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Stress sharpens your sweet tooth.
You may associate the word addiction with drugs, alcohol and tobacco, but according to Jeffrey Rossman, Ph.D., simple table sugar meets all the criteria for an addictive substance, too. Sugar causes the release of pleasure neurotransmitters including dopamine and serotonin in the brain. Despite good intentions, many people find themselves overindulging in sugary treats and experience withdrawal when they try to detox. While sugar is a powerful substance, you need not be a slave to cravings.
A heavy workload at the office or problems at home are likely to increase your stress and your weight, according to Harvard Health Publications. When you are under chronic stress, your adrenal glands release a hormone called cortisol which stimulates your appetite. A stress-induced appetite is also very selective. You're much more likely to crave fat and sugar than you would be in calmer circumstances. Practice relaxation techniques such as meditation, deep breathing and yoga to manage your stress and beat the sugar cravings.
Refined carbohydrates such as cookies, cake and soda cause your blood sugar to spike then crash a short while later, leaving you feeling lethargic, irritable and weak. When sugar cravings hit, reach for a piece of fruit or a whole-grain bagel. You'll satisfy your sweet tooth and the complex carbohydrates will keep your energy levels stable.
Since a blood sugar crash will make you vulnerable to cravings, it's important to plan regular meals and snacks. Eat every three to four hours beginning within the hour of your rising. Try to combine protein and complex carbohydrates -- both of which are digested slowly -- at each meal. For instance, you might have eggs and whole-grain toast for breakfast and an apple with peanut butter for a snack.
When a craving takes root in your mind, it's tough to combat. Rather than face your sugar enemy head on, look for a distraction. Call a friend, read a book or go for a walk. Physical activity is an excellent way to cope with cravings and it's good for your health, too.
Sugar isn't just hormonally and neurochemically addictive. Your hankering for sweets may spring from psychological issues, too. Keep a record of your cravings and corresponding emotions for several weeks. Evaluate the journal and look for trends. Are you tempted to reach for a brownie when you're sad, bored or lonely? Talk to a therapist to get to the root of your cravings.