Sugar cravings. The two words that can ignite fear in the fiercest of dieters, the fitness warriors, the health fanatics.
Sugar cravings. The destroyer of weight loss goals, the seemingly insurmountable desire for sweetness, the ever present frustration and saboteur of all things healthy.
Sugar cravings. Are they possible to truly beat? Or will we face this foe forever?
Let's find out...
I'm sure you've heard the study that explains how sugar is just as, if not more addictive than cocaine. Which means the battle to overcome our cravings for it will be a battle hard won. But I assure you, an impossible feat, it is not.
By following the guidelines below, you will be able to quiet the incessant voice in your head that calls out for sugar in its many forms.
Now if you want to keep that voice in check, you will need to maintain consistent awareness of yourself and your body, and the discipline to know and act, when you really need to come back to this post, and these basics.
Now if you've followed my blog before, you know I am not one for "cleanses" or "diets" or "quick fixes" that only give short term results. So you know it's serious if I'm telling you to quit sugar for a full 2 weeks.
But here's why it's so important. As I mentioned before, sugar addiction is as strong as a drug addiction and you need to treat it as such. You can't have "just one hit" because it will begin the vicious cycle of cravings anew.
You have to completely rid it from your system in order to stop the sugar from feeding numerous unhealthy feedback loops, including:
In this feedback loop, various forms of unhealthy bacteria and fungus feed on sugar. So in order to continue getting fed their preferred meal, they send signals to your brain asking for a fix. You give them what they're looking for, and they'll continue begging for more. You have to starve them out.
Part of the joy of sugar is the rush of happiness hormones our bodies are supplied with when we eat it. It's why so often we reach for a cookie when we're feeling sad, stressed, lonely, or angry. We need to find different, healthier ways to cope with our troublesome emotions, besides sugar.
You've heard me talk about blood sugar time and time again (or if this is your first time with me, and you haven't heard me talk about it at all, check out this post where I dive into blood sugar and its huge affect on your ability to lose weight). And we're bringing it up again here.
Because the feedback loop here goes something like this: Hunger - quick sugar fix - spike in blood sugar - blood sugar plummet - hungry and tired - quick sugar fix.
If we want sustained energy and fewer cravings we have to balance out our blood sugar. You can get my blood sugar balancing guide in the post mentioned above.
Now sugar is a tricky thing to rid yourself of for 2 weeks because it hides in so many foods. And I know when we go into a sugar fast, there are always lots of questions like,
Can I eat grains?
Can I eat fruit?
What about stevia?
Are restaurants safe?
Which is why I've put together a free 2 Week Sugar Detox Guide to answer all of these questions, to give you some extra tips and tricks I've used in various sugar cleanses myself, and to help support your body as you detox.
Now I get it, not everyone is ready to take that big leap and eliminate sugar completely for 2 weeks. Which is why the next 5 tips are all solid strategies to help you effectively curb your cravings, if not eliminate them completely, cleanse or no cleanse.
I love the concept of crowding out bad habits with good ones. Instead of trying to eliminate a bad habit, add a good one that makes the bad habit more difficult to maintain.
In this case, we are going to crowd out sugar with healthier options. For example, you can commit yourself to eating 7 servings of produce (fruits and vegetables) every day.
This will serve 2 purposes: you'll be less hungry for junk because of all the filling fiber, and you'll be taking care of some nutrient deficiencies you might have which could be causing some of your cravings in the first place.
Another way to crowd out is to eat 3 servings of healthy, low calorie items, before you allow yourself to indulge.
You might have some other crowding out ideas, get creative and have fun with it!
This means filling up your plate with whole foods, packed with vital nutrients, vitamins, and minerals. Think veggies, fruits, whole grains (not whole grain bread, I mean whole grains like quinoa and brown rice), lean meats like chicken and fish, and whole food fats from olives, avocados, nuts, and seeds.
As I mentioned earlier, sometimes a sugar craving is really your body's way of signaling to you it isn't getting the nutrients it needs, so it wants a quick source of energy. Feed your body the fuel it wants and you'll be surprised at how much your cravings calm down.
Triggers for your sugar cravings could range, from a certain person (maybe you hit up the vending machine every time you get into it with your boss), an activity (watching tv at night is a big one for a lot of people), or even a time of day (it's 8 p.m. and that left over birthday cake is just calling your name, just like the night before. And the night before that).
Once you know what your triggers are, you have the power to change the trigger if at all possible, or if not, change your reaction to it.
Stressful boss? Try 5 minutes of meditation instead of mowing through a bag of Amos cookies.
Watching tv triggers you? Read a book or go for a walk instead.
8 pm is snack time? Find somewhere else to be or something else to do during "feeding hour."
Setting little rules that bring more control into your world can really help tame the manic eating that usually comes with a strong craving.
Not eating past 7 pm.
Setting "treat times" where you only are allowed to feed your sugar cravings between the hours of x and y. Pick a time slot that doesn't usually hit you with much temptation.
Or make yourself chug 2 glasses of water and eat a healthy snack before you can indulge.
Again just a few ideas out of many possibilities.
It's most helpful to choose something that takes you out of your current state. Go somewhere not conducive to eating and/or partake in an activity that requires your hands (knitting, sewing, drawing, writing, painting, etc.).
Or exercise! This is great because it works against your cravings in numerous ways: it distracts you, it's hard to eat while working out, it makes you less inclined to negate your hard work with a treat, and it helps balance your blood sugar.
Start with these steps, follow my 2 Week Sugar Cleanse, and you should notice a massive difference in the control you have over your body's desire for sugar.
But remember, this is not a quick fix. You can't do all of this for 2 weeks and then go back to eating a highly processed, high sugar diet and think the cravings won't return. They will.
And trust me, it's a million times harder to break the addiction, start the addiction, and break the addiction again, than it is to simply maintain a lifestyle that doesn't feed the addiction.
So as always, do the work, stay consistent, reap the rewards. You've got this ;)