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Keeping the sugar cravings at bay isn’t only about what you eat (or don’t eat!). By also addressing certain lifestyle factors you may find energy and mood are boosted and ease the need to lean on the sweet stuff.

Here are a few things to consider.

Sleep
We are living in an era where getting by with little sleep earns a badge of honour. But here’s news, people – it does you no good. Despite what we tell ourselves, only a rare few get through life effectively with less than 7 hours of nightly zzz’s (and less than that is considered sleep deprivation).

Long-term it can lead to all manner of health problems, including type 2 diabetes, heart disease, weight gain, immune dysfunction, and possibly Alzheimer’s.1-3

Short-term, it can result in increased desire for sugary stuff to boost mood and energy. But any mood or energy boost from added sugars is short-lived and has you reaching for more.

Try to set up a regular sleep routine, aiming for 7-8 hours of good quality sleep per night, every night, going to bed and waking the next morning at the same time. It may take a little while to get your body into a routine, so be patient and persist.

Additionally, ensure you are away from bright lights 30-45minutes before bed (yes, put the phone/iPad/TV aside) to help the production of melatonin, our sleep hormone, to flow.

Get moving
Exercise. Yes, most of us should be doing more. Physical movement is excellent for supporting brain function while producing energy and endorphins – two things we can reach to the sugary snacks for.

To incentivise and maintain a regular exercise routine, try a variety of ways to get moving to establish what works for you.

Some love running, others a walk with mates. Try swimming or yoga; join a local touch footy or ultimate Frisbee team. Put the headphones on a dance like no-one is watching, take the stairs whenever possible, or join a gym and lift weights.

Ways in which to move are only limited by your imagination! Just remember if you are keen on the activity, you are more likely to do it and keep doing it.

Soak some rays
Getting a dose of vitamin D from exposing some skin to the sun is excellent for boosting mood and therefore, may help reduce the desire to reach for a block of Dairy Milk for that emotional pick-me-up. Be sure to be sun smart though – in summer you only need a few minutes!

Also, consider exposing yourself to some natural light first thing in the morning. This sets your circadian rhythm for the day (which can help with energy along with better food choices and sleep the following night).

Breathe
Practicing mindfulness is increasing in popularity. And rightly so! Finding ways to tune into the present and take a deep, enriching breathe can activate a part of our nervous system that tells our body and brain that everything is okay.

This is important. When our body and brain believe we are in danger, stress hormones are produced. When we are stressed, some habitual survival tactics kick in, such as reaching for a pack of cookies. Your body wants you to eat foods packed with quick-to-access energy like added sugars so it can be fuelled up and ready to flee what it believes is sabre-toothed tiger hot on your tail.

But most of us do not live in a life or death situation, despite how the body interprets your conscious or subconscious perception of the situation at hand.

Tell your body and brain something different – manage stress and get mindful.

While mindfulness practice can be undertaken in a variety of ways, it can be as simple as making the time to stop what you are doing to focus on taking a deep inhalation followed by long controlled exhalation, repeated several times. This practice is known to activate the part of the nervous system that tells your body and brain life is not in danger (so there is no need for that sugar-fuelled flee from the sabre-toothed tiger).

Then, whenever possible, ensure you are focusing 100% on the task at hand – whether a conversation, eating food, playing with your kid, or crunching numbers for your monthly report. Being present in your task will bode well for sustaining energy and decreasing stress.

By Angela Johnson (BHSc Nut. Med)

 

References:

  1. NHS 2017, Why lack of sleep is bad for your health, viewed 3 October 2017, <http://www.nhs.uk/Livewell/tiredness-and-fatigue/Pages/lack-of-sleep-health-risks.aspx>
  2. Ju, YS, Ooms, SJ, Sutphen, C, Macauley, SL, Zangrilli, MA, Jerome, G, Fagan, AM, Mignot, E, Zempel, JM, Claassen, JR, & Holtzman, DM 2017, ‘Slow wave sleep disruption increases cerebrospinal fluid amyloid-β levels’, Brain: A Journal of Neurology, vol. 140, no. 8, pp. 2104-2111.
  3. Ooms, S, Overeem, S, Besse, K, Rikkert, MO, Verbeek, M, & Claassen, JR 2014, ‘Effect of 1 night of total sleep deprivation on cerebrospinal fluid β-amyloid 42 in healthy middle-aged men: a randomized clinical trial’, JAMA Neurology, vol. 71, no. 8, pp. 971-977.