How to Quit Sugar Cravings 13 Ways
Call me whatever you want, I definitely love sweets! I was the kid who found half-eaten hard candy melting into the sidewalk on a hot day and scraped it up and ate it. Anything sweet is good to me.
My favorite breakfast is cold cereal. The only reason I wanted to stay at Grandma’s house as a kid was because she had Apple Jacks! Now, I prefer the sweet kind of granola (That’s good for you, right? “Only” 33 net carbs per serving – but I just don’t have one serving). I had Skittles in my car all the time, and when I decided it wasn’t good for me, I switched to raisins (Is that any better? IDK – not for the teeth!). Cinnamon rolls were my favorite snack, but I liked cookies too. I would open a package of Oreos to eat just a few while studying – and somehow by the time I finished my work the package was empty! I could easily eat a pint of Ben and Jerry’s while watching a movie. I just crave sweets all the time. I’m drawn to sweet, starch, carbohydrates – sugar in any form. Dinner isn’t done until I have some carb – bread, cereal, fruit… or dessert!
So, you’re probably surprised because I wrote the book on NOT eating sugar. I have several videos on how sugar is the most toxic substance on Planet Earth. Am I a hypocrite? Well, no. But I am qualified to tell you how to end the craving for sweets. We all have addictions and need to deal with them. I always thought sugar, not tobacco, was the worse addiction because sugar is everywhere, in everything…and I can’t just stop eating it. I have to eat something, and I’m going to be drawn to the things I like.
Why We Crave Carbs
Our primary source of energy is carbohydrates, which are made of sugar. To get energy, we need sugar. If our energy is low, we will tend to crave sweets and carbs to bring up that energy quickly.
Our sweet taste buds connect with the pleasure center in the brain. However, the bitter taste buds connect with nociceptors (pain centers). Thus, sweet always feels so good! We crave that good feeling. It can comfort us through all sorts of losses – unfulfilling relationships, boredom at work, or not finding pleasure in life.
When we are stressed, we release a hormone called cortisol, the stress hormone, which makes us crave sugar. The brain works primarily on sugar and makes us feel the need to eat anything sweet. Thus, the craving for chocolate, ice cream, or chocolate ice cream is greatest when were most stressed.
The taste of sweet causes our mouth to water at any time. We can eat sweets when we aren’t hungry because sweet things stimulate the appetite. Even after a big meal when we “could not eat another bite” and food isn’t even desirable, we can eat ice cream, pie, and other sweets. Sweet taste buds don’t shut down.
Some people have a need to put things in their mouths. It’s a baby thing. It’s hard to say why but many people have deficiencies in nutrients, especially minerals that cause them to constantly put things in their mouth. Some eat inedible objects like paper, dirt, rocks, or chew gum, while others just eat and drink all day, requiring sweet taste to stimulate saliva.
Often, people who are dehydrated will confuse their thirst with hunger. Because sweet things stimulate the salivary glands, they can feel like they are quenching their thirst by eating something sweet. Thirst can come from three sources:
- Lack of water
- Lack of sodium
- Lack of potassium
Thus, people may drink a lot of water and continue to be thirsty because they don’t have enough sodium and/or potassium. For this reason they will drink a lot, and require sweet taste for everything they eat.
Sugar stimulates the pleasure centers in about the same way as a connection with people. Those who are lonely will often crave sweet things, sugar, and starch to get that pleasurable feeling. It seems that the single healthiest thing we can do is to have human connections and community.
Many deficiencies cause cravings. Pica and dehydration, as noted above, are two deficiencies that cause cravings. There are many others. For example, if your body is low in magnesium, you may crave chocolate. Deficiencies of minerals and nutrients almost always result in sugar cravings because that is the way the brain is wired.
13 Ways to Stop Sugar Cravings
1. Make rules.
Your personal guidelines allow you to eat foods for taste instead of nourishment – sometimes. Your rule can be anything that fits your lifestyle. Let me tell you some of my rules that I have had over the years.
2. Avoid processed sugar, eat natural sugar.
I can have honey and real maple syrup, and fruit, but I don’t eat things with processed sugar. Exceptions – I can have homemade oatmeal-raisin cookies.
3. Eat sweets with nutrition.
I will have an apple instead of a cookie. I will have oatmeal with molasses and fruit instead of sugar-sweetened granola. I make a fruit smoothie instead of eating ice cream. I have frozen grapes in the freezer for cold, sweet snacks. This allows me to have something and not always feel deprived.
4. Stop putting stuff in your mouth.
I have found so many people with obesity and diabetes have the need to put things in their mouth. There is some kind of Freudian need to always have something in their mouth. They suck on candies, one after the other, or chew gum, or carry water bottles from which they constantly drink. Be aware of this, and try going a whole day without putting ANYTHING in your mouth.
5. Don’t eat processed foods.
White flour, white sugar, white rice and so forth, cause more cravings because they do not satisfy the need. We need nutrients. One of the nutrients we need is sugar for energy. However, when we eat only sugar without any other nutrients the body is starving and will cause cravings. Those times when you could eat anything is called Pica, where people eat inedible things.
6. Have sweets only in the morning.
This is a great rule. While we are starting the day, sugar stimulates the adrenal hormones; for example, an apple, even more than a cup of coffee, gets us going. Eating sweets in the evening causes more adrenal stress, prevents deep sleep, and prevents anabolic repair. This is a great rule for those who are addicted to carbs. (I still struggle with this.)
7 .Don’t buy it.
If you get it free, that’s OK. This has been a great rule for me since childhood that has kept me from craving sweets. I just don’t pay for them. If someone offers me ice cream, I might have some, but I’m not going to spend my money on my addiction! 😊
8. Put it off.
Just wait for 10 minutes before eating something sweet. Putting off what we crave is the best way to end the addiction. A practical way to do this is to set a timer for 5-10 minutes. After it has gone off, ask yourself if you can pass on the sweets. If not, set the timer again until you aren’t tempted any more.
9. Put specific limits.
I can eat homemade oatmeal raisin cookies. I occasionally make them, but if they are at the church potluck dinner – bonus! All the other cookies are not on my list. I can have a frozen fruit smoothie instead of ice cream. I enjoy it just as much, and it has nutrition, even though I add sugar. My natural laziness prevents me from making them all the time.
10. Have small amounts
I love ice cream, but I only eat it a few times a year, on special occasions, and just have one small scoop, or even only one spoonful. I’m happy with that. I found I can be just as satisfied with a taste as with a plate full. Sometimes, only one bite will satisfy the craving.
11. Eat good food instead.
If we have good food we will not have nutrient deficiencies that cause cravings. Minerals are especially important. Magnesium is found in nuts, seeds, and everything green. The color green comes from the magnesium in the chlorophyll. So, when your mom said, “Eat your vegetables” she meant the green stuff.
12. Try the elimination diet.
Go for a time (months) without your favorite sweet and then see if it still has the same appeal. I stopped eating donuts for over a year. Then when I ate them I found they weren’t really that good. Plus, I didn’t feel good afterwards, so now I don’t eat them at all. They still look really good to me, and I’m tempted, but then I remember the last time, and I pass. I feel the same way about Oreos.
13. Do a fast.
When my two oldest boys were 8 and 10, I showed them a $100 bill and told them I would give each of them one if they went for a year without eating any processed sugar. They could still have honey, fruit, and their grandmother’s homemade pomegranate jelly. You see, they weren’t totally deprived, just limited. We started in September and a month later in October came the real test: Halloween! I suggested we go somewhere like a movie, but they wanted to go out trick-or-treating with their friends. They didn’t eat a single piece of candy! They got several pounds of candy and took it to the local dentist who was buying it off of kids for $2 a pound. They said they were happier with the $6 they got instead of the candy. That year without sugar was life-changing for them. They still talk about it to their friends – with pride!
The bottom line is the more sugar we eat, the more we crave it. Eat less, and the cravings will be less. I must admit, however, that I still struggle with a lot of these issues. I don’t scrape used candy off the sidewalk anymore, but I still can eat ALL the cookies on the plate – if I’m not careful. I suppose it’s a lifetime of struggle, but the rules I have given myself help me, especially if everyone around me knows my rules. They keep me honest – well, most of the time. I will attest to all that it’s a battle, and I lose too many times, I feel.
I believe the message of Alcoholics Anonymous, “once and alcoholic, always an alcoholic,” might apply to sugar cravings as well – those who crave sugar, crave sugar. It doesn’t just go away. We can give in to it, or fight it. The more we fight the stronger we get, which makes the battles easier to win! The other message is to get up every time you fall. If you fall a hundred times, and get up a hundred times, you are up in the end, and that’s all that matters!