Jill here - do you have one?
Just over 50% of the population describe themselves as having a sweet tooth. The term itself is general, it's simply what we use when we describe a defined and consistent experience of desiring something sweet and sugary.
We all know the downside of eating too much sugar, that's not the focus of this blog.
It's often the case that the more we understand a topic that interests us the more likely we are to come up with a creative strategy of managing it. So If you're a person who wants to understand your sweet tooth this blog is for you!
Here are 5 things I find interesting about our experience of sweetness:
Yes, to a certain extent you can blame your genes. We have two different sweet receptor genes that predict the likelihood of sweet sensitivity and the consistent desire for the taste of sweet. Genetic factors possibly account for about 30% of your sweet tooth which means that 70% is still within your influence. That's considerable.
The desire for sweet is natural and universal so it's not something you can get rid of but it is something you can manage. It makes sense that our ancestors desired the taste of sweet, after all sweet brings calories and energy, a necessity for survival. Also, consider the hunter-gatherer, the taste of sweet is the taste of 'safety'. Sweet foods are seldom poisonous. My point here is to be compassionate. It's natural to enjoy sweet things.
Once sugar hits the taste receptors in your mouth it's converted from a chemical signal into an electric one. This nerve impulse is then carried to the brain where the intensity of sweetness is experienced. There are significant variations in how people experience sweetness. Type 1 folks like the experience to a point and then their preference decreases as sweetness increases. Type 2 folks get to the same point but as sweetness increases their preference remains the same. There's nothing too sweet for Type 2 folks! Which one are you?
The nerve impulses generated by your sweet taste receptors share the same neurochemical pathways as alcohol and other drugs. Both stimulate naturally occurring reward hormones in the pituitary gland. Shifts in psychological states (depression, anxiety, distress) can increase your desire for the rewarding properties of sweetness. So you're not imagining the desire for something sweet under distressing circumstances...still, you can choose your response.
A desire for something sweet often comes when there is an internal metabolic shift such as a decrease in blood sugar. Yes, this is hunger masquerading as a sweet craving and it's more common than you think especially if you're active. For those athletes or endurance folks my next post on Inside the Workshop with TJB will be on how to manage this type of sweet craving. Look for it in the next few days!
The bottom line - sweet cravings are complex.
Managing your sweet craving is certainly not a function of willpower. Identifying the pattern of your particular craving is a better step forward. Do you experience sweet cravings at a particular time of day, say mid afternoon? Under particular circumstances? How long after a training session or a work-out do you crave something sweet?
Questions like these will point the way to your best and most creative management strategies. Guaranteed.
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