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The human body emits a lot of signals, and sometimes we can pick up on these signals to improve our health. However, sometimes the body gives off subtle, yet challenging signals that we tend to ignore or push aside.

In the world of health and wellness, sugar cravings are one of the most subtle and challenging. Generally speaking, people get sugar cravings, act on it, and feel some guilt afterwards, only to repeat the whole cycle all over again. Sugar cravings have a way of getting to people at just the right time of the day, and while some people can make quick changes and overcome them, others need a bit more help.

Why do I crave sugar?

The human body craves sugar for various reasons, and generally each craving is different for each person. Your brain may experience an intense craving because it needs sugar for energy and to function properly. But beyond meeting a need, sugar cravings for adults tend to be habitual, rewarding, or even just physiologic. Let's take a look at this with some of the reasons on why you crave sugar when you do.

Habitual

Your daily habits are formed deep within your brain, and while some sources may say that it takes 21 days to form a habit, the truth is any habit can form as long as the brain is satisfied with the end result. Certain neurochemicals in the brain can cause addiction to sugar, similar to that of illicit drugs, opioids, and alcohol. In addition, changes in dopamine receptors in the brain appear to have an impact on addiction to sugar, as described by a recent study on food addiction. Dopamine gets released by when you experience some sort of happiness and results in a feeling of euphoria. As a result of this hormone response, your brain will habitually desire sugar the way it does other harmful compounds like drugs and alcohol.

Reward systems

Too often, adults looking to stay fit, get fit, or maintain any fitness at all use a reward system for motivation. Actually, a reward system is a great way to motivate a workout and push you to the next level. However, in the case of using sugar as a reward, this may not be the best idea. There is a lot of talk about how sugar addiction is similar to that of illicit drug addiction, and the following research findings may shock you. A 2007 study comparing a cocaine reward system and a sugar reward system showed that sugar can be a stronger draw than cocaine, even for cocaine addicts. The implication of this is that using sugary treats in a reward system is a bad idea. While a sugary reward system at the gym may seem harmless, the results are anything but.

Pathologic

The brain needs glucose to properly function, so it makes sense that the brain will crave sugar in order to get it. Though the body breaks down all carbohydrates into simple sugars, so you don't literally need to eat sugar to feed your brain glucose, physiologically speaking, the brain could be craving this nutrient as a way to get what it wants, even if it doesn't need it. Perhaps your blood sugar is low and your brain is asking for sugar? Your mind could be tricking you into thinking you need sugar when you really don't.

What causes sugar cravings?

It seems that sugar cravings are becoming more and more common in today's world. Sometimes people call these episodes as being "hangry." Rather than accepting that you are hangry, there is a chance that you could be having a sugar craving instead. What are some of the factors that are causing a sugar craving? Listed here are some potential reasons you could be craving sugar.

You finished a hard workout

Working out does quite a bit to your mind and body, and for the most part you gain valuable rewards for your hard efforts. Many people are likely to experience a sugar craving following a workout, and often this may be after you had a personal best in a run, lifted heavy weights, or tried a new high intensity interval training workout. Whatever your reason, as long as you depleted the glycogen stores in your body, you are likely to be craving sugar to replenish this. This would be considered a pathologic or physiologic reason as to why you are having a craving, and it serves a valuable need for the brain and cells.

Your diet is not right

There is no right or wrong when it comes to your diet, but if you are having sugar cravings then it could be due to a diet that is not optimal. If your diet already includes donuts, bagels, candy bars, and soda then chances are your sugar cravings are because of how you have been eating. The more you eat these simple sugars, the more your brain will want them, which can continue the vicious cycle of sugar cravings.

You use artificial sweeteners

The artificial sweetener debate is starting to become clearer in recent years. The use of these alternatives to sugar may save on calories, but they trick the mind into thinking you ate something that is extremely sweet—far sweeter than sugar. For this reason, your brain will crave foods or beverages that are as sweet as what you just had.

It has become a habit

Again with the habitual part. Consider the scenario where you grab a sugary coffee every morning before work at your favorite coffee shop at the same time of day. Now, your body adjusts to these cues. Every weekday morning, your mind will automatically write this into your daily routine. This is the quickest way to start a habitual sugar craving, and chances are if you were to stop going to get coffee, your brain would crave the sugar that you would normally have at that time of the day.

Common reasons for craving sweets

Now that you have some information on what causes your cravings and why you are having them, now is the time to jump into some common reasons for craving sweets.

Poor sleep quality

A common reason for a sugar craving is when you have poor sleep quality at night. Typically, the body needs a certain amount of REM and deep sleep as a way to replenish the mind and body, but when you have inadequate amounts, your body is susceptible to craving sweets the following day.

High stress

Another reason for craving sweets could include high levels of stress throughout the day. Typically, a little bit of stress in your day is considered healthy and necessary; however, chronic levels of high stress could lead to your sugar cravings increasing in intensity following your stressful event or day.

Meal skipping

The last common reason on this list involves a common practice among people trying to lose weight. As a way to conserve calories for a future meal or to make up for being "bad" on a prior meal, some adults skip meals. While this seems logical as a way to prevent weight gain, skipping meals can cause you to have sugar cravings as a result. Generally, this is caused by reduced blood sugar levels.

What your body could be telling you

Now that you have some information on what could be causing your cravings and why you may be having them, you should take the time to understand what your body could be trying to tell you. Here are a few examples of what your body could be trying to tell you about your sugar cravings.

Lack of nourishment

Your body could be telling you that you need to get more nourishment for your brain and the cells in your body. If you take notice of this sign, there is a chance that your blood sugar levels could be low to the point that it is harming your health.

Sugar addiction

Another signal your body could be sending is that it is in full-blown sugar addiction mode, and the cravings you are having are a result of sugar addiction. If this is a signal you pick up on, it could indicate that perhaps you do not need sugar, but rather your brain is demanding you to satisfy its yearning for euphoria.

Boredom

There is a chance that you could be having a sugar craving simply because you are bored. Are the kids out of the house today and you have no idea what to do with yourself? Well, if your sugar cravings are setting in when this happens then it could mean you are bored and having a craving.

How to stop sugar cravings

Fighting and putting a stop to sugar cravings can be a challenge at start. Initially, you may notice that your cravings are in a vicious cycle that only causes you to crave sugar more often. However, there are some things you can do to set your body up for success. Generally speaking, making a modification to your diet is necessary to succeed. Consider reading our article on what to eat when you are craving sugar for even more suggestions. Here are some tips to help you to succeed in putting a stop to sugar cravings.

1. Eat more fiber

Fiber is an underestimated ally that serves a valuable role in your health and wellness. High fiber intake tends to be associated with better colon and cardiovascular health, as well as a reduced risk of cancer and obesity. Unfortunately, the typical American diet is lacking in fiber. The average fiber intake for all Americans over the age of two is 16 grams a day, with women consuming about 18 grams daily and men 15 grams on average. Current guidelines recommend that adults consume between 25 and 30 grams of fiber every day. Fiber is a starchy substance that passes through the digestive system untouched, meaning that fiber is not processed at all in the stomach or intestine. Fiber helps to slow the absorption of the foods you eat and it can also help to curb cravings you have by keeping you full for longer. Consider eating foods that are naturally high in fiber—like vegetables, beans, legumes, and whole grains —to help curb cravings.

2. Consume lean protein

Lean protein options are beneficial for health for a variety of reasons. Eating lean proteins such as salmon, halibut, and chicken can help to fill you up at a meal and keep you feeling full for longer. This means that your blood sugar levels are better managed, which means a possible reduced risk for a sugar craving before the next meal. Include lean protein options as much as you can to help fight off your sugar cravings.

3. Drink enough water

Your body is mostly made up of water; it is the most abundant substance in your body by far, which means you need to replenish your water stores as much as possible each day. Many of the body's processes are associated with your overall hydration status. In addition, the more dehydrated you are, the greater the chances that you will have some hormonal imbalance. Your sugar cravings may occur as a result of being thirsty, so replenishing the water in your body is often a quick fix. Consider drinking about six to eight glasses each day to stay hydrated and avoid sweetened drinks as much as possible with.

4. Make healthy substitutions

Another way to stop sugar cravings from affecting you throughout the day is to swap healthy foods for unhealthy ones. This is perhaps the most challenging of all these options, but it is one of the most effective ways to cut out cravings. By switching out your chocolate or candies for some fresh fruit or vegetables, you are telling your brain that you no longer want to load up on sugar and you'll avoid setting off sugar cravings as well. Consider cut up fruit or vegetables as a snack, nuts to curb appetite, or even hot tea (unsweetened of course) to turn your midday treats healthier.

5. Cut out artificial sweeteners

Artificial sweeteners are becoming quite common in today's world, and now it seems more people are consuming more of the artificial product rather than sugar. Many of these users are attempting to cut sugar out of the diet to lose weight (by saving calories) and improve wellness. However, studies have shown that the use of artificial sweeteners in foods and beverages can lead to weight gain, as well as strengthen and encourage sugar dependence and cravings. With this in mind, it seems that one of the best ways to cut out sugar cravings from your life once and for all is to stop eating both sugar and artificial sweeteners. While this lifestyle change may take some time to completely master, the rewards will be worth it when successful.

Originally posted on Sweetdefeat.

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Who said motherhood doesn't come with a manual?

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When you become a parent for the first time, there is an undeniably steep learning curve. Add to that the struggle of sorting through fact and fiction when it comes to advice and—whew—it's enough to make you more tired than you already are with that newborn in the house.

Just like those childhood games of telephone when one statement would get twisted by the time it was told a dozen times, there are many parenting misconceptions that still tend to get traction. This is especially true with myths about bottle-feeding—something that the majority of parents will do during their baby's infancy, either exclusively or occasionally.

Here's what you really need to know about bottle-feeding facts versus fiction.

1. Myth: Babies are fine taking any bottle

Not all bottles are created equally. Many parents experience anxiety when it seems their infant rejects all bottles, which is especially nerve wracking if a breastfeeding mom is preparing to return to work. However, it's often a matter of giving the baby some time to warm up to the new feeding method, says Katie Ferraro, a registered dietician, infant feeding specialist and associate professor of nutrition at the University of California San Francisco graduate School of Nursing.

"For mothers returning to work, if you're breastfeeding but trying to transition to bottle[s], try to give yourself a two- to four-week trial window to experiment with bottle feeding," says Ferraro.

2. Myth: You either use breast milk or formula

So often, the question of whether a parent is using formula or breastfeeding is presented exclusively as one or the other. In reality, many babies are combo-fed—meaning they have formula sometimes, breast milk other times.

The advantage with mixed feeding is the babies still get the benefits of breast milk while parents can ensure the overall nutritional and caloric needs are met through formula, says Ferraro.

3. Myth: Cleaning bottles is a lot of work

For parents looking for simplification in their lives (meaning, all of us), cleaning bottles day after day can sound daunting. But, really, it doesn't require much more effort than you are already used to doing with the dishes each night: With bottles that are safe for the top rack of the dishwasher, cleaning them is as easy as letting the machine work for you.

For added confidence in the sanitization, Dr. Brown's offers an incredibly helpful microwavable steam sterilizer that effectively kills all household bacteria on up to four bottles at a time. (Not to mention it can also be used on pacifiers, sippy cups and more.)

4. Myth: Bottle-feeding causes colic

One of the leading theories on what causes colic is indigestion, which can be caused by baby getting air bubbles while bottle feeding. However, Dr. Brown's bottles are the only bottles in the market that are actually clinically proven to reduce colic thanks to an ingenious internal vent system that eliminates negative pressure and air bubbles.

5. Myth: Bottles are all you can use for the first year

By the time your baby is six months old (way to go!), they may be ready to begin using a sippy cup. Explains Ferraro, "Even though they don't need water or additional liquids at this point, it is a feeding milestone that helps promote independent eating and even speech development."

With a complete line of products to see you from newborn feeding to solo sippy cups, Dr. Brown's does its part to make these new transitions less daunting. And, for new parents, that truly is priceless.

This article was sponsored by Dr. Brown's. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.

[Trigger warning: This essay describes a woman's emotional journey with postpartum anxiety.]

I see you, mama.

I know you don't want to feel this way. I know you're terrified of everything in the world right now. I know you want to wrap your baby in a bubble and keep them safely in your arms forever. I know you can't "sleep when the baby sleeps" because you are too nervous to drift off in case they stop breathing. I know you don't want to let anyone near your little one because they could be carrying an illness. I know you've cried in the bathroom and begged for the voice to stop. And I know you love your child more than anything in the world.

I know because I was you.

I was in the 10% of estimated women who are affected by Postpartum Anxiety (PPA) but had no idea what I was experiencing. I worried about EVERY little thing but just brushed the fears aside, thinking this was just normal of first-time motherhood. But it was something more.

I lived in constant fear that my son was either going to get hurt or he was going to die.

It started the first week of being home from the hospital. I was so scared of SIDS that I actually googled "How much sleep do I need in order to survive?" I would only get two to three hours, not because my child was keeping me up, but because I was scared he would stop breathing and I wouldn't be awake to save him.

I would religiously wash all of his clothes with baby detergent and if I thought I mistakenly used regular detergent, I would rewash everything. I was afraid he would get a skin rash if I didn't. If my husband had the slightest hint of a cold, I would banish him to the guest room and handle all of the baby duties on my own until he was fully recovered.

I would wash and rewash bottles because I was afraid they weren't clean enough and convinced myself if I didn't then he would catch a rare illness. When we supplemented with formula, I wasted multiple cans because I was so scared I didn't measure it correctly, so I would dump it and start over.

I didn't want to be this way. I didn't want to let PPA be the thief of my joy, but anxiety doesn't care who you are or what you've been through. I knew my previous miscarriages attributed to my PTSD, which manifested into anxiety.

I knew I needed help.

I cried so many nights as my husband and baby boy slept because I just wanted to feel "normal." I didn't want to overanalyze every bump or rash or cough, I wanted to enjoy being a first time mom, but I felt like I was drowning.

On top of the anxiety was guilt. I had wanted this baby so badly—I wanted to feel joy, happiness, and gratitude, and yet I felt overwhelmed, sad, and miserable. What was happening?

I would tell myself not to worry, I'd try to convince myself a regular cold was just a cold. But then a voice would come into my head and make me second guess myself. What if it was a serious infection and became fatal if I ignored it? So I rushed my baby boy to the doctor every time I thought something was wrong.

I went to the pediatrician over 20 times in my son's first year of life. One time I went because I thought he had a cancerous mole, which turned out to be a piece of lint stuck to his hair. I felt like I was losing control of myself.

Eventually, when my son was 3 months old, I went to a therapist for help. I needed someone to hear me and give me the tools to overcome this. I am not without daily anxiety, I still have many fears and I have to bring myself back to reality, but I work on it every day. I cope and I make an effort to continue with my therapist so I can beat this.

Even though this topic is hard to write about, I have no shame in my story. Carrying a child is hard, giving birth is harder, and jumping onto the roller coaster of motherhood is one hormonal, wild ride.

Mamas, we are allowed to not be okay and we have every right to make that known. I wasn't okay and it took every ounce of strength I had to get myself out of the darkness.

If I could tell you anything about struggling with this, it is this: PPA is real, it is not normal, and getting help is okay. Do not feel ashamed, do not feel embarrassed, and don't for one second think you owe anyone an explanation.

Do not let a single person make you feel like you are less of a mother. You are a magnificent human being, a loving mama bear, and you will get through this.

I see you, and I'm holding space for you.

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Ready to bring a baby on board? Feelings of excitement can often be met with those of financial concern as you prep for this milestone. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, as of 2015, the cost of raising a child is $233,610—a number that can make anyone's jaw drop to the floor.

But before you start to worry, here are ways you can become more financially savvy before the baby is born:

1. Budget for healthcare costs

The cost of delivering a baby can vary by state, but suffice it to say it can be thousands of dollars. Castlight Health found that the lowest average cost of delivery was $6,075 in Kansas City, MO and the highest average cost $15,420 in Sacramento, CA. Costs are even higher for a Cesarean delivery.

The first thing you want to do is check your insurance and see what they will cover so what you will be responsible for. Then create a separate savings account so that you can cover any costs that you're on the hook for. You can set up automatic savings after each payday up until the baby is born to help assist with any healthcare costs associated with delivery.

2. Cut your expenses

Before the baby arrives, do a spending audit and see where you can slash some expenses. Free up any leftover money to help cover the increased costs that will come, such as food, clothes, and formula.

If you're struggling with how to do that, take a look at all of your expenses and write next to each either"want" or "need." Look at your "want" list and see which expenses are ones you can either eliminate or cut back on. If it doesn't bring you joy or add value, ditch it! You might even find subscriptions that you didn't know you had.

3. Go for second-hand goods

Of course, there are some things you definitely want to buy new for baby, but things like clothes and toys you can get second hand and save a lot of money. Your baby will grow so fast and buying new clothes every few months can add up. If your family members or friends have old baby clothes or toys they're willing to part with, it will save money and you can pay it forward down the line.

4. Look for sales or coupons

Clothes and toys are items that you can buy second hand, but products, like a car seat and crib are best new. You want to be up-to-date with safety and know what you're getting. Before going shopping, search for sales or coupons before you head out. A little research online can go a long way and save you hundreds.

5. Have a garage sale

If you need to make room for baby, it's time to get rid of items that you no longer use or need. Take all of the stuff you are planning to get rid of and have a garage sale to make extra money. You can also try selling online on Craigslist, Poshmark and OfferUp too.

Take the money you earn from selling your stuff and put it in your savings account earmarked for your baby.

6. Get a 529 plan

It's never too early to save for your baby's college. You can open a state-sponsored 529 plan which is a tax-advantaged savings account for education-related costs. Instead of asking for gifts or toys from family and friends, you can request money to go toward a 529 plan. It will be an impactful gift that will help your child in the future and help lessen the financial burden on you.

7. Prep now instead of later

Your whole world will change when your baby arrives, so in order to save money, time and stress, create a plan now. Is there a family or friend close by who can babysit if you need some rest or have to run an errand? Ask them now if they can help out.

Start preparing meals in bulk that can be in the freezer and easily made so you don't have to think about food. Put your bills on autopay so that you don't miss any payments and get hit with late fees. Know how long you can get maternity or paternity leave and understand how that will affect your income and budget. Getting all of this ready ahead of time can help you in the long run.

8. Purchase life insurance

While thinking about why you need life insurance can be a bit stressful, preparation is essential, especially when you're adding another member to your family. Life insurance will provide financial support if you had a loss of income due to something happening to either you or your partner.

9. Understand any tax benefits

The birth of your baby will affect your taxes, which can actually end up putting more money back into your pocket. Do some research online and see how a dependent will change your taxes in your state, such as new exemptions available. Or, find a trusted accountant or tax specialist in your area who can walk you through your options.

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We've had some struggles, you and me. In my teens, we were just getting to know each other. It was a rocky road at times, like when people referred to you as "big boned." I was learning how to properly fuel you by giving you the right foods. How to be active, to keep you strong and in good shape. I wish I knew then what I do now about you and what a true blessing you are. But that's something that has come with the gift of motherhood.

In my 20's, we became more well-acquainted. I knew how to care for you. After I got engaged, we worked so hard together to get into "wedding shape." And, looking back now, I totally took that six pack—okay, four pack—for granted. (But I have the pictures to prove it.)

Now that I'm in my 30's (how did my 30's happen so fast, btw?) with two kids, I'm coming to terms with my new postpartum body.

Keep reading... Show less

If there are two things a mama is guaranteed to love, it's Target plus adorable and functional baby products. Target's exclusive baby brand Cloud Island has been a favorite destination for cute and affordable baby clothing and décor for nearly two years and because of that success, they're now expanding into baby essentials. 🙌

The new collection features 30 affordable products starting at $0.99 and going up to $21.99 with most items priced under $10—that's about 30-40% less expensive than other products in the market. Mamas can now enjoy adding diapers, wipes, feeding products and toiletries to their cart alongside clothing and accessories from a brand they already know and love.


The best part? The Target team has ensured that the affordability factor doesn't cut down on durability by working with hundreds of parents to create and test the collection. The wipes are ultra-thick and made with 99% water and plant-based ingredients, while the toiletries are dermatologist-approved. With a Tri-Wrap fold, the diapers offer 12-hour leak protection and a snug fit so parents don't have to sacrifice safety or functionality.

So when can you start shopping? Starting on January 20, customers can shop the collection across all stores and online. We can't wait to see how this beloved brand expands in the future.

Motherly is your daily #momlife manual; we are here to help you easily find the best, most beautiful products for your life that actually work. We share what we love—and we may receive a commission if you choose to buy. You've got this.

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