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November 7, 2023

“I Feel Addicted to Sugar.” How to Stop Sugar Cravings

Table of Contents

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! In this article, you will learn the following answers to your common questions.

What Should I Do if I Crave Sugar?

Add in Movement

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. 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 having to do something.

Creating a Schedule

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 ’ gummies.

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. So, let me ask you this? Did you skip breakfast? Do you eat most of your food towards the 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 protein. Now, 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.

How Journaling Can Help With Cravings

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 and 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. 

What Should I Eat if I Crave Sugar?

Hydration to Soothe the Sensation 

Now, what happens if the craving is just so intense that even when you journal and think about it, it makes your 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. Curious to know how much water you’re supposed to drink in a day? Use my handy calculator below to give you a good idea. You also can grab for your favorite fruit or vegetable because that’s another way to hydrate yourself. For my non-water drinkers, you can always mix it up by using seltzer and lemon, or make infused fruit/vegetable beverages to get more vitamins and minerals.   In each cup of fresh fruit and veggies, you’re getting about 5 ounces of water. 

Why Do I Crave Sugar All the Time?

Stress 

Does stress have a hold on your life with very little downtime? 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? Yes! That is one way to help you alleviate the stress and doing a simple one-minute breathing exercise can really help your emotional state. 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! 

Sleep

When was the last time you woke up and said, “WOAH, I just had an amazing sleep and feel no brain fog, whatsoever.” 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.

How long does it take to stop craving sugar?

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 pivotal. 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. If you want the full journal to get started just click here. 

Hunger Cues and Getting in Tune with Them 

Using a hunger scale to gauge where your hunger levels  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).

Are you forbidding yourself to eat during the day to restrict calories? 

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! 

Emotional triggers?

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 and improve upon self-worth.

So go ahead I encourage you to journal to help you track your emotions around food. Just click here to get it!

Why do I crave sweets in the middle of the night? 

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 eat 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 a media dietitian and nutrition consultant in the New York City area. She works with various brands and has been featured in dozens of outlets such as Women’s Health, EatingWell, and Peoples Magazine as a nutrition expert. Being a fact checker for EatingWell Magazine and a Medical Reviewer for Nourish, she brings her extensive experience within the field to provide compassionate, inclusive care using science for intimate and personalized messaging.

Christa brings warm laughter, joy, and medical expertise to any conversation allowing for honest science-based discussions with authenticity at their core.

In her private practice, she works with men and women suffering from emotional traumas that cause binge eating disorders exacerbating their type 2 diabetes, PCOS and insulin resistance.

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