Why do we crave sugar?
Almost all of us have heard at least once that sugar is bad for us and we all know what it’s negative consequences are. We all know it is the number one cause of being overweight and we all know it has been associated with numerous chronic illnesses. But for most of us is still difficult to control our sugar intakes. Why is this?
First of all, everybody should realize that whenever talking about sugar cravings, what we are really talking about are addictions as sugar acts like a drug in the system. When we eat sugar our brain releases feel-good chemicals (serotonin and endorphins) which give us the feeling of pleasure and happiness. That’s the same thing what a drug does and why people become so highly addictive on those things. They make us believe we feel better and happier. It becomes our go-to quick fix when we start feeling low. Especially, when we lack these feelings from other sources, we start to indulge in these unhealthy habits in order to compensate for other areas of our life which make us unhappy.
The second reason is that we tend to crave sugar when we wait too long in between meals before eating the next meal. The longer we go without eating, the more our blood sugar levels drop and when we finally eat something, we normally look for something quick which will fill us up quickly and make us feel better in seconds. Sugar gets assimilated incredibly fast into the bloodstream. This is why people will usually opt for chocolate and sweets when they get hungry. It tricks the body into thinking it’s not hungry anymore as it provides calories in a fast way which give us a burst of energy instantly but they are in fact empty calories. After an hour or so, your blood levels drop once again and your body will be craving yet again another quick fix.
When we get hungry, we also tend to become more irritable and our mood goes down. Then we grab for sweets in the hope that we will start feeling better. For a few hours, we have tricked the body into thinking it is not hungry anymore. Like this, we quickly learn that sugar has the power to make us feel good. And it becomes the go-to quick fix for our low moods (this is especially true if you are a woman and experience PMS), hunger and just any low moment in our lives. It becomes a vicious cycle. So, it’s normal to not want to give it up, given the fact it comes with so many apparent benefits. Unfortunately, however, these benefits are imaginary!
Doctors and scientists have now long tried to divide the body and the mind into two separate units but nowadays, more and more of them come to realize that the body has a huge influence on the mind and the other way around. The body and the mind are one unit and they must be treated as such! This is why, when dealing with sugar cravings is very important to consider the mind as well.
Here are our top 10 tips on how to stop your sugar cravings:
Tip #1 Start planning your meals
In order to avoid acute hunger from happening, we need to start thinking about those moments in advance. This means buying enough storing containers in order to keep your food fresh for many days in advance, making a grocery list and thinking about what you want to eat in advance. Having a plan gives you better control over the things you eat.
Tip #2 Get a weekly groceries routine
We live in a modern society and both women and men go to work. This also means that people don’t have that much time to do groceries and cook anymore which will predispose them to grab something to eat quickly on their way to work or back home. By introducing a weekly groceries routine in your everyday life you’ll make sure you have food at home at all times, which will also allow you to avoid unnecessary trips to the store on an empty stomach. This will also make sure you can prepare your meals in advance for a few days, store them and take them with you at work or anywhere you go.
Tip #3 Eat before doing your weekly groceries
Changing the way you eat starts in the supermarket. For me, my groceries day is on Saturday and I have noticed that if I go on an empty stomach, I will normally buy unnecessary things, that I wouldn’t have normally bought if I had anything to eat before. So try to eat before you go buying food. In this way, you will make sure you don’t buy sweets and junk food just because you are hungry. By keeping sugar out of your home, you are guaranteed to eat healthier foods and snacks when hunger and cravings strike. I don’t know many people who would rather make the trip to the store just to buy something to eat, instead of eating what’s already there.
Tip #4 Buy enough healthy foods and eat healthy snacks
Making sure you have enough fruits and veggies at home is one of the most important steps in this process. When sugar cravings hit just reach for a fruit or a healthy snack instead.
Tip #5 Start preparing your meals in advance
Having a meal preparation routine will ensure that you never ever grab for sweets when you get hungry. It will also dramatically reduce the amount of time you need to wait for your food, from the moment when hunger kicks in until you actually get to eat.
Tip #6 Eat more meals per day
This is probably the most important one of all. Splitting your meals into 4 or more smaller meals every day and supplementing them with healthy snacks in between will ensure that your blood levels stay constant throughout the entire day which has the potential to completely eliminate your sugar cravings.
Tip #7 Drink more water
Did you know that if you get too thirsty, your mind can get tricked into thinking it is hungry or that it craves something sweet, when in fact all your body needs is water? Dehydration is an important factor also, why people tend to overeat.
Tip #8 What’s your trigger?
Try to track down the moments of the day when you get sugar cravings and write them down. Try to observe some patterns. Mostly, people get sugar cravings after eating, when they get hungry and when they experience high levels of stress. Try to become aware of your own emotional triggers and find replacement activities or snacks. Dealing with your sugar cravings also means that you need to become more aware of some bad habits that you might have and to try to find better replacement activities for them.
Tip #9 Be patient and do what works for you
Just like with any other addiction, you’ll experience withdrawal symptoms at first. That’s why, for some works best to go cold turkey and stop sugar altogether, for others it is more appealing to decrease the amounts gradually. For some, the idea of a cheat meal per week can go a long way. Do what works for you!
Tipp #10 Create a more fulfilling life
If we would all strive to make our lives happier and take action constantly, drugs wouldn’t stand a chance in our world anymore! Are you unhappy with your life? Just do something about it! Humans tend to overcomplicate things but it doesn’t need to be like that! Just allow yourself to be happier and live life on your terms, go out there and try to sweeten your life instead of your tongue and you’ll soon be experiencing the same uplifting effects that sugar gives you, but in a more natural and healthier way. With the exception that you’ll not just trick your mind into thinking it’s happy but you’ll actually BE happy!
What about artificial sweeteners? Artificial sweeteners may actually increase sugar cravings and should be avoided.
What about more natural sweeteners like honey? The body is going to handle these sweeteners in much the same way it does with highly refined sugars. If you have a craving, these are preferred, along with the natural sweetener stevia. Always enjoy in moderate amounts. Remember, the more you feed yourself with unsweetened, natural foods, the less you will crave the sweet stuff.
- Lawler, David. “America’s Sugar Addiction: Just How Bad Is It?” The Telegraph.
- Dinicolantonio, James, and Sean Lucan. “Sugar Season. It’s Everywhere, and Addictive.” The New York Times.
- Locker, Melissa. “Oreos May Be As Addictive As Cocaine.” Time.