Debbie M., MS, RD contributed to this article –
You know the scene…
A bowl of goodies lurking at the reception desk in the office, at the salon, at the dry cleaners. Candy for the taking is everywhere. It’s almost too much for the eyes to bear and for your hand to resist reaching for a treat. Ahhh, the horror!
Even with the best of intentions, unplanned snacking on candy still seems to occur. While you might think a little can’t hurt (which is a dangerous thought that excuses the indulgence) every bit of extra sugar does make an impact. The average American already gets well over the recommended maximum 6 teaspoons (9 for men) of added sugar (not in fresh produce or plain milk) per day. *
Why do people feel compelled to eat something that they don’t want in the first place?
Perhaps because you get to take something for free. That’s rare! Maybe because you want to show your party spirit by sharing in the celebration. Or maybe, you seem to grab a sweet because you feel that you deserve it – like you somehow have earned a reward.
Unfortunately, once the candy has made it past your mouth the horror really begins.
Excess sugar in the bloodstream sets off a cascade of physiological reactions that end up compromising your physique.
First, glucose triggers the liver to secrete insulin, a storage hormone that pushes the sugar from your blood into your cells and locks it away there, especially in fat cells around the abdomen. Your brain receives a stimulus that triggers the release of dopamine, a pleasure neurochemical, making you want more (thus eating extra calories).
Later, your brain secretes serotonin, making you relaxed and even sleepy. Combined with the subsequent fall in blood sugar for an energy crash, this fatigue ruins exercise plans.
Meanwhile, the liver is primed for building more fatty substances, namely cholesterol and triglycerides.
Next, the leptin hormone that usually signals satisfaction and to stop eating is impacted, so you still want to eat after a meal. The end result is terrifying. Extra calories in, fewer calories burned, more fat storage and hunger!
Did I forget to mention that one 40 calorie mini peanut butter cup means you’d need approximately 10 more minutes of calisthenics to break even, or that an 80 calorie “fun size” candy means you’d need to jog about an extra mile to burn it off?
How to save yourself from the sugar profusion:
- Have your fitness goals written down and look at them daily as motivation
- Fill up on roughage at meals
- Get plenty of fluids to convince your stomach you’re full
- Keep your mouth fresh (brush, chew gum, or use mouthwash)
- Stay away from the treats – keep clear of the sight and smell
- Plan for healthy emergency snacks in case you get hungry
- Don’t skip meals
- Ask yourself if you have those additional 15 or so minutes to burn off each piece
If temptation is too much to bear, and you do indulge, here’s how to mitigate the offense:
- Keep the wrapper(s) visible – the evidence makes you more aware
- Drink a full glass of water
- Skip a serving of starch or fruit at your next meal
* The American Heart Association recommends limiting added sugar to no more than half of daily discretionary calorie allowance, which equates to 100 calories per day for women and 150 calories per day for men.
Debbie James is a registered dietitian. Any views or opinions presented in this article are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent the opinions or recommendations of Fitness International, LLC.