conquer your sweet tooth

Let’s face it: most people have at least something of a sweet tooth. I know I do.

And to be completely honest, I don’t fully trust anyone who never craves sweets at all.

Sugar, in all its various forms, is a fairly natural human craving. It comforts us. It helps us bond with others. And yes, it even satisfies us emotionally— since we tend to crave sugar when we’re feeling sad, lonely, or even bored.

And while indulging your sweet tooth every once in a while it completely acceptable, too much of a good thing can completely derail your fitness and weight loss goals, even if you work out on a near daily basis.

So while I’m not one to say you shouldn’t have any sugar at all (I’d be a hypocrite if I did!), I certainly can relate to the need to lessen your constant desire for sweet things and start living by the 80/20 rule.

Here’s how to tame your sweet tooth for good:

Don’t deny yourself completely.

It’s human nature: once you start telling yourself you absolutely can’t have something, you start wanting it even more.

Tell yourself you’re swearing off your favorite cookies for good, and you’ll start baking them in your sleep. Refuse a piece of candy you love too many times, and one day when you’re sad or upset you’ll buy a bag and eat the entire thing. Deny yourself ice cream on too many hot summer days and one night while in ‘screw-it-mode’ you’ll end up devouring a whole pint.

And if you’re as stubborn as I am, that’s not going to go away.

So the key here? Portions.

Oh, we’ve all heard it before: “keep your portion size down.” And yes, I know it’s easier said than done.

I used to have a really hard time with this one. Two to four squares of dark chocolate just wasn’t enough. I needed more. Quantity was valued over quality.

But here’s the thing… if you start limiting your portion size, it’ll be hard at first, but you’ll eventually realize you actually feel better when you eat less sweets. And you’ll start craving that feeling of feeling good even more than you crave a giant amount of sweets.

Also, if you eat less of something, that means you don’t have to deny yourself completely. Depending on your weight goals, you can literally eat any sweet you want… as long as you don’t eat much of it.

And that’s pretty awesome if you ask me.

Start enjoying fruit. Like, really enjoying it.

I know, I know, fruit doesn’t always sound very exciting. And if you’re craving something like M&Ms, gummy candy or a giant sundae, fruit is probably the last thing you want to turn to.

I’ve been there. And I’m not suggesting that grabbing a banana or peeling an orange should leave your sweet tooth satisfied all day long.

But you have to start by figuring out your favorite fruits, then combine them with small amounts of other things.

Love strawberries? Dip them in dark chocolate—they go from a yummy snack to a decadent treat.

Big fan of blueberries? Make an oat based, low-sugar cobbler (just go heavy on the berries and light on the other stuff). Or combine them with some nuts and a little frozen yogurt for a really satisfying snack.

Milkshake lover? Try making different protein shakes with fruit instead—you could try this piña colada one, or this PB&J one instead. Fruit-filled protein shakes often taste more unhealthy than they are (especially when combined with nut butter, coconut or chocolate), fill you up, and won’t expand your waistline.

The key is to get creative—turn your unhealthy craving into a less guilty one.

Start liking the good stuff.

When I was first starting college, I used to go to the grocery store, buy some crappy white or milk chocolate, a sugar-filled donut, or whatever else was cheap but appealing looking, and go home and eat it in less than a minute. But now, you couldn’t pay me to eat a Hershey’s chocolate bar or a crappy store-bought pastry.

Because these days, I don’t like much chocolate under 70% cacao—and I prefer 85%. I won’t eat a bad piece of cake or a cookie just because I need the sugar—I have to like something in order to consume it.

How does this help tame your sweet tooth? Because when you start to develop a more discerning taste, you become more selective about what you eat.

You no longer can just go buy something from a convenience store, because it just won’t be good enough for you.

And the best thing? You actually start wanting less of a good thing, because you start learning to savor it rather than gorge on it mindlessly. Essentially, you learn to tame your sweet tooth, without denying yourself everything you love.

Make your go-to sweet dark chocolate.

You’ve no doubt heard this before, but chocolate is actually good for you.

It contains all kinds of good stuff—particularly polyphenols (i.e. antioxidants) and healthy fats. It can lower blood pressure, reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease, increase insulin sensitivity, and even help increase UV damage resistance. (Read all about dark chocolate’s benefits in this awesome Mark’s Daily Apple post).

Chocolate is, in all reality, pretty damn awesome. But there’s one caveat: you have to eat the good stuff.

No milk chocolate. No white chocolate. Just good, naturally low in sugar, dark chocolate. Ideally with a cacao percentage of 80 or more.

It may take some getting used to if you normally eat really high sugar sweet stuff, but once you start liking it, you’ll start really liking it.

Learn to savor each bite

It may seem impossible at first, but you can learn to tame your sweet tooth once and for all.

But you have to start enjoying your food. Really enjoying it.

Delight in each bite. Pick out the flavors with your tongue. Eat slowly, and savor.

It may take time, but you’ll soon learn to really love food—good food—and as a result, you’ll be satisfied with less.

And that means you can still enjoy sweets—without letting them take over your life.