Cravings can be tough to break. Sugar and sugar addiction in particular is a vicious cycle – the more you have the more you want and so the cycle goes. This puts you in a perpetual cycle that can be extremely hard to break out of. Since cravings are common and many people deal with them, we have some tips to help you break out of the cycle.
Breaking the sugar cycle
So how do you break the cycle? From my experience, there are two options that work for people.
Slowly reduce how much you have a day
The first option is to slowly reduce your daily sugar intake. It can be a good idea to also record how much you are actually having. The aim would be to reduce foods with added sugar as much as possible and definitely no more than 6 teaspoons per day of added sugar.
As you are doing this check the nutrition label on everything and consciously reduce the amount of sugar and sugary foods you are having. If you do this gradually over time, you will find that slowly you will stop wanting it. NB a whole food diet is generally way lower in sugar (and salt ) than eating a diet that contains lots of packaged processed foods. So just changing to a wholefood diet can be a great and simple option.
A note on labels - as well as a nutrition panel you will also find an ingredients list. The ingredients first on the list are the most abundant in the product and so forth, so anything with sugar as one of the first ingredients will generally be high in sugar. When looking at the nutrition panel aim for foods with less than 20g carbs per 100g and ideally less than 10g.
A note on sugar and processed carbohydrates - Often processed carbohydrate foods like bread and pasta may act like sugar in the body even though they contain little or no sugar - so it is best to limit these also.
Natural sugar like that found in fruit is not as problematic because the fruit also has fibre as well - this generally slows the release of glucose into the bloodstream and prevents a sudden blood glucose spike. Too much free glucose in the blood repeatedly is the one of the main issues with consuming too much sugar.
Go cold turkey
If you'd rather get the sugar cravings over with, you can try going cold turkey. Ideally, you would cut out all sugar. This works for some people but you may find the first few days hard going and even get a headache and feel lethargic. Don't worry, this will go away after a few days. Soon after, that need for sugar will have greatly diminished.
While sugar is one of the most common cravings, it isn't the only one. The steps above can work for other cravings too. Once you realise there's a craving you want to cut, follow one of the options above to help curb it.
Replacing unhealthy foods with healthy foods
Removing unhealthy foods is one thing. But here is the real key--you need to replace the food with healthy, nutritious, whole foods. Often, we reach for something sweet as our bodies are looking for something. When the bodies’ nutritional needs are not met it continues to crave food – hoping it will get some nutrition but if all it gets is empty calories the cravings will continue.
If on the other hand the food eaten is nutrient-dense, then there is less chance of the cravings occurring. A nutrient-dense meal will have quality protein, complex carbs in the form of vegetables, and quality fat (unprocessed natural fat).
Of course sometimes when you have a craving you may be genuinely hungry. When you are hungry eat consciously. What does this mean? Follow these 3 steps:
- Make a healthy choice
- Sit down to eat
- Chew your food well and enjoy.
These steps will help you feel satisfied and less likely to keep rummaging in the cupboards. If on the other hand you grab and go your mind will not register you have eaten and you will keep grazing until your next sit down meal.
How to stop eating when you aren't hungry
Our bodies aren't always hungry when we want food. Sometimes it is another reason instead. If you are not actually hungry identity what you really are; people eat for many other reasons than being hungry e.g. tired, lonely, angry, bored, thirsty, etc.
Distraction is the key here as most cravings only last for 3-5 minutes. Figure out in advance what your distraction might be.
If you are really:
- Tired – Consider a cat nap
- Lonely – Pick up the phone and call a friend, read a book, look at some photos
- Angry – Take a few deep breaths, have something funny you can look at or think about, get some fresh air, do some exercise, have a chamomile tea.
- Bored – Try anything above.
Other ways to crack the craving
What are some other ways to help crack the craving? A glass of water with lemon juice can be a great craving buster. I also find liquorice tea a goodie. Brushing your teeth can also be effective you will get a bit of sweetness from the toothpaste (make sure it is sweetened with stevia or xylitol – not an artificial sweetener) and you may not want to eat anymore as you have just brushed your teeth.
As William Shakespeare said, “Our bodies are our gardens – our wills are our gardeners.”For more individual advice contact your health professional - if you really are stuck, some time with a nutritionist or naturopath can be valuable.