It's ironic that I'm writing this AFTER the apple cobbler recipe yesterday, but nonetheless. Halloween is quickly approaching -- Thanksgiving and Christmas are not too far behind-- and if you're like me, you enjoy sweets. Although for the past 10 days, I have said NO to the sweet stuff -- something I didn't think was possible. But, by keeping these simple tips in mind, I've been able to enjoy the sweetness of fruit and even turned down dessert during our anniversary dinner on Saturday. Some studies have claimed sugar is as addicting as illicit street drugs, causing a euphoric "sugar high" followed by the post-indulgent "hangover." The more you consume, the more you want, and so begins the cycle of sugar cravings. Here are 5 strategies to keep in mind during the season of candies, cookies and cakes, known as October, November and December.
- Choose wisely: If you're going to indulge, go for seasonal sweets that you know you can't get when it's not the holidays. Think candy corn, eggnog and pumpkin pie and only have a small amount. Just because it's limited to the season and tempting to eat as much as you can, this isn't carte blanche to over indulge. I do better when it's not in the house, but can enjoy during a party or holiday dinner, when it's easier to limit myself to one serving.
- Think positive: If you think cutting out/back on sugar is hard, than it will be. Mind over matter. If you believe you can do it, the battle is all but won. Before we went to dinner the other night, I told myself that I would say no to dessert, which made it much easier when the waiter shared the dessert options for the evening. I didn't feel deprived because I had a plan in place. Proper Planning Prevents Poor Performance.
- Say no to hunger and yes to snacks: Don't want to eat the entire cake? No problem. A good tip to ensure success is to make sure you are eating balanced meals and snacks. This means a healthy combo of carbohydrates, fats and protein during both meals and snacks. For example, an apple with almond butter, low-fat string cheese or a slice of turkey will keep your cravings to a minimum. Planning ahead also helps. When I travel, I keep a bag of raw almond, raisins and raw cacao nibs in my bag to nosh on when I start feeling hungry.
- Cravings might be something else: You could be dehydrated. Before grabbing a handful of candy corns, drink a big glass of water (not juice or soda, which has added sugar and/or sodium). If plain ole water is boring, try adding some fruit or veggies to give it a little flavor the natural way. A nutritionist told me that late in the evening, when one starts feeling tired, the hormones in our bodies change and we often crave sugary snacks. Ever since then, I've kept that tidbit of information in mind -- that it's not lack of willpower that has me craving sweets, but my physical make-up -- and has me reaching for a cup of mint or ginger tea instead.
- Don't beat yourself up: We're human. There are days when we cave and eat more sugar than we should. But don't beat yourself up. I also try to remember that eating ice cream when I'm bummed out or stressed is only a quick fix, which, at times, has helped me say "NO" to sugary sweets. I mean, if having a scoop of ice cream is the worst thing I do all day, I'm doing okay. The next meal I can get back on track and the sun will still rise tomorrow -- basically, it's not the end of the world. Last night, I mindlessly snacked on multiple handfuls of Pirates Booty. While it doesn't have sugar, it's still not a food that I want to eat everyday. Instead of indulging in negative self-talk, I put it away and realized that I can wake up this morning, have some oatmeal and get back on track. Success!
Have tips that help you say "NO" to sugar or unhealthy overindulgence? Please share with the community in the comments below. Until tomorrow...