On our first call together, a potential client said her biggest roadblock in losing weight was not being able to stop sugar cravings.
She was overwhelmed at work and knew that she was in a bad habit of hunting for a cookie anytime there was a deadline coming up.
“I know that I’m not eating the right food. I feel like it’s hard to do that when I’m stressed out,” she admitted.
She felt like every time she tried to eat better, something pulled her in the other direction (you know, toward the cookies).
She realized that she kept postponing losing weight because of one new challenge of another in life. Also, she was dealing with a problem at work, just entering a demanding Ph.D. program, etc.
She craved sugary foods when she was stress eating. But she realized that life would always be busy, so she couldn’t postpone it forever. If she wanted to lose weight, she had to learn how to stop her sugar addiction.
She is NOT alone!
In this post, I’ll talk about:
- The scientific and emotional reasons we crave sugar so much
- Specific foods (and spices!) to stomp out and avoid sugar cravings
- What to do when you’re feeling overwhelmed by a sugar craving
- Sweet (but still low sugar) treat ideas
- Recipes and meal planning help to protect yourself from last-minute bad choices
Sugar craving causes (why we feel so out of control)
A craving and hunger are actually two different things. When you’re hungry, your body is asking for sustenance for energy. But a strong craving is your brain asking for a dopamine shot (your brain’s reward chemical). (1)
Carbohydrates (like sugar) release serotonin, which is the feel-good chemical in your brain and gut. There are healthier foods to give your body the feel-good benefits of carbohydrates with added nutritional benefits.
Sugar has a sweet pleasant flavor that releases endorphins that calm and relaxes us. These calming, relaxing feelings can be equivalent to a natural “high.” (2) It’s natural for us to prefer sweet food. In fact, it might even be hardwired into us from our first hours of life.
As babies, we loved the sweetness of milk. All throughout life, we realized that sweets just taste good, too. Every time we reward ourselves with something sugary, it can make you crave it even more next time. (2)
And as my potential client and many other women know, stress and lack of sleep can make cravings even worse. (1)
How to beat sugar cravings
When you’re dealing with both hunger and a strong craving at the same time, it can be incredibly difficult to resist. (1) Since our automatic response is to search for something satisfying, our brains automatically start scanning for a sugary solution.
But often, our bodies just want nourishment and specifically protein, which sustains you for much longer than simple carbs that burn up fast. This is how eating healthy protein can actually help calm cravings or prevent them completely. (3)
Another solution is to go for a walk, run, or do some exercises in your home or office. This distances you from the foods you crave and releases endorphins (the feel-good chemical). These are healthy ways to satisfy your need to feel good and experience something novel without giving in to the craving. (1,4)
One of my absolute favorite tricks for how to stop sugar cravings instantly is to use spices instead of sugar in my recipes and on snacks. One of the health benefits of cinnamon is that it can stop sugar cravings like nothing else.
Cinnamon is like an antidote for your sweet tooth. It basically “tricks” your body into thinking you’ve had sugar, but you don’t experience the blood sugar spike and crash. (5) Try this cinnamon tea to reshape your body and you’ll see what I mean!
Stop sugar cravings before they start
Prevention is the best medicine. Rather than trying to put out a sugar-cravings fire, don’t let one spark in the first place! It’s way easier (and less stressful) to avoid sugar cravings altogether. Here’s how.
Toss out junk food from home and replace it with healthy food. If it’s easy to get, you’ll struggle with temptation.
I like to have a cheat day where I CAN eat whatever I want. But for those, I’ll get a slice of dark chocolate cake at a restaurant instead of having a whole cake at home all week calling my name.
Planning your meals and snacks ahead of time helps eliminate the uncertainty that leads to bad choices. You’ll be less tempted and less likely to have cravings if you don’t have to think about what your next meal is. (4)
Foods to Avoid (They Make Sugar Cravings Worse!): Quick tip: Simply removing sugar or sweetener in tea or coffee each morning can go a long way. When do you have your worst sugar cravings? How do you usually deal with them? Let me know your favorite healthy sweet food indulgences and ways you meet your needs emotionally in the comments!
Here are more ways to stop sugar cravings
How to stop sugar cravings by giving in (in a healthy way)
Top Foods to Curb (or Stop Sugar) Cravings:
Foods to Avoid (They Make Sugar Cravings Worse!):
Quick tip: Simply removing sugar or sweetener in tea or coffee each morning can go a long way.
When do you have your worst sugar cravings? How do you usually deal with them? Let me know your favorite healthy sweet food indulgences and ways you meet your needs emotionally in the comments!