If you’ve ‘tried everything’ to overcome your sugar addiction and yet, you still have cravings, first, be reassured it is possible to get past them. It’ll take some effort and a lot of commitment, but it’s absolutely possible, and the result is totally worth it: a happier you, a less stressed you, a slimmer you, and a healthier you with balanced blood sugar.
In case you’re wondering what causes sugar cravings… A sweet tooth can result from a hormone imbalance, a nutrient deficiency, habituated patterns, a combination of these, or other more nuanced issues.
Let’s begin with a story.
I used to be a total sugar-aholic. Growing up, every weekend we made cake, banana bread, pie, cobbler, or some other dessert, then every weekday morning, I’d have a leftover piece for breakfast. I started my sugar addiction early in life and early in the day. After school, craving yet more sweets, my afternoon snack was a couple of cookies.
Over the years, I tried many approaches to getting off the sweet stuff, and have been successful and have slipped back many times. Even now, as a health-coach and health-advocate, I’ll admit, I occasionally still suffer from a sweet tooth, especially around the holidays. In an environment that is just overflowing with sugary treats, it’s so easy to succumb to ‘just a bite,’ which all too quickly sparks those sugar cravings again, which is why holidays are still a trigger for me. Does your environment cause your cravings?
Free Yourself from Junk
While this may seem overly simplistic, one of the easiest things you can do is to change the foods you keep around. If you have a snickers bar sitting on your desk, or every time you walk into the kitchen there is a pack of cookies on the counter, of course you’re going to crave sweets. Just the visual cue of it sitting there is enough to start your salivary glands going and the feel-good chemicals getting released in your brain. After that, you feel like you just ‘have to have it.’ It is essentially the same thing as Pavlov’s dogs.
So, simple enough, get rid of all the sweets and other sugar-filled junk (soda, punch, most juice, waffles, sugary cereals, and baked goods) from your environment (this includes home, car, office, everywhere). Don’t keep any around ‘just in case’ or ‘for the kids.’ The kids don’t need the sugar anymore than you do. No excuses. Dump it all.
Now that we got one of the easy triggers out of the way, the next prob (for me) was the food I was eating was still led to soooo many sugar cravings that I’d actually go out of my way to pass by a dessert place so I could get something sweet.
Change Your Food
Eating simple refined carbohydrates like pasta, rice, bread, cereal, etc cause cravings for sweeter and sweeter treats. Your body is literally addicted to the dopamine that’s released by eating carbohydrates and it wants more-more-more. Plus, if your diet, like mine was, is largely based on carbs, you’re probably not getting enough high quality fat. Good fats increase satiety, meaning you eat less, yet feel more satisfied. So consider swapping vegetables, spaghetti squash, eggs, or other whole foods for your refined carbs, and don’t be afraid of olive oil, coconut oil, and grass fed butter.
The other fundamental diet shift that needs to happen to combat a sweet tooth is to switch to a whole foods (or real food) eating plan: one that includes lots of fresh veggies, squash, and some fruit, good fat, seeds, nuts, and unprocessed meat (eg no luncheon or deli meats). A real food meal is much more nutrient dense than one composed of packaged, processed, or refined ‘foods’ or fast food. More nutrients in their whole-food form help to satisfy the body, balance hormones and blood sugar, and prevent cravings.
Making the fundamental shift from processed foods and refined carbohydrates to a whole foods diet can take some time, plus focus, energy, and commitment. And during that transition, it can be easy to slip into compensatory habits or thought-patterns.
One habit I had was still being ‘fat phobic,’ which means I wasn’t getting enough healthy fat to create a satisfying meal, then I’d have low energy and mild hunger in the afternoon. That combo often led me to justify just ‘one small treat’ to increase my energy, until eventually that became a daily habit of getting a mid-afternoon sugary treat.
Rework Your Habits
Why does it feel like bad habits easily creep up without us even realizing it, yet good habits seem to take so much effort to establish?
Psychology teaches us to look for the trigger that sends us sailing right back into the bad habit. Does the end of a meal automatically signal to you, time for a sweet? Does putting the kids to bed mean you can kick back, relax, and eat anything you want because the it’s finally ‘me’ time? Or are you like me, low energy, bored in the office, deciding its time for an energy-boosting sugary snack?
All of these, and any habit, can be changed, just like I managed with my afternoon sweet tooth. I got some tea and I put it on my desk–first, the visual cue. Then any time the low energy and boredom had me longing for a sweet snack, I saw the tea, and got up and made myself a cup. At first, I told myself that I could have a sweet treat if I still wanted one after the cup of tea. Some days I did want one and went for it. Some days I wanted one but didn’t go for it. Eventually the days where I wanted something sweet but didn’t go for it outnumbered the days I indulged. And overtime, the days I didn’t even think about an afternoon snack outnumbered the days I wanted one but didn’t go for it. It was a process, and a very important transition in my life.
By the way, Belight Tea, can do the same for you. Not only can it help you change your habit of always wanting something sweet after a meal, or using sugar to cope with stress, or snacking too much throughout the day, it’s unique formulation will also nourish your body to help you feel more satisfied, experience less hunger and fewer cravings, and maintain balanced energy.
Check Your Hormones
If you’ve read this far and you already eat whole foods diet, maintain a largely junk-free environment, and don’t have any habits, triggers, or cues that you’ve pinpointed cause cravings for you, and yet you still have a frequent sweet tooth, biology and hormones may be hindering your efforts. It could be blood sugar, stress hormones, satiety and hunger hormones (ghrelin & leptin), feel-good brain chemicals, or any of a number other hormones interacting with your body to cause your to crave sugar. A nutrient-dense diet, low in sugar can help balance hormones, but still more assistance may be needed, such as probiotics or other supplementation. To find out for sure what’s going on, you may need to work with a functional medicine practitioner who can recommend some tests and help you find better answers. That will direct you to find more personalized solutions for your cravings.
As you seek to beat your sweet tooth and eliminate sugar cravings, just remember it’s a journey–some days will be better than others, but each time you make a decision to avoid sweets, and choose tea, or nuts, or perhaps nothing at all, you’re strengthening your ‘healthy-choice’ muscles. You’re strengthening your will-power, you’re decreasing the power of the sweet tooth, and you’re empowering yourself to more healthy choices and greater overall well-being. Day-by-day, you will get better at overcoming the sweet tooth and find yourself experiencing better and better health. Be strong, take action, make a good choice, and feel better.