Ask Dr. Nandi: What science says about sugar binges

Posted at 4:41 PM, Oct 25, 2017
and last updated 2017-10-25 16:41:33-04

You've likely stocked up on your favorite Halloween treats, but buyer beware! Telling yourself you won't eat any of those little fun-size candy bars could lead to polishing off an entire bag.

Halloween only comes once a year, so it’s hard to resist indulging in these novel sweets. And if you tell yourself you’re not going to have any, your brain is going to fight this tooth and nail. 

Your cravings will kick in and before you know it, you’re cursing your lack of willpower. But you don’t need iron-clad discipline, what’s important here is understanding why the cravings happen. 

There’s an area of research called food habituation. Science tells us the more you’re exposed to certain foods, the less you crave them. 

If you eat pizza every night, your brain gets bored and you’re not going to crave pizza like you would if you only had it once a year.   

So, when you don’t eat certain foods very often or deem some off-limits like when dieting, your brain is going to hone in and desire them more. 

And once you have access to these foods, it’s very easy to overeat because of food deprivation backlash.

Partha’s RX

1. You need to make peace with food. Banish your list of forbidden foods and this will help lower the intense yearning that can lead to overeating. 

2. Eat the foods you desire in moderation. Before deciding on what to eat, ask yourself “will it nourish me and do I really want it?”

3. Don’t save calories or make yourself exercise first before eating sweets. That is another form of restriction and can lead to strong desires and binge-eating. 

4. Don’t talk negatively about yourself. No one has iron-clad willpower or perfect self-control. Instead, think positively about yourself and focus on what you can accomplish. 

Filling up on healthy carbs like vegetables, whole grains, legumes and fruit will certainly help reduce cravings for less-healthy carbs like Halloween candy. 

But knowing the science behind sugar cravings can not only help you eat more moderately, but also understand why those cravings are even happening.