Cravings are tough, especially for those with diabetes who need to actively manage blood sugar levels.
The good news is that cravings and sugar addiction CAN be a thing of the past. To understand how to break cravings, let me first tell you a quick story about how they form…
You can get away with a lot when you’re young, especially when it comes to the things you eat and drink.
During my younger years, I assaulted my body with the fattiest, sugariest and carb-loaded foods you can imagine. There were never any nutrient dense vegetables, good fats or lean meats in sight on my plate.
However, at that time I was relatively active and didn’t put on too much weight. This is why many people tend to ignore their health when they’re young; because it takes a lot more to negatively affect their health and, more important, notice their health is in decline.
This is also usually the time when food addiction forms in the brain, as they become so accustomed to overly enjoying certain foods that should be treats.
As I got older, things changed; I began to gain some extra weight, and I was a little less active because I had a job where I worked long hours and got into a routine (rut) that turned into a negative health cycle.
I started losing my exuberance for life, my energy levels were shot, I was constantly in a mental fog and was losing confidence due to the weight gain. Let me lay out the foods I ate daily that I become addicted to down the road:
- Morning: One to two large Starbucks caramel frappuccinos, coffee cake
- Mid-morning: Chips, soda/sweetened lemonade/iced tea
- Lunch: Buffalo chicken sandwich with french fries and a soda
- Mid-afternoon: Goldfish or Cheez-Its and soda
- Dinner: Pizza or chicken and white rice, a couple of beers or glasses of wine
- Before bed: Ben & Jerry’s ice cream
The reason I wanted to show you exactly how I ate is because this is somewhat of a standard diet for people: a combination of convenience drinks and snack items combined with restaurant foods.
The issue is that even though I wouldn’t admit it at the time, I can now say there was no doubt I was addicted to sugar and simple carbs.
In between meals, I would always get hit with a craving and would satisfy it with soda and chips. Each time I ate my “standard meal,” it would continue to feed my cravings and in time I found myself 40+ pounds overweight. Now this might not seem like a ton of weight, but I gained the majority of it within a six-month span and was trending to go even higher if I didn’t start changing my habits.
At this point, I decided it was time for a change…
Here are three easy steps I used to get over my sugar addiction (and you can too!)
Step 1: Prepare Better
Most times, I just grabbed snacks and food on the fly and would never prepare for the week ahead. This would leave me with trips to Starbucks, McDonald’s and other fast food restaurants costing me $8 to $10 a trip. But never mind the money; the amount of saturated fats, carbs and sugars I ingested was out of control and would leave me feeling full for only an hour before I got hit with a craving.
I get it… believe me, the idea of preparing a week’s worth of meals or snacks seems like a waste of time, and you’d much rather be doing something else on Sunday. However, when you cut your daily cost of breakfast and lunch down and start putting the right things in your body throughout the day, it’s a win-win.
Breakfast: Most people don’t eat breakfast at home before work. We tend to be in such a rush from getting that extra 10 minutes of sleep that we only have time for that coffee and breakfast sandwich at the fast food restaurant on the way to work. In most cases, that food and coffee you consume is a combination of simple carbs and fatty meats, which tend to feed the cravings later in the day.
I can’t begin to tell you how important it is to eat a well-balanced breakfast containing complex carbs, lean proteins and good fats. By doing this you keep yourself full longer and don’t feed into your cravings. Try prepping at night or waking up a little earlier in the morning so you can prepare a quick breakfast. By doing this, you will end up saving time and money.
Lunch: Food from the vending machine at work is not lunch. I remember I would eat a vending machine “lunch” three days a week and go to a sandwich shop the other two days of my work week. Before I started prepping lunches, things like chips, Cheez-Its, Baby Ruth bars and buffalo chicken sandwiches on french bread were my go-tos. I would tend to lean toward a can of soda or some juice to go along with it.
Again, this was constantly feeding my cravings, but my solution was super simple and would take me all of 15 minutes to prep for about three to five lunches a week. I would cook a whole package of chicken, chop a variety of vegetables and shred some lettuce and spinach. I would put the chicken and salad in separate gallon plastic bags or airtight containers. I could store it in my work refrigerator and use lemon, olive oil and cracked pepper as my dressing. It is so easy just to throw the chicken in the microwave for a minute and add it to the salad.
The best part about doing this is that I wouldn’t get that mid-afternoon craving because I was eating real nutrients that kept my body satisfied. Also, always bring a bottle of water to work or a reusable bottle. This allows you to avoid the vending machine soda.
Step 2: Drink More Water
This may sound too simple, but water is an absolutely incredible liquid.
I preach opportunity cost (what you give up) when it comes to water. Think about how many grams of sugar you take in during the course of a day from just your drinks. I used to consume around 1,200 to 1,500 calories per day, or HALF of my daily calories just from liquids, and most of those calories were from sugars and artificial ingredients.
Now that I drink water, usually around 64+ ounces a day, I limit my sugar/artificial sweetener intake to less than 5 percent of my daily calories consumed.
Your body naturally removes toxins on daily basis and by drinking more water you can accelerate that process. Artificial ingredients and sugar tend to build up in your system, which stores them as fat. By replacing the majority of your liquid intake with water, you naturally cleanse your system while also limiting new toxins from building up.
Ever wonder why you wake up with dry mouth, mind fog and/or a hangover in the morning? Regardless of whether you drank alcohol or not the night before, drinking more water allows your body to remain hydrated, which helps you wake up with more energy, mental clarity and without dry mouth.
Step 3: Fewer Artificial Sweeteners
The biggest issue with artificial sweeteners is that they’re hundreds and thousands of times sweeter than regular sugar. (Check out this article to learn more about artificial sweeteners.) Although you will notice the calorie count is zero, the effects that artificial sweetener has on your brain is similar if not worse than normal sugar.
Sugar and artificial sweeteners induce a dopamine reaction in your brain, which gives you that satisfied, pleasurable feeling. The more you consume the more dopamine released, and you end up building a tolerance. The science behind this is relatively simple; your brain adapts to increased levels of dopamine by creating more receptors for the hormone. The more receptors you have, the more sugar/sweetness you need to induce the same feeling as before.
So, am I telling you that you need to cut out all sugar and artificial sweeteners? Yes and no. It’s almost impossible to cut all sugar and artificial sweeteners out of your diet. But you can cut them down and still see the benefit.
What you need to understand and know at all times is how often you’re feeding into your cravings and what that’s doing to your brain on a daily basis. When you feel like you need a sweet treat, focus on finding primary sugar sources. Primary sugars are those that are all natural and not processed at all. At least, by enjoying a little all-natural sweeteners like honey, coconut sugar, fresh fruit or stevia you won’t overload your brain with dopamine and continue the harmful cycle.
Always make sure you’re reading the ingredients not just the nutritional facts. The amount of hidden artificial sweeteners, especially high fructose corn syrup, finding their way into our foods is unbelievable. Don’t be tricked, read the ingredients and understand exactly what you’re putting into your body.
Overcome Cravings for Good
Constantly craving something sweet or junk food is stressful. I hated when it happened to me, and I’m sure you hate it when it happens to you – especially when you know that giving in is going to send your blood sugar levels soaring.
Cravings and sugar addiction shouldn’t be something we have to live with… and the good news is, it’s not!
Not only will overcoming cravings feel like a weight lifted off your shoulders (or should I say mind!)… it will help to jumpstart weight loss, lower your blood sugar levels, and boost your energy.
Start here, with our free training that will help you see past several myths that are standing in your way, and show you what REALLY works when it comes to managing your diabetes.
Hi I’m Kyle Jensen the Wellness Coach at Smart Diabetes Solutions. Through poor eating habits and an inactive lifestyle I put myself in a bad state both physically and mentally. After years of retraining my mind and body I decided to take my newfound understanding of health and help others in their journey. I remember the struggle and how many times I almost gave up. Now I want to help others who are overweight or have Diabetes live a happier more healthy life.