It’s a fact that most of us love our sugar and sweet treats. Former US President Ronald Reagan famously always had to have jellybeans on his desk. Vending machines and even the aisles leading to till points in major shops almost everywhere feed our cravings for sweets.
South African sales of sugar-filled drinks and other sweets soaring, at 63%, we have the highest percentage of fat children and adolescents on the planet, as a nation, we are addicted to sugar in all its glorious forms.
While sugar is not literally addicting, (scientists long ago proved that people are born with a preference for sweets), this innate desire does not disappear as we grow older. Some people find it impossible to leave the dinner table without dessert; others can’t fathom a day without chocolate. Many women blame hormonal surges for the sweets cravings they get around the same time each month.
Sugar and other sweeteners add calories with few other nutrients and have no doubt helped contribute to our current epidemic of obesity. True, sugar is not alone in promoting obesity, a lack of exercise and excessive calories from poor nutrition habits also contribute.
Sugar has been blamed for everything from diabetes, tooth decay, obesity, and heart disease to disruptive behavior in the classroom. But sugar by itself will not cause any of these conditions, except for cavities.
A comprehensive review of scientific research, published in the journal Nutrition Research in 1997, showed that sugar is not a direct cause of heart disease, diabetes, obesity, or hyperactivity. A more recent American government report concurs that sugar is not by itself linked to any of those conditions. However, too many calories, in any form, can contribute to obesity, diabetes, and heart disease.
Changes in our behavior are often attributed to changes in our blood sugar levels. When you consume a meal made up of simple, refined carbohydrates – like a doughnut or a soft drink – the result is a spike in blood sugar. Your body responds to this spike by secreting large amounts of insulin to normalize your blood sugar level. In response to the insulin, your blood sugar level drops quickly, leaving you with a feeling of sluggishness and irritability.
When your blood sugar gets too low, hunger reappears, and the roller-coaster ride resumes, that is, at least until your if your next ‘fix’ of simple carbohydrates. It’s simple carbohydrates that twe need to watch specifically, not the healthy, fibrous carbohydrates that come from whole fruits, vegetables, and whole grains.
As your personal trainer, I help you choose healthy carbohydrates or give you nutritional advice that adds protein or fat to your meal, so your blood sugar will rise and fall more normally without the negative side effects.
When we say we have a sugar addiction, we may mean anything from a mild desire to intense cravings for sweet foods and drinks. Some people go so far as to equate the effects of sugar to a drug, saying it calms them and helps them deal with stress.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Guide Pyramid recommends we limit added sugars in our diet to 12 teaspoons per day, as far back as 2001, the average American ate and drank the equivalent of 31 teaspoons of sugar daily, however, even with these scary numbers, South African children still manage to feature as amongst the fattest on the planet.
Sugar finds its way into virtually every kind of processed food, from tomato sauce to soups and, especially, soft drinks. One 330ml can of your favorite soft drink contains approximately 10 teaspoons of sugar. As if that is not bad enough, some data suggest that we consume an average of 155 liters of soft drink per person annually. That’s a lot of sugar and extra calories!
Sugars have 4 calories per gram or 15 calories per teaspoon. If you want to shave calories, it’s a good idea to limit added sugar in your diet. Sounds simple enough, but what about those hard-to-ignore cravings? Here’s the trick: Gradually decrease the amount of sugar you eat, and how often you eat it. This will help you reduce your desire for sugars while lowering your caloric intake.
Old habits are hard to break but as your personal trainer, I guide you into making small and gradual changes in your eating style which will help you break free from your sugar addiction.
Many people, newly diagnosed with diabetes find that after they start eating fewer sweets and simple carbohydrates, foods like fresh fruit taste sweeter and can satisfy their cravings for sweets. Remember, moderation is the key. If you can control the quantity, you will be able to enjoy sweets on occasion.
The first step you take towards a healthier lifestyle is the most important and provides secure footing for your weightloss journey. Book a consultation and health appraisal with me and get some professional help.
One of your most important defences against sugar is by learning to understand food labels, being able to distinguish between unhealthy and healthier food options. Making a habit of always reading food labels and understanding what they mean will soon become second-nature with this 2-step guide.
To begin with, read the Nutrition Information table displayed on the packaging of most foods. This can help you to decide if a product is a healthy option or not as it lists how much of each nutrient it contains. All nutrients are listed in two columns – per 100g and per serving. The 100g column is great to use to easily compare similar products because serving sizes may differ, this way you are comparing apples-for-apples.
The “per serving” column tells you how much of each nutrient and energy (kilojoules) you’ll consume if you consume that suggested serving. Be careful here because the “suggested serving” is not always the same as the packaging size – for example, the suggested serving on a 500ml bottle of a sugary drink is often only around 250ml, half of the packaging size.
- Use the table to decide if the food is high or low in fat, saturated fat, sugar and sodium (salt). Foods in the ‘low’ group can be eaten more often, but foods in the ‘high’ group should rarely be eaten or only on special occasions.
- Become familiar with sugar terminology and find the hidden sugar in your diet. Recognize that all of these are sweeteners: corn syrup, high fructose corn syrup, sucrose, dextrose, honey, molasses, turbinado, and brown sugar.
- Keep up with your food journal, and use the notes section to document your mood, setting, and activity whenever you feel the urge to eat sweets. Review your notes and look for patterns or triggers that you can alter to help control your sugar intake.
- Don’t put yourself under pressure. Select one behavior to change weekly. Try satisfying your sweet tooth with a snack-sized chocolate bar instead of a full-sized one. Next week, trade in a soft drink for sparkling water with a splash of fruit juice.
- Fight your cravings. Satisfy your desire for sweets with the natural sweetness of whole fruits or no-sugar-added juices.
- Buy unsweetened food and beverages and add small amounts of sweeteners if you need them. Enjoy whole-grain cereal with one teaspoon of sugar instead of presweetened cereals, which contain much more sugar per serving.
- Gradually decrease the amount of sugar you consume in your tea and coffee, let your taste buds slowly adapt to change. Don’t substitute artificial sweeteners for sugar; this will do little to alter your desire for sweets.
- Moderate amounts of artificial sweeteners are not unhealthy, but they won’t help you retrain your taste buds.
- Allow yourself small portions of sweets on occasion. If you just go ‘cold turkey’, it will be hard to think about anything else. Rather reward yourself with a portion of one small treat ever so often to resist ‘pigging out’ when your resistance wanes.
Second, read the list of ingredients. These are always listed in order of weight, those used in the greatest amounts are listed first, right down to the ingredient used in the smallest amount listed last. Often the first three ingredients listed on the label make up the largest portion of the food item. Sugar, salt and bad fats are the ones to look out to avoid and come in a variety of which may often be listed under the guise of different names as listed below.
- Sugar – Brown sugar, concentrated fruit juice, corn syrup, dextrose, treacle, fructose, glucose, glucose syrup, golden syrup, honey, invert sugar, lactose, malt, malt extract, maltose, isomaltose, maltodextrin, maple syrup, molasses, raw sugar, sucrose, sugar, cane sugar.
- Bad Fats – Animal fat, beef fat, butter, chocolate, carob, coconut oil, cream, dripping, ghee, hydrogenated oils, lard, margarine, milk solids, monoglycerides, palm oil, seeds, nuts, coconut, tallow, shortening, trans fats, vegetable fat.
- Salt – Baking soda, salt, MSG (monosodium glutamate), any word containing the term sodium, nitrates, nitrites.
If you’re a sugar “addict,” kicking the habit will do your body good. Doctors newest nutritional recommendations suggest a balanced diet, low in fat, with reduced sugar intake, along with regular exercise, as the best way to lose weight and keep it off.
My custom programs for fitness and weight loss are a smart combination of exercise and good nutritional advice basedon data from your consultation and health appraisal. My programs promote safe and effective weekly weight loss and to encourage the eating of healthy foods while weaning you from excessive sugar. Book a consultation and health appraisal and find out just how sweet better health can be!
Tiger Athletic is a modern, private, appointment only gym in Sandton, Johannesburg using a rigorous, results-focused methodology we are passionate about helping you be the healthiest version of yourself, so you can lead a more fulfilling personal and professional life.
Together changes everything. Let’s work out.