It’s safe to say that most people like sugar, at least to some extent. But sometimes sugar cravings can get so intense that you may feel they’re taking over your life.
We would never tell you to completely stop consuming sugar, especially if you have a sweet tooth (we do!). Because we know that that would only make you want more of it. Avoiding sugar altogether just isn’t sustainable for most of us.
But we do think that sometimes we certainly eat too much sugar. With the so many treats available at any time, it’s never been easier to overeat the sweet stuff. However, there are things you can do to get a better hang of your sugar cravings and understand why they’re happening in the first place.
Stay Away From Low Calorie Diets
The number one reason why you constantly crave something sugary might be this: you don’t eat enough regular food. If you don’t eat as much as your body needs, it’s simply craving more energy. When you get hungry, you want to have something quick and fast, and sugary foods seem to hit the spot best.
This is a typical scenario when you under eat in order to maybe lose weight. Do you want to try one of these 1,500-calories-a-day diets that show up in many magazines as the summer gets closer? Well, you can bet that you’ll find yourself not only hungry but also struggling with bad sugar cravings.
Eating so few calories is just not a sustainable weight loss strategy. If you try a new food plan and notice that your sugar cravings get more intense, take it as a sure sign that you should be eating more actual real food.
What Did You Eat During the Day?
Have you noticed how your sugar cravings don’t usually show up in the morning, but mostly in the afternoon or late at night? If that happens to you, keep this in mind: what you ate earlier on that day affects your cravings and their intensity later.
For example, if you notice sugar cravings creeping up on you in the afternoon, take a look at what you ate for breakfast and if it was enough. If your cravings show up in the evening, maybe your lunch wasn’t big enough or you didn’t get all the macronutrients you needed.
Did you eat enough protein, which helps you stay fuller, longer? Make sure to start your day off with a breakfast that’s high in protein and eat some protein-rich foods with every meal.
Did you have enough fat? Fat really helps fill you up—and keep you full. Remember, there’s no reason to avoid fat – the 90’s low fat trend is hopefully over for good.
Carbs are the first energy source for the body, and especially on days when you work out, you should pay attention and add good quality carbs to your meals.
Also, it’s important that you eat enough of all these things. Salads are great, but if your plate consists of only veggies, with very little protein and you skimp on fat, chances are that not too much later, you’ll find yourself hungry and craving something sweet.
Be Aware of Your Emotions
It’s really easy to turn to sugary stuff when you’re lonely, angry, sad, or bored. Reaching for sweets may be such an automatic reaction that you don’t even realize that you’re doing it when you feel one of those feelings.
The reason why a candy bar seems like a good idea when you’re feeling sad or lonely is that you hope that in some magical way the sweetness will fix that emotion, although you’ve probably experienced many times that that’s never the case. And if you totally overdo it, you’ll probably feel even more sad and angry than before, since you then end up feeling guilty about binge eating as well.
If that happens, try not to blame yourself for indulging in sweets because there’s nothing you can do about it after it happens. But what you can do is to go back and try to figure out if there was a feeling that triggered you to do it, and then deal with the actual cause.
Pay Attention To Your Habits
Another reason you end up eating too much sugar might be this: you aren’t necessarily craving it, but you’ve created a habit that has become a natural part of your life and is hard to stop.
If you want to cut back on sugar, it’s important to start paying attention to your habits. Do you eat chocolate after dinner because… well, that’s just what you always do? Or do you have a cookie a few hours after lunch because that’s just what you have with your afternoon coffee?
There’s nothing wrong with some post dinner chocolate or an occasional afternoon cookie if you really want it. But it’s always a good idea to take a moment to check in with yourself when you’ve finished your meal or when you’re having your afternoon coffee. Ask yourself whether you really want this treat right now, or if you’re about to get it just because that’s what you normally do.
If you really want it, then sure, go for it! That’s what the 80/20 rule is for. Just try and learn to eat your treats in moderation, because as we mentioned before, chances are that of you try to stay away from sugar completely, it will only make you want more of it. But sometimes you may realize that you don’t even want that cookie so badly, so don’t eat it because it’s just a habit.
Awareness is Key
If your sugar cravings are out of hand, you need to ask yourself these three things: Are you eating enough and (and the right foods) at your meals, are you craving sugar to deal with your emotions (although you know it doesn’t help), or are you reaching for treats because it’s just a habit that you may not even be aware that you have?
By being aware and paying special attention these three things, you should be able to reduce your sugar cravings.
Kersten Kimura is a NASM PT, bootcamp instructor and personal trainer located on the East Bay, California. Check out her website here to learn about her take on womens’ health and hormones and balanced and obsession-free eating and exercising.