Be Fit For Life

with Ellen Cohen-Kaplan

might as well face it, you’re addicted to sugar……..

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People have been talking about feeling addicted to sugar for ages, but now scientific evidence is mounting that a true addiction likely exists. Recent studies have suggested that sugar may be comparable to other addicting substances in many ways.  Substances must meet 3 criteria to be considered addictive, according to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM -IV).  Those criteria are cravings, tolerance and withdrawal.  See this article to learn more

Most of see sugar as a major contributor to obesity but recent studies show a strong link to heart issues as well.  Common wisdom has been that salt is a major culprit in high blood pressure, and contributes to heart disease. New studies are now focusing on the negative influence of sugar.  Recent findings suggest that “A reduction in the intake of added sugars, particularly fructose, and specifically in the quantities and context of industrially-manufactured consumables, would help not only curb hypertension rates, but might also help address broader problems related to cardiometabolic disease.” See this abstract for more

If reducing or eliminating sugar is on your self improvement list for 2015, take a look at these tips based on some expert advice from NPR last January:

  • Try gradually reducing your sugar intake, so you begin to crave it less. If this doesn’t work, try the next tip.
  • If you think you are highly sensitive to sugar, then trying to have just a little may be worse than having none at all, because it could keep the sensitivity alive. Instead, try to eliminate it entirely for at least three weeks to see if the cravings fade.
  • When embarking on a sugar-free mission, try to keep the long-term goals at the forefront of your mind. Keep reminding yourself of how much you’ll enjoy feeling stronger and healthier, or how you’ll enjoy better-fitting clothes.
  • Take a week or two to monitor exactly when the cravings hit. Then figure out what the cues are — like stress, boredom, emotional downers or the need for a distraction.
  • In these moments when the cravings hit, pause and think about what you need or do not need to eat at the moment. Are you actually hungry? Can you fulfill the need another way, like taking a quick walk?
  • Find new foods that are rewarding, like new kinds of nuts and fruits, and keep them around. “Our environment always shoves in our face hyper-rewarding foods, and we can’t control that,” says Gearhardt. “We can keep foods we do like around, so that if we find ourselves in a bad mood, with cravings, we’re not setting ourselves up to fail.”
  • Exercise. A recent brain imaging study found that cardiovascular activity may repair the part of the brain affected by food addiction. It also found that people who exercise regularly had a lower “reward response” to images of palatable food.

Instead of obsessing about calorie counts, a focus on whole foods and eating a well-balanced diet is really the key in managing weight.  Now you know the method behind my madness of sending out recipes- they are centered on whole foods, satisfying, and while not all are low calorie, they are filling and meet a wide variety of nutritional needs.

The Mediterranean diet is an excellent template to use to increase consumption of whole, nutritious foods, and is easy to adhere to- no feelings of deprivation here!  Check out this article for a primer on this way of eating. Try to eat mostly fruits, vegetables, legumes, olive oil, then fish, and less poultry, lean meat, and almost no sweets.  If you’d like more details, look here and here

A conclusion is that we should focus on eating whole foods that will keep up feeling satisfied, instead of counting calories. The whole equation should take food preferences, feeling of satiety, and balanced food intake into consideration, instead of just avoiding sugary and sweet foods. So let’s raise our glasses to a fabulous, delicious and nutritious 2015 !

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