By Christa Brown, MS, RDN
Time and time again, my clients come to me with the biggest questions of all time, “how can I stop eating sugar?” what should I eat if I crave sugar?” Why do I crave sweets during the night?” They seem to never be able to pinpoint why they have such cravings.
This isn’t the occasional need for chocolate but rather this binge-like attraction to not just two cookies but the whole sleeve. And then a bowl of ice cream. You almost feel so out of control and you know you’re not REALLY hungry, it’s just an intense craving. BUT you don’t know what to do about it or how to even get rid of it.
Dear friend, is this you? Well, read on! Because in this article you will learn the following answers to these common questions around why you can’t stop eating sugar:
When I say the word exercise, does a thought of 90 minutes at the gym with an intense routine come to mind that makes you DREAD the idea? I’ve got one word for you: WALKING. In this research article, it showed that even 15-minutes of a brisk walk helped to ward off cravings. When you have a sugar craving, leave your phone and go for a walk around the block. It can be that simple.
You may ask why leave the phone, Christa?! It’s because I want this to be an opportunity for you to listen to your body, relax your thinking and enjoy your surroundings. Sometimes we clutter our minds with too much noise and we don’t give ourselves a chance to just be in a space without distractions.
Do you ever notice that you have a massive craving between 2-4PM? Like, you know you haven’t eaten in a while and there is this possible lurking sensation in the pit of your stomach right below your ribs.
Then, it hits you like a roaring steam-engine train. YOU’RE RAVENOUSLY HUNGRY! You then lurch to the cabinets for whatever you can pick up, it may be half a bag of chips or a few packets of your kids gummy’s.
You know it’s not anything substantial and that the equivalent to what you ate in those snacks is nearly 75% of your daily calories for the day. If not more.
Now, let me ask you this? Did you skip breakfast? Do you eat most of your food towards the later end of the day? I’m sure you just said, yes! You want to set yourself a routine of enjoying a meal about every 3-4 hours, and by adding a protein.
A “meal” can be a simple high protein granola bar, a greek yogurt or even a hard boiled egg. This strategy will help you to reduce your cravings and overall calorie intake to help you ward off those cravings and ravenous hunger throughout the day.
There is a moment and space in time between the craving and the action, it’s the space to think. I always tell my clients in order to solve this craving dilemma we need to figure out what the trigger is. Hence, the journal. During that moment and craving, you want to journal your emotion, your hunger level and where you’re eating.
Most of the time the craving is as a result of a stressful day or even exhaustion. There is actually a direct link between stress and cravings and until you give yourself the permission to stop the craving in its tracks, journal about what’s going on right in the moment, in the day, in the week. Bringing awareness is key to helping you get to the root cause of why you’re craving sugar and how to stop craving sugar once and for all.
Now, what happens if the craving is just so intense that even when you journal and think about it, it makes the craving more intense? Let’s continue to satisfy the action but rather than grab for a large bowl of ice cream or a bag of chips, drink a glass of water.
You also can grab for your favorite fruit or vegetable because that’s another way to hydrate yourself. In each cup of fresh fruit and veggies you’re getting about 5 ounces of water.
Another solution for my non-water drinkers, is by mixing it up by using seltzer and lemon, or infused fruit/vegetable beverages to get more vitamins and minerals.
Curious to know how much water you’re supposed to drink in a day?
Does stress have a hold on your life and you can’t ever seem to catch your breath? Daily, chronic stress can have an impact on how much you are eating. And what’s happening within your body is your hunger is being stimulated. The hunger hormone ghrelin is being released causing you to want to eat more. Now, you’re probably wondering, are you going to tell me to do breathing exercises to reduce stress? As a matter of face, Yes!
That is one effective strategy to help you alleviate the stress by doing a simple one-minute breathing exercise. This can also really help your emotional state since breathing can be tied to our emotions.
Being stressed all the time could also be contributing to your digestive issues such as bloating, constipation and acid reflux. So, I would like you to try a stress-reducing exercise in my “Calm Your Mind” series down below. This way you can see and feel the difference!
When was the last time you woke up and said, “WOAH, I just had an amazing sleep and feel no brain fog, what so ever.” Did you just hear the crickets? Let me tell you what is taking place when you are sleeping. Your body needs time to heal from the previous day’s activities. Do you ever notice when you’re cranky it’s because you lack sleep?
The brain has a special location that regulates our emotions (it’s called the hippocampus) , especially stress. When you become sleep deprived it can also affect your mental health which also affects those hunger hormones causing cravings and overeating.
I would like you to try my sleeping exercise in my “Calm Your Body” series to help you get started. In general you want to aim for anywhere between 7-9 hours of sleep each night.
In order to stop a sugar craving, it starts with you being in tune with your body and hunger cues. This is why the journaling method is important to identifying how long it takes for the craving to go away.
Most of my clients who practice this strategy by logging their hunger cues, emotions before and after eating and journaling about it, were able to find the root cause within 6-8 weeks of diligently reflecting and being patient with the process.
Once they were able to pin-point WHY they were craving foods and catapulting into a binge, we found strategies to manage and eventually overcome the sugar cravings. In order to do that, use the following tools so that you can start tracking how long it may take you to stop a sugar craving.
Using a hunger scale to gauge where your hunger levels are before and after a meal is incredibly important. The more that I find my clients tracking this the more they begin questioning why they are grabbing the snack when they are really a 5 or 6 on the hunger scale (this means they are satisfied and really aren’t hungry).
Ideally, I always encourage my clients to be about a 3-4 (slightly hungry) going into a meal and a solid 5 (satisfied) after the meal. This helps to prevent the binging and helps to stop the cravings.
Now, I won’t go into the Keto diet or intermittent fasting but just know this, those who lost more than 10% of their body weight in a short period of time gained it back.. I always like to say, slow and steady wins the race with ½ pound to 1-pound of weight loss per week.
Now we got that out of the way, I must ask why are you restricting your calories? Is it because you went on a diet and it worked to get you your results the fastest, initially? 99% of my clients will believe they need to skip breakfast and eat a small lunch all to find they eat double their calorie amount for the day because they were so hungry.
Rather than forbidding yourself to eat, give yourself permission to enjoy all foods so that you may nourish your mind and body.
Not to mention, when you give yourself permission to eat, research shows it reduces the cravings! Go ahead, have your slice of cake!
Remember before when I was telling you about Journaling and how insightful it is? This is also a key measurement strategy to show you how to stop the craving. You’ll be surprised what comes out of the exercise.
Some of my clients after several weeks, found they caved into the emotion because they felt it was pointless to attempt since they’ve tried it dozens of times and failed. Then, we were able to meet that emotion with strategies and positive affirmations to overcome the negativity around how we thought of ourselves.
It’s 10 PM and you’re watching TV, you just had dinner about an hour ago and all of a sudden you start to crave something sweet, dreaming about going to the cabinet to grab and satisfy this craving. Reflect for a moment, did you have a stressful day? Do you normally eat dinner late at night with no breakfast in the morning?
Studies show that late night eating does not leave you feeling as satisfied if you ate a little more during the day, especially if you have breakfast. Therefore, to help ward off those cravings enjoy a breakfast that has protein in it such as a hard boiled egg and toast. You’ll see the difference!
Christa is the creator of Sugar Solution™ for diabetes management and Food Freedom and Flexible Living Academy™ for weight loss. Being one who was able to reverse her pre-diabetes and insulin resistance she utilizes a science based approach with a cognitive therapy and mindful eating approach. She believes that nutrition must be personalized with a holistic view of the person. Learn how to NOT give up the foods you love and yet still get healthier. Work with her here.
I know taking the first step can be scary, but staying where you are and continuing to struggle can also be scary! Get real results and real advice from not only a Registered Dietitian but also someone that has been where you are and overcame it! I cannot wait to connect and show you how achievable your goals are!
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