3-4 hours between meals/snacks and try to include protein which is more filling.
Life hack – COME PREPARED. Our circadian rhythms mean we have an energy slump around 430pm – prime vending machine time. Come prepared with a snack box to work (or one for am one for pm) so you have planned for this dip with a healthy offering such as hummus and crudités or a hard-boiled egg with some spinach and tomatoes – protein rich and healthy to boot.
2. PLAN YOUR TV SNACKS!
A 2013 study looking at snack choices and timings amongst teenagers, found that sweet snacks were mostly likely to be consumed whilst watching TV. After a busy day this can be ‘treat’ time, so if you’re an evening grazer bring a bowl of healthy snacks such as crudités to chomp on during your favourite shows.
Better still, try to combat your grazing. A 2016 study by the government’s Behavioural Insights Team showed that people consume on average 50% more calories than they realise every day, the majority of which, they concluded, comes from snacking. Cleaning your teeth once dinner is over is an easy way to signal the end of eating, or find something else to do with your hands whilst watching TV… like knitting! 😊
3. HIT THE GYM
If sugar addiction is a psychological disorder, then mental health strategies can be employed to combat it. A 2017 meta-analysis found that moderate exercise can combat physiological imbalances created by such disorders. Exercise endorphins can replace the need for sugar to hit those ‘reward’ centres.’
4. DITCH THE DIET DRINKS
We often think having a DC is a healthy choice, but in fact your diet drink consumption could be exacerbating your sugar cravings. A 2010 meta analysis ‘Gain weight by ‘going diet’’ showed that various research has confirmed that diet drinks may in fact increase your cravings for sugar, by not satisfying the ‘reward centres’ in the way a sugary drink might, meaning you reach for additional sugar; plus the sweet taste of artificial sweeteners encourages sugar craving and dependence.
Lifehack: A fizzy drink can feel like a ‘treat’ – try a glass of San Pellegrino with fresh mint or lime in a wine glass so you feel like you’re having a ‘grown up drink’.
5. RE-TRAIN YOUR BRAIN…
The reason diets don’t work is that we feel resentful and that we are ‘missing out’. Sugar is seen as a reward, and so avoiding it is a punishment. Shift that internal dialogue from ‘I wish I could eat that [cake/biscuit/sweets] but I want to lose weight’…to ‘I care about my body and I am proud that I’m loving myself by not putting junk in it. I have the strength and foresight to know that this isn’t the optimal way to fuel myself’. Changing the way you THINK about sugar is 90% of the battle.
Grenard et al. (2013) Sweetened drink and snacking cues in adolescents: a study using ecological momentary assessment.
Michael Hallsoworth (2016) Counting Calories: A new report from BIT on the problems with official statistics on calorie intake, and how they can be solved
Codella et al (2017) Sugars, exercise and health
Qing Yang (2010) Gain weight by “going diet?” Artificial sweeteners and the neurobiology of sugar cravings Neuroscience2010