Sugar is not the innocent, comforting dietary staple that we once thought it was. It has a hold on modern culture, and a strong one, at that. Not only is it destructive to the human body, but scientists now know that sugar is an addictive substance that targets the same pleasure centers in the brain as heroin or cocaine.
If 3 pm hits and you find yourself fighting an overwhelming urge to reach for something sweet, please know that you’re not alone, but there are many things that you can do to help reduce and eventually eliminate intense sugar cravings.
I) When first reducing your sugar consumption, be mentally prepared for detox-like symptoms. The first week of reducing your sugar intake can be intense for the body and brain, so don’t be alarmed if you feel increased levels of anxiety or irritability. This is completely normal! Plan an exceptionally calm week; try to go to bed a bit earlier than normal, stay connected with friends, and eat simple, nourishing meals.
II) Create a food plan. Don’t wait until you’re starving before eating your meals. Set aside a few minutes per week to create a basic meal plan for each day, and then head to the store to stock up on essentials. If your kitchen and pantry are stocked full of healthy, whole foods (e.g. dates), you will be far less likely to feel the urge to reach for something sugar-laden with the inevitable cravings hit.
III) Similarly, you may find it helpful to create a backup plan of activities to keep busy with. Think about when you most often crave sugar. Are you stressed? Tired? Lonely? Bored? By determining when the most intense sugar cravings will hit, you can choose healthy coping mechanisms. Lonely? Try calling a friend or family member. Bored? Try a new activity. Stressed? Go to a yoga or fitness class. The opportunities are endless!
IV) Don’t focus on weight loss. It can be overwhelming to try to tackle too many health related goals at once, so when focusing on lessening your consumption of sugar, try to keep your urges to lose weight at the same time to a minimum. Weight loss is often a natural side effect of giving up sugar in general, so there’s no need to stress yourself out with too many different directions.
V) Find an accountability partner. Studies show that the chances of switching to a healthier lifestyle are far higher when connecting with an accountability partner. Ditching the sugar habit is no different. Ask a friend or family member if they would be also interested in reducing their sugar consumption and cravings; perhaps they would like to partner up.
VI) Stay hydrated! It is very common for the brain to confuse dehydration with the need to consume something sweet. A simple trick is to carry a water bottle with you throughout your daily activities to ensure that you are drinking enough plain, filtered water every day.
VII) Lastly, a quick and easy tip is to carry whole, fresh fruit with you wherever you go. Because it is natural, unprocessed, and contains fiber, fruit does not affect us in the same negative light that processed sugar does, but the body still feels satisfied with a taste of something sweet.
Be gentle with yourself! Working through sugar cravings and reducing your consumption can sometimes feel intense, but the results are worth it – more energy, weight loss, mood stability, less disease, and vibrant skin, just to name a few!