8 RULES FOR SUCCESS
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.