• Ashley Mulkern

The Key to Overcoming Your Sugar Cravings

Updated: Aug 20, 2020

Hint: It’s not by cutting out sugar…


Sugar cravings, we ALL have them.

⁠We've been pounded by the media on the detrimental effects long term sugar consumption can have on our health. So, it only seems natural to be afraid of them out of concern for our bodies. 𝗕𝗨𝗧, what they don't tell you is that avoiding or cutting out sugar can be just as bad for your health in so many ways!!

For starters, did you know that sugar is the #1 fuel source for your brain?! Yup. Good ‘ole glucose is our brain's preferred fuel source. Mind blowing, I know.

Personally, I have a HUGE sweet tooth. I love sweets and make a point to incorporate them into my weekly diet. I always keep sweets in the house (my boyfriend hates it haha). Does this mean I eat a whole pint of ice cream each night of the week? No, but it does mean that I have a handful of chocolate chips a couple nights a week, or a cookie every now and then. This comes from many YEARS of learning to balance my body and find a good relationship with food 💞⁠



When you restrict your body of certain foods (ex: sugar) your brain tells itself that you don’t have access to that food and goes into ‘famine’ mode. It literally fears that it’s not going to have enough food to survive and makes you hyperfocus on getting that food whenever you can. This can lead to binging and overeating when you do have access to these foods out of protection.


The brain is an amazing thing and you should trust what it’s telling you!



#1 Get to Know Your Body and Listen to What It’s Telling You


Your body is so smart, like so so smart. It will tell you exactly what it needs IF you listen to it. A good way to start is by slowing down, throwing out the ‘diet’ mindset and fueling your body based on your feelings. This is a process, but working with a professional like a Registered Dietitian can make it much easier!


#2 Eat Balanced Meals Throughout the Day


This does not mean eating 1,200 calories a day or only eating a large meal at dinner. This means incorporating protein, carbs, healthy fats, fiber, whole grains, and vegetables into your daily meals, well spaced throughout the day. When your body is well nourished, it knows it is going to get fed again and doesn’t ‘fear’ starvation. When you wait too long between meals or eat too few calories, your body goes right back toward that ‘famine’ state.

#3 Drink Water


Drinking water not only helps clean your body of toxins but it also satisfies particular hunger cues. Hunger and thirst can produce very similar sensations in the mind, causing it to become confused on which source it needs. If you’re not sure if your body is asking for sweets, one of the easiest ways to figure it out is to make sure the body is hydrated throughout the day.


#4 Get Enough Sleep


When we are tired, we naturally crave more sugar and carbs to keep our body awake and brain functioning. Our body knows that these are quick sources of energy so they are asking you for some to help it function better.


You can help balance this out by aiming for 8 hours of sleep each night. A good goal is to aim to push your bedtime up by 15-30 minutes each week.


#5 Eat Enough at Each Meal


Most cravings for sugar seem to hit us at night (am I right?!). This is likely happening because we weren’t eating enough throughout the day. By aiming to eat enough food at each meal earlier in the day, our body won’t be bugging us to feed it all night. Then, when you do decide to eat a sweet, you can actually enjoy it and savor the experience rather than just stuffing it down.


#6 Don’t Think of Sweets as “Off Limits” or “Bad”


This one is hard, I know. It goes back to that comment about the media pounding “SUGAR IS BAD, DON’T EAT IT OR YOU’LL DIE” into our brains. When you give these foods (or any food) a negative label like this, it tricks your brain into craving them more. It triggers our ‘famine’ mode and tells us that there is scarcity so we should eat it asap.



Learning to look at all foods as fuel takes time. You will probably slip up along the way but that is OK!! A good place to start is identifying one food that you put into the ‘off limits’ category and working to change it back to the regular ‘food fuel’ category.


#7 Practice Mindful Eating


I’m the first to admit that I am guilty of not mindfully eating my sweets. Especially in college, I would come home from a long day and plop down in front of the tv with my good friends Ben & Jerry. Before I knew it the pint was gone and I barely even tasted a thing.


When you mindfully eat, you focus on nothing but the food you are consuming. Remove all distractions around you (tv, phone, etc), sit down at the table and really think about how the food tastes, smells, and feels. If there is someone eating with you, talk about the food with them. I promise it will taste 10x better and you will walk away 100% more satisfied.


#8 Reduce Stress Levels


Here I am, another person telling you to reduce your stress, as if it’s just that easy. It’s not, it’s just a piece of the puzzle but a really important one. I won’t lecture you, just keep in mind that it plays a role in your cravings.



Have questions? Let's chat.

Email me: ashleythedietitianservices@gmail.com

Follow me: @ashleythedietitian

 

About the Author

Ashley Mulkern, MS, RD is a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist with a Masters of Science in Nutritional Sciences and Bachelor of Science in Dietetics from the University of Cincinnati. She loves anything covered in chocolate, sprinkles, or butter. Her favorite things to do are exercising, baking, and reading.

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