Addicts Anonymous-How To Stop the Cravings
There's no doubt about it: Americans have a
problem with sugar. At one
end of the spectrum, there are those of us who still crave our
childhood foods, such as Cocoa Puffs, Twinkies and Mars bars, but
ourselves up each time we succumb and bring some of the sweet
Then there are those who are straight-up sugar junkies, like Naomi
Isaacs, 45, who used to begin each day with orange and yellow
"I was under the illusion that I was getting vitamin C by eating
and orange flavors," says the New York City professional. Isaacs'
consisted of a bag of Hershey's miniatures. "I convinced myself
they were small and I had to unwrap them, somehow I was burning
calories," she explains. And dinner? A bag of licorice Allsorts.
According to the American Dietetic Association (ADA), there is no
conclusive evidence — as there is with nicotine — that humans can
addicted to sugar. However, registered dietitian Elizabeth Somer,
of "Food and Mood," says that recent studies may change current
"There is interesting evidence that the taste of sugar on babies'
releases endorphins, a morphine-like substance," she says.
Somer, as with other addictions, sugar fiends often find that
turkey and cutting sugar out of their diet virtually ends their
This worked for Burton Isaacs, who quit candy completely after 25
and has been "clean" for four years now. "It takes three whole
[before the cravings stop], but it does work," she says.
Of course, most of us aren't eating Snickers bars for breakfast,
are eating more sugar than we think — or should. Many of the foods
on a regular basis, including granola bars, cereal, muffins and
canned pasta sauces and ketchup, contain sizable quantities of
sugars in the form of high-fructose corn syrup, glucose, sucrose,
fructose and dextrose. All that sugar, on top of the
servings of fruit and juice that we consume, can cause a serious
overload. "Americans consume twice as much simple sugar as they
says ADA spokesperson Julie Walsh, a registered dietitian. "And
over consume sugar, that can lead to weight gain."
Aside from obesity — which is linked to increased risk of heart
high blood pressure, diabetes and some cancers — the main hazard
excess sugar consumption is tooth decay. Sugar also fills the body
empty calories, which can lead us to skimp on foods we really
namely vegetables, grains and proteins. Research shows that the
American ingests approximately 24 teaspoons of sugar each day;
should be to slash that amount in half. Here are four
1. Eat breakfast. "People who eat breakfast are less likely to
[sugar] cravings," says Somer. When your body wakes up, it wants
instant energy boost that carbohydrates provide. If you don't fuel
the a.m., that chemistry comes back to haunt you: "By afternoon,
hungry, and the carb you should have had as oatmeal you're now
the form of a chocolate chip cookie," says Somer. Filling up early
day will make you less likely to overeat or binge on junk when
rolls around. Prime low-sugar breakfast choices include eggs,
whole-grain cereal and fruit with unsweetened yogurt.
2. Dilute drinks. Consider diluting soda, juice and other sweet
with water, suggests Walsh. Also, try to make water your drink of
Not all waters are created equal: "The new vitamin water drinks on
market are loaded with sugar," Walsh cautions. Aim for eight
tap or mineral water a day.
3. Go halfsies. It's easy math: To reduce your sugar intake, eat
amount of the sugary foods you usually have. Drink only half a
soda, or cut up that muffin. Eventually you can wean yourself down
quarter of the amount. For many sugar lovers, this is a better
than going cold turkey, since caving in just a little to your
be enough to satisfy it, while restricting yourself completely may
ratchet up your desire. "For many people, the pendulum can quickly
from abstinence to bingeing," Somer explains.
4. Test your cravings. Sometimes your desire for sugary foods
straightforward as it might seem. Before you cave, figure out what
your body wants the sweet stuff to fulfill. If you think you're
ice cream, have a tall glass of ice water instead. Somer says many
patients find that what they were actually craving was something
wet, so ice water does the trick. And sometimes a piece of fruit
give you the energy boost you're hankering for in the form of a
— plus, the fruit will provide you with some much-needed vitamins.
up to you to channel your cravings in a healthy direction.