Your first taste of food was probably sweet: mother's milk or foods flavored with sweeteners.
In fact, experts say that we're hard-wired to crave sweet foods, and it's a taste that tends to follow us into adult life.
Sweets also create a natural "high," so that at first we're left with feelings of satisfaction and pleasure. But that pleasure often turns to guilt and remorse when we see the pounds piling on as our cravings continue.
You know you should be eating a healthy diet, as all the experts, along with most celebrities, tout a more natural lifestyle for health. But how can you deal with the intense desire to eat yet another doughnut?
Eat a mini-portion of what you’re craving, such as a small cookie or a snack-size candy bar. Enjoying a little (150 calories or fewer) of a high-quality piece of chocolate or other sweet item can help you steer clear of feeling denied.
If denying yourself sweets seems impossible, you can still feel satisfied and feed your sugar cravings by eating two types of foods at the same time. Try combining a sweet treat with a healthy one. For example, dip apple or banana slices in chocolate sauce, or eat some nuts with chocolate chips.
Keep fruit handy for when those sugar cravings hit. You'll get fiber and nutrients along with natural sweetness. And stock up on foods like nuts, seeds and dried fruits.
When a sugar craving hits, walk away. Jog or power-walk around the block. Change your scenery and take your mind off the food you’re craving.
Waiting too long between meals may set you up for sugary, fatty foods that can temporarily satisfy your hunger, but leave you only with empty calories. Eating every three to five hours can also help keep your blood sugar stable, avoiding those cravings for sugary treats.
After all this, you may find that you have to give up sugar and sweets entirely. Although eliminating sugar from your diet is possible, those first few days can be tough, says author Karly Randolph Pittman, author of the e-book Overcoming Sugar Addiction.
"Sugar addiction is how you learned to care for yourself when life felt painful, overwhelming or scary," she says. "But binge-eating sugar is not a character flaw."
"Many people rely on diet sodas as a sugar substitute when they’re craving something sweet. But in my experience, aspartame, Nutrasweet, Splenda and even low-carb sugar products don’t quell" the cravings, she observes.
Giving up sugar is hard. It’s built into our holidays, our meals and into our society. Be kind to yourself when you mess up, and get back on track. "If you’re feeling shaky from too much sugar, you might want to eat a bit of protein. Call a friend, go outside, go to the library. Do something to change your environment," she says.
Find self-acceptance. Sugar addiction is often due to biology, ingrained habits, our environment and a whole host of other factors, many of which you didn't cause.
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