Even if you’ve just tucked into a starter and a main course, chances are you will still be hankering after a sweet dessert when the menu is passed round.
According to Dr Nora Volkow, director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse in Maryland, our obsession with junk food has seriously damaged the delicate chemical balance in our brains that tell us when we’re full.
Her research suggests that the chemical signals produced by the stomach to say we are full can no longer override the brain’s pleasure centres. Basically, we’ve become so addicted to sugary treats that our brains just can’t find the balance between enjoyment, hunger and fullness. Dr Volkow compares the effect to taking hard drugs, cigarettes and alcohol!
Normally, when the brain and stomach work in harmony, our bodies are naturally able to control calorie intake and appetite. Now, with the abundance of food on offer we’ve overloaded our stomachs and our natural weight management system just can’t keep up.
The only way to repair this balance is to exert some serious self-control. Your brain WILL be telling you you’re desperate for that chocolate cheesecake or lemon meringue pie but your stomach really can’t take any more.
Dr Volkow, said: ‘If you know they are going to be bringing out these wonderful cakes, say to yourself I am not going to eat them and you are much more likely to not eat them than if someone just put them in front of you.’
To avoid those dreaded cravings (and ultimately the withdrawal symptoms) when you kick your sugar habit, steer clear of salty fast food, biscuits, pastries and ice-cream. Instead, opt for apples and vegetables like lettuce, which are the least addictive foods.
Here are our top five tips to help you resist the desserts trolley and exercise some self control…
1. Set an objective: Decide that you don’t want to eat dessert for one month and stick to it. Write your objective on post-it notes and stick them to your computer, mirror, fridge – anywhere you will see it on a regular basis. When you feel tempted remind yourself of the objective and WHY you’re doing it.
2. Take yourself away from the situation: If you’re in a restaurant ask for the bill before they have given you the desserts menu. You’ll be far less tempted if you don’t see what’s on offer. Similarly, when you go supermarket shopping don’t buy junk food and then tell yourself you won’t eat it – you’ll only feel guilty when you give in. Save your money and put it towards a better cause, like shoes.
3. Be logical: If someone offers you a pudding, consciously think about exactly what it is you’re putting in your mouth. Dissect the ingredients – cream (saturated fat), chocolate (sugar, trans-fats, salt), sponge (butter, eggs, sugar). If this doesn’t work, imagine there’s a strange ingredient mixed in, like marmite or anchovies in your gateaux! It’s amazing how quickly you can turn yourself off a food.
4. Treat yourself occasionally: If you go completely cold turkey you’re more likely to falter when the opportunity to eat a sweet arises. Give yourself one scenario when eating a high-calorie pudding is okay – like a birthday celebration or a wedding.
5. The emergency methods: Brushing your teeth straight after dinner can help stop the desire to eat more as can chewing sugar-free gum. If you do falter and dig-in to a dessert, don’t feel like you’ve failed. Treat it as a minor slip-up in the grand scheme of staying fit, healthy and happy.
What do you think?