To live a healthier lifestyle:
- We know to “eat more fruits and vegetables.”
- We know nutrient dense foods will give us more energy and support greater health.
- We know willpower doesn’t always work, that we need to make other changes to help us reach our goals.
And yet! It is still all too easy to fall back into a perpetual cycle. Yes, they can be called habits, which is why so many programs and books and educators talk about how long it takes to “break a habit.” But, while the tips associated with habits are backed by a lot of research and they can be super helpful, the physiological response to our habits is not always addressed. We actually classify some of these habits as addictions, and one addiction that is quite common is that of SUGAR!
As shown in the image above, sugar impacts almost every part of the human body. For example, dopamine is an important brain chemical. It plays an important role in motor function, reinforcement and reward systems, as well as sexual health and gratification. Sounds like a good chemical, until you have too much, too little, or an unsteady amount. When consuming a diet high in sugar (see #2 in the image), our bodies tend to “require” the same amount or more to experience the same reward. Thus, the perpetual cycle as outlined from the image above, which can lead to hormone instability, mood swings, extra fat storage, cravings, and so much more. Sugar is also a major contributor to inflammation. Have you ever woken up the day after a birthday party (where you ate lots of cake) and were unable to take your rings off?
So, what can we do to help break the cycle and create a new one?
- BABY STEPS: It is important to realize the cycle doesn’t have to be BROKEN all at once. Gradual changes are effective and, in many ways, more realistic. For example, rather than have dessert every evening after dinner, choose to bypass the dessert menu. Make it a special occasion thing, instead.
- HEALTHIER OPTIONS: Bypassing the dessert menu is not always the easiest thing to do, however. (Remember our conversation on willpower?) Choose something to satisfy your sweet tooth but lighter in sugar, like berries. Fresh berries have less sugar by volume and include other nutritional benefits, as well!
- FIBER: We hate to admit it, but sugar isn’t always cookies and cakes. We also see it in the starchy foods that do not have the fiber to balance them out (i.e. white breads, white pastas, white rice, etc.). But all bread, pasta, and rice don’t have to be cut out. A good rule of thumb is to check the fiber intake. This is especially helpful if you’re a “numbers person.” Foods with a minimum of 2-3 grams (g) of fiber per 100 calories usually do not have an excessive amount of sugar.
- EMBRACE THE PROCESS: Drink your water. Take one day at a time. And remember, progress over perfection wins every time when working to create a healthier lifestyle.
For more information on sugar addiction, how to break the cycle, and healthier food options, visit WebMD’s Slideshow.