The post-holiday period, coupled by the winter doldrums can serve up a difficult emotional and physical mix, especially with the addition of the “sugar blues,” which can affect people any time of the year.
We spoke about sugar and its effects with Lisa Domyahn, a certified holistic health and fitness coach who owns Solid at My Core. She is also a personal trainer and group fitness instructor at the Chaska Community Center. “I am not a licensed nutritionist, dietician, doctor or nurse practitioner,” she clarifies. “I am someone who works with and partners with these people, and any other health care practitioner, to help you implement and act upon getting and being healthy.”
What is our body saying when we crave sugar? Domyahn says, craving sugar and salt, could be partly physiological, psychological and [environmentally related.]
She says to ask yourself:
- Am I dehydrated? It can manifest itself in many ways, one of them being cravings, especially for sugar.
- What have I been eating and when? Bodies need a balanced intake of good, high-fiber carbs, lean protein and heart health fats each day. Are you starting your day with a doughnut and coffee? This decision alone can make or break your day. Your decision to have the doughnut or even skipping meals/eating very little could lead to a crash later in the day.
- Am I forbidding sugar and salt from diet? This can backfire. It’s about finding a balance and learning to make good choices daily.
- Do I realize that sugar is addictive? ... Sugar is sweet, and we like sweet. Our brain knows this … sugar releases chemicals in our brains that make us feel good.
- Am I listening to my body? Research shows that when you are tired, you are more likely to turn to whatever you crave to get more energy or to wake up. Stress may impair your adrenal glands, which is your body’s way of regulating.
- Do I have health issues? Excessive hunger can mean your blood sugar is too high or too low, cravings may mean this, too. I am not a doctor, so depending on what is happening, I suggest talking with a doctor.
- How am I feeling psychologically? Sometimes when we are not getting the emotional and physical support we need, we crave other things. Back to how our brains are wired; we want to feel good (dopamine).
We asked if the "sugar blues" manifest in the form of brain fog, low energy and the mid-day slump. Domyahn says yes, noting: If you are constantly eating sugar things, you may be on a blood sugar rollercoaster.
When we’re tired, we often reach for even more sugar to counteract the fatigue, which leads to a cycle of sugar-fueled highs and lows.
Domyahn offers tips for changing your relationship with sugar:
- Eat whole foods, regularly, in their natural form, such as fruits and veggies, and less processed, less refined sugar full foods. Eat a good combo of protein, heart healthy fat and good carbs to help regulate blood sugar and feel full.
- Eat fruit to satisfy sweet cravings. Stick to low sugar fruits, like berries. (Eat your fruit, don’t drink it.)
- Don’t get dehydrated.
- Get plenty of rest.
- Using coriander, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves and cardamom will naturally sweeten foods and reduce cravings.
- Exercise will boost energy and decrease a need for a sugar lift.
- Be open to explore the emotional issues around your sugar addiction.
- Keep sugary snacks out of reach.
- Don’t substitute artificial sweeteners for sugar.
- Read labels. The longer the list of ingredients, the more likely sugar is going to be included on that list.