DEAR SANDRA: The Advice Column

December 11, 2002

Dear Sandra,

I read your column last week about the overweight woman who felt men avoided her because of her weight, and I thought it was great! Since I now know that you answer questions related to weight issues, I was hoping you could help me with my problem. I am addicted to sugar. I can’t lose weight because I can’t fight my constant sugar cravings, do you have any suggestions or advice?

Sweet Tooth

Dear Sweet Tooth;

I can relate to your problem, I too love sweets (then again what kind of person can really live on brown rice and chicken alone?). Wouldn’t it be great if some scientist developed a diet plan to keep you thin and energetic on cheesecake and chocolate alone? We can dream can’t we?

The body digests all sugars – fructose from fruit, white sugar, honey, etc. – and breaks them down into glucose, the body’s primary source of energy. Our bodies are genetically programmed to crave calories to store up for times of famine. Unfortunately in the last sixty years we have not had a famine in our part of the world and our food choices have drastically increased. We live in a society that is surrounded by convenience stores offering 30 different kinds of chocolate bars or 24-hour grocery stores with bakeries enticing you to buy their sugar-coated treats with the smells wafting from their ovens.

Sugar in all of its forms is full of empty calories and has no nutritional value. Because of this sugary treats or drinks do not satisfy our hunger, causing us to ingest more than we should. Sugar in large doses also plays a number on our health. Cavities are mainly caused by the sugary foods sticking to our teeth forming an acid that eats away at the tooth enamel. Never mind our teeth, the amount of sugar in two cans of pop paralyzes 92% of your white blood cells for five hours following consumption (Sweet Dietary Success, 2003). This gives viruses and bacteria plenty of time to come in and wreak havoc on our bodies. Maybe this is why I’m always sick at Christmas time: the week long overdose of sugar from the eggnog and shortbread cookies take down my defences.

Eating sweets may satisfy our cravings and give an instant energy rush, but then insulin is released to take care of the excess sugar and afterwards we end up feeling groggy and bitchy. In order to ward off these insatiable, undeniable cravings for sweets it is important not to let your blood sugar levels drop too low which means eating regularly; see there is a logical reason why we are supposed to eat breakfast after all. Try to fill up on high-fibre foods, which help to maintain blood sugar levels, and protein, which helps prevent sudden shifts in blood sugar levels.

I have found that I crave sugar the most when I am inactive, like when I’m typing away at my computer or sitting and reading a book. This is when I tend to be drawn to the Werther’s candies left upstairs in a fancy bowl for company or that last slice of cake in the refrigerator. Now instead of reaching for candy or cake I try (sometimes I slip, I live four blocks away from a fabulous bakery) to only reach for sugar-free candies or Spitz (flavoured sunflower seeds). I’m still snacking, just in a healthier way.

You hear a lot in weight loss programs or magazines to keep a food journal. It sounds like a stupid, pointless thing to do, but if for one day you write down every piece of food that enters your mouth – from that spoon of sugar in your coffee to the M&M you found under your child’s car seat while you were cleaning the van – you will be amazed at the amount and types of food you put in your body. Eating healthy meals and having regular nutritional snacks throughout the day will eventually help curb your sugar cravings.

There will be withdrawal though, and the first couple of days without your sugar fix will be complete hell! Fight through the pain and your energy, mood, immune system and the number on the scale will slowly improve.

Sandra

References:

Sweet Dietary Success. Oxygen. January, 2003. No. 41 p. 66 & 67

This column is for entertainment only. Sandra is not a professional counsellor, but is an AU student who would like to give personal advice about school and life to her peers. Please forward your questions to Sandra care of smoore@ausu.org

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