How To Deal w/ Sugar Cravings (+ 5 Practical SOS Tips)
When you're trying to live a healthier life and you're making positive adjustments to your diet & lifestyle, it can be really frustrating when you keep struggling with sugar cravings. You eat all the whole foods, exercise, ditch the stimulants, and do all the other good stuff but those sugar cravings yo. They're so persistent!
Trying to quit the sugar habit may well be the hardest thing to do. Sugar is the cheapest and most readily available drug in our society.
So what to do when you care about your health and you finally want to quit this nasty habit but find it so hard — because it's basically everywhere around you?
Inspired by a recent video I made for Origin'O, the health food store where I work as a natural health consultant, I comprised this list of preventive as well as very practical, emergency situation tips that will help you tackle those cravings for good.
These tips have helped me to finally quit the habit of reaching for sugar for comfort. Of course the effectiveness of these tips depends on how consistently you put them into practice, so I encourage you to start small and be consistent with any changes that you make. That is, don't beat yourself up when you slip up: you're only human! Instead, refocus and realign with your intention and take it from there. Making a mistake doesn't equal failure — not taking action and keeping on suffering for the rest of your life would be the real loss!
Real change happens as soon as you make an intention to shift your mindset, find your focus and take consistent action.
What's your motivation behind wanting to quit sugar?
What pains do your cravings and binges bring along?
Where are your sugar habits holding you back?
What would be different about your life when you wouldn't have these cravings anymore?
Write down your answers and use these as your guideline as you go along.
Much love & good vibes your way,
How To Deal w/ Sugar Cravings
The causes of your sugar cravings are highly personal and often it's about a combination of multiple factors, which I will divide into 3 categories:
- Physical cravings — caused by a blood sugar imbalance, or by micronutrient deficiencies.
- Emotional cravings — where emotional dissatisfaction or a spiritual void can cause cravings and bingeing.
- Cravings caused by a restrictive diet like a low-carb diet or a diet low in fruit.
All of these can cause intense sugar cravings, but fortunately each can be tackled with these specific tips.
1. PHYSICAL CRAVINGS
Most of the time, physical cravings can be caused by two things: blood sugar imbalances and micronutrient deficiencies.
Blood Sugar Imbalance
Signs of low blood sugar levels are:
- feeling light-headed
- feeling weak
- being easily irritated
- craving sugar or other stimulants like coffee, cacao, tobacco
When your blood sugar level is low, you start to crave something sweet to give you a quick energy rush. This is often where convenience and habit interfere with our intentions. Even though you know it's not the best thing for you, the unhealthy option is just too attractive and you give in. How can you avoid this?
- By making sure you eat enough calories throughout the day from wholefood plant-based sources, which give you sustained energy levels
- By having healthy snacks on hand at all times, like fresh fruits and vegetables, which contain bioavailable micronutrients combined with water, which will help subside the craving
- By snacking every two hours on fiber- and nutrient-rich foods like bananas, dates, avocados, broccoli, celery, (sweet) potatoes
- By increasing your chromium intake with cinnamon, mulberries, grapes, spirulina, broccoli, potatoes and green beans
- By supplementing with a high-quality chromium supplement like this liquid chromium from Mineralife
Even when you eat an organic whole food diet, you can still develop micronutrient deficiencies. Because our soils have become mineral-deficient, our foods also contain less minerals, and so even when you eat a whole food diet, chances are high your mineral intake isn't sufficient. And when your body is lacking essential minerals, it can start craving certain foods.
For example, one of the reasons behind chocolate cravings can be a magnesium deficiency. Cacao contains high amounts of magnesium and so it may well be that your body craves cacao for its high magnesium content. Instead of reaching for chocolate (which is a stimulant, ie. depleting your adrenal energy), try taking a magnesium bath at least once a week, and use a magnesium spray every day (magnesium is a water-soluble mineral and is absorbed exceptionally well through the skin).
Today our soils are also especially deficient in selenium and zinc, so I highly recommend supplementing with a high-quality liquid zinc supplement. (1) You can increase your selenium intake by eating 2 brazil nuts a day, and by incorporating more sunflower seeds, pinto beans and dark leafy greens into your diet.
Other micronutrients many are deficient in today, are vitamins D3 (2) and B12 (3) (along with the other B-vitamins, often caused by stress and consumption of refined foods and medications).
2. EMOTIONAL CRAVINGS
A second major cause of sugar cravings is emotional dissatisfaction or unfulfillment. Sometimes we try to fill a void with food, often rich in refined sugars and fats, which have a misleading comforting effect on the body. Is your temporary satisfaction worth the pain and discomfort later?
Emotional cravings can be very intense and hard to deal with, so if this is something you're struggling with, it's really important to first get to the root cause of your cravings, to zoom out and ask yourself these questions:
- Where in your life do you feel unfulfilled? Think about all aspects: spiritually, emotionally, in your relationships, social life and community, creativity, finances, career, education, physical activity, home environment? Where do you feel stuck, where do you feel you're not making progress? Take your time to write down your thoughts + feelings.
- What moments do you typically reach for comfort foods? When you're tired or sad, or angry? What other practices give you that same feeling of comfort, distraction or safety, besides eating? Maybe you like to draw, paint, write, run, dance, listen to music, walk in the forest, connect with friends? How can you make more time for these things?
3. CRAVINGS CAUSED BY A RESTRICTIVE DIET
A long-term restrictive diet like a low-GI or low-fruit diet, can also lead to intense sugar cravings. The bioavailable glucose in fruit is the primary source of fuel for the cells in your body, and especially for your brain! So when you avoid fruit, you take away your body's primary fuel source, along with many other incredibly nourishing, bioavailable vitamins, minerals, enzymes and phytonutrients.
So when you eat little fruit and you experience intense sugar cravings — unless when you're on a short-term restrictive diet for medical reasons — give your body what it's asking for by increasing your fruit intake. Some tips to get you started:
- start your day with a green smoothie
- snack on plenty of fresh fruits throughout the day
- drink fresh grapefruit juice or orange juice instead of pasteurized juice from the store
I'M EXPERIENCING AN INTENSE CRAVING — WHAT CAN I DO NOW?
When you're in the middle of an intense craving for your favourite comfort food but you really want to resist giving in this time, what can you do?
- Know that every craving will eventually subside. Especially when you can go do something else that fills you up emotionally, like going for a walk, calling a friend, involving in a creative project... Anything that brings you joy!
- Cravings are often a symptom of dehydration. Regardless whether you're giving in to the craving or not, make the decision for yourself that with every craving you first drink a tall glass of lemon water, perhaps followed by one or more pieces of fruit. The fruit will provide your body with deep cellular hydration as well as vital nutrients that will help subside any craving.
- In case of emergency, keep a couple of healthier alternatives around the house like some nuts, an energy bar, dates, porridge, or maybe some plant-based yoghurt with sugar-free fruit jam.
- Make a deal with yourself in advance to only give into temptations on special occasions, like a birthday party, or on fridays.
- What motivates you to not give into a craving? Write down your reasons, motivations and goals around wanting to stop eating sugar and read this letter to yourself every day. It's not the science or logic behind why sugar is bad for you, but your emotions, goals and intentions that will motivate you to not give in to your next craving.
Once you decide to not give in to your next craving, and then the next... It becomes easier over time to say no. After a while, your brain will have made new neural pathways, ie. new body-mind connections, which will make it easier and easier over time to say no to sugar until it eventually becomes a habit where you don't even have to think about it anymore!
Once you make the decision to make a change, and you are willing to take action, soon you will have kicked the sugar habit and you'll feel like a whole new world is opening up before you.
Feel free to reach out if you have any questions!