Do you ever crave sugar?
I’ve have lots of clients over the years tell me that sugar cravings are something they struggle with, so I thought this would be a great opportunity for me to review some of the common reasons why it happens and share some strategies for what to do about it.
Here are my top 5 explanations for why you might be craving sugar:
1. You are really hungry.
I always encourage people to eat based on their body’s cues for physical hunger (as opposed to when they just “want” to eat). But hunger falls on a sliding scale – sometimes you are just a little bit hungry and need a snack, and other times you are so ravenous you will eat virtually anything. The more hungry you are, the more likely you are to crave sweet and starchy food.
The solution: Don’t try to starve yourself. Genuine physical hunger cannot be ignored and it will just build and build until you can’t postpone it any longer. The goal is to start eating when you are physically hungry, but to nourish yourself before you become desperate for food.
2. Your blood sugar levels are fluctuating a lot.
Even if you don’t have diabetes, foods which are high in starch and/or sugar can break down in the gut quickly and can cause blood sugar levels to rise quickly, especially if these food are also low in fat, fibre and protein (eg. Cold breakfast cereal, white bread, boiled potatoes). As blood sugar levels start to rise, your body will release insulin to bring blood sugar levels back down again. This isn’t a bad thing, but a rapid drop in blood sugar levels or blood sugar levels which drop too low, can trigger cravings for sugar.
The solution: Choose slower-release carbohydrates like legumes, barley, whole grain basmati rice, whole wheat pasta and/or make sure there is some healthy fat or protein at the same meal to help regulate blood sugar levels.
3. Sweets are what you use to “treat or reward” yourself.
People who are so stressed and busy that they rarely take time for themselves will often end up “rewarding” themselves with food, alcohol or both. Food is very emotional, so if you have fond memories of your grandmother’s homemade chocolate chip cookies helping you feel nurtured and relaxed during childhood, it shouldn’t come as any surprise when you want these types of foods after a rough day at work.
The solution: Everyone rewards themselves with food to some degree, the question is how often it is happening and what other strategies you have in place which also make you feel nurtured and relaxed. Meditation, an enjoyable walk outdoors, having a nap, writing in a journal, or calling a friend, are other strategies you could use to nurture yourself without food. The more often you engage in these other self-care activities, the less tempted you will be by sugar and alcohol.
4. You are not paying attention while you are eating your meal.
Being “full” is a physical sensation of how stretched your stomach is. Being “satisfied” is mental and comes from your enjoyment from the food, how much attention you were paying to the food while eating and how much the food stimulates your senses. If you are prone to eating quickly while doing something else (eg. Checking your smart phone), this robs your brain of the enjoyment of eating and often leads to people looking for food even when their tummy is full.
The solution: Pay attention to your food while eating so that the physical fullness and mental satisfaction from the meal can occur at the same time.
5. Your food is bland or you are bored with what you are eating.
Many people get stuck in a rut of eating the same 10-15 meals over and over and over again.
This doesn’t do much to energise or stimulate your brain or your taste buds so it shouldn’t come as a surprise when they start calling out for more stimulating foods with lots of flavour (eg. Sweets).
The solution: Enjoy a wider variety of foods and make sure these foods have lots of flavour. This helps from both a nutritional perspective and greatly increases the enjoyment you get from food and eating.
For help with understanding your eating habits and behaviours around food, please get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org. For more articles like this one straight to your inbox, sign up for my weekly newsletter at: http://eepurl.com/dxu6rT.