Sweet tooth hinders weight loss efforts

By Thuy Quynh   January 8, 2024 | 04:00 pm PT
Despite investing over VND100 million (US$4,100) on a trainer and weight-loss supplements, Mai Ngoc’s weight loss journey was not smooth because she could not resist sweets.

Standing 1.57 meters tall and weighing 68 kilograms, Ngoc, 38, experienced fatigue, irritability, menstrual disorders, and was diagnosed with high cholesterol, elevated liver enzymes, and hypothyroidism. She consulted a nutrition coach in early 2023, and embarked on a costly diet and exercise regimen.

However, her fondness for sweets, particularly milk coffee, persisted. Ngoc’s long-standing habit of drinking one to two cups of milk coffee daily became more challenging during her diet, despite knowing it added 150-200 extra calories. Besides, Ngoc occasionally indulged in sweet pastries and coke, rationalizing that it could be offset by exercise. She admitted that consuming sugary foods intensified her cravings even more.

"Consuming foods high in sugar seemed to stimulate my cravings, making it very difficult to stop once I started," Ngoc said.

Ngoc thus only lost a maximum of 3 kg over three months, struggling to keep off the weight. Her unchanged waist and lower abdomen measurements added to her stress about wasted resources.

A woman sitting at a table full of sweet treats. Illustration photo by Freepik

A woman sitting at a table full of sweet treats. Illustration photo by Freepik

Similarly, Lan, 30, after initially losing 5 kg, reverted to daily bubble tea or soft drinks, leading to erratic weight. This failure in weight loss demotivated her, trapping her in a cycle of sugary drink consumption.

Sugary treats, appealing for their high sugar content, activate dopamine, the "happiness hormone," creating a craving cycle, as per a University of Texas study. Therefore, Dr. Phan Thai Tan, a weight loss specialist, cites stress as a primary cause for sweet cravings.

Dr. Nguyen Trong Hung from the National Institute of Nutrition adds that sugary items like candy, pastries, and coke are major energy sources, making it hard for those addicted to sugar to quit their habitual consumption of these items, as they may feel fatigued and sluggish without them. Sudden sugar withdrawal can cause mood dips, headaches, and concentration issues.

On the other hand, excess sugar consumption, particularly fast-absorbing types, can lead to metabolic disorders, obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure, cardiovascular diseases, and, in children, premature puberty. According to Hung, a can of carbonated soft drink contains an amount of sugar equivalent to that in 22 packets of coffee sugar, leading to these health issues.

Additionally, sugar in sweetened beverages can cause severe oral health problems and nutritional deficiencies in children who consume them regularly. Other studies also indicate that sugar can deplete energy, damage skin, and lead to unhealthy diets and poor dietary control.

According to Hung, an average person consumes 2,000 calories per day, with the recommended sugar intake not exceeding 10% of that, equivalent to 200 calories. Since 1 gram of sugar provides 4 calories, it is advised not to consume more than 50 grams of sugar per day.

Similarly, if you are recommended to take in only 1,600 calories a day, the maximum amount of sugar intake would be 40 grams.

For those who are overweight or obese, it is recommended to reduce the sugar intake by half, which is between 20-25 grams. Checking food labels for sugar content is crucial.

To reduce sugar intake, Tan suggests drinking water, deep breathing, physical activity, and choosing alternatives like non-sweet fruits, nuts, fresh juices, smoothies, or natural sweeteners. Healthier snack options and smaller portions of sweets with reduced sugar are also advised. Eating sweets right after a meal can slow sugar absorption, as can pairing them with fiber- and fat-rich foods.

go to top