Why we crave the sweet stuff and how to avoid it
Out of control cravings can quickly sidetrack our best intentions when it comes to weight loss and health goals. Sugar is one of the biggest—and cutting it out is no small feat. Even JLo, who recently did the 10-day no-sugar no-carb challenge, documented her struggles. Here are the reasons sugar seems to have so much control over you and how you can curb your desire to reach for that sweet treat!
Beat Your Cravings
The key to beating sugar cravings is to understand that it’s not actually sugar people are addicted to; it’s the high insulin levels needed to break it down that has us reaching for sweets. Why? Insulin is the hormone your body uses to break down the carbohydrates that you eat (fruits, vegetables and naturally occurring sugar) and turn them into sugar, which is then used or stored for energy. When you reach for the sweets or foods with high sugar content, your body can flood with too much insulin, which causes your blood glucose levels to drop. This creates a dip in energy and a desire for even more sugar. This can create a vicious cycle that makes taking sugar and carbs out of your diet a challenge, even for someone like JLo.
Why am I craving so much sugar in the first place? Let’s break it down:
1. More is more.
When you have sugar, your body will immediately want more sugar. These cravings can be so intense that if you create a habit of having sugar at the same time every day, your body will begin to crave and expect it at that same time daily. This is also the reason you end up eating that whole box of cookies in one sitting!
THE FIX: Add some protein and fat.
You can neutralize sugar cravings by having some protein and fat with your sweet treat. For example, if you indulge in a cookie, you can cut the desire to eat another cookie by having a slice of cheese or a handful of nuts. The protein and fat will help neutralize the amount of insulin your body uses to break down the sugar and decrease your cravings, giving your will power a fighting chance to kick in and help.
2. Dehydration is a factor.
When you are dehydrated and not picking up on the cues from your body to drink more, your body’s next best bet is to crave foods with a high water content, like fruit. Fruits are also sweet, so you may mistake your body’s cue to consume more water and instead find yourself reaching for processed carbs and sugar.
This is why you may hear the advice to drink a glass of water before you eat to satisfy your appetite. It doesn’t satisfy your appetite, but if it’s water that you actually need, you may realize you are not really hungry after all.
THE FIX: Drink more water.
Sip water throughout the day, aiming for a minimum of 3.5 liters a day and even more on days you exercise or are more active.
3. You are tired
When you are tired your body goes looking for a pick-me-up, and you may find yourself reaching for something sweet. The same thing happens around 3 or 4 p.m. each afternoon when the body is wired to take a drop in energy and slows your circadian rhythm. What your body is really looking for is a nap. (There are places in the world that do just that: think of the siesta.)
In our fast-paced, high-stress world, it’s not always possible to take a nice afternoon nap, so the body goes looking for easy energy by way of higher sugar to pick it up and keep it going.
THE FIX: A healthy snack.
Try to avoid energy levels that dip when you go for long periods of time without eating. A mid-morning snack of fresh fruit will top up your energy reserves and you can munch on raw veggies, nuts and seeds in the afternoon. These foods have a high nutrient value and are harder to digest, which will keep your digestion stimulated and your body awake and functioning when it’s craving a nap.
With a few adjustments you can easily beat the need for sweets and stay on track to reach your goals and not be held captive by sugar cravings anymore!