Can't stop thinking about sweets? Do you think you are addicted to sugar? Today, research shows that sugar influences chemicals in the brain to create cravings. These cravings are often stronger than the impact of other nutrients such as fat. One reason for this is that sugar releases feel-good chemicals in the brain, including serotonin and endorphins. These chemicals provide a brief burst of energy and often improve mood. Triggers for sweet cravings vary from person to person, but are often related to the increased mood and energy associated with eating sweets. However, there are some ways to combat these cravings.
Method 1 of 3: Finding Your Triggers
Step 1. Look for emotional triggers
Cravings for sweets are due to hunger, but these cravings are often caused by emotions. Think about the last time you started craving sweets. How did you feel? Maybe you were bored, stressed, lonely, wanting to party, or worried? It is helpful to understand emotional triggers in order to create the best plan to deal with such a craving for sweets.
- To find your emotional triggers, record when you crave for sweets. Every time you have a craving or eat a sweet, write in a journal what you feel at that moment. Make sure to detail every emotion you feel.
- For example, you have a craving for candy right after failing an exam. Your craving for sweets could be due to sadness or disappointment.
Step 2. Notice the stress cravings
Stress can also induce a craving for sweets. Stress releases a chemical called cortisol: the stress hormone. Cortisol is linked to a long list of negative impacts on the body, from weight gain to lowered immune system. Stress is part of the fight and flight response. The way you often deal with stress is to eat sweets as this calms that response.
If you feel stressed, try to avoid eating sweets. Find another way out, like exercising or taking deep breaths
Step 3. Recognize when you need a burst of energy
When you're tired, you're looking for a quick and easy energy boost. Sugar provides a temporary energy boost, but it doesn't last long. Part of the side effects of sugar is that your energy actually goes down afterward because it's not a sustainable energy boost. Sugar is one of the substances that the body can transform faster into energy.
The problem, however, is that this is only a quick and brief surge in energy, which often leaves you feeling bummed once the effect of the surge has worn off
Step 4. Notice the hormonal cravings
In the case of women, PMS can trigger a craving for sweets, due to a decrease in the production of endorphins. Eating sugar increases the chemicals in your brain that make you feel good. Another positive side effect of consuming sugar includes the release in the body of a chemical that acts as a pain reliever.
Hormonal problems can lead to cravings because hormones are an integral part of the body's energy processing. If you have or think you have a hormonal imbalance or deficiency, seek medical attention
Method 2 of 3: Change the way you eat
Step 1. Eat a real meal
If you're craving something sweet, check to see if you're just hungry. Eating a healthy, authentic meal can reduce the sweet tooth cravings that arise from low energy. When choosing what to eat for lunch, choose healthy foods that provide energy, such as protein, fiber, and complex carbohydrates.
- Increase your protein intake in your meals, such as fish, chicken, lean red meat, and nuts.
- Avoid packaged foods that are high in sugar and harmful ingredients like salt.
Step 2. Eat more fiber
Fiber helps you keep your body's sugar levels healthy, which reduces the sugar drop that triggers your cravings. It also allows you to feel fuller for longer. Look for foods with higher amounts of fiber to feel full.
- Choose foods like whole grains, broccoli, artichokes, whole wheat pasta, raspberries, and various types of beans.
- The daily recommendation for fiber is 35 to 45 g for women and 40 to 50 g for men.
Step 3. Eat small meals
When the cravings for sweets are due to a decrease in energy during the day, another strategy is to distribute the meals throughout the day. This will allow you to avoid the energy crash that you experience due to going several periods without eating.
Some research suggests that eating five to six small meals instead of three large meals helps keep you feeling full throughout the day. Try to increase the number of healthy calories you eat each day when you add more meals, but don't eat five to six normal-size meals. In this way, you will increase your calorie intake considerably
Step 4. Read the labels
Sugar is hidden in most processed foods. If you can't read the ingredients or there are a lot of them, the product is likely high in sugar. Other common names for different types of sugar are: agave syrup, brown sugar, corn sweetener, corn syrup, dextrose, fructose, glucose, lactose, maltose, sucrose, high fructose corn syrup, fruit juice concentrate, honey, invert sugar, malt sugar (maltose), molasses, raw sugar, sugar and syrup.
Step 5. Choose better sweets
Sweets don't have to be complicated, fancy, or huge desserts. It is best to choose a simple candy that is not loaded with processed and artificial ingredients. Eating simple sweets also means avoiding processed foods that are often high in sugar. Try other options like fruits and dark chocolate.
Avoid candy, cakes, cookies, and ice cream
Step 6. Drink more water
One of the easiest ways to cut out sweets and decrease cravings is to drink more water. This will help you avoid sugary drinks, as well as keep you hydrated and healthier. Avoid drinks that are high in sugar like sports drinks, sodas, and some fruit drinks.
If you don't like plain water, try sparkling water with all natural flavors
Step 7. Skip the artificial sweeteners
These are not a solution to avoiding or reducing sugar cravings. Additionally, there is mixed research regarding the impact of artificial sweeteners and increased cancer risk. Artificial sweeteners include: saccharin, aspartame, acesulfame potassium, sucralose, cyclamate, and neotame.
- Look for a healthier sweetener like stevia extract. It is calorie-free and naturally derived, which means it comes from the stevia plant rather than chemicals like artificial sweeteners. Likewise, stevia has been shown to be effective in treating high blood pressure and intestinal discomfort. However, it is known to interact with other medications, such as anti-inflammatories and antifungals. Ask your doctor if stevia is safe if you take any of these medications.
- Other healthy sweeteners include maltitol and xylitol. Both have the appearance of sugar and taste sweet, but unlike the former, they do not cause cavities. However, do not abuse them as they have laxative effects.
Method 3 of 3: Make Changes in Your Behavior
Step 1. Learn to eat mindfully
Practice mindfulness when it comes to eating. Mindfulness is not a diet, but a way to be present while eating, to stop bad habits and to become aware of your eating habits. Mindfulness encourages you to know when you are really full and to pay attention to your body's signals that you are full. The benefit of mindful eating is that it reduces the habit of overeating and desserts.
- To practice mindfulness at mealtime, try something new. We have a habit of eating the same breakfast, lunch and dinner regularly. Try swapping it out with new recipes or vegetables and meats that you don't normally eat.
- Pay attention to every bite. This includes looking at the food, enjoying what you see, savoring each bite, and taking a moment after eating to enjoy the experience. Turn off the television and avoid other distractions so you can enjoy every bite.
Step 2. Take a break before dessert
It takes time for the brain to register that it is full after a meal. It takes time for the brain to receive signals from digestive hormones. This varies from person to person, but it is recommended to wait 20 to 30 minutes before eating dessert.
Step 3. Find an alternative activity
If you crave sweets, try an alternative activity that eases your emotional triggers or allows you to take a break between a meal and something sweet. If you're bored and want to grab that bag of candy just to hang out, try one of the following activities:
- Go for a walk
- To meditate
- Write in a journal
- Chew sugarless gum
Step 4. Limit access to candy
Another strategy to avoid sweets is to limit access to temptation. You could remove it entirely or hide it. Research shows that eliminating sweets or at least making it difficult to access them decreases their consumption. This allows you more time to think about whether you really need or want to eat sweets. Try the following solutions:
- Throw away all the sweets and sugar in your house.
- Hide them on a high shelf so they are hard to reach.
- Display the healthiest foods, for example, put a bowl of fruit on the counter instead of a cookie jar.