Overindulging in sugar happens to the best of us, especially around the holidays! Given the fact that sugar has the same addictive effects as cocaine, it’s understandable that we sometimes lose control. Sugar, like a drug, activates the reward center in the brain and stimulates the release of endorphins. It also increases dopamine, a “feel good” hormone that can fuel addiction. Over time, the receptors in your brain develop a tolerance and require larger amounts of sugar to release the “happy” chemicals. This creates sugar cravings as your brain demands more sugar and a withdrawal effect when you try and resist those cravings.
Dietary sugar also affects our blood glucose, or blood sugar, levels. High sugar foods cause your blood glucose to spike, then crash, leaving you hungry and craving more sugar! As blood glucose levels rise, the pancreas releases insulin, a hormone that shuttles glucose into the cells to be burned for energy. Insulin suppresses a hormone called leptin, a satiety signal that lets your brain know you’re full. Without leptin, you can continue to feel hungry regardless of how many calories you’ve eaten. This process is like riding a roller coaster, with your blood sugar, appetite, and hormones going up and down.
Getting off the roller coaster and breaking this cycle is key. There are plenty of easy steps you can take to off the “blood sugar rollercoaster” and back on track!
Skipping your next meal might seem like the logical thing to do after consuming that many calories, but, in reality, all it does is crash your blood sugar and create more cravings. Protein is slower-digesting and helps stabilize blood sugar so you don’t feel tempted to grab more sweets. Try hummus and veggies, hardboiled eggs, a handful of raw almonds, or celery sticks with peanut butter.
Eat your vegetables
When you eat too much sugar, your insulin spikes and tells your body to store extra sugar as fat. Veggies are high in fiber, which slows down the absorption of sugar so your body can burn it more efficiently instead of just storing it. They’re also loaded with antioxidants that help with general detox and the “sugar hangover.”
Eat probiotic foods
Eating sugar feeds the “bad” bacteria in your gut. As the bad bacteria take over, they trigger cravings for more sugar and a cycle begins. Try drinking some kombucha or kefir, or adding plain yogurt or sauerkraut to your daily diet to replenish the good bacteria!
Drink LOTS of water
Sugar, like salt, can cause dehydration. Too much sugar causes water to move out of the cells and into the bloodstream where it’s no longer useful. This triggers symptoms of dehydration and can also cause post-sugar bloat, leaving you looking and feeling puffy.
After the rush wears off, too much sugar will leave you glued to the couch. This is the last thing you want to do! Physical activity, even gentle, will help your body “burn off” the excess sugar instead of storing it as fat. Take a walk, clean the house, dance around with your kids… anything counts!
Get rid of leftovers
Out of sight, out of mind! Remember, eating sugar creates a “roller coaster” effect in your body, leaving you craving more sugar. Removing temptation makes it much easier to resist cravings while you get back on track.
Get a good night’s rest
Riding the blood sugar roller coaster can leave you with low energy for hours, or even days! If you’re short on sleep, you’re more likely to crave sugar for a quick source of energy. Aim for at least 8 hours of sleep, especially after too many sweets. Let’s face it: you can’t change past behaviors. The best thing to do is move on by taking action to rebalance your body and break the cycle of sugar addiction!