Statistics show that the average American eats 130lbs of sugar per year! I'll admit that my intake of sugar has definitely increased in the past week with the start of the holiday season. Between hot chocolate, pumpkin pie, chocolate candy and other delicious goodies, it all adds up quick. And the more I eat, the more I seem to want. Sound familiar? That's because research has shown that sugar has addictive properties and stimulates the same neuro-pathways as cocaine. It is also possible to build up a tolerance to sugar, causing the need to eat more and more for the same 'reward' response.
Looking to nip your sugar cravings in the bud? See my post below for some tried and true tips for preventing yourself from falling into a sugary coma this holiday season.
Staying well hydrated will keep cravings at bay. Oftentimes, our body's signaling processes get confused and instead of drinking when we're thirsty, we grab a bite to eat. Keep a bottle of water with you at all times. Staying hydrated throughout the winter months will fight off dry skin, boost your mood and energy levels, and act as a natural deterrent to sugar cravings. **Side note: Be weary of liquid calories!
Eat adequate calories
Basically, don't let your blood sugar drop so low that your sugar cravings become out of control. Eat at regular intervals (I recommend 3 meals and 2 snacks daily) and make sure you're eating adequate calories for your needs. Depriving yourself throughout the day will only lead to ravenous cravings in the evening hours. So if you have a nighttime function to attend, it's best eat nutritiously throughout the day beforehand. If you overeat at a party, choose to cut back a little bit each day for the next few days, rather than depriving yourself within a short time span.
Push the fruits & veggies
Aim for 5-9 servings per day! The more you crowd out junk food with whole foods in your diet, the less frequent and intense your cravings will be. Combine this tip with staying well-hydrated for a power-packed sugar-fighting punch.
Create yourself a menu
Related to the previous two points, knowing what you plan to eat ahead of time can prevent impulsive snacking, which often leads to poor nutritional choices. Take a few minutes at the beginning of each day to write our your meals and snacks and stick to it!
Focus on non-food rewards
Proud of yourself for a recent long run, or for receiving a promotion at work? Avoid using sugar as a reward. Instead, opt for activities that are relaxing or health promoting, such as a massage or long walk. Buy yourself an early christmas present. Either way, the less you can use food as a reward, the better.
Skip the sugar substitutes
Be weary before choosing artificial sugars because in reality, there's no quick fix to America's love affair with sugar. Not only are you introducing unnatural substances to your body, but because your body doesn't know how to metabolize these "sugars," recent research shows they may be associated with weight gain and other metabolic disorders. For more information check out this blog post by Dietitian Cassie.
Get plenty of sleep
A jam packed schedule during the holidays can lead to sleep deprivation, which definitely will increase your cravings for sugar. Prioritize what you have going on and maintain your normal sleep schedule to the best of your ability.
Going "sugar-free" is an ambitious goal, and not realistic for most. Rather than depriving yourself of all sugar, which can lead to increased cravings, choose to practice moderation and keep your intake in check. Some people need to go "cold-turkey," and I say "to each their own." Do what works best for you!
Do you have any additional tips for fighting off your sugar cravings!? If so, please share!
Yes, November is more than halfway over and the holidays are just around the corner! Ready or not, stores are stocking up on their Christmas decor and holiday tunes are playing throughout. Over the next month, I will be featuring a series of posts in the form of a Holiday Survival Guide. Today's post is filled with tips on getting through the holidays unscathed. By that I don't mean surviving the Black Friday shopping rush, I mean navigating the inevitable parties and holiday functions while keeping your waistline (and sanity) intact.
#1 - is to PLAN AHEAD!
Aroundtheplate.org recently posted a pin on Pinterest that "healthy eating is 80% planning and 20% follow through." I think they are spot on. Planning ahead for the holidays will prepare you to make nutritionally sound choices. For example:
#2 - Keep up with the exercise!
It's easy to let your normal workout regime fall to the wayside with holiday functions, shopping, family gatherings and travel. However, keeping active will keep the pounds off and give you a little more wiggle room when it comes to indulgences. Even better- make a date with a friend to keep you accountable. The holidays are about spending quality time with family and friends, so choose to do something active together!
#3 - Mind your portion sizes
Whether at a holiday party or sitting down for Christmas dinner, make it a point to only fill your plate once and try to model it off the MyPlate: Aim for 1/2 your plate to be fruits and vegetables, 1/4 to be a source of lean protein and 1/4 to grains.
#4 - "Pre-load" before holiday functions
Have a tendency to overeat at potluck luncheons or parties? Research has shown that drinking a glass of water before a meal, or even a salad or bowl of broth-based soup can help curb your appetite and prevent over-eating. I recommend a piece of fruit, string cheese, greek yogurt or light soup as a great snack to help you enter into such situations fueled vs. fasted, which will in turn help you to make healthier choices (similar to the fact that it's not good to go grocery shopping while hungry).
#5 - Be selective with your indulgences
Similar to #1, plan ahead. If you look forward to grandma's deep dish apple pie every Thanksgiving, choose to make this your major indulgence of the week. Relatives' tend to be food-pushers? If it's something you're truly not craving, politely state that you're not hungry or just say no.
#6 - Monitor yourself
Maintain an exercise and food journal over the winter months and weight yourself regularly. If not daily, once or twice a week should suffice. That way, there are no surprises when you step on the scale in January. Self-monitoring will allow your to make adjustments such as exercising more or indulging less and keep you on track to meet your goals.
#7 - Have a goal!
I personally think having an athletic goal that you are working towards in early 2013 is the best way to keep yourself on track. Don't wait until the new year to set all your goals and resolutions - do so now and start working towards it! Sign up for a spring marathon or hit the gym to build some muscle in the winter months.
#8 - Start a new tradition
Gather the whole family to do a "turkey trot," "jingle bell" or new years' 5k. Go out and do some active volunteer work. Or swap out the post-feast football watching at Thanksgiving for some family flag football! Be creative!
#9 - Practice mindful eating
The holidays are a great time to be more aware of what you're putting in your mouth. Choose to eat while sitting at the table and take your time. Avoid the temptation of holding a conversation by the food table of a party and mindlessly grazing as you talk. Avoid grazing all day long by planning out meals and snacks.
#10 - Eliminate "all or nothing" thinking
SO MANY people will use the weeks leading up to the new year as an excuse to over-indulge with the thought of "I'll start my diet in January." Avoid falling into this trap! Remember that sustainable lifestyle change is a matter of treating you and your body with greater respect. Indulgences are inevitable, so don't beat yourself up if you accidentally overdo it. Put it behind you and vow to do better the next time.
A lot has been on my mind lately regarding the Richmond Marathon. Perhaps because it's only 6 days away now?!! For one, I cannot believe this is my 4th marathon (+) distance for the year (Holiday Lake 50k, Rock n' Roll USA Marathon, Eastern Divide 50k, and now Richmond). For someone who used to shutter at the thought of running more than 10 miles, it's quite a cool feeling!
Training for Richmond has not exactly gone according to plan. I kicked off the training cycle with the Eastern Divide 50k. It was the middle of the summer and HOT. I had high ambitions of redeeming myself from my disappointment at Rock n' Roll in the spring, and was bound and determined that I would finally get the Boston qualification I've been striving for. But my life (and body) had other plans. I had trouble adapting to the summer heat, was traveling for work most weekends and my life was full of uncertainty concerning full-time jobs and where we would be living by the fall. When I was finally honest with myself, I realized I was burnt out. It became apparent that I was expecting too much and needed to take a break. In the past I have faced this same situation, except I relentlessly pushed forward and suffered major consequences. I was not willing to go down that road again.
Throughout August Jordan and I were essentially living on the road. Early September finally brought the stability I had been craving: We moved to Blacksburg and my husband took his first job as a physical therapist! Before I had realized it though, I had taken 6-8 weeks off from any structured running. Richmond had been the last thing on my mind, yet the time had come for me to decide whether or not I would run it, switch to the half marathon, or defer until 2013. I wanted to settle for the most comfortable option by switching to the half marathon, but my husband, being the motivating, affirming and crazy person that he is said, "I think if you start training for the marathon now you'll go into the race fresh and not overtrained." Wise words, but I didn't want to listen to him because such an idea was outside my comfort zone. In the past, I've lived in a world of black or white-- either I was well trained and would do the race, or I was not prepared and would not.
Long story short, I decided to start training towards the marathon but with the intention of building a base for a strong marathon performance come spring 2013. And this is still my intention. In the past 8 weeks, I have covered long runs of 14, 16, 18, and 21 miles. Some runs have felt effortless and many have been a struggle. Regardless, I am grateful for how quickly my body has regained the fitness I worked so hard to attain this past spring. I am no where near the shape I was going into the Rock n' Roll Marathon, but my love for running and the willingness to push myself to new limits has returned.
As I said, Richmond is now 6 days away. Though I am not as prepared as I'd like to be, I am excited to race and blessed for the opportunity to do so. Running is a gift -- it brings me happiness each day, leaves me with a feeling of accomplishment, helps to relieve stress and is a source of camaraderie between so many people. My dad, who is 63 and running the Philadelphia Marathon in two weeks, is running the best that he has in years. Countless friends will be running Richmond as their first marathon. My husband will be running one of his favorite races, the Hellgate 100k, in early December. These things also make me happy. Finally, reading all the stories about the NYC Marathon cancellation and the people who either ran on their own or volunteered on Staten Island has reminded me that running and racing is not just about me, or winning, or hitting a specific time. It's the journey that matters most. It's about believing in yourself and others, community, health, setting a positive example, striving for something great and learning about yourself in the process.
Unlike my previous two marathons, my plan for Richmond is not to strive for a stellar performance. I have no intentions of qualifying for Boston, or even setting a PR. This sort of pressure has not faired too well in the past -- I get over-ambitious and go out to fast, bonk, then look back on my race with disappointment. I have time goals for Richmond- I would love to be in the 3:40-3:50 range, but my main goal is to go out and have fun, run a conservative race, and stay strong through the final 6-8 miles. I plan to look for as many familiar faces as I can find, offer up encouragement to others, and sit back and remember why I love running. Who knows... maybe I'll even enjoy a treat at one of party aid stations. I want to get the full experience of racing in America's Friendliest Marathon!
For everyone else racing in Richmond this weekend, see you out there and good luck! When the race gets tough, I hope you will dig deep and remember all the reasons why you love to run.
Kristen Chang is Registered Dietitian Nutritionist (RDN), Certified Specialist in Sports Dietetics (CSSD) and endurance athlete residing in southwest Virginia alongside her husband and dog. Through this blog she aims to share favorite fueling recipes, general wellness and sport nutrition tips and stories from her athletic endeavors.
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