To lose weight or maintain a healthy weight long-term, it’s essential to choose to learn to manage your sugar cravings. As I mentioned in my previous article, excessive sugar will “poison” your weight loss goals. So if your sweet tooth is sabotaging your weight loss goals, let’s learn about why this self-sabotage is so much of a problem, and more importantly how to control your sugar cravings while losing weight.
You’ll find a list of 30 ways to control your sugar cravings in this article.
What Causes Sugar Cravings?
- Adrenal fatigue
- Eating disorders
- Premenstrual syndrome (PMS)
- Hormonal fluctuations
- Intestinal yeast
- Food sensitivities
- Eating sugar (and other high glycemic foods that convert quickly to sugar)
The Sugar Rush
My previous article discussed how a sugar rush can activate feel-good chemicals and reward centers in the brain (including neurotransmitters like serotonin, dopamine, and beta endorphin). That sweet “treat” causes blood sugar spikes, providing instant energy (and a crash afterwards). Repeating this pattern frequently causes insulin surges that can eventually deplete the body of energy and contribute to insulin resistance, increasing weight gain and elevating the risk of developing diabetes.
The results of the sugar rush roller coaster are:
- weight gain
- mental fogginess
- hormonal imbalance
- and more!
30 Ways to Control Your Sugar Cravings
The list below is quite detailed, and not every suggestion will apply to every person. Read it through and see which suggestions might be most likely to be helpful to you, and give them a try.
- Increase protein – sometimes a need for more protein is experienced as a sugar craving.
- Ensure you have protein, fat and fiber as part of breakfast. Sugar early in the day is especially vicious in creating sugar cravings.
- Increase fiber intake in general.
- Don’t bring junk home from the grocery store.
- Choose whole, natural, unprocessed foods.
- Eat dark chocolate, but only a couple of squares. Choose very dark chocolate which is more than 70% cacao. If your chocolate cravings in particular seem out of control, ensure you’re getting enough iron and magnesium in your diet. Deficiencies seem to stimulate chocolate cravings.
- Brush your teeth after each meal. It removes the food taste which can trigger you to want more. Brushing after a sweet snack is particularly important for dental health.
- Distract yourself – with a walk, music, a goodbook, dancing, or a nap.
- Use herbs and spices when cooking. Not only do they add interesting flavors and nutrients, some such as cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves and cardamom add a naturally sweet flavor that reduces cravings.
- Avoid TV with commercials, especially within three hours of bedtime.
- Eat fruit – fruit sugar is digested differently than table sugar, because of the fiber, vitamins, minerals, enzymes and good phytonutrients in fresh fruit. Because of this, you won’t get as high of a sugar rush as from a processed sugary snack, nor will you get as low of a sugar crash. However, be aware that even eating fruit is providing your body with a lot of sugar, so you may have more cravings to fight off as a result.
- Choose sweeteners carefully. It’s best to avoid artifical ones completely, as research has shown that they increase cravings for sweets. If you must use artificial sweeteners, Sucralose seems to be a safer choice than Saccharin or Aspartame. A much better choice is Stevia or Xylitol, because they are entirely natural substances. Another choice which is better than white table sugar is coconut sugar. While it does have calories, unlike Stevia or Xylitol, it is lower on the Glycemic Index than table sugar (coconut sugar is 40 instead of table sugar at 70). That means lower sugar spikes.
- Eat slow carbs often.
- Eat yogurt, sauerkraut, kefir, or other fermented foods. The probiotic support they offer helps overcome the sugar-loving bacteria in our bodies.
- Training in meditation, grounding, or mindfulness can help manage any cravings, including sugar cravings.
- Go for quality, not quantity. It may not be realistic to eliminate sweet treats, but you can “budget” them and choose only very special, decadent, small ones. The goal is to consume less sugar in the long run.
- Read nutritional labels. In particular, avoid sugar, high-fructose corn syrup, glucose, dextrose, and white flour when trying to overcome sugar cravings.
- Try chewing sugar-free gum. Research has shown that it decreases sugar cravings for some people.
- Specific micronutrients like zinc, vitamin C and the B vitamins are particularly helpful in calming sugar cravings by influencing serotonin production. Equally important are omega-3’s, which are crucial for regulating mood and inflammation — factors that are both associated with cravings. Take a daily multivitamin.
- Some people find that taking L-Glutamine (100-300mg) a few times daily as necessary helps.
- Supplementing with 200mg of chromium up to 3x/day may assist with carb cravings.
- “Postpone” a sugar craving with a cup of tea (possibly sweetened with Stevia or Xylitol). It will often pass.
- Never skip meals – especially breakfast.
- Exercise helps, as it reduces stress, which triggers cravings.
- Get enough sleep. We often reach for the quick energy boost of sugar to counteract exhaustion.
- Plan ahead and have healthy snacks on hand, especially at work where you’ll have few healthy choices.
- Eat more good fat. Many people believe that avoiding all fat helps them lose weight. That’s simply not true, and the imbalance this creates in your nutritional profile can actually cause cravings. Some healthy fat in your diet will help you feel more satiated.
- Drink more water, or try water with lemon. Sometimes mild dehydration triggers sugar cravings. Some people recommend two teaspoons of raw apple cider vinegar in a cup of water to counteract a sugar craving.
- Forgive yourself for occasional lapses. Beating up on yourself is stressful, and stress only increases the likelihood you’ll reach for a comforting treat.
- Reward yourself for successfully managing your sugar cravings.
Remember that we are not striving for perfection, but progress. If you’re in Hawaii and struggling with weight loss, please come in for a free consultation about medical weight loss. Losing weight doesn’t have to be a struggle with the right support.