True Confession Time
I used to buy chunks of white wedding cake at Von’s grocery store, then hide from the kids in my bedroom and secretly eat it. I didn’t want to share it. This, and other high carbohydrate excesses, led me to weigh a chunky thirty-five pounds more than I do now. I was definitely not a pillar of health in my wedding-cake-and-other-sugar-indulgences days.
But I broke free from the sugar trap, and so can you.
Why do we get sugar cravings? What causes them?
I won’t go into great detail here, but there are quite a few reasons. Hormone imbalances, candida overgrowth, gut bacteria behaving badly, food sensitivities (gluten is a big sugar-craving demon), stress, and lack of sleep are some causes, just to name a few.
And then you should also be warned that sugar is just very addictive in nature, so it induces its own cravings until you wean yourself off of it.
My Affinity for Sugar
Well, it does not just date back to the secret wedding cake in the bedroom. I remember eating lots of cinnamon toast before bedtime when I was in junior high. In fact, it was not uncommon for me to consume 8 pieces of cinnamon toast in one sitting. In high school, it was buttered noodles & RC cola every day after school (because I used my lunch money to buy a pack of cigarettes and a lemonade – more sugar).
As an adult, I loved to bake. I had a collection of the most delectable desserts you can imagine. I baked often, and I indulged plentifully. I am definitely not naïve in the sugar realm.
But I don’t eat like this anymore.
I am bringing all of this up to give you hope in case you think you are a hopeless slave to the sugar, the cruel tyrant.
8 Ways to Wage War Against a Sugar Craving
“Surf the urge”– I learned this from health guru Jade Teta, author of Lose Weight Here. Cravings come in waves and usually only last a few minutes. So the trick is to acknowledge this fact and distract yourself to avoid giving in to the temptation, which admittedly may be strong and may even return soon thereafter. If that is the case, ride the wave again and distract yourself. Some ideas for this is to do something like clean out a drawer, work on a jigsaw or crossword puzzle, drink a glass of water, or tea. Do a few jumping jacks, push-ups or squats. Take a walk around the block. Eat some celery.
Eat more fat. Good fat, that is. Such as avocados, nuts, seeds, extra virgin olive oil, olives, even bacon. (Tip: Cut sugar-free bacon into little strips. These have a fancy-impress-your-friends name; they are called lardons. Bake these, drain, then freeze. You can pull out a few as needed to snack on when you faced with a strong sugar/carb craving.)
Draw a bright-line. A bright-line rule is a legal term for a rule that leaves no room for interpretation. Basically, with sugar you would draw yourself a hard line on what sugar and carbs you will consume and when you will consume them, and then make no exceptions. For instance, you can allow yourself to eat such & such on Saturdays, or the 6 major holidays, or at weddings, etc. This method can be helpful in limiting one’s consumption, without going too crazy. One health guru, Susan Peirce Thompson, wrote a whole book called Bright Line Eating using the bright-line concept.
Mostly avoid sugar. This is an important strategy because I have found that if I have a little sugar it makes me want more. So It is easier for me not to eat it most of the time because I don’t want to stir up the cravings. Like don’t try to give me just one marshmallow. Ever.
Purge your pantry. Throw out all of the tempting sweet goodies, or at least put them out of sight and on a very high shelf. Out of sight, out of mind can be very helpful. Then replace the empty spots on your pantry shelves with things like olives, nuts, beef jerky, pork rinds, and even seaweed. And in your fridge, stock it with things like guacamole, celery, carrot sticks, cucumbers, nut butters, hard boiled eggs, string cheese, deli turkey, sparkling water, and kombucha. You can see if you do okay with dark chocolate, like 70% or greater, but some people binge on that too.
Exercise. Increased activity can be helpful for reasons besides helping you “surf the urge”, especially walking and moderate exercise. There is something physiological and psychological about it in that when you start exercising more and taking better care of your body, you start craving more healthy food items, and your desire to feed your body what it needs increases. However, exercise can also cause food cravings, especially if you overexercise, due to your blood sugar dropping and the release of stress hormones.
Supplements. Sometimes cravings are a way that your body is crying out for something it needs. So to hedge this off I recommend a multivitamin/mineral. My favorite one, Oxylent, has 27 nutrients. It comes in a little packet that just you stir into a glass of water. It is kind of like Emerg C, but the nutrients are of a higher quality, so I prefer it, although Oxylent does cost more.
Have a strong why. This one is last, but not least. It may even be the most important. Be armed with information. Knowledge can be a big motivator. If you remind yourself why it is better to avoid sugar, this is often enough to steer you away from it. Your why has to be concrete though. Like written down and read each morning type of concrete. Or whenever you are tempted. Scroll down for some ideas under the “Sugar is Not the Friend You Think It Is” section.
3 X 5 card for Craving Strategies
Get a 3 X 5 card. Write down the following prompts and answer them.
What is my why? Compelling reasons that are important to me why I want to minimize my sugar intake:
Distractions that can help me when I am faced with sugar/carbohydrate/alcohol temptations and cravings:
Seriously, take a few minutes and do this. It can really help you to succeed and achieve your goals.
What Not To Do
Don’t fight sugar cravings with a sugar substitute! Dr. David Perlmutter, citing a study published in Nature (2014), shares that just 2 diet soft drinks daily can double the risk of diabetes and goes on to say that according to a study released in 2017 by the journal Stroke, even one diet soft drink has been found to triple the risk for stroke and Alzheimer’s disease.
In addition, JJ Virgin states studies have shown that diet soda can cause you to gain weight, and furthermore, she maintains that many sugar substitutes are neurotoxic. They not only lower the levels of the feel-good brain chemical serotonin, but they can cause anxiety and difficulty sleeping. In addition, sugar substitutes can disrupt healthy gut bacteria and can even accelerate aging due to the process of glycation.
Regarding artificial sweeteners, Dr. Daniel Amen contends that artificial sweeteners, other than erythritol and stevia, should be avoided because animal research has demonstrated that they can slow the metabolism and actually cause weight gain.
And do not allow yourself to have a “startover” mentality. This can be dangerous if you are really trying to make progress with your health. I wrote an entire article on this phenomenon called Ending Startovers. But basically, it is when you allow yourself to go crazy indulging for the next 4 days because on Monday you are going to “startover”.
Never allow yourself to feast. Enjoying treats occasionally is part of a good rhythm of life. The problem is that we do this too often. We want to live a balanced life with wisdom. Rather than a life of constant deprivation, it is better to break the hold that sugar has on you, and then enjoy it once in a while.
Sugar is Not the Friend You Think It Is
Many health experts believe that sugar in its various forms is ruining the health of many people. Diabetes, dementia, obesity and many other chronic diseases are on the rise.
According to fitness and nutrition expert J.J. Virgin, sugar can lead to multiple problems like blood sugar crashes, mood swings, sugar addiction, and food cravings.
Just as smoking is linked to lung cancer, excess sugar and carbohydrates is linked to cancer, diabetes, dementia, obesity, high cholesterol, and heart disease according to Perlmutter. He especially makes a strong case for sugar causing a much higher risk for dementia.
Whole30 creators Dallas and Melissa Hartwig make a great case that sugar fails 4 Good Food standards. First of all, it does not promote a healthy psychological response to food because it controls your behavior by inducing cravings. Secondly, it disrupts healthy hormone balances. Thirdly, sugar does not support a healthy gut because it causes intestinal permeability. And lastly, sugar causes inflammation and suppresses the immune system. They go on to say that sugar can control your behavior, cause energy slumps, metabolism problems, brain fog, fatigue, abdominal distress, weight gain, aches, and pains.
To top all that off with Dr. Amen maintains that sugar in any form, not only causes sugar cravings, but also causes insulin resistance, taxes the pancreas, leads to non-alcoholic fatty liver, mineral deficiencies, obesity, elevated triglycerides, slows brain waves, linked with depression, increases inflammation, causes erratic brain cell firing, linked with ADHD, and affects memory and learning ability.
In fact, there have been entire books written about the topic of detrimental effects of sugar.
As you can see there are many compelling reasons why to drastically reduce your sugar intake in all forms, as well as some practical ways to do it. Countless people have successfully said good-bye to the sugar demon and you can too. Life beyond donuts and candy bars is possible.
Consider scheduling a free consultation with me to discuss whether or not having me as your health coach may be just the thing that would help you make some lifelong changes. Check out my programs here.
For more help with eating habits as well as other health changes, you might want to read my article Ending Startovers.
You can also find me on Instagram @wellnessadventure_rn.
Peace, love, and bacon bits!
Amen, D. (2017). Memory Rescue. Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale Momentum.
Hartwig, D & Hartwig, M. (2012). It Starts with Food. Las Vegas, NV: Victory Belt Publishing, Inc.
Perlmutter, D. (2013, 2018). Grain Brain. New York, NY: Little, Brown Spark.
Virgin, J. (2012). The Virgin Diet. Ontario, Canada: Harlequin Enterprises Ltd.