Halloween is over and I’m sure your house is still filled with candy! Personally, my sweet tooth starts to twitch at the start of Halloween and will rage until New Years. However, instead of derailing my diet, but more importantly my health, I have developed a few strategies to avoid a candy crisis.
It is so easy to just say, oh, I will only have one bite, or this fun size is so small I will just have one, only to find yourself in a pile of wrappers?
Why did this happen?
Well, for starters, sugar has the same effect on your brain as cocaine. One hit of the sweet stuff and your mind tells your hand to open another package, then another, then another. Second, the months of October and November are fairly stressful. If you work, end-of-year deadlines are quickly approaching, and even if you do not work, the holidays are usually the busiest time of the year with parties, shopping, cooking, and pumpkin picking. When you are stressed, your cortisol goes up, and when this happens, your inhibitions go down, and your craving for glucose becomes more intense (hence the 2 bags of Skittles).
To make matters worse, because you are so busy, you probably did not have time to prepare healthy options like you should have, and might find yourself with low blood sugar, reaching for the Snickers. If it wasn’t bad enough that your body is now a sugar machine, it is EVERYWHERE. Literally, I was in the airport and they were handing out free candy. It’s like putting a dog in a room full of steak and telling him to sit and not touch. You want it, it’s good, your body craves it, believe me, I DO NOT blame you. So, what can be done about this candy land we all live in? Here are a few ways that I attempt to beat my cravings, and overcome the candy bowl (disclaimer: I am not perfect, and occasionally I do have a little candy).
- Never allow yourself to get too hungry.
As mentioned above, when your blood sugar gets low, your body is not stopping until you get some glucose. Don’t let it get to this point. Always keep healthy snacks on hand like nuts, healthy protein bars, veggies, a piece of fruit, yogurt, etc. If you find yourself in blood sugar slump and need some carbs, choose something slightly healthier like a rice cake with some low sugar jelly or a banana for a quick boost.
- Don’t even start with one.
Because sugar elicits the same response in your brain as a drug, it forces you to want more after that first bite. To avoid that, don’t even take the first bite, or first piece. It is so easy to say oh, I’ll just have one hit of this chocolate and be fine, but by this point in your life, you should know that is rarely ever the case. If you have immense amounts of self-control, then go for it, but biologically, I can bet you don’t. If tempted, first drink a large glass of water, then ask yourself if you are actually hungry. If the answer is yes, go have a high protein, high fat snack. If the answer is no, move on with your life, get a hot tea or a coffee, and forget the candy even exists.
- If you did have one, stop there
This is the hardest suggestion. If you did decide to indulge, and by all means, sometimes we just want the Reece’s, stop at one. How do I do this you might ask, if sugar is just like a drug? One thing you could do is tell yourself ahead of time you will just have one, and then keep that commitment to yourself. Now, commitment is a muscle that can get stronger, so you might not be able to do this the first time, but as you continue to keep small commitments to yourself, keeping bigger commitments becomes easier. In all of this be kind to yourself, and know that you are human and therefore flawed, so you might mess up, and that is totally OK! When it becomes not ok is when you let one mess up turn into a day, turn into a week, turn into a year.
- Don’t keep bad things in the house
Honestly, for me, if it is in my house, I’ll be thinking about it, dreaming about the potential for that smooth chocolaty caramel taste. Because I am so weird, I can’t even keep bad-for-you indulgences around the house. Now there is definitely a difference between a sweet treat and a chemical piece of garbage that is truly harmful for your body like processed, hydrogenated, cheap candy. I definitely have sweet treats in the house, but they are more natural, have ingredients I can read and pronounce. So, if you have no self-control, or find yourself in a weak state often, just leave the candy at the checkout line and never look back.
- Develop healthier alternatives that will cure your cravings
Sometimes we just crave, and the desire will not go away until we satisfy that craving, or we will become unproductive or hangry. First things first, ask yourself what you are craving. Sometimes, we are actually craving something that is not food at all, like a hug, talk with a friend, or a bubble bath, but our bodies don’t know how to tell that to our minds so we manifest it in food. If you have determined that you are craving something sweet, here are some of my favorite alternatives (most of which involve nut butter….)
- Nut butter on a banana or sweet potato toast
- Usana My Smart Bar (Coconut Cashew)
- Protein Smoothie Bowl with Usana My Smart Shake, frozen fruit, and maybe some nut butter
- Homemade PB&J cups (recipe here)
- 1-2 squares of 75% or higher dark chocolate
- Spoonful of nut butter
- Yogurt with berries, nuts, seeds, dried fruit, and a dash of cinnamon
- Homemade granola bars (recipe here)
- Dark chocolate covered almonds
I can’t promise that your cravings for sweets will ever go away, but you over time, with healthier choices, you can begin to minimize them. Pretty soon, you will actually find that the Kit Kat that always satisfied you does not even taste good anymore. Your taste buds can and will change if you just commit to yourself that you want a body that is vibrant, filled with energy, and radiating love.