Everyone knows the feeling: A craving for a cookie hits and you can’t stop thinking about it until you finally eat one. And once you’re satisfied, the craving subsides but only temporarily.
Sugar cravings are often frequent and intense; they can dominate your focus, weaken your willpower, and cause you to overeat—totally against your will. Therefore, becoming in control of sugar cravings is crucial to finding balance and maintaining it for everyone who values wellness.
The problem with sugar addiction
It’s important to know why we crave certain foods over others. The pleasure reward from sugar is greater than the one you’d get from whole foods which is why you crave it. Sugar is a marketing tool for food companies take advantage of your involuntary physical response to sugar and use it to boost sales.
How you feel (and how your brain reacts) after eating an apple is much different—and less pleasurable—than when you eat a bowl of cereal, chips, bread, or dessert.
Processed foods, fried foods, sweets, and baked goods are the most pleasurable foods, which we also associate with fun celebrations or use for comfort when we’re feeling stressed and sad. The thought of life without them can be unsettling. The good news is that you don’t have to ban all enjoyable foods from your diet at once to improve cravings. The bad news is that limiting certain enjoyable foods that are difficult to part with is necessary to regain control.
The key to long-term control over sugar cravings
You probably already feel that you should limit sugar intake but you may have a hard time doing it long term or without sparking cravings and feeling restricted. Below are some tips to help you regain control over your cravings, so you can feel good about your food choices and lose weight for life.
1. Double check your food labels.
It can be easy to assume that if you’re shopping at the right store, then what you’re buying is healthy. But you may want to think again because while there are some brands making minimally processed foods—with whole food ingredients—this just isn’t always the case. If you’re shopping in the middle aisles of the food store and reaching for packaged foods, even if they’re organic, it’s a good idea to read their labels before tossing them in your cart. Keep an eye out for enriched flour, the many forms of added sugar, and various types of oil in order to avoid foods that intensify cravings.
2. Identify your own triggers.
Our emotional connection to food is deeply personal—so when it comes to triggers, one size does not fit all. You can probably list the foods that are particularly comforting to you: maybe bread, chips, fried foods, or chocolate? Rather than banning all “unhealthy” foods at once, start with just the few types you feel a strong emotional connection to or those that you have a particularly difficult time limiting. Many people are apprehensive to do this step out of fear that they’ll feel deprived. It’s important to focus on all the other foods you are eating and enjoying rather than the few you’re choosing to limit.
3. Avoid temptation completely.
Temptation is often a setup for failure. And sometimes it’s not worth it when you’re trying to foster a healthier relationship with sugar. Try to avoid situations in which it will be difficult not to indulge in sugar, like at bars or parties with certain friends. Instead, set your environment up for success. You can choose restaurants that serve sugar-free options and and stay out of the lunchroom when someone brings doughnuts in for treats.
4. Be prepared with alternatives.
To get through periods when I feel compelled to indulge but don’t actually want to, keep busy with things you enjoy. It helps to make a list of activities you can do that don’t involve eating to bring out when a craving hits. You could catch up with a friend, go for a run, or go out to buy a new house plant. Try to choose things that boost your mood, occupy your attention and give you a sense of fulfillment.
5. Set up a foolproof support system.
It would be nearly impossible to limit your sugar intake if your friends and family continue to offer you Fruit Loops for breakfast, cookies for a snack and double vodka-sodas. It’s crucial to have the people around you on your side to help you succeed. Let them know your goal to quit sugar and be honest with what you need from them, and offer ways they can help you.
Not giving in to sugar cravings may be a lifelong struggle, but it does get easier! After getting over the initial hurdle of regaining control, it’s easier to sustain it. Starting slow, taking strategic steps, and having a support system are important for long-term success. If you struggle with sugar cravings and making sugar-free eating habits stick, check out this guide for more tips to beat cravings and regain control of your eating habits.