Jessica Glasner

WHY CAN'T I STOP EATING CANDY?

Ever sneak a few pieces of Halloween candy in between trick-or-treaters and end up binging on half the bowl? Or have a hard time resisting grabbing a king size bar in the grocery store checkout? Candy addiction, or more specifically sugar addiction is more common than you may think… and dangerous. Dr. James DiNicolantonio, cardiovascular research scientist at the Saint Luke’s Mid America Heart Institute published an opinion piece in the New York Times where he stated “In a recent study, we showed that sugar, perhaps more than salt, contributes to the development of cardiovascular disease” [1]. When people say that they have a sugar addiction, most people don’t take it seriously because having a "sweet tooth" sounds pretty normal. Well, bad news. That sweet tooth could be more dangerous than you think. Sugar can be addictive in the same way that drugs are, which is a scary thought.

Sugar...sugar everywhere

It doesn’t help that countless food options in the grocery store are loaded with it— with large amounts of added sugars in the majority of packaged foods. The average American consumes anywhere from a quarter to a half pound of sugar a day [1]. A 20 oz bottle of Coca Cola contains 65g of sugar, which is equivalent to 1.77 shot glasses… That’s almost two 1.5oz shot glasses filled with sugar. Drinking a soda is like drinking liquid sugar… and then when you account for all of the sugar in things like snack cakes, cookies, candy and even condiments such as ketchup, it adds up pretty quickly.

 

You may be asking yourself these questions:

Is it that my body is craving sugar?

Could I have low blood sugar?

Why can't I only limit myself to one piece?

To address those questions:

  1. Yes, you can blame your body. Sugar fuels every cell in the brain. Your brain also sees sugar as a reward, which makes you keep wanting more of it. If you often eat a lot of sugar, you're reinforcing that reward, which can make it tough to break the habit [2].
  2. There's also a good chance that your body is facing low blood sugar when you begin to crave sweet things like candy. Since your body uses glucose for energy, it is constantly moving it into your cells. Then your body produces insulin which may cause a sudden drop in blood sugar. Then guess what happens next? Your body reacts negatively and signals you to grab something sugary to replenish glucose levels.
  3. The more you eat, the more you crave. Even if you don't eat donuts and soda every day, you most likely eat some kind of starches that trigger the same cravings. When you eat simple carbohydrates such as white bread, bagels and chips, your body breaks them down into simple sugars. These types of food have the ability to make your blood sugar spike and crash the same way candy does. It's hard to limit yourself when your body doesn't feel satisfied after just one piece.

Plus, it doesn't help that most holidays involve candy. Think about it, it's constantly being advertised. Halloween, Christmas, Valentine's Day, Easter. All year round.

So what next? How do you stop eating it? Or at least consume it in moderation?

It's mind over matter in this situation, similar to many other diet-related issues. You have to find some kind of motivation to stop binge eating it. Quitting cold turkey is easier than it sounds, especially if you're already consuming it in large amounts and addicted to it. Ease off of the sugar at your own pace if you feel more comfortable that way. If you want to stop the addiction long-term, weaning off of it slowly may be the best option for an optimum chance of sticking with it long-term.

Ways to break the habit:

  • Control the sugar intake in all of your meals/snacks-- not just the candy. The more sugar you eat, the more you'll body will crave it. It's okay to eat it once in a while, moderation is key
  • Find your own motivation
    • You want to lose weight and candy is pushing you away from reaching your goal
    • You want to be the healthiest version of yourself, both inside and out
  • Brainstorm replacement options, so if you ever want to reach for candy, you can reach for a healthier option instead. Some foods will curb your sugar craving with their natural sweetness, which is what you want to aim for
  • Remember how candy makes your body feel... groggy, dehydrated and may even upset your stomach. Remind yourself that you'll feel satisfied (and full) with other options

I want candy... What should I eat instead?

Fruit is a great choice because it's naturally sweet... no artificial sweeteners or junk included. Plus, you are actually eating something nutritious and full of vitamins and minerals instead of things like candy that do absolutely nothing for you nutritionally, except add up calories.

Craving chocolate? Make it dark. If you're going to do it, do it right! Instead of eating a milk chocolate bar, like a Twix with caramel and a cookie inside, opt for 1oz of Dark Chocolate with 65% or more cacao. It satisfies a sweet tooth, is filled with antioxidants and is a good source of healthy fats (read about healthy fats here).

Pair it with protein if you decide to indulge in some candy. It sounds a bit strange, but it has a purpose. Pair a small amount of candy, like a fun-size pack of M&M's with a string cheese. The protein provides a slower rise in blood sugar and forgoes the insulin spike, plus it keeps you feeling satiated which may prevent you from grabbing another fun-size pack (or three).

REFERENCES
[1] Sugar Season. It’s Everywhere, and Addictive.
http://www.nytimes.com/2014/12/23/opinion/sugar-season-its-everywhere-and-addictive.html?_r=0
[2] The Truth About Sugar Addiction
http://www.webmd.com/diet/ss/slideshow-sugar-addiction

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