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Hi. My name is Jack, and I’m an addict. (This is where you say, “Hi, Jack!” and I raise my hands in the air as if I’m being mugged… It’s a terrible joke, especially at airports. I blame the sugar. It made me do it.)

As I began typing this last night, I was munching through a bag of candy. Today, I had peach cobbler with a scoop of ice cream. In fact, these last few weeks I’ve been particularly bad about indulging my cravings. I have a few reasons. Excuse me. Let me own it: I have a few excuses. There, I admitted it. When I feel peckish before leaving the house, I do have a strategy that works. It takes some of the edge off the temptation once I arrive at a grocery store, party, or cinema. The trick is to actually use it!

So, here I am, a personal trainer and wellness advocate admitting that I have a rampant sweet tooth. I struggle with it, and sometimes I win. Many other times I don’t. Let’s look at what is affecting me, and perhaps it will help you contend with your own cravings.

Causes of sugar addiction

Exposure to daylight

I love autumn. It’s my favorite time of year! Well, I love the first part of autumn. As soon as the time changes an hour, I hate autumn. It gets so dark so early. In me this starts to trigger Seasonal Affective Disorder (S.A.D.). If you don’t know, S.A.D. is a form of depression the shorter days during fall and winter can trigger. Not only are my moods compromised, but hibernation responses get cranked up. Yep, like many animals, we do store more fat during the cold and dark nights at the end of the year. Why do you think we cram so many brightly lit feasts into the end of the year? Traditionally, our ancestors needed to break up the dark and freezing days with light, laughter and lots of food.

Appetite & Nutrition

I also contend with an irregular appetite. Many people are stress eaters, but I’m a stress faster. When anything puts me out of order to any degree, I forget to eat. I travel a great deal between time zones, too. Between S.A.D., shifting time zones, hectic travel experiences and insomnia, I’ve got all sorts of interruptions that distract me from eating. Perhaps you go to food to comfort yourself? I go to starvation. Neither are good, and both create a need for sugar. By the time I realize I need to eat, I’m famished. And that, in addition to everything else, triggers a ravenous need for energy. The fastest source of that energy is refined sugar. If you already have trouble managing your blood glucose levels, consider trying ginger!

Resisting addiction

So, what can you do? If you’re struggling with depression, consciously find ways to treat and/or mitigate it. If S.A.D. is an issue for you, consider getting a lamp that uses a bulb that emulates full spectrum daylight. Try to maintain a regular eating schedule to prevent desperate cravings. Invest in getting adequate rest and sleep. Drink plenty of water. Exercise daily. All of these help.

But what about lessening the cravings? I have found that the gradual removal and replacement of sugar is what is sustainable, but even then I will go crazy from time to time. Using natural sweeteners has helped. Fortunately for me, I have been disciplined long enough to be able to afford some binging from time to time. But whether you are already fit or not, recognize that you will have to forgive yourself frequently as you make tiny steps toward a long journey’s destination. Also, having a cheat day once every two weeks keeps your metabolism from slowing way down. Gradually, ween yourself to fewer and fewer cheat days, and try to remember moderation in between them.

To break the actual gratification response when tasting sweets, look for a product like Crave Crush. It bonds to your sweet taste buds, and prevents your tasting sugar (learn how here). It doesn’t affect the other flavors of your food. Be aware that Crave Crush contains Gymnema Leaf Extract and Zinc Gluconate, both of which interact with medications. Ask your doctor or pharmacist before trying it. If you have used it, it can help break your cravings.

Note: You’re not alone in your struggles with sugar. Janet Jackson has been up and down with her weight for many years, and she talks about her process of getting her head around some of the obstacles. Her memoir is about understanding destructive behavior and the stressors that trigger them.

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Jack Kirven is a mobile personal trainer in Charlotte, NC. He is the owner of INTEGRE8T Wellness.

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