Sugar cravings are the #1 killer of diets all across the planet. They’re insidious, nasty buggers that come out of nowhere and destroy even the best of dietary intentions.
Here you are, trucking merrily along with your new lifestyle of healthy eating, and all of a sudden – blammo! – you’re eating a donut out of a vending machine. Not even a good donut…
And cravings are contagious, too. Your friend at work goes out, driven by her cravings, and brings her affliction (a caramel latte and a double chocolate muffin) back to the office for you to see and smell and savor, and all of your discipline and conviction just… disappears.
Are sugar cravings ruining your weight loss efforts? Your best health aspirations? Let’s try to fix that.
Solutions to Your Sugar Cravings
Here are the things I’ve seen work in my own life and in my clients’ and readers’ lives. I’ve been there: I used to live and breathe by my cravings, and my life sort of sucked because of it. Here’s what you do to take back control over your eating habits.
1. Don’t fight it. Feed it.
I know that sounds weird, but let me explain. The number one mistake people make when they change their eating habits to lose weight is they eat too little. They either eat too little food in general, or they eat too few carbs. Actually, a lot of people skimp on the fat, too, which can really cause sugar cravings. Eating too little food isn’t sustainable for most people, and at some point your body will take over your brain and make you do stupid things. And eating too few carbs (while a good tactic in losing weight quickly) will leave your body depleted and desperate for everything you’re depriving it of. My motto is, “If you’re craving carbs, you just might need some carbs.”
So eat enough food, including some delicious gluten-free (and preferably grain-free) carbs and fat sources, and you’ll be much less likely to need an exorcism to remove the craving demons later. I mean, what would you rather have: a sustainable diet where you lose weight in a healthy manner over time or a crash diet where you might lose a little weight at first, but then your excessive discipline backfires after a week and you gain it all back and then some?
So. Eat enough food and always have healthy goodies on hand (muffins made with almond flour and sweetened with fruit, etc.) to get you through those tough moments. If you’re gluten sensitive or grain sensitive like me (and millions of other people), you’ll find that the more you eat those things, the more you want them. They really do act like addictive drugs in your body, so no matter how much self-control you think you have, often the pastries will win.
It’s much easier to eat a reasonable amount of something when it’s not acting like methamphetamines in your body. So eat the good stuff – just make it gluten and grain free and use natural sugars (honey, dates, fruit). Sometimes the white sugar can really mess with people’s addictive centers in their brains, too.
2. Eat A Piece of Fruit
“Fruit? Gross. I want some chocolate.” That used to be me before I realized chocolate and I had an extremely co-dependent relationship, mostly in that I was dependent on it. And it gave me acne, but I digress.
I imagine this scenario happening quite a bit in the Paleo/low-carb/Primal newcomer’s world:
“I’m really craving something sweet. God, I want something sweet. I could eat this peach, but I’m not supposed to eat too much fruit on this new low-carb/Paleo/Primal diet… Hmm. What to do, what to do… Oh f@ck it! I’m just gonna eat this giant chocolate donut!”
Has that happened to you?
The problem here is that you’re not just setting yourself back in that moment by eating something that’ll mess with your blood sugar and maybe make you feel pretty crappy later. You’re also starting the cycle of grain and sugar lust all over again for the next several days. So if you’re going to have something sweet and you don’t have any Paleo treat on hand, eat a piece of fruit. Or have a few squares of dark chocolate. Just anything that doesn’t have the grains, excessive sugar, and other stuff that you know will set off those addictive brain chemicals.
3. Use Non-Food Distractions
Sometimes the cravings are just mental. They’re only in your head, and they’re just a product of your old habits. At 3pm you’re supposed to have a caramel latte. At 10am you’re supposed to have some cookies. At lunch you’re supposed to have twizzlers for lunch-dessert, and on and on. So now you’re head is kind of like, “Where ma twizzlers at, yo?” But you don’t need them.
So try these things instead, especially if the above tips don’t help you..
- Take 5 deep, slow breaths. Take that time to choose what you really want to do next.
- Exercise, even if it’s just a 3-minute vigorous session of squats in your office or living room. Or go for a short walk. Get yourself out of the situation and brain space you’re in by changing locations for a while.
- Drink some water. Sometimes cravings are just veiled thirst.
- Contact someone who will talk you down from the ledge, so to speak. Someone you trust and someone who knows your health goals and who can help remind you why you would not want to cave to your cravings.
I know cravings are a painful thing, and it’s really hard to just grin and bear them. Try out all of my time-tested, client-approved tips above and see if any of them work for you.
The one thing I want you to take away from this, if nothing else, is to make sure you have healthy, non-toxic, gluten free, grain free, naturally sweetened treats accessible to you if you’re a cravings-afflicted person. Especially in the beginning of changing your diet. You’re going to need a crutch and that’s totally fine! Eat the muffins, the cookies, the whatevers – just make them with the right ingredients.
Make large batches of them and keep them individually wrapped in your freezer so you can take them to work with you. You’re not superhuman and being away from those old foods is going to take some getting used to!