Why we crave sugar plus 12 tips to beat sugar cravings

Do you crave sweet stuff often? Eat a whole block of chocolate before you know it?
Do you know why?
There could be a number of reasons, but I find it mainly boils down to dealing with stress — which may not be that obvious at times.
Stress manifests in many ways. I put them into 2 main groups — emotional and physical stress. Examples of emotional stress include dealing with difficulties in relationships (personal and work), and feeling lonely, inadequate or overwhelmed. 
Physical stress includes things like lack of sleep, being over-worked and tired (dips in energy levels), body not getting enough nutrients, hunger and hormonal imbalances.
When the body is under stress, it usually needs energy to deal with it — and it needs it quickly! So it’s quite easy to fall into the trap of feeding yourself sugar-laden stuff — because simple carbohydrates (i.e. sugars) are a quick way to give your body energy.
Once you tune into your body and work out what is making you grab (and eat) that whole block of chocolate or packet of Tim Tams, you can take steps to curb your sugar cravings.
Check out this 3-minute video excerpt on emotional eating from the documentary Hungry for Change.  It explains how your food choices are influenced by what’s ‘eating you’. So observe what’s going on in your life (past and present) to find out the true cause of your sugar cravings.
Of course, sweet stuff can be part of a healthy lifestyle, especially if it’s homemade and you are eating it for the right reason (hint: stress is never the right reason).
I used to crave sweet things when I felt tired, was doing too much or felt overwhelmed. But these feelings rarely cause sugar cravings anymore.  That’s because without realising it, I have weaned myself off sugar over the last year — and now I don’t really crave it at all. If I do want something sweet, I make something myself using very little amounts of unrefined sweeteners, or I have a piece of toast with nut-butter and a touch (not a dollop) of raw honey.
Each of these 12 tips have helped me to keep cravings at bay, especially numbers  8, 9 and 10 (I still struggle with number 12 the most). Try them out and see what works for you. Perhaps you have some tips you’d like to share, too?
  1. Drink enough water throughout the day — sometimes we feel hungry, but all we need is some water. Thirst can manifest as mild hunger.
  2. Reduce the amount of coffee you have — people usually want to east something sweet with coffee. Instead drink green tea and herbal teas.
  3. Be prepared when you’re hungry — having food ready in the fridge helps while you’re working throughout the day and don’t have time to make something. It saves you from buying rubbish from the vending machine or cafeteria.
  4. Remove low fat foods from your diet — the fat is usually replaced with processed sugar and refined carbohydrates.
  5. Eat a variety of wholefoods, so your body gets the nutrients it needs.
  6. Include sweet vegetables in your diet, like sweet potato, pumpkin and fresh corn — to satisfy your sweet tooth
  7. Use sweet spices, like cinnamon and nutmeg. They’re good in tea too.
  8. If you eat chocolate, make a point of eating dark 70%+ cocoa only. After a while, you will find that anything with less cocoa will taste too sugary (instead of chocolatey).
  9. Don’t keep any junk food in the house — if it’s there you’ll be tempted to eat it!
  10. Make your own sweet treats, using unrefined sweeteners — e.g. maple syrup, fruit, brown rice syrup, honey, rapadura sugar and stevia — and use much less amounts than what the recipe calls for.
  11. Get sweetness elsewhere other than food — like ring a friend, go for a walk, hug a loved one and get massages (my favourite!).
  12. Do less, be kind to yourself and get enough sleep — take time to relax instead of rushing around doing one thing after the next. I find meditation and yoga also helps. Otherwise you’re bound to get stressed and eat mindlessly.
If these steps don’t work for you, you could try Sarah Wilson’s I Quit Sugar program. It’s not as draconian as it sounds! Check it out here.
Here’s to finding some real sweetness (and balance) in your life.
Lesh x
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  1. Alexiasana says

    awesome advice lesh! In High School I used to live of dried fruit and cappucchinos and thought it was healthy. I basically just put sugars and caffeine in my body and had such low energy, it was incredible. I am now totally off sugar, dont even crave anything sweet anymore and i even consider fruit as a sweet now. I do enjoy apples, green smoothies and the occasional dessert (love raw cheesecakes) and of course my daily square of dark chocolate but i am totally happy with one square and dont even crave for more. I often teach yoga late hours and dont get home until 10pm but dont have time to eat dinner beforehand. very often i am tempted to eat protein bars just to keep me going but often I am just not in the mood for it and rather stick to a carrot juice and some nuts. it seems unreal but my body is just craving for WHOLE foods knows exactly what it needs to keep me going. love this post! will have to write about this topic too!

    • says

      Hey, thanks, Alexia. Can totally relate. It’s funny how we used to think certain things are healthy (like dried fruit and 100% fruit juice) even though they’re full of sugar! Sounds like you’re in control of sugar, instead sugar being n control of you. Way to go gal! x

  2. says

    Thanks for the balanced views on sugar…. cutting out the sugar is my next ‘thing’ and I am overwhelmed by all the info and debate out there. I love that you recommend the odd bit of raw honey for example, it will make me far more likely to stick to reducing my overall sugar intake. Nic- (The Whole Shebang)

    • says

      Hey Nic, thanks so much for your comment. Yeah, giving up sugar can seem a bit daunting. Just try it as an experiment. I have bought Sarah Wilson I Quit Sugar Book, and it does have a lot of handy tips. It’s not draconian at all, and makes a lot of (common) sense. All you can do is give it a go and see how you feel. If you feel awesome, you may not want to look back. Good luck x

  3. says

    When I’m exhausted I tend to reach for 85% dark chocolate. Avoid this after 6pm, it’s powerful stuff! The problem with using sugar or other food to fight tiredness or avoid our emotions is that we don’t actually deal with what is calling for our attention. We don’t develop the capacities we need to take care of our whole-selves and we are generally left carrying what was bothering us in the first place. .

    Exploring why we eat, when we eat, and how we eat, can teach us a lot about ourselves. In this way our relationship with food can be used as a gateway to developing self-awareness and healthy self care.

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