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I CRAVE SWEETS AND SNACKS

Q I’m over­weight, and I con­stantly think about snacking. When I open a packet of cook­ies or a choco­late bar, I can’t just eat one or a piece; I have to de­vour the whole thing. Af­ter­wards I feel dis­gusted with my­self, but I can’t stop.

ABelieve me, you are not alone. Many peo­ple suf­fer from the ill ef­fects of ex­cess su­gar con­sump­tion. Not only does it lead to weight gain, but it can se­ri­ously af­fect our health. It’s now widely ac­cepted that su­gar can even be ad­dic­tive. This is be­cause su­gar re­wards the plea­sure cen­tres of the brain and some peo­ple can crave that sen­sa­tion, find­ing it hard to break the cy­cle be­cause it gives them a tem­po­rary mood boost. This is usu­ally fol­lowed by a crash­ing ‘su­gar low’, prompt­ing those han­ker­ings you men­tion.

There are a num­ber of things you can do to try to wean your­self off ex­ces­sive su­gar con­sump­tion.

Start by clear­ing out your cup­boards of the ‘treats’ and stop buy­ing them. I know it sounds like sim­ple logic, but you’d be sur­prised by how much the sub­con­scious guides your food buy­ing habits. Re­place the pro­cessed re­fined su­gar found in the sug­ary treats you de­scribe be­ing hooked to with small por­tions of fruit when a crav­ing strikes. Hav­ing a va­ri­ety of fruits pre­pared and look­ing vis­ually ap­peal­ing will help you to avoid reach­ing for the choco­late bars, cookie jar or so­das. Opt for lower-su­gar fruits such as berries and cit­rus and mix in some raw veg for an ex­tra boost.

Fo­cus on pre­par­ing healthy meals from scratch, so that you can avoid all of those ‘hid­den’ sugars found in pro­cessed foods. Al­ways take the time to read la­bels; su­gar can be hid­ing in all man­ner of prod­ucts.

It’s vi­tal to also give your­self time to ad­just. Habits are not bro­ken overnight, in fact they often take over 30 days to break, so it’s im­por­tant to ac­cept this and also ac­cept that you are likely to have some slip-ups along the way. If this does hap­pen, I think it’s im­por­tant not to be ‘dis­gusted’ with your­self. When you’re try­ing to make changes, pos­i­tiv­ity and re­silience are im­por­tant. Pick your­self up and keep go­ing if you do give in, be­cause this is about the long-term health ben­e­fits you will gain when you learn to mod­er­ate your su­gar in­take.

One note of caution – don’t re­place su­gar with ar­ti­fi­cial sweet­en­ers. Th­ese can be just as bad and prompt those plea­sure cen­tres in a sim­i­lar way, pre­serv­ing a sweet tooth rather than cur­ing it.

RUS­SELL HEM­MINGS is a life coach, and clin­i­cal and cog­ni­tive be­havioural hyp­nother­a­pist

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