How to Stop Eating too Much Sugar
A 16-Week Plan (Part 1 of 2)
We eat a lot of sugar. In 2016 the average American consumed more than 23 teaspoons of sugar a day. Teenagers are eating even more, a staggering 34 teaspoons of added sugar a day. That's a problem. Both the American Heart Association and the World Health Organization say we should limit sugar. They both suggest around 12 teaspoons for someone eating a 2,000 calorie a day diet.
All that extra sugar helps pack on between 192 and 384 extra calories a day. It's helping us get fatter, sicker and die younger. But breaking up is hard to do.
If you've got an addiction like smoking, the ultimate goal is to quit. Once you stop, you can keep cigarettes out of your home and avoid tempting situations. With food it's different. You can't simply stop eating or you'll die. How do you eat just a little, without being tempted to binge or relapse?
According to scientists, your best bet is to rewire your brain. Researchers at the USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging at Tufts University, wanted to see if people on a weight-loss program could reduce their junk food cravings.
At the beginning of the study, the subjects were shown high-calorie and low-calorie foods. Using an fMRI scan, they found the high-calorie foods increased blood flow in the brain's reward center. After six months, subjects that DID NOT diet had the same increase in excitement when shown high-calorie foods.
However, the dieters were different. Dieters showed an increase in excitement when shown the healthier, low-calorie foods. They experienced neurobiological changes to their brains, during their six months of dieting, which helped reinforce better food choices.
By taking small steps, you can do the same thing. You can train yourself to make better choices, here's how.
Weeks 1-4, Eliminate Sugar Filled Drinks
The first thing most people think about is regular soda. A 12-ounce can of Coca-Cola is filled with 40 grams of sugar. That's nearly the entire amount of sugar the average person should consume in an entire day. But there are many more sugar-filled drinks out there.
Fruit juice, even 100% fruit juice can be packed with even more sugar per ounce than soda. Energy drinks, sweetened waters and coffee filled with milk all tend to hide large amounts of sugar. You've got to eliminate them from your life. Pour out what you have and take them off your shopping list.
You can drink coffee, just don't fill it with milk and cream. Try soy or almond milk. Make water more exciting by combining it with fruit you're going to eat. I like to take some strawberries or an orange, clean them, slice them up and put them in a glass of water. Then cover and put it in the refrigerator for a few hours. In the heat of the afternoon, I drink the flavored water and enjoy the fresh fruit.
Weeks 5-8, Change Your Snacks
Obvious sources of sugar are cookies, donuts, cakes, candy and ice cream. But supposedly “healthy” items like energy bars, granola bars, fruit bars and yogurt are also often packed with sugar.
Salty foods like chips and pretzels can be a problem too. Salt and sweet are a killer combination. It's not unusual for someone who's just eaten a bunch of chips to follow it with a sugar-filled drink.
Perform the same purge you did a few weeks before with the sugar-filled drinks. Dump out what you have and take them off your shopping list. Buy healthier alternatives like whole fruit and vegetables to snack on. Replace regular yogurt with Greek yogurt.
Remember to take snacks with you to work or when you're going out shopping. You want to have something good on hand when you're surrounded by racks of temptation at checkout counters. Keep water at hand to stay hydrated and as a last resort, grab a mint or minty gum to suppress sweet cravings.
In my next article I'll cover weeks 9-16. Stay tuned.
Part 1 2
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