How to Stop Sugar Cravings and Addiction
If you are craving sugar you probably have a sugar addiction. The two go together.
Craving means to long for, want greatly, desire eagerly. It is not the same as true hunger. True hunger is a physical pain or weakness manifested as real hunger pangs (pain), stomach growling (although this is not always from true hunger, but digestion), fatigue, brain fogginess or headache.
True hunger vs. craving: Can you eat an apple or some carrot sticks and be satisfied? If you are wanting a specific food that is sweet then it is a sugar craving.
Scientists have now found that sugar is more addictive than cocaine and other street drugs. More! When you ingest sugar the pleasure center (addiction center) of your brain “lights up”. In a sense, you are getting “high” on sugar. And like all addictions the more you ingest, the more you want. The more you ingest, the more you need to get “high” the next time. No wonder Americans are getting more overweight and more obese than ever! We are addicted to sugar!
Not only does the pleasure center of our brain “light up” when we ingest sugary foods, it lights up when we see images of it! This explains why TV viewers in general weigh more than non-TV viewers. All those junk food commercials that we are seeing are lighting up the pleasure center of our brains causing us to crave more junk food. It’s not just because we are merely looking at those images but it is a real physiological response happening inside our brains.
There are certain things that can make us more susceptible to sugar cravings and addiction but I do not believe they are the cause of them. The cause of sugar cravings and addiction is ingesting sugar to begin with. How can you become addicted to something you’ve never had before? You can’t. But certain things may lower your tolerance and make you more susceptible, some of them being, thyroid problems, yeast problems (like candida), menopause and certain times of a women’s menstrual cycle. One must consult with their primary care physician to rule out any of these secondary issues. And if they are an issue it means you may need to work a little harder to beat your addiction.
Strategies to stop the cravings and addiction
1. Employ the help of God. Ask Him for help as many times as you need it. Keep on asking for help, for strategies, for what to do or not do. As Christians, we have this advantage. We have the help of Almighty God at our disposal, so don’t neglect this advantage!
2. Go cold turkey. Seriously, you need to stop ingesting sugar. Go as low as you possible can in the amount of grams of sugar you ingest! In order to do this you will need to not only get rid of junk food in your house but you will need to read food labels. Sugar is hidden in so many things that you wouldn’t even suspect, like bacon and sausage, peanut butter, ketchup and other condiments. Even a tiny taste of sugar can set you back. You will need to allow at least two to three weeks before your cravings lessen significantly. For the food labels see my blog post alternate names of sugar.
3. Know your own triggers. Cravings can be triggered by stress, boredom, sadness or seeing appetizing food. Once you know what causes you to start craving then you can devise individual strategies to avoid or deal with each one.
4. Avoid sugary foods, places where sugary foods are, places where you are triggered by sugary foods. Do not bring the sugary foods into your house. If you “must” have them (perhaps for a family member) then store them in a hard to reach place and out of sight. (For example, in a rarely used high cupboard, or a rarely used freezer in the garage or basement.) Don’t go down the candy or ice cream aisles in the grocery store. Go through the check out lines without candy on display. Walk the long way around at the office to avoid the candy bowl or doughnut station. Don’t drive by that coffee or doughnut shop. Don’t accept party invitations. If at all possible avoid situations where you will be tempted during this two to three week period. Avoid being tempted by the sugary stuff to begin with.
5. Plan ahead. Plan out your meals. Make a list for the grocery store and stick to it. If you have to go some place where you know you will be tempted, plan ahead of time what you will and will not eat. Keep an emergency healthy snack stash in handy places like your purse, your car, your desk at work. (This could include nuts, seeds, tiny amounts of dried fruits, fresh fruit, fresh vegetable crudites, or cheese.)
6. Eat three balanced meals at regular times each day. Make sure you include protein, healthy fats and some low glycemic carbohydrates (that is, mostly vegetables, but small amounts of low glycemic grains are o.k., too) at each meal. This will help to keep your blood sugar on an even keel and make sugar cravings less likely to occur. Do not skip meals for the same reason. Also skipping meals makes it harder to say “no” to junk food because you are just so hungry!
6. At the actual time of a craving…Try distracting yourself. (Obviously not everyone will be able to do all of these. Pick the ones that will work best for your situation.)
- Drink a glass of water.
- Go for a walk.
- Read a book or magazine.
- Go talk to or phone a co-worker or friend.
- Go outside and do some gardening or take the dog for a walk.
- Drive somewhere that doesn’t have food like a bookstore, library or craft store.
- Go to the gym.
- Take a hot bath.
- Brush your teeth.
- Set a timer for 20 minutes (most cravings end by that time and knowing there is an “end” in sight via the timer will help you get through it).
- Try eating that apple or carrot sticks to see if you are truly hungry.
After your cravings lessen
After a couple of weeks your cravings should start to lessen but it may take as long as eighteen months to be fully rid of your sugar addiction. Yes, eighteen months! During this time do not let sugar become a daily habit. If you begin to indulge in too much sugar over a short period of time (like on a vacation or the period between Christmas and New Year’s) you may start your sugar addiction up all over again and will have to start all over from square one.
Keep sugary foods only as special occasion treats. I mean real special occasions like real holidays, or real close family birthdays. Until you are sure you are not addicted anymore, limit treats to once a month and only one real serving. After your addiction seems to be gone, it may be possible to “up” this to about once a week. But you will always need to be wary of any occasion of large over-indulgence. After all, you are an addict and you have sugar addiction neural pathways already formed in your brain. Those addictive neural pathways will not go away completely but will greatly lessen over time.
Which of these tactics will you implement? Please share in the comment section below.
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(c) 2014 Cheryl Cope
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