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As well as bumping up natural mood-boosting endorphins, a choccie bar provides a very small hit of THC (tetrahydrocannabinol), a substance found in marijuana. The THC then kickstarts the release of dopamine, the reward brain chemical involved in addiction. Similarly, sugar can quickly increase the chemicals involved in mood and pleasure, such as serotonin says Dr Leon Massage, a spokesperson for the Australian Medical Association on weight issues and nutrition and author of the book I Can’t Believe Its a Diet. This is why after eating sugar you may feel a rapid increase in wellbeing In addition, sugar can lead to a rise in adrenalin levels, so it can leave you feeling edgy, shaky or nervous – emotional states that often increase comfort’ eating.

PREVENTION:

Always eat breakfast to keep blood sugar levels stable.

Choose low GI foods to minimise sugar cravings and sugar withdrawal symptoms; they break down more slowly in the bloodstream, yielding longer-lasting energy and causing less insulin release, thus keeping blood sugar stable.

Swap soft drinks – even diet ones – and juice for water.

Substitute sugar for Stevia, a South American plant that is sweet but doesn’t cause your blood sugar to spike.

Try a supplement of L-glutamine, available from health food stores. If you take this amino acid an hour before you usually experience your worst cravings, it can help lessen the desire for sugar, says Sydney hypoglycemia expert and patron of the Hypoglycemic Health Association of Australia Dr George Samra.

HUNGER PRIME: THIRST

The brain often mixes up the hunger and thirst signals – telling you to eat when in fact you need to drink, says Dr Massage.

PREVENTION:

Add a slice of lime or sprig of mint to an attractive tall water glass to entice you to drink more H20.

Set water-drinking habits, e.g. that you have two glasses by 11am, another two by 3pm and another two by 7pm.

Is your day often so busy you feel ready to explode by 10am? Then the stress hormones could be going straight to your waist. When you’re stressed your body releases a hormone called cortisol, which may increase your desire for foods that are high in sugar and fat, says Flinders University sleep expert Professor Leon Lack. This may cause weight gain, particularly in the area around the abdomen, which can increase your risk of heart disease. Cortisol also reduces leptin response, meaning it dampens your full’ switch, so it takes more food to feel satisfied.

PREVENTION:

Next time you’re pushed to the edge, take five. Sit at your desk and tense and relax all the muscles in your body from head to toe.

Get up 15 or 20 minutes earlier so you’re not rushing the clock and arrive at work stressed out at the start of the day.

Take a lunch break and hit the gym to release tension and negate stress hormones. You will come back feeling calmer and thinking more clearly.

Consider changing to a different organisation where the work culture is less pressured.

Draw up a roster of domestic chores at home so you’re not trying to do them all then feeling annoyed and frazzled.

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