“I’m addicted to sugar.” I’m sure you’ve heard your mother or sweet tooth prone friend complain about it. Maybe you yourself are struggling with cravings for sweets + carbs. I know it can feel silly not to be able to let go of these foods, especially when you feel like you’re doing everything else right. But — what if I were to tell you that being addicted to sugar is a real thing?
It all comes down to science [+ I’ll spare you here]. Our bodies don’t just get an energy rush when we eat sugar, our bodies also release serotonin – a *feel good* neurotransmitter, especially with easily digested simple sugars. Serotonin is responsible for helping regulate sleep, mood, + appetite, among other things. This is where it gets tricky – these good feelings, as well as the energy crash [low blood sugar] we experience later on, post sweet treat, cause us to crave more.
Over time, it works similarly to a drug – we need more sugar to release the amount of serotonin that makes us feel good, but we’re also on a blood sugar roller coaster. After a treat, we get a rush, but we bottom out hard + we turn to sugar for another pick me up. This is also why some of us crave sugar when we are tired or stressed, which is why sleep + breaks are so important for not just mental, but physical health.
So what do we do about it?
We should be consuming a majority of our carbs strictly from fruits + veggies. Non-starchy veggies, protein, + healthy fats should make up most of our plates. Fruits, starchy veggies, + grains should only be added to meals depending on activity level. So for most of us, we will have some of these foods with each meal [or throughout the day] – but we actually need less carbs than ever thought before. Keeping your meals filled with protein, fat, + fiber will help regulate blood sugar, energy levels, + keep you full until your next meal or snack. So no mid-afternoon crashes + less crazy cravings.
2] TAKE ADDED SUGAR OUT OF THE EQUATION
Really try + watch your intake of processed foods + make sure to check those labels! Food manufacturers are super tricky about sneaking added sugars into foods you would never even think of [i.e. breads, processed meats, condiments, etc] Stick to your whole foods + when you need to add a little sweetness, make sure you have enough protein + fat in the meal as well.
3] DESTRESS WITHOUT FOOD
Stress releases Cortisol — a hormone that floods the body with glucose + doesn’t let it into the cells, which can cause cravings for sugar. Find a go-to hobby or activity that calms your nerves, so that next time you want to turn to chocolate [or ice cream or candy…] you have another way to center yourself.
4] TRY A SUGAR CLEANSE
Our taste buds turn over every 10-14 days — so by taking sugar out of your diet for 2 weeks, you can actually lessen cravings, because your new taste buds haven’t been conditioned to sugar yet. Just remember: go slow when adding back in [if you even want to!]. This is probably a good approach to take after a big holiday or special event where we may have indulged too much. This also gives the rest of your body a break in terms of blood sugar regulation [high blood sugar is super inflammatory to the body + can be causing more health problems than you think!].
5] GET MORE SLEEP
If your sleep schedule is off, your cortisol levels are probably high + serotonin is probably low. By now you can probably guess what that means – you’re going to be craving sugar HARD. Make sure your room is pitch black at night – any amount of light [especially light from technology devices] can effect hormone production around bedtime, making it harder to fall//stay asleep. You might also want to think about trying a melatonin supplement [it’s a natural hormone that promotes sleep], or drinking herbal tea before bed.
So now you know that it’s not just poor willpower that’s leading you toward the Oreos in Aisle 3 ; ). If any of you have sugar [or nutrition in general!] questions or more tips on how to kick the sugar habits, comment below!
+ Alexa, RD [@lexx_inchaarg], VirtCHAARG from Cincy