ARE YOU HOOKED ON SUGAR?

Is your com­pul­sion for sweets your big­gest diet down­fall? Find out why sugar sab­o­tages your weight loss – and how to fight back

Women's Health - Shrink Your Sugar Belly - - CONTENTS -

Be­fore you say no, con­sider what you’ve put in your mouth lately. If it in­cludes any­thing from break­fast ce­real and coffee-shop bev­er­ages to ham and tomato sauce, there’s a de­cent chance you’re rid­ing a sugar rush right now. Don’t feel bad – just about ev­ery per­son in SA is buzzed. Re­search shows that around 10 per­cent of our daily kilo­joule in­take – 671kJ on av­er­age – comes from sugar. But it’s pos­si­ble to free your­self from the diet-de­stroy­ing con­fines of the sweet stuff. This book, brought to you by the ex­perts at Women’s Health, is here to show you how.

Feel the rush…

Sweet treats are bad news be­cause they typ­i­cally de­liver a load of kilo­joules while of­fer­ing lit­tle or no nutri­tion in ex­change. And, more wor­ry­ingly, as our con­sump­tion of the white stuff rises, so do the num­bers on our scales.

What’s re­ally scary about sugar, though, isn’t just its abil­ity to make you put on more weight than you should. It’s the way it be­haves. Firstly, eat­ing sugar of­ten ends up stok­ing your ap­petite rather than sat­is­fy­ing it. And, se­condly, it can be­come ad­dic­tive – no sur­prise to those of us who have a daily 3pm choco­late crav­ing that would tempt us to hurl an of­fice chair at the vend­ing ma­chine if we ever ran out of change.

But there’s no need for you to de­spair. There’s light at the end of this ic­ing-coated tun­nel. With a lit­tle de­ter­mi­na­tion and some sim­ple diet tweaks, you can train your­self to stop crav­ing sugar. And when you do, you’ll ex­pe­ri­ence some­thing truly sweet: suc­cess­ful, long-term weight loss.

Take your lumps

Even when you’re fully aware that your favourite peanut but­ter is spiked with sugar, buy­ing the unsweet­ened kind can feel like a ma­jor sac­ri­fice. And that’s just peanut but­ter – think of the Dan­ish pas­try on the way to work; your col­league’s home­made bis­cuits; the caramel-flavoured cock­tail in the sugar-rimmed glass at happy hour. There’s a rea­son you keep com­ing back for more: you’ve got a habit.

In a study in Phys­i­ol­ogy and Be­hav­iour, re­searchers found that eat­ing sugar trig­gers the re­lease of opi­oids, neu­ro­trans­mit­ters that ac­ti­vate the brain’s plea­sure re­cep­tors. Ad­dic­tive drugs, in­clud­ing mor­phine, tar­get the same opi­oid re­cep­tors. “Sugar stim­u­lates re­cep­tors to ac­ti­vate the same path­ways that are stim­u­lated di­rectly by drugs such as heroin or mor­phine,” the study re­ported.

So if you reg­u­larly swap your break­fast for a sweet coffee drink, you could be set­ting your­self up for a sugar ad­dic­tion that will in­flu­ence the rest of your day’s eat­ing plans.

The re­place­ments

How hooked you get on sugar may de­pend largely on what kind you eat. Fruc­tose, the nat­u­ral sugar found in fruit and cer­tain veg­eta­bles, doesn’t make you im­me­di­ately feel as if you need an­other sugar hit, mainly be­cause the fi­bre and other nu­tri­ents in those

foods slow down the di­ges­tive process and help keep your blood-sugar level sta­ble. That’s one rea­son nu­tri­tion­ists al­ways ad­vise that you snack on fi­brerich fruit and not sweets.

But the main is­sue is that ever since the cre­ation of that par­tic­u­lar sugar, in­creas­ingly higher amounts of all sug­ars have found their ways into our di­ets – of­ten in the least likely places. All that sugar can ad­versely af­fect the way we metabolise var­i­ous foods.

And if get­ting too many kilo­joules is what wor­ries you, reach­ing for a diet fizzy drink isn’t the so­lu­tion: ar­ti­fi­cial sweet­en­ers may be al­most as bad for you as plain ol’ sugar. A study pub­lished in the In­ter­na­tional Jour­nal of Obe­sity found that rats ate more af­ter con­sum­ing an ar­ti­fi­cially sweet­ened drink than they did af­ter sip­ping sugar wa­ter.

Re­searchers spec­u­late that kilo­joule-free ar­ti­fi­cial sweet­en­ers act like stom­ach teasers: as you swal­low diet drinks, your body an­tic­i­pates the ar­rival of kilo­joules. When they don’t show up, your body sends you look­ing else­where for them.

A study by US re­searchers found that peo­ple who drank a can of a diet drink ev­ery day had a 37 per­cent greater in­ci­dence of obe­sity. And be­cause ar­ti­fi­cial sweet­en­ers are of­ten many times sweeter than sugar, stir­ring a tea­spoon­ful into your daily cup of java may mean that when you do use real sugar, it just doesn’t taste sweet enough for you, send­ing you grab­bing for ex­tra sugar pack­ets.

Cut the sugar, shrink your belly

Here comes the hard-to-swal­low truth: the only way to curb a sugar habit is to cut back dras­ti­cally. It will be rough in the be­gin­ning, but your body will crave sugar less as it re­gains its in­sulin sen­si­tiv­ity. In or­der to ex­tract your sweet tooth, you first need to know how much sugar you’re ac­tu­ally eat­ing.

There are plenty of hid­den sources of sugar and a wide range of sweet­en­ers – learn their names and you’ll dodge their at­tempts to sneak into your diet. Read la­bels on the foods that you’re eat­ing for a week and keep an eye on how much sugar, on av­er­age, you’re tak­ing in – the World Health Or­gan­i­sa­tion (WHO) rec­om­mends a limit of 10 per­cent of your daily kilo­joule in­take, which is about 50g, or 10 tea­spoons, but state that a fur­ther re­duc­tion to six tea­spoons would be best.

You’ll also re­alise that many prod­ucts that are touted as healthy are still high in sugar. Twenty-eight grams of dried pineap­ple has about 21g of sugar, com­pared with 2.6g for the same amount of fresh pineap­ple. So watch your por­tions.

The first few days of your plan will in­volve this kind of mon­i­tor­ing and anal­y­sis of ex­actly what’s go­ing into your shop­ping bas­ket and your mouth. We be­lieve that it’s the best way of fend­ing off the sug­ars that sneak into your diet – and se­cur­ing room for the sug­ars that you’ll choose to treat your­self with once the plan is com­pleted.

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