Do you know why it’s so hard to cut sugar cravings? Because you have a brain!
Sugar is a highly addictive substance. It stimulates the pleasure center of your brain (a.k.a. the nucleus accumbens) to release the “feel good” chemical (a.k.a. dopamine).
Every person on the planet has this pleasure center in their brain, so everyone craves sugar – it’s built-in.
Sugar pulls you in and hooks you. You don’t just crave a single Hershey’s kiss; you crave a sugar binge!
When you feed your sugar addiction, it gets worse.
Eating sugary foods causes a dopamine dump in your brain. As with any addictive drug, the brain receptors down-regulate over time. The brain’s desensitization to sugar leaves your brain crying out for more.
Breaking free from sugar cravings can be challenging because it’s caused by chemical, physical and emotional triggers.
The trick to quickly cut sugar cravings and lose weight is to create an internal body environment that releases you from the grip of sugar.
Sugar Craving Triggers – How Sugar Pushes Your Cravings Buttons
Low Blood Sugar. Having sugar in your blood is important because blood sugar is used for energy. Low blood sugar is caused by skipping meals, poor food choices or excessive exercise.
Your body views low blood sugar as a threat to its survival and looks for ways to boost the sugar level fast.
The fastest way to increase sugar in your blood is to put sugar in your mouth.
Allow your blood sugar level to drop and before you know what hit you, you find yourself in front of the refrigerator with a piece of chocolate cake in one hand and a Coke in the other.
Sugar Becomes a Reward. Eating sugar does more than light up the pleasure center of your brain; it also creates a neurochemical pathway that remembers the joy you felt the last time you ate sugar.
The dopamine release that comes with sugar intake reacts with another brain chemical called glutamate. This one-two punch takes over your brain’s reward-related learning, and your brain remembers how great you felt after eating sugar.
When you’re feeling low, your brain knows how to pick you up – eat sugar.
Withdrawal. Breaking free from sugar comes with a price.
Like other addictive drugs, when you stop taking in sugar, your body goes through withdrawal. Your reward for stopping sugar is a few days of irritability, headaches, and fatigue.
Eating sugar suppresses your body’s ability to clear toxins out of your cells. When you stop eating sugar, it’s like a spring gets released; toxins flood your system, and you feel like you just got hit by a bus.
You’ll decrease withdrawal symptoms and more rapidly cut sugar cravings by eating nutrient-dense foods at the same time you lower your sugar intake.
Nutrient-rich foods, particularly non-starchy vegetables, are packed with vitamins and minerals that help clear toxins quickly.
(By the way, I teach a free video series that shares 4 Daily Habits that automatically remove sugar and boost your nutrient intake here.)
Social and Emotional Pull of Sugar. Your brain likes to learn. When it experiences something that comforts you, it encourages you to relive that experience. That’s why comfort foods are so comforting.
When you go to the movie theater, does it feel wrong not to eat popcorn? That’s because your brain created an association between popcorn and fun.
Another classic example of the social and emotional pull of sugar is cake at a birthday party. What’s a birthday without cake?!
Stress. Stressful situations spike sugar cravings in two ways. It wipes out willpower and boosts your appetite-stimulating stress hormones.
Stress depletes your willpower tank, just like driving your car depletes your gas tank.
Every stressful situation you encounter during the day lowers your willpower reserve. That’s why a tough day at the office forces you to swing into the fast-food restaurant on the ride home.
Cortisol is a hormone that is released at times of stress. It triggers food cravings and is known to encourage fat storage in the belly are.
Cortisol is associated with your fight or flight response. When you feel stressed or in danger, your body prepares you for action by cashing in energy reserves. This flood of energy leads to blood sugar imbalances.
Chronic stress keeps your blood sugar out-of-whack and triggers chronic sugar cravings.
Low Serotonin Levels. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that regulates sleep, appetite, and mood. When you’re sleepy do you ever feel hungry and moody? If so, serotonin is at work.
Grabbing foods like chocolate and sweets gives your brain a nice, soothing hit of serotonin…but, your waistline will be better off if you grab a good night’s sleep instead.
7 Ways To Cut Sugar Cravings And Lose Weight In 7 Days
1. Get Your Body In A More Alkaline State.
Your body prefers to be a bit on the alkaline side of the pH scale. If your body strays too much from this slightly alkaline state, enzymes and metabolic processes can’t function properly.
Sugary and processed foods are some of the most acidic foods you can eat. Eating them pushes your body toward an acidic state.
To buffer the acids, your body is forced to pull minerals from your teeth, bones, and organs, leaving you biochemically imbalanced.
To shift back to alkalinity, you need to eat alkaline foods.
Plant-based foods, especially leafy greens, broccoli, avocados, garlic, lemons, and herbs are high-alkaline foods. These foods biochemically fill you up, which naturally shuts off hunger and cravings.
2. Have Protein, Fat & Fiber For Lunch.
The midday slump can be a challenging time to cut sugar cravings.
Stress, boredom, and fatigue can leave you mentally weak to the powers of sugar. Make sure your body is prepared for the fight with a power lunch that includes protein, fat, and fiber.
Prepare a meal-sized salad with mixed greens and assorted vegetables (fiber). Top your salad with chicken strips (protein), black beans (protein and fiber), walnuts and sunflower seeds (fats).
Protein, fat, and fiber take a long time to break down, giving your stomach hours of work to keep itself busy. When your stomach is full, hunger and cravings stay away.
3. Cut Dairy.
To cut sugar cravings, cut out dairy. Dairy foods like milk, cheese, ice cream, and cream sauces cause inflammation in the body.
Milk’s purpose is to help babies grow and gain weight quickly. Much research has questioned if it’s wise to continue to consume milk as we age. Sixty percent of adults have trouble digesting milk products. And; it doesn’t make a difference if you’re eating full-fat dairy products or skim.
Ghrelin is the hunger hormone. It’s made in your digestive tract. Inflammatory foods, like dairy foods, passing through the digestive tract elevate ghrelin. Ghrelin sends its message of hunger to your brain and increases your appetite.
4. Out-of-Sight, Out-of-Mind.
Creative research from Brian Wansink, Professor of Consumer Behavior at Cornell University, illustrates that we are prone to eat what is placed in front of our noses.
If the fruit is on the counter, we eat more fruit. If cookies are on the counter, we eat more cookies.
Whether at home, at work, or at a restaurant, we eat what we see.
In Wansink’s bestselling book, Slim By Design he explains that it’s easier to change your food environment than human nature.
To instantly cut sugar cravings, take the cookies off the kitchen counter, hide the candy dish at work, and have your meal picked out before walking into the restaurant.
5. Control Stress.
Stress elevates cortisol, which spikes food cravings and packs on belly fat.
Having a few, quick stress-reducing strategies in your back pocket can cut sugar cravings and short-circuit the stress effects.
Deep breathing or singing on the car ride home calms your nervous system, sharpens your focus and relieves muscle tension.
Progressive relaxation relieves uncomfortable muscle tension. To perform it, slowly contract and relax each muscle group starting with your feet and moving up to your legs, torso, arms, neck, and face.
Laugh away stress. Watching a funny video or joking with a friend, even if it’s just for 5 minutes can relieve stress and invigorate your energy.
6. Get Enough Sleep.
A study from UC Berkeley found that a lack of sleep impaired activity in the brain’s decision-making center, but increased activity in the primal brain centers where the desire for reward is strong.
The result of sleep deprivation:
“the participants favored unhealthy snack and junk foods when they were sleep deprived.”
To cut sugar cravings tomorrow, get at least 7-9 hours of sleep tonight.
7. Create A No Exception Rule For Bedtime.
Motivational speaker and author Jack Canfield coined the term No Exception Rules to describe things that you do regardless of convenience.
A classic example of a No Exception Rules is brushing your teeth before bed. You can be in bed half asleep, yet if the thought pops in your head, “I forgot to brush my teeth,” you’ll crawl out of bed and head for the bathroom sink.
No Exception Rules trump willpower because they carry with them a sense of duty. This task will get done.
One of the toughest times to resist sugar is late at night. Eating at the end of the day is often a mindless activity meant to satisfy boredom. This downtime invites a sugar binge that packs on pounds and robs you of a restful night’s sleep.
Set a No Exception Rule to stop eating 3 hours before bed and you eliminate boredom eating and mindless eating. “For the next 7 days, I will stop eating 3 hours before bed, no exceptions.”
The best thing about a No Exception Rule is it ends the diet-sabotaging internal chatter that destroys so many diets.
You don’t have to wrestle with a decision about what to eat. The decision has already been made. Your eating day has ended. End of story.
Cut Sugar Cravings And Cut 7 Pounds Of Body Fat This Week
Breaking off your relationship with sugar is tough because your body and mind have grown dependent on it. It’s time to end this destructive relationship.
The pounds will melt away when you boost alkaline foods, make smart meal choices, clean up your home environment, de-stress, get enough rest and set boundaries.
You have more control over your weight than you think. For more on this topic, watch my Free Video Series: 4 Daily Habits That Cut Sugar Cravings and Give Your Body No Choice But To Lose Weight
About the Author
Dr. Becky Gillaspy, DC graduated Summa Cum Laude with research honors from Palmer College of Chiropractic in 1991.