Tired of being controlled by your sugar cravings? Do you struggle stopping after one piece of candy? Do you crave dessert at the end of the day to unwind? Have you tried to eat less sugar, but find that your will power just isn’t strong enough? Check out these 4 simple steps to help you conquer your sugar cravings.
We have entered into the holiday season now and with these fall and winter holidays come sugar and lots of it. No matter where we go we can find sugary holiday treats and the temptation to over indulge is real. We convince ourselves at that party with a table full of delicious treats that a small piece won’t hurt or that you will only have once small piece of candy from your child’s Halloween haul or Christmas stocking. The problem with sugar is that its incredibly difficult(and for some of us impossible) to stop after just one piece. And this isn’t because we have horrible will power(we really need to stop all the negative self talk), its biological.
Sugar affects the biochemistry of our bodies by flooding our body with dopamine, a neurotransmitter that promotes a sense of wellness and balance. Cocaine and heroin produce a similar biochemical effect on our bodies. After feeling that surge of dopamine, our bodies now want to feel those same emotions again and again and seek out more of whatever triggered that dopamine response. So each time we eat sugar, our bodies sends us signals to eat more and more of it. This is why often we find it so hard to stop after just a small dose of sugar or why we often tie emotions to our sugar cravings. How often do you find yourself needing some sugar when you feel stressed, sad or angry? So stop blaming your poor willpower on why you can’t eat just one piece of candy or reach for food to cope with negative emotions, its just biochemistry. Instead of blaming yourself, find a solution.
So now that you know why you can’t control yourself around sugar, I want to give you some helpful simple steps that can help you conquer those cravings and take back control over sugar.
GET RID OF THE SUGAR. First things first, get rid of all that sugar. Its not good for you or your kids and it will only keep tempting you if its in the house. As a recovering sugar addict, I avoid bringing candy into my house at all costs. My husband though isn’t as onboard with the whole no sugar thing, so he keeps his own stash of sugar. I just make him keep it hidden from myself and the kids. Some people can better regulate sugar intake themselves and others (like myself and probably most people) cannot and its nothing to be ashamed about. You just need to accept who you are and plan accordingly. Getting rid of temptation is the first step and it doesn’t make you any weaker.
Since we’ve just had Halloween and you are probably inundated with sugar, if you want some ideas for how to get rid of all of the candy after Halloween, check out my Instagram post on it here. People shared so many great things that they do with their kids’ candy afterwards to get it out of the house.
HYDRATE YOURSELF. Our bodies elevate our blood sugar levels when they are dehydrated. These blood sugar spikes cause our bodies to crave more sugar as the glucose levels drop in our blood a few hours later. So if we want to get a handle on our cravings we need to make sure we are drinking plenty of fluids. Now when I talk about keeping ourselves hydrated, I don’t want you to reach for juices that will spike your blood sugar and only cause you to crave more sugar, but instead load up on plenty of WATER. If you don’t like water, then plain herbal teas. Some of my favorites are peppermint, ginger, camomile and best of of all nettle tea. But all in all, water is the best and we should be drinking much more of it.
START YOUR DAY WITH A GOOD BREAKFAST. The first food we eat upon waking is very important, especially for those of us trying to curb our sugar cravings. You’ll need to forget everything that Western culture has ingrained in us about what a healthy breakfast is and focus on eating a breakfast that will keep your blood sugar stable. Instead of reaching for a breakfast cereal (even oatmeal), juice (even 100% pure fruit juice) and some fruit that will only spike your blood sugar and leave you craving either sugar or bread a few hours later, I want you fill up on protein, fat and veggies first thing in the morning. If you start your day with something sweet, even if it is natural sugar like fruit, your body will crave that kind of food the rest of the day. But if you start your day with a good dose of protein, fat and veggies your body will be better fueled and you will find yourself less likely to overeat and crave unhealthy foods. Check out my post here on how fat can help us lose weight to learn more.
My go to craving buster breakfast is 2-3 eggs either scrambled with some chopped veggies like spinach, peppers and mushrooms or fried with a side of asparagus and some avocado. Here are some more healthy breakfast ideas if you need them.
BREATHE. This one is huge. Breathing deeply and into the lower parts of the lungs allows stress reducing oxygen to reach the the parasympathetic nerve receptors which create a sense of calm and relaxation and help to regulate our emotions. Breathing this way at a certain rate can give you the feel good effect of sugar without all the negative effects.
Start with a deep belly breath while lying on your back. When inhaling your abdomen should be relaxing allowing your breath to expand into your lower lungs lowering your diaphragm down into your belly. On the exhale, your abdomen contracts, raising your diaphragm back up which then pushes the air out of your lungs. Once you figure out your belly breathing, you want to start doing it at a specific rate. Breath in slowly expanding your belly as you count to five and then breath out slowly contracting your abdomen as you count to five. Do this 6 times, which will take about a minute. Breathing 6 times per minute synchronizes with your heart, which then signals the release of dopamine (the feel good neurotransmitter) from your brain.
If you are confused about how to belly breath, there is a good video explanation here. When belly breathing you want to make sure you are always lying on your back, if you want the geeky (and very interesting) explanation of why you should, check out biomechanist, Katy Bowman’s video explanation here. Also, check out this video here for another example of a breathing exercise specifically designed to help with cravings.
So next time you are tempted to turn to sugar for a pick me up, instead lie down and try a minute or two of this breathing and see what happens. The more regular you make this practice the less you will be tempted to turn to sugar for emotional regulation.
You will find the most success as you begin to incorporate all of these steps into your everyday life and they become your habits. Don’t feel bad if you can’t do them all at once. If you become overwhelmed, start with one. Either pick one you know will be the easiest for you to turn into a habit or the one that will make the biggest impact. If you are only picking one and want the one that will make the most impact, I’d recommend adjusting your breakfasts to start including more protein and fats and less grains.
If you are looking for more help conquering those sugar cravings I run a group program called 21 days to Tame Your Sweet Tooth that provides great support and accountability and teaches healthy habits and meals that will help curb your cravings and obsessive thoughts about sugar. Contact me here and ask to be put on the waiting list for the next program and you will get emailed when my I start the next group.
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If you have any questions or want to work with me, check out my individual and family health coaching page.