Sugar cravings, we have all had them. We are hardwired by our biology to love the taste of sweetness. We evolved seeking out sweet fruits rich in vitamins, minerals and a quick source of energy. The taste of sweetness helped us to avoid eating foods that were spoiled or poisonous. In coaching nutrition clients, many talk about sweet cravings when they begin to eat healthier. Cravings can become a frustrating obstacle that can impact your success. So what can be done about this strong desire for a particular food?
There are many theories as to what causes this intense desire for a particular thing. Cravings can affect our focus because they occupy the same space in the brain. Cravings are driven by our need for reward. I am sure you have heard “you need more iron if you are craving steak”. Does a nutritional deficiency cause us to crave? Some believe a lack of variety in your diet or a particular place like a movie theater can ignite a longing for a big container of buttery popcorn. We crave different things, for example sweet and salty foods, alcohol, cigarettes and exercise to name a few. These all of have one thing in common. They impact the reward center of our brains and bring us pleasure. The more we have, the more we want. Research shows that 97% of women and 68% of men experience cravings. Sugar and alcohol top the charts of items that are craved.
Become aware of the social or environmental cues that are triggering a craving. Does a particular time of day or place spark a craving? It could just be that you have allowed a habit to form by having a candy bar at 3pm everyday. Have you always had a snack at night after dinner while watching television. Here is a question to ask yourself next time you grab for that bag of chips-Am I try
Whole foods are full of vitamins, minerals and provide everything your body needs to balance hormones, stimulate receptors in your gut that help you to feel full and satisfied. Eating adequate protein, healthy fats and plenty of fiber keeps your blood sugar in balance and your body healthy diminishing cravings for processed foods overtime.
Recognizing that a craving is not the same as physical hunger is a big step. Cravings will come and they will go. Listen to your body’s hunger and satiety cues and eat according to them.
We have heard how poor sleep can wreak havoc with our hormones. Sleep helps the mind and body recover and rest. It allows our hormones to reset for the next day. Shoot for 7-9 hours of sleep at night because that’s when “all the magic happens”.
Stress is known to increase cravings and not for brussel sprouts! Everyone encounters stressors in their daily life. Figure out what relieves stress for you. For some it might be journaling, exercise, walking in nature, or reading. Whatever it is plan time into each day to do what brings you joy. Have it add value to your life.
Sugar cravings don’t have to keep you from achieving your goals. Recognize what they are and implement the steps above to keep working toward your goal.