Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Nourish & Strengthen Series No. 2 - Balancing Sugar Cravings

(Before I share these recommendations with you, I need to share a little bit about my embarrassing sweet tooth background. )

Sugar cravings have always been something I've struggled with.  (I shudder at the memories of my Coke a Cola / Hershey bar lunches from the Junior High vending machines.)  Fast forward to being a mother now.  I really love to bake. Especially in the colder months. Somewhere along the way I have adopted the belief that I am a good mother when I bake treats for my children, that baking cookies creates happy air, and that my children will love me more for it when they reflect back upon their happy kitchen childhood. But this belief could be the breeding ground for unhealthy lifestyles in my children and how they look at food.

In the past, we would bake dozens of cookies and goodies in all their many varieties for the holidays. From Chewy Chocolate Gingerbread cookies, to Cream Cheese Thumbprints, to Cookie Brittle, to Frosted Sugar Cookies with sprinkles, Mint Chocolate Bars, and my personal favorite, multiple batches of English Toffee. We'd give plates of our homemade treats to friends and neighbors, but lots of those treats made it into our own bellies as well. Yikes!

(I just totally had an episode of the too much sugar barf chills.)

I've really had to cut back. 

***I don't want it to be a fight with myself to be healthy***

If my children want me to make cookies, 
I don't want to tell them I can't because sugar is of the devil. 
I want to be able to bake treats in moderation and still encourage healthy snacks as part of our lifestyle. 

And I want to be a good example to my children - 
giving them the balance and tools necessary 
to grow up healthy and not addicted to sugar .

First, I've had to get a handle on my own sugar cravings.

Here's where my tips and experience come in.  These are the things I do now to help me achieve a better balance, I think they can help you too:

#1: Talk with your husband and children about your goals. Do this on family night so everyone can get on the same page.  Write down all the reasons why you want to eat healthy.  Hang your ideas on the fridge or tape strips of paper with the reasons written down on them, onto the cupboards for a while to remind everyone of what your goals are. Some examples are: "I want to run and not be weary."   "I want to feel good in my skinny jeans."  "I want my teeth to be in good shape when I go to the dentist."  "I want my mood to stay even tempered and not have highs and lows with energy."  "I want to be healthy from the inside out".  Reminders are super helpful for those times when the cravings are especially strong.

#2: Go through your kitchen cupboards, pantry and fridge and throw away all the junk.  Do this when you aren't hungry at all. Purge everything that has artificial sweeteners, unhealthy snacks, leftover holiday goodies, candy, and other tempting snack foods that will sabotage your goals. Don't hesitate in throwing it away.  Some of us have been conditioned to not throw food away. Better for it to go in the trash can than in your body. . . . which leads us to #3.

Pause before you bite.
#3: Visualize your body from the inside out when you eat.  Many of us are disconnected with the process of what happens inside our bodies every time we take a bite.  Pause for a moment, before you take a bite. If you can visualize the food inside your body as it's breaking down, if you can see it giving you nourishment, vitality, energy, strength and vigor, right down to the cells of your muscles and bones, you will become a more thoughtful eater.  You can take this visualization as deep as you want by educating yourself more on nutrition.  Here's one of my favorite resources for this kind of knowledge.  (Dr. Douillard is one of my favorite health gurus.)

#4: Sip hot water and/or herbal tea throughout the day.  My little red tea pot get's a lot of use in our house throughout the day.  So does my thermos.  An added bonus with this tip is the hydration factor. Sometimes our bodies crave sugar when we are dehydrated.  My favorite line of herbal teas are The Republic of Tea brand.  I'm a big fan of the antioxidant powers of herbs, they're natural friends to the immune system and body balance.  My favorite all time tea is called Get Lost for it's inclusion of the herb, Gymnema, a natural herb remedy for sugar cravings.  Get Lost tea also has hints of cinnamon and carob which satisfy the appetite without adding calories.

#5: Realize that having treats is not totally off limits. 

When I slip into an 'all or nothing' mentality about having treats and sweets, I begin to focus on only the treats. Laser focus. It's all I can think about.  But I'm learning it doesn't have to be all or nothing. If I'm feeling like treats are scarce in the world, I'll rebel and bake and feel like hoarding.  If I have a sense that I can bake a treat or eat a sweet whenever I want, that treats are abundant, then it's easier for me to say, Nah, not today. So, I let myself bake, sometimes cutting the recipe in half - just to remind myself that it's okay to eat for pleasure. The key is moderation.

#6: Decide in advance when you are going to have treats in the home:

Do not always have sugary treats in your home.  Choose the times that are most important to have treats, and only have the treat/ingredients available for those times.  This might mean boxing up the white flour/sugar/brown sugar/ ingredients you use for baking and putting them up on a high shelf in the pantry.  This will eliminate impulse baking or treat making when you make this rule because you actually have to  make a conscious effort to get the ingredients together. (Just the step of getting out the step ladder will kill my motivation to bake.)  :)  Since a lot of my favorite cookie recipes are memorized, this one step alone has helped me postpone or eliminate unnecessary/spontaneous treat making in our home.  I know I want to have treats for special events, for family home evening, or when we're entertaining.  But for everyday, I know I don't want them to be a part of our daily routine. Deciding in advance when it's most important to have treats and when it's not, also puts savings into our grocery budget and whittles down the waistline.

#7: Lean protein and healthy fats are your best friends:

I've noticed that protein stabilizes my blood sugar.  For me, this means eating a hard boiled egg for breakfast with some Odwala green smoothie to wash my vitamins and supplements down, a whey protein shake (I add spinach and frozen fruit for variety) and lean turkey meat for lunch, and a normal dinner with the family.  This is my normal meal plan for most days.  When I follow this meal plan, I don't get hungry and crave things between meals.  For healthy fats: I eat eggs, real butter and coconut oil.  When I eat the right kinds of fats, again, my blood sugar is more stable. Here's an awesome article on lipid composition and fatty chains and what's good and what's not good for the body.  I recommend reading it . . . which leads us to # 8.

#8: Educate yourself on what sugar does to the body and brain:

Knowledge is power.  I need all the super powers I can get when it comes to sugar craving. Take the time to read this article about sugar and sweeteners.  This tip is closely related to #3 above, and for good reason. While a part of me doesn't want to admit that sugar is of the devil, there's a part of me that now knows all the harm sugar can do to our bodies. And I can't ignore this knowledge when I'm having sugar cravings. I'm grateful for science and medicine and the insights they shed on foods and body chemistry.

If one of your goals is to curb sugar cravings, to be healthy from the inside out, try incorporating some of these tips into your lifestyle. Writing this post has been such a great reminder for me. If it helps even one person out there to feel better, I will be so happy.  As always, let me know of any tips you have incorporated.  We can do it!!!

Some sample smoothie ingredients

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