Sugar and I have a ropey relationship. As someone that works in the health and fitness industry teaching people to maintain a healthier lifestyle and build good relationships with food, I am a bit of a hypocrite when it comes to sugary snacks.
Don’t get me wrong, my desire to eat chocolate at most waking hours of the day is controllable. I don’t eat many sweet things, but that’s mainly because I know I have to avoid building sugary habits. Out of site out of mind is my principle when it comes to chocolate and other sugary products.
I know I love chocolate, but the true realisation of my obsession came back in December when I was ill and lost my sense of taste and smell. I still wanted to eat chocolate even though I couldn’t taste the damn thing. What was wrong with me? Did I have so little self control that I still needed to inhale Christmas share boxes when I couldn’t differentiate one variety from another?
It turns out not. Maybe I didn’t need to give myself such a hard time because there might be some science behind why we still crave sugary foods even when we can’t taste them.
I don’t want to make excuses regarding my excessive desire to eat chocolate, but it’s probably a part of who I am.
Obviously I can change this (not sure I want to), but the habits that we build over time tend to stick, and it’s incredibly hard to get out of them. How often do you notice yourself reaching for something sweet after a meal? It’s not because you’re still hungry, it’s more likely that you’re just used to doing so. As children we tend to eat dessert after a meal and this habit has become ingrained in us as adults.
The thing about sweets is they make us feel good, which is why it’s so hard to break the habit. When you eat something sweet, it releases dopamine, the hormone that makes you feel good. It might be a short term surge, but my God does it feel great.
Sleep is one part of our health that we deprive ourselves of the most, when in fact it’s the most important, and the easiest thing to get right.
A lack of sleep can have a detrimental impact on several parts of our life, one of them being diet. When you are sleep deprived ghrelin, the hormone that controls your hunger increases and therefore so does your appetite. Have you noticed you tend to want to eat more when you’re hungry?
On top of this, leptin, the hormone that suppresses your appetite decreases. Your hormones are all out of sync and your body is telling you to eat because you’re lacking energy. This is usually emphasised with sweet food because it’s the ultimate burst of energy when you’re feeling sleepy.
This point links back to both of the previous points in many ways. First of all psychologically, sweet food usually makes us feel good. As a result, when you’re stressed, if you’re prone to emotional eating it is likely that you will turn to sweet foods to comfort you. Foods such as ice cream and chocolate are generally perceived as ‘comfort’ foods.
Furthermore, stress and sleep are very closely linked. If you are over-stressed then there’s a very big chance that you aren’t sleeping well. This lack of sleep can then lead to all of the above points.
So, it turns out that there were a lot of psychological and physical elements that were contributing to my craving for chocolate despite the fact that I couldn’t taste it. A lack of sleep from being ill, and the habit of eating sweet food after a meal. Maybe a little more self control would have helped too.