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

If you fol­low the 20-day Shrink Your Sugar Belly plan to the very let­ter, you’ll find that the meals, snacks, tips and strate­gies will cut the ex­tra pad­ding from your waist and trans­form your body’s abil­ity to with­stand temp­ta­tion. But bad habits are al­ways ini­tially hard to break, which is why we’ve put to­gether some next-level mind, body and stom­ach tricks to help keep you on track. Com­mit to them be­fore you start, and the re­sults will speak for them­selves.

Be­gin your day with break­fast, and pack it with pro­tein

You’ve heard this a mil­lion times, but break­fast re­ally is the most im­por­tant meal of the day. In fact, eat­ing a morn­ing meal is a com­mon habit among peo­ple who have lost weight and kept it off. Break­fast skip­pers are four-and-a-half times more likely to be obese than break­fast eaters, a study in the Amer­i­can Jour­nal of Epi­demi­ol­ogy showed. An­other US study found that eat­ing break­fast led to bet­ter blood-sugar con­trol, cut­ting in half the odds of hav­ing the high-glu­cose lev­els that can lead to higher lev­els of fat be­ing stored.

What you eat is im­por­tant, though. Start your day with cold ce­real, a bagel or fruit and chances are you will be rav­en­ous in a few hours. Why? Those meals are pri­mar­ily carbs – and quickly di­gested. Glu­cose lev­els spike and in­sulin is re­leased, glu­cose lev­els plum­met and you’re left scroung­ing for a snack.

The an­ti­dote: pump up the pro­tein. It slows di­ges­tion and is more fill­ing than carbs or fat. Re­searchers found that over­weight women nat­u­rally took in about 670 fewer kilo­joules at lunch when they ate pro­tein-packed eggs in the morn­ing in­stead of a bagel.

Other re­search shows that pro­tein in the morn­ing makes it dif­fi­cult for sugar crav­ings to take hold later on. If you can’t stom­ach food too early, eat it by 10am and break­fast will still work hard on your be­half to help quell late-day crav­ings.

Eat five times a day

Some­times it’s un­avoid­able. You’re on dead­line. Your dog is ill and the vet ap­point­ment is at lunch. Or you’re just not hun­gry, so you think that if you skip a meal, it will save you a few kilo­joules. But there’s a dan­ger in meal skip­ping – if you cut down on the amount of food you eat for an ex­tended pe­riod of time, your body is go­ing to slow things down to con­serve its en­ergy sup­ply.

Meal skip­ping is a guar­an­teed way to fire up sugar crav­ings. It low­ers blood-sugar lev­els, caus­ing you to overeat later to make up for missed kilo­joules.

Jolt your taste buds with flavour, not sugar

What’s the dif­fer­ence be­tween the two? Sugar al­ways tastes the same, with vari­a­tions on sweet and sick­en­ingly sweet. On the other hand, flavour is di­verse and sur­pris­ing – if you ex­pose your taste buds to those flavours.

Sweet spices, such as cin­na­mon, can ease crav­ings for sugar. And when a dish calls for fresh herbs, use them. Leafy basil, co­rian­der, pars­ley, mint, dill and thyme are far more flavour­ful than their dried coun­ter­parts. Don’t for­get other flavour boost­ers like bal­samic vine­gar, lemon and or­ange zest, roasted pep­pers, hot sauce, toasted nuts and home­made salsa. One of the most ef­fec­tive is ex­tra-vir­gin olive oil, giv­ing a grassy, fruity flavour to sal­ads, veg and soups.

Iden­tify which flavours thrill your taste­buds and com­mit to ex­plor­ing the di­verse ar­ray on of­fer to you so that you de­velop a full arse­nal of flavours to call on when crav­ings at­tack.

Start each day with an “in­ten­tion”

Set­ting a per­sonal goal can help you make the most of the next 24 hours. Plan­ning for the day helps you place sugar in the right con­text: a plea­sure, to be savoured mind­fully in healthy amounts. As your tea brews in the morn­ing, rather than launch­ing into work emails, try us­ing that time to med­i­tate, do yoga or just think about your per­sonal pri­or­i­ties, from big-pic­ture goals to what you need to get done. Your daily in­ten­tion can be as prac­ti­cal as, “To­day, I will or­der that book I’ve been mean­ing to read,” or as lofty as, “To­day I will not let fear mo­ti­vate me.” Tak­ing time to fo­cus on your­self will make a real dif­fer­ence in your life – ev­ery day.

Add some joy to your life each day

We can al­most hear you say: “With what time?” Well, maybe the time spent com­plain­ing about traf­fic jams, the min­utes grum­bling about chaotic sched­ules and other com­mon stresses you can’t con­trol. To lose weight, it’s vi­tal to com­mit to ev­ery­day rest and re­lax­ation. Oth­er­wise, chronic stress may gain the up­per hand.

Chronic stress – a daily as­sault of stress hor­mones – grinds away ev­ery cell in your body. Nu­mer­ous emo­tional and phys­i­cal dis­or­ders have been linked to stress, in­clud­ing de­pres­sion, anx­i­ety, heart at­tack, stroke, hy­per­ten­sion, di­ges­tive prob­lems, even au­toim­mune dis­eases like rheuma­toid arthri­tis.

When you’re stressed, your body re­leases the hor­mone cor­ti­sol, which sig­nals your brain to seek re­wards. Foods loaded with sugar and fat calm down that stress re­sponse by blunt­ing this hor­mone. When you reach for food in re­sponse to stress, you in­ad­ver­tently cre­ate a pow­er­ful con­nec­tion in your brain. The food gets coded in your mem­ory cen­tre as a so­lu­tion to an un­pleas­ant ex­pe­ri­ence or emo­tion. Face that same prob­lem again and your brain will prob­a­bly tell you, “Go and find some cup­cakes!”

While you can’t ban­ish stress from your life com­pletely, you can main­tain a bal­ance be­tween the stress­ful ac­tiv­i­ties that drain you and re­lax­ing ac­tiv­i­ties that re­fresh and re­new your body and spirit.

For ex­am­ple, if you like or­anges, pick up a bot­tle of or­anges­cented aro­mather­apy oil or spray and treat your­self to a hit of “sweet” with­out the sugar. In a study, par­tic­i­pants who en­dured a stress­ful test felt less anx­ious when they sniffed or­ange oil five min­utes be­fore the exam. And, the ef­fects fol­lowed them through­out the day.

Sleep more to eat (and crave sugar) less

One im­por­tant goal of this plan is to re­store meta­bolic har­mony be­tween the hor­mones ghre­lin (an ap­petite trig­ger) and leptin (which sig­nals sati­ety), along with in­sulin. When th­ese hor­mones are work­ing in har­mony, the re­sult is fewer crav­ings and less propen­sity to store fat. But, if you get less than the rec­om­mended seven to nine hours sleep a night, you may be un­der­cut­ting this goal. In a study, a few sleep­less nights were enough to drop lev­els of leptin by 18 per­cent and boost ghre­lin by 30 per­cent. Those two changes alone caused ap­petites to kick into over­drive, and crav­ings for foods like bis­cuits and cake jumped by 45 per­cent. Not de­sir­able.

An­other rea­son to get to bed at a de­cent hour is that sleep de­pri­va­tion may not only make sug­ary, fatty foods more ap­peal­ing, it may also lower your abil­ity to re­sist them, ac­cord­ing to sleep re­searchers. Worse, the parts of your brain that put the brakes on crav­ings aren’t as ac­tive when you’re tired.

When you reach for food in re­sponse to stress, you cre­ate a con­nec­tion in your brain; the food gets coded in your mem­ory

Ex­er­cise away your crav­ings

Ex­er­cise has a pos­i­tive ef­fect on ap­petite and blood-sugar me­tab­o­lism, but it can be tough to fit a work­out into a busy day. You need to cre­ate a work­out that is con­ve­nient, plea­sur­able (noth­ing too sweaty or gru­elling) and ef­fec­tive at help­ing to shrink a sugar belly. If you’re plagued by strong sugar crav­ings, get­ting more ac­tive may help to de-ac­ti­vate them. Ac­cord­ing to a study pub­lished in Ap­plied Phys­i­ol­ogy, Nutri­tion and Me­tab­o­lism, the more you sit, the greater your ap­petite – even if your body doesn’t need the kilo­joules.

Mod­er­ate ex­er­cise also helps keep mus­cle cells sen­si­tive to in­sulin. Even bet­ter, strength train­ing builds mus­cle den­sity – stronger mus­cles that use more glu­cose. And, like car­dio, strength train­ing aids weight loss.

Take the stairs in­stead of the es­ca­la­tor or lift, or win­dow­shop dur­ing your lunch hour. If you’d rather swim, cy­cle, do yoga or dig in your gar­den, that’s fine too. Even stand­ing at the iron­ing board while watch­ing TV will burn kilo­joules. The point is, the more you move, the faster your sugar belly will melt away.

Now’s the time to fix what’s both­er­ing you

From the mo­ment you were born, you as­so­ci­ated sugar with com­fort. New­borns de­rive com­fort from their mother’s milk, which is rich in lac­tose and nat­u­rally sweet. (Even if you were bot­tle-fed, you had the sweet­ness of lac­tose in your for­mula.) The link be­tween com­fort and sweet is primal – and per­sis­tent. The first step to break­ing that emo­tional con­nec­tion to sugar is to be­come aware of the feel­ings that drive you to it.

Whether or not to eat a bis­cuit isn’t about need. It’s about a de­ci­sion. On the road to sugar free­dom, mak­ing a con­scious choice about sugar, re­gard­less of how you feel, is an im­por­tant mile­stone.

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