Five easy ways to cut back on sugar - and still stay sweet
1. KNOW your triggers:
One big cornerstone of the Shrinkology approach is awareness. We make more than 200 decisions about food every single day so most of us sleep walk through a rolling succession of snacks and meals. But the best sugar-busting starting point is to work out your personal sugar-craving triggers. The scientifically proven best way to do this is using a food and mood diary which allows you to link a craving to some kind of emotional or psychological state such as stress, boredom, or loneliness. Just jot down (in a book or on your phone) every time you put anything in your mouth, what it is and your mood/feelings at the time. It won’t be long before you see patterns starting to emerge. Cravings can just as easily be linked to more positive feelings such as excitement, celebration and relaxation. It is only when you identify the feelings and thoughts triggering your sugar cravings that you can take steps to regain control.
2. DON’T fall back on artificial sweeteners:
Large-scale research has shown a correlation between rates of obesity and type 2 diabetes and the rise in artificial sweetener use. Of course, we can’t infer causation from these studies, but we do know from more experimental research that sweeteners trick our brains into thinking that energy dense (high calorie) foods are on their way and so instigate the cascade of chemical processes to handle that. When the body’s expectation for sugar isn’t met, all you’re left with is cravings for the sweet stuff. Often it’s better to go with a ‘little of what you fancy’ to avoid a vicious cycle of cravings.
3. RETRAIN your taste buds:
Our food wasn’t always so sweet. One major problem at the moment isn’t so much the cookies, cakes and milkshakes (although there’s no doubt these add to the overall tidal wave of obesity we’re experiencing) but that our basic foods have higher sugar, salt and additive content. It extends shelf life, lowers costs, and boosts sales, so the big food companies have a large burden of responsibility to shoulder for this. But it’s up to all of us to chose healthier versions of our staples.
It’s simple – just start (slowly) to retain your taste buds by first cutting down on added sugar and then think twice about eating anything you suspect might outlive your granny. Once your taste buds no longer expect a daily blast of sugar or sweeteners, they adjust their calibration and you’ll find even vegetables start to seem sweet. There is a healthy resurgence in buying local and often – if you can, choose the least processed foods you can find.
4. ENJOY the odd sugary treat mindfully:
We know that restricting foods simply makes them even more desirable and increases our preoccupation with sugary snacks. So, don’t ‘ban’ any foods at all – sugar is not a demon food and can be enjoyed on occasion. When you do chose something indulgent make a point of eating it mindfully – take your time to savour each bite and slow the whole process down. Mindful eating is a powerful tool to reduce cravings and help maintain a stable and healthy weight.
5. DO the broccoli test:
One simple and effective way to find out if your body actually needs fuel and isn’t just responding to a fleeting craving, is the broccoli test. When you next feel the desire to reach for a sweet snack, imagine the food is a plate of broccoli. Now, do you still feel the urge to eat? If not, perhaps you’re not physically hungry. For this test to work you do not need to have broccoli or eat it. This is a psychological exercise and an effective way to establish whether the craving you’re experiencing is physiological hunger or a reaction to a habitual, emotional, contextual or psychological trigger.