Sugar cravings are real, and they can be very strong, there’s no denying they exist! Sweet, sugary foods like ice cream and candy, or foods that break down into sugars such as chips, crackers, pretzels, and popcorn, are easy to digest and easy to eat, which means you won’t feel much restriction when eating them. We call these types of foods “slider foods.” Remember, after the Endoscopic Sleeve Gastroplasty (ESG) your stomach is more tube-like in shape, similar to a funnel, so liquids will easily pass through which is why it’s recommended all liquids be sugar-free. Additionally, any food that is soft, mushy, crumbly, or crunchy will travel through your new tube-like stomach very quickly as well, much like the liquids, providing little-to-no fullness. Perhaps you have noticed you could (in theory) sit and snack on chips, popcorn, candy, or ice cream for hours without feeling much restriction, whereas you feel full rather quickly when eating something more dense, like steak or chicken. Those sweets and crunchy or crumbly foods (slider foods) digest and funnel through your new tube-like stomach without any resistance. Sweets and slider foods can also increase hunger. If you are concerned about your weight loss, check your diet for frequency of sugar intake and slider foods. Continuing to eat these foods long-term can derail your weight loss and they can also lead to weight re-gain. Here are some ways to beat your sweet cravings and not let slider foods get the best of you!
Remove sweets and slider foods from your home or work environment.
Don’t skip meals.
When you skip meals, this primes your body to experience more intense cravings and hunger. Oftentimes, feeling so ravenous makes you more likely to eat the easiest and fastest thing you can find, which isn’t usually the healthiest option available. Also, the intense hunger generated from skipping meals can promote over-eating at your next meal. Over-eating can lead to physical feelings of discomfort, while also promoting negative emotions surrounding self-esteem and self-control. These negative physical and emotional responses can easily be avoided by having 3 consistent protein-based meals daily, and 1 planned snack if needed.
Eat adequate protein.
Protein is the most satisfying and filling nutrient, it keeps you feeling fuller, longer. Make sure you are getting a minimum of 60-90 grams per day; this amount is vital to maintain your muscle mass and allow your metabolism to function optimally. A good way to meet this goal daily is to aim for 3 ounces of protein (about the size of the palm of your hand), 3 times per day (breakfast, lunch and dinner). This is a good metric (palm of hand) because 3 ounces of protein, whether its chicken, turkey, beef, fish, pork, or eggs, is about 20 grams of protein. So, if you eat at least 3 ounces of protein at breakfast, lunch, and dinner, you’ll easily hit that 60-gram goal! Of course, make sure you are chewing thoroughly to avoid meats hitting your stomach hard and being off-putting. It’s easy to gravitate to slider foods if meats feel uncomfortable; so, start with small portions to avoid overeating and discomfort, and remember to chew well. This way, protein can be used as an aid to help you achieve your weight loss goals. Added bonus: when your new stomach is full of protein, there is little-to-no space for those sweets or slider foods anyways!
Eliminate artificial sweeteners and sugar alcohols.
What we know about real sugar is that is affects the chemicals in the brain, making you want more and more and more sugar. It’s a vicious cycle. Additionally, our brains don’t do a very good job of differentiating between real sugar and fake sugar. So artificial sweeteners, even though they are calorie free, trick our brains into thinking we are eating or drinking something sweet, and the more we have it, the more we want it! For example, transitioning from 100% fruit juice to Crystal Light or some other sugar-free beverage is absolutely an appropriate first step to decreasing sugar intake; however, the next step is to work to decrease the use of sugar-free foods and beverages with the eventual goal to nearly or fully eliminate them.
To summarize, sugar and carbohydrate cravings are real, and they can be intense! Our brains are literally programed to love these foods so much that they release some of those feel-good hormones when we eat them – no wonder we love them! If you are concerned about your weight loss progress or simply want to get the best results from your Endoscopic Sleeve Gastroplasty (ESG), take a look at the relationship you have with sweets and slider foods and how often they are slipping into your diet. Initially it may be wise to remove sweets and slider foods from your home and workplace, especially as you work to prioritize protein at each meal, avoid skipping meals, and start to decrease your intake of artificial sweeteners and sugar alcohols. Your relationship with certain foods and your food choices are key to your weight loss journey and controlling your hunger. Make sure you’re filling your new tube-like stomach with lean, dense proteins that you’re chewing well, to provide yourself with the most filling and nourishing foods that will support you in your weight loss journey!