We’ve all been there. After a long day, you go home, slip into your comfy pants (the ones with the relaxed waistband) and turn the TV to your favorite binge-worthy channel or Netflix obsession of the week. Before sinking too deep into the couch, you make your way to the kitchen and fill a bowl of ice cream and cover it with your favorite toppings: chocolate sauce, M&Ms, and maybe even that leftover brownie for good measure. Now it’s back to the couch where you sink into the cushions and indulge in your first bite of decadence… and all the cares of the day seem to melt away. So, do you think you are eating too much sugar? Read on to learn ways to know if you're eating too much sugar.
“I just have a sweet tooth.”
There’s no shame in admitting you’ve been in this situation before. If you’re honest, you know how satisfying it is to curb a sweet tooth’s craving. In fact, in discussing sugar consumption, Dr. Serge Ahmed, an addiction research scientist in Bordeaux, France, once said that sugar “is much more rewarding and probably more addictive than intravenous cocaine.”
In the past, you may have blamed your sugar cravings on your “sweet tooth” or that you’re someone who just really likes your sweets. But you believe it’s mostly in your head. You can say, “no” if you actually want to, right? However, research has proven quite the opposite. A study published in 2007 by a team of researchers, including Dr. Ahmed, led to the previously mentioned conclusion: sugar is even more addicting than cocaine. Sugar generates a reward signal in your brain that can override your self-control mechanism. It truly is an addiction and not a silly notion made up in your mind. Let's make one thing perfectly clear:
Your sugar addiction is real.
So now that we both know the power of sugar, here are 5 ways to know if you’re eating too much sugar:
1. You’re repulsed by the thought of drinking “boring, old water.”
In a world of added sugar and artificial sweeteners, anything without flavor seems out of place. In addition to soda and fruit juice, there’s a water enhancer for every preference now. We live in a culture that thinks everything we consume should tantalize our taste buds.
Water doesn’t have any flavor and it’s boring, right?
If that’s your experience with water, you need to change the way you look at water. Water presents a plethora of benefits even without your fancy water enhancer. In addition to hydration, water improves your cognitive function, regulates weight management, combats sicknesses, and even helps combat cravings.
It may not be easy at first, but you need to follow the 8x8 rule. That is the recommended amount of water you should be drinking each day: 8 glasses at 8 ounces each per day. As soon as you do, the reward will be almost instant.
2. You keep a spare candy bar with you at all times.
Those pesky cravings come out of nowhere. Maybe you’ve been pouring over spreadsheets all morning. You stop for a break and realize it’s been three hours since breakfast and so you quickly reach for your secret stash. Or maybe it’s the weekend. After trying on your third pair of shoes at the mall, your stomach starts to call out to you and so you grab the emergency candy bar from your purse. Or you drive past your favorite fast-food chain. It looks so delicious, but you don’t have time to stop. So instead you reach for a favorite on-the-go bag of candy in the glovebox.
Cravings happen and hunger pangs call out. But you need to learn the difference. Eating out of boredom is not a healthy response to food. But eating out of hunger, in order to fuel your body, shows a healthy relationship with food. And just as your interaction with food is important, the type of food you reach for in those moments of hunger is vitally important.
When your next hunger pang calls out, be sure to have the right kind of food ready to respond. Carry almonds, an apple, or even a snack bar. You want to avoid responding to hunger with junk food.
3. You think all “health food” is gross
Have you ever wondered why all health food is so boring? You could get behind eating clean if they could just make healthy options taste better! It’s either bland and lacking flavor or gross and repulsive. The problem is with the health food industry, not you, right?
You are most likely to be used to over-processed foods. These foods are loaded with added sugars, manufactured flavoring, and fake dyes. A food company’s most effective form of marketing is when they can get you to crave their particular brand of snack or beverage.
These overly processed foods and beverages have increased the baseline of our flavor detection, making it difficult for us to enjoy a naturally occurring flavor. If you were a big soda drinker, for instance, and you tried flavored sparkling water, you might think the taste is awful because it does not contain artificial flavors and extra sugars. If this is the case, your flavor palette might not be able to detect the subtleties of the natural flavoring. Once you begin consuming whole foods and rid your diet of junk, you will be able to enjoy the natural flavors found in real foods, and you might even find that you love sparkling water.
4. You think it’s perfectly normal to add sugar to your frosted flakes.
Frosted flakes with an extra bit of “frosting” is the breakfast of champions. The perfect way to get that sugar fix first thing in the morning to send you on your way. You live by the slogan, “if a little is good then a lot is even better.” Besides, they never get every flake completely covered. You’re just catching what they missed with a couple of spoonfuls of sugar.
If any of the previous thoughts resonate with you it may be time to step back… it might be time to admit there’s a problem here. It’s probably the time to swap the box of “morning candy” for a healthier alternative. I know it’s not easy. Before we were married, my husband was a cereal fanatic. He would eat cereal every day for as many meals as possible. And he never ate just one bowl. It was usually 3 to 4.
The turning point came when he realized how much better he felt when he switched his bowl of cereal for a nutritional breakfast that satisfied him for more than an hour and provided fuel for his morning.
On average, one bowl of cereal has 3 tsp. of sugar. That means that a single bowl has one-third of the recommended daily allowance of sugar (and who can stop at just one bowl?!). I know what you’re thinking: “But beyond its delicious flavor, cereal is so convenient.” But a healthy, well-balanced breakfast can easily be enjoyed with a little planning.
If you’re short on time and unable to prepare a couple of eggs in the morning, then consider blending a smoothie to bring along with you. Blend together some almond butter, a banana, spinach, flaxseed, and a couple of cups of almond milk and throw it in the freezer overnight. Thaw it first thing in the morning and add in some Clean Lean Protein, you have the perfect breakfast to carry on your way. And, it’s more convenient than a bowl of frosted flakes and so much more satisfying and better for you!
5. At the end of a long day, you unwind with a pint of ice cream.
There is a close connection between our emotions and the food we consume. It’s understandable that after a long day you just want to unwind with a spoon in one hand and a pint of ice cream in the other. You’re not the first to drown your sorrows in a bowl (or bucket… but I’m not monitoring the type of container you use) of ice cream.
But when you’re using ice cream (or any other dessert) to remove the anxiety from the day, one serving is rarely enough. And once the pint is gone, the feeling is hardly rewarding. Emotional eating often begins with one emotion (such as stress or anger) and ends up adding another undesirable emotion (such as regret or despair).
The next time you’ve gone through a particularly stressful day, instead of turning to ice cream (or whatever your favorite dessert may be) determine to alleviate your stress in a healthy way. Maybe it’s time to pick up a new hobby, go to the gym, begin the practice of meditation, do some yoga, or pick up a bottle of your favorite red wine. Or, you can whip up a tasty protein-packed ice cream that will leave you feeling full and satisfied, without the guilt!
What area do you need to work on?
Which of these 5 ways have you identified with? Maybe you need to swap your soda for more water or maybe it’s time you cleaned up your breakfast habits. I challenge you to choose one way and work to improve in that area over the next week. And maybe there’s another way that you’ve identified in your life that you’re consuming too much sugar. What way are you going to remove sugar from your diet this week?