By Ryan Halvorson
Welcome to the season of sweets! If you’re like me it can be difficult to make it through the next few months unscathed. And that’s ok. While I don’t necessarily buy into the “people-gain-5-pounds-during-the-hoidays-and-never-burn-it-off” mentality, I do think it’s important to set up a system to mitigate potential damage and avoid turning a bit of indulgence into a 3-month binge. Here are the seven steps of my Sugar Rehab Program to help you get back on track. And they don’t involve 8 days of juice-, lemonade- or vegetable-only diets.
1. Toss It
Still got Halloween candy hanging around? Simply get rid of it. Remove it from your home. This is known as a physical detox. I’ve tried the “just-have-two-pieces-per-week” plan many times. Right. That piece or two almost always turns into an all-out sugar-fest followed by a coma followed by another sugar binge. And please don’t bring it to the office where you’ll tempt your coworkers. It’s just cruel. If you know that it’s not good for you, why would you pawn it off on someone else? It’s like quitting cigarettes by giving the pack to a friend. It’s bad karma. The best solution? Just trash it. My mom always said that was a waste, but let’s be honest, that $8.99 bag of fake chocolate and high-fructose corn syrup is doing nobody any good. Got kids? Do them a favor and offer to swap their candy for a toy or other non-food reward.
2. Guzzle Water
Water keeps the body hydrated and also helps quicken the elimination of toxins. A dehydrated body can also create symptoms of cravings and hunger. When your sweet tooth starts nagging, grab a glass of H2O and knock it back. Wait a few minutes. If that doesn’t do the trick, move on to step 3.
3. Get Fruity
If you must have sugar in your body then get it from more nutritious sources like fruit. While it doesn’t look like the chocolate your mind is telling you that you want, a piece of fruit will satisfy the craving. You see, the body doesn’t really know the difference between candy and fruit. Think of it as a mind thing. Before reaching for that Hershey bar, eat a low-sugar, high-fiber, nutrient dense fruit like an apple, pear or some blueberries. Need a crunch? Pair it with a small handful of pumpkin seeds or other protein source. Protein helps slow the absorption of sugars which can minimize any rushes or crashes.
4. Work It Out
Sugar is a source of fuel for the body. Of course, the sugar you get from the common candy bar is very low-grade, but it’s sugar nonetheless. Use that extra fuel during a next-day, high-intensity workout. This serves a few purposes. One of the reasons we crave sugar is because it releases endorphins, or “happy” hormones. Exercise does the same thing. Second, it helps to burn some of the excess sugar floating around the body. Third, when you work out you’re less likely to binge because you don’t want to “ruin” all that hard work you put in. And finally, an intense workout increases energy levels throughout the day and can curb desires for that sweet, afternoon pick-me-up.
I recommend some sort of sprint interval or heavy leg workout. The day following a little indulgence might include a 20-minute rowing machine session, performing the following sequence:
- 3 minute low-intensity warm-up
- 30-second sprint (turning up the resistance to increase muscular output), 60-second active rest moving very slowly
- Repeat until the 20-minute mark
- 3-minute cool-down
Note: If using a cardio machine, DO NOT look at the calorie counter. It’s lying to you. The magic of this workout happens after you’re finished.
5. Get Your Mind Right
It’s always after a holiday that you tend to hear things like “I’m gonna have to work out extra hard today; I’m ashamed and am not eating anything else all day long; or, I’m such a slouch for letting myself go.” First, I need to be brutally honest about the previous statements.
- Your “punishment” of a workout that is designed to burn calories will not come close to wiping out last night’s carnage.
- Eating nothing the next day will not “balance things out.” Instead it intensifies cravings causing you to raid the refrigerator later, thus repeating the cycle.
- Psychologists believe that negative self-talk results in weakened self-esteem and willpower, and promotes the “I-already-screwed-up-so-I-might-as-well-go-full-tailspin” mentality. This all creates the urge to reach for that quick-fix, short-lived mood enhancer known as junk food.
Part of letting go of cravings is to get into a positive head space so try to change the conversation you have with yourself. You binged. So what? Enjoy it and move on. The only way thinking about a binge helps is to analyze why it happened and to see what you can do differently to avoid it in the future. Instead of dwelling on the problem, shift focus to positive solutions. Examples:
- I did it. It’s done. Move on.
- I overindulged last night and it’s ok. Now what can I do to get back on track?
- What can I do to avoid similar situations in the future?
- My cravings may have bested me last night, but I’m getting right back on track today.
It’s never too late to start over again.
Keep in mind that if you’re not used to thinking this way, it will take plenty of practice to become adept at it, so don’t get disheartened if negative thoughts invade your mind.
6. Get Some Green
Another way to rehab your cravings is to regulate blood sugar levels. When your blood sugar is regulated and balanced, cravings are minimized. However, after sugar binges, blood sugar spikes and is quickly absorbed into the blood stream making you feel depleted of energy. Once that happens you feel fatigued and crave sugar to improve energy levels. Recently several studies have found that regular consumption of green tea can help. Green tea stabilizes sugar levels and reduces the spike-and-crash potential, all while giving you a gentle buzz, and jitter-free caffeine boost. Plus, drinking the stuff has also been linked to reduced cancer risk and improved heart health.
7. Focus on Feelings
How do you feel the day after a binge? Lethargic? Grumpy? Bloated? What about after a few days of eating well and exercising? Keep the answers to these questions in mind to help ward off temptation and keep you on track. You might even make yourself a list of how you feel after both scenarios and keep it with you–in your wallet or purse–and pull it out on occasion so you can stay focused.
Binges are a natural component of human life. And you’ll probably relapse over and over again. The important thing is to move past it and get right back to your standard, fat-loss food plan.
Do you know someone who needs a sugar intervention? Spread the love and share this post with them.