DAYS 1-2

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

We can’t make this point strongly enough: you’re sup­posed to en­joy a choco­late-chip bis­cuit or a bowl of ice cream. We now know how you’re hard-wired to want sweet foods, so if you swoon for them, you’re only fol­low­ing na­ture’s op­er­at­ing man­ual. And be­cause food is a key part of so­cial­is­ing, we’re es­pe­cially prone when din­ing out or cel­e­brat­ing spe­cial oc­ca­sions.

But if an out-of-con­trol sweet tooth threat­ens your health or leads to weight gain that causes emo­tional pain, it’s likely that you’re overeat­ing sweet foods for rea­sons other than plea­sure. Two of the most com­mon are stress re­lief and emo­tional com­fort.

When you’re drown­ing in stress, sugar can seem like the friend who un­der­stands. But the re­lief it of­fers is tem­po­rary and there’s a price to pay: you can be­gin to as­so­ciate sweet foods with com­fort. Grad­u­ally, you may turn au­to­mat­i­cally to that im­me­di­ate, sweet shot of re­lief and away from health­ier stress-man­age­ment strate­gies.

Just as sug­ary foods can mo­men­tar­ily re­lieve stress, they can also soothe emo­tions you may want to sup­press or ig­nore. But when you eat to fill your­self up emo­tion­ally, not even the most de­lec­ta­ble dessert or starchy com­fort food can sat­isfy emo­tional hunger.

Peo­ple who eat in re­sponse to emo­tions may of­ten snack when they’re not phys­i­cally hun­gry, ex­pe­ri­ence in­tense crav­ings for a par­tic­u­lar food and feel un­sat­is­fied even af­ter they fin­ish a hearty meal. They may also eat dur­ing or af­ter a stress­ful ex­pe­ri­ence or to numb their feel­ings. In a cul­ture that pushes in­stant grat­i­fi­ca­tion, reach­ing for food is one of the fastest ways to cope with emo­tions that can be hard to ex­press or even ac­knowl­edge.

The jury’s still out on whether it’s pos­si­ble to be phys­i­cally ad­dicted to sugar. How­ever, there’s no doubt that it can cer­tainly feel that way. While not ex­actly sci­en­tific, the quiz on page 34 can help you gauge the in­ten­sity of your emo­tional ties to sug­ary or starchy foods. If your re­sults sug­gest a pow­er­ful bond, don’t panic! It’s en­tirely pos­si­ble to break those con­nec­tions, and this plan can help you be­gin.

To lose your sugar belly for good, you’ll need to iden­tify the types of sugar you’re drawn to and how much of them you con­sume

PREP

Track your sugar in­take

Quick – what did you eat yes­ter­day? Did you pop in for a mega-sug­ary coffee drink be­fore work? Did you grab a smoothie af­ter you went to the gym? Per­haps you downed a fizzy drink and a hand­ful of sweets from your col­league’s desk to get you through the af­ter­noon. Did you nib­ble on pret­zels while you watched TV? Maybe you made healthy choices all day but blew it with an en­tire tub of ice cream or a “Nutella night­cap” (that’s the jar and a spoon, by the way) be­fore bed?

We’re just guess­ing here, of course. But to lose your sugar belly for good, you’ll need to iden­tify the types of sugar you’re drawn to and how much you con­sume. Record what you eat for break­fast, lunch and din­ner and for snacks each day – just for two days.

You may not be a fan of track­ing what you eat. Or maybe you just want to stop stuff­ing about and get on with the eat­ing bit. But what you’ll dis­cover over this 48-hour pe­riod could be revo­lu­tion­ary. Jot down ev­ery bite, sip and nib­ble. You can sim­ply note what you eat, but if you want more in­for­ma­tion, add the serv­ing size of each food.

What’s key is to track your mood and your hunger level be­fore and af­ter you eat. Both pieces of in­for­ma­tion are go­ing to tell you a lot about your emo­tional and phys­i­o­log­i­cal con­nec­tion to sugar. You’ll be able to spot pat­terns that will in­crease your aware­ness of what you eat, when you eat and why you choose the foods you do. That’s the first step to healthy change. You don’t have to write pages and pages. Just a few words will do. See the sam­ple en­try on page 32 to get an idea. And we’ve made the hunger as­sess­ment easy; just jot down the ap­pro­pri­ate num­ber. Be­fore you eat, rank your hunger level on a scale of 1 to 5.

Hang on to those logs. You’ll be look­ing at them closely over the next three days. As you do, a pic­ture of your sugar habits will emerge in stark re­lief. No mat­ter what you dis­cover, the news is good. Once you’re aware of your high-sugar pref­er­ences – which is not al­ways the case if you eat with­out think­ing – you can swap them for health­ier al­ter­na­tives that are lower in sugar but just as pleas­ing to your “sweet buds”.

For ex­am­ple, you might be shocked to find that al­though you’re not a sweet eater, you pack away a ton of foods that act like sugar in your body. Or that your stan­dard café break­fast – scram­bled eggs on toast with tomato sauce – is full of Se­cret Sugar. Ev­ery ta­ble­spoon of tomato sauce con­tains a tea­spoon of added sugar. If you’re a woman and use five ta­ble­spoons on your break­fast – not hard to do if you don’t stay aware of por­tion sizes – you’re con­sum­ing prac­ti­cally all of your rec­om­mended daily in­take of added sugar in tomato sauce alone.

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