Sugar cravings can derail any healthy eating plan. Learn how to quit your sugar addiction be following the steps below.
You can have all the willpower in the world, but then the evening hits and you crave a bit of ice cream. One thing leads to another, and all of a sudden you’ve downed a pint of Ben & Jerry’s.
Sugar addiction is real.
In studies that involve depriving rodents of food for 12 hours and then providing them with sugar water and food, researchers have noted behaviors that are similar to those of someone who is addicted to drugs.
The rodents will binge on the sugar, experience opiate-like withdrawal and have cravings for the sweet stuff.
Cravings are a motivation to self-administer more of the substance in order to alleviate symptoms of withdrawal or to get the feel-good effects.
Many studies have found a link between an increase in sugar consumption and a rise in obesity.
How to Quit Your Sugar Addiction
Eat a Meal When You’re Craving Sugar
Consuming sugar activates dopamine-containing neurons in the parts of the brain that reinforce behavior. This tells your body that it feels good and that you should continue behaviors that can deliver similar results.
Sugars also release opioids, which interact with the dopaminergic systems to further reinforce behavior that seems to deliver a reward. This makes you want to eat more sugary or fatty food.
According to Livestrong, other foods that cause a dopamine release are proteins, natural produce, cheese, and chocolate. However, the effects don’t last as long as when you consume sugar, so you might be more likely to reach for sweets if given the option.
In addition, eating healthy foods that provide a moderate release of dopamine helps you feel good without experiencing withdrawal symptoms. These foods don’t act like opioids and steer you toward addiction.
If you’re craving sugar, you might be craving a dopamine release. Eating healthy options can satisfy that craving while keeping the addictive results at bay. Try some protein powder in unsweetened almond, coconut, or cashew milk to whip up a quick protein shake!
Retrain Your Brain
This is easier said than done, you might be thinking. However, it’s possible, says Dr. Mark Hyman.
Eating is a survival mechanism. Carbohydrates are necessary for energy.
If we’re feeling fatigued, we tend to reach for the thing that is going to give us the quickest pick me up. That’s usually something that’s loaded with sugars or carbs.
You can retrain your brain to use healthier carbohydrate energy by filling up on healthy carbs instead. One of the keys may be to avoid restricting yourself entirely.
Some healthy carbohydrate options are:
- Nuts – 1 cup of almonds has 26 grams of carbs
- Sweet potatoes – 1 large sweet potato has 37 grams of carbs
- Kale – 3 cups of chopped kale sautés down to nothing and contains 21 grams of carbs
- Steel-cut oats – ¼ cup of dry oats contains 27 grams of carbs
When you eat these healthy carbs, you are training your brain to get the energy it needs without added refined sugar. In addition, you will feel fuller because you can eat larger amounts of these healthy foods without the calorie punch that sugary treats will give you.
This retrains your brain to look for healthier foods for energy.
When we feel bad, we often reach for something that makes us feel good. One of those things is sugar. If you manage your stress levels, you can stop cravings before they start.
Some ways to manage stress are:
- Practice meditation – YouTube is stocked with thousands of guided meditations that can help you get started if you’ve never meditated before. Headspace is also a great app that has a free version.
- Get enough sleep – Nothing seems easy if you’re sleep deprived. In fact, research shows that you’re more likely to eat unhealthy foods for energy if you’re tired.
- Exercise – Exercising releases endorphins, which are chemicals that make us feel good. The Diabetes Self-Management blog describes a study that found that exercising decreases stress levels and inhibits your arousal when presented with sugary snacks.
Advice about drinking enough water appears in just about every health article. That’s because proper hydration is crucial for optimal health.
Sometimes, dehydration can mislead us into thinking that we crave food. Drinking enough water can fill your stomach and keep your body operating properly.
Try some detox waters if you need to change up the flavors a bit!
Also try to make sure you get in at least 100 ounces every day! This may seem like a lot at first, but it will keep you full throughout the day and is also great for your skin! Try a large BPA-free water bottle (this is the one that I have) to help you keep track throughout the day!
Reset Your Insulin Sensitivity
Insulin is a hormone that unlocks sugar that enters the bloodstream from the foods that you eat and allows your body to use the glucose for energy. When you consume sugar, insulin immediately reacts, removing that sugar from your blood and using or storing it.
Basically, insulin regulates blood sugar. If you consistently eat sugar, you may develop insulin resistance.
This means that your body doesn’t react efficiently when you eat sugar. More and more insulin gets sent out, but it doesn’t remove the glucose from your bloodstream as well as it should.
Your body essentially stops listening to the signals it’s getting.
Because your body isn’t able to effectively transform the glucose into energy, you want to eat more sugar. Too much sugar in the blood can lead to a variety of health problems, including type 2 diabetes.
If you encourage your body to become more sensitive to insulin again, you can better stabilize your blood sugar and eliminate cravings.
You can do this by gently detoxing and then slowly adding healthy carbohydrates back into your diet. To detox, eliminate all major sources of sugar from your diet.
Don’t consume artificial sweeteners, honey, maple syrup or anything else that you would consider a sweet. Lay off of grains and dairy too.
Concentrate on eating non-starchy vegetables, protein and healthy fats for at least a week. Fill up on these foods, and eat a variety of foods to stay satisfied.
If you think about it, there are so many more options for flavors, textures and colors when it comes to fresh vegetables and meats. If you feel bored or unsatisfied while detoxing, it’s probably because you haven’t made eating healthy convenient enough.
Prep a week’s worth of salads filled with chopped veggies, roasted vegetables and cooked protein so that you don’t have to think twice about what to eat.
After 7 to 10 days, gradually begin to add healthy carbs back into your diet. Your body will be much more efficient at using insulin, and your blood sugar will stay more stable.
You’ll find that you don’t crave sugar like you used to.
Need a plan?
If you think you are having trouble losing weight and think you might be insulin resistant, our 21-Day Fat Loss Challenge would be a really great fit for you.
The program starts out with a week-long carbohydrate detox to help reset your system and make your body more insulin resistant so that you can properly process carbs again.
This detox will not only help you lose an average of 7-10 lbs in the first week, but it is designed to help you break through any weight loss plateau that you are currently suffering from.
Carbs are NOT the devil, but our bodies become VERY insulin resistant when they are overloaded with processed carbs for an extended period of time. Our program teaches you when to eat carbs, when not to eat them, what kinds to eat, and it will help you determine how YOUR body really responds to them.
We also have a private support group with over 1,000 members going through the Challenge together and sharing motivation, support, tips and tricks for succeeding with the Challenge, and lots of recipes!
We’d love to have you join our community! You can check it out here if you’re interested.
If you have any questions about our program or about how to quit your sugar addiction, please leave me a comment below and I’d be happy to answer them!