A Mars a Day Helps You Work, Rest and Play…

At least we were only expected to eat Crunchie Bars on a Friday. It’s amusing to look back at advertising slogans from the 1990s but it would be so much funnier if we weren’t still buying the products. What do we believe in 2022?

Image: Taken by Author, Eaten by Son. Honest.

In 1990 we might be forgiven for buying Mars Bars — we were being told they would provide benefits to so many areas of our lives — work, rest, play. It was easy to justify eating them. But times have changed — obesity in the UK has more than doubled and rates of Type II Diabetes more than tripled. There is so much more information available about the ill effects of these sorts of foods, but still, we keep buying them.

Our diets have become ever more reliant on highly refined carbohydrates. When we eat foods such as bread, cereals, biscuits and cakes our blood sugar level spikes and our body releases insulin to combat the harmful effects. Often the wave of glucose is so big that the body over-produces insulin and the spike is followed by a dip — it is the dip which causes the cravings.

When we get a craving we find it incredibly hard to resist sweet foods and will grab at whatever is nearby. We keep our cupboards replete with all the products we like to use to satisfy these cravings, terrified we may one day need something sweet and not have our favourite fix to hand.

Our minds are very powerful and the lure of all that glucose means that we will conjure up all sorts of stories to justify eating this kind of food. When you see people who are clearly struggling with their health, loading their baskets and trolleys with sugar-coated cereals, chocolate biscuits, cakes, crisps and ready meals you realise just how strong these cravings are.

…the stronger the craving the more pleasure we derive from satisfying it.

And the stronger the craving the more pleasure we derive from satisfying it. In fact, the pleasure is so great we don’t want to stop getting the craving! It is an absolute rollercoaster. You have to break the cycle.

I tried a ketogenic diet for six months but found it too hard to maintain in a household where I was cooking for 3 teenagers. But it did make me realise that I was a slave to sugar and how cravings dictated my life. Keto removed those cravings and it was utterly liberating.

This year I have been monitoring my blood glucose level and have found that by maintaining it at a steady level you can have exactly the same impact on these cravings. Whereas with Keto you must limit your carbohydrates to an incredibly low level I have found that you can maintain a steady glucose curve while still consuming a moderate amount of carbohydrates.

Although cake, cookies and chocolate bars should be taken off the menu, potatoes, oats and even bread can still be enjoyed as part of a balanced meal without spiking blood sugar levels. And, when your blood sugar is back under control you won’t feel the need for the sweet treats anyway.

Everyone is different and while a continuous glucose monitor is extremely useful in identifying what specifically spikes your blood sugar it is not essential. If you stick to a few common sense rules you can have a significant and immediate impact on blood sugar levels and the subsequent cravings:

  1. If you want to eat breakfast make sure that it is not pure carbohydrate. I know you wake up craving carbs but by satisfying that craving you are simply maintaining the cycle. Break the cycle and have something different — something more balanced that includes protein, fat and fibre. Think full-fat yoghurt, eggs, berries, cheese, fish, veggies, nuts and salads — you can still have a nice slice of hot-buttered toast on the side if you want.
  2. Try and make all your meals more balanced and less centred around carbohydrates. I find that if I focus on getting more protein and fibre into my meals everything else falls into place — carbs and fats are easy to add. You don’t need to obsess about it but just remember that all carbohydrates (except fibre and fructose) are quickly converted to glucose. The more refined the carbohydrate the quicker the process and the bigger the spike.
  3. Stop snacking. Once you find your feet with balanced meals that enable you to keep your blood sugar level steady you should find that your appetite for snacks disappears. Make sure you don’t keep doing it out of habit and if you do get a craving try and stave it off with something that won’t spike your blood sugar — nuts, dark chocolate, carrot sticks…

There are a ton of other ways to impact blood sugar. For instance, I find that when I run in the mornings my blood sugar is more controlled throughout the day but the real gauge of success is the cravings and when you lose them you will, most likely, lose a few excess pounds too. Bonus!

Science and common sense caught up with Mars and in1997 they dropped the “…Work, Rest and Play” tagline — replacing it with, amongst others, “Pleasure You Can’t Measure.” I guess you can’t really argue with that one.

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