One more scoop, one more fix and I’m done. Maybe one more after that … I can’t even count how many times I fought the desire for eating more chocolate or ice cream.I tried to resist the sugar cravings only to give in, wiping out everything sweet I could lay my hands on.
Then I had endless conversations with my conscience, promising that from now on I’d play by the moderation rule which can hurt no-one, right?
But not being far off from a sugar junkie, when a week rolled over I found myself lost in the middle of chocolates and cakes all over again.
It wasn’t ’till I looked beyond my own shame and blame when I figured out how to escape the sugar obsession circle.
In the process I used some strategies I’d like to share with you so you can take control over your relationship with sugar whenever you want to.
#1 Understanding sugar cravings
You love pleasure. Of course you do! If not, you wouldn’t be here in the first place 🙂 Food is one of the biggest pleasure banks at your disposal. But what looks on the outside as love for sweets, is inside a chemical cocktail with dopamine in the middle of it.
Dopamine is the reward and pleasure chemical that is released in your brain when you experience pleasure. Whether you’re looking at a beautiful painting, skydiving or biting into a croissant, your body reacts in the same way.
Sugar, in particular, has a very strong effect on your pleasure (dopamine) centre. It works in the same way as alcohol or heroin does. When you eat sugar your brain releases natural opiates which don’t only make you feel good but also support your appetite.
The result? After you taste a cup cake with some bright, sweet icing you feel so happy and high that you can’t stop yourself from getting another one.
That’s why it’s not you or your will power what’s weak, it’s the food that’s so strong.
#2 Choose the real cuddle
How many times has the idea of “emotional eating” flicked through your head? And how many times did you reach out for a cake when you felt sad or stressed? Yes, it’s natural that when feeling down you’re more vulnerable and more likely to eat sweets. It’s because your brain reward centre is starving while you’re under pressure and needs an extra cuddle.
Sugar can do the quick-fix for you but as quickly as it makes you feel good you’ll land back on the ground feeling even more vulnerable than before.
Instead of using sweet tasting foods, find the real pleasure generators which will bring you joy, excitement and love. Talk to your partner, play with your kids, go for a walk, run, listen to music you love or read a book which will make you laugh. Choose friendships and love over the sugary gold and you satisfy more than your taste buds.
#3 Have a plan B
What exactly is your weak spot when it comes to sweets?
Pastries? Cakes? Ice cream? When you know what it is, think of its nourishing and healthier version. Just to be clear, I’m talking about “as close to nature as possible” and not about the factory produced low fat, low sugar ….. you name it, stuff.
Is it ice cream you can’t be without? Make some fruit berry/ banana ice cream and keep it in the freezer. Is it chocolate you love? Find a darker less sweeter variety when the craving hits you. Do you adore sponge cakes? Opt for the fruity types like banana, apple or pear crumbles so some of the sweetness comes from the fruit.
Or even better, make your own when you can easily control the amount of sugar you put in. To see some healthier versions of your sweet “friends” check out these recipes.
#4 Ditch artificial sweeteners
When a sweet taste hits your tongue, a message is sent to your brain. It registers that you’re getting in some energy and depending on how much you’ve already got, it regulates your hunger. But what happens when you drink a coke zero or diet soda? Your brain is fooled because it’s receiving the sweet message but without any calories. Result? Your hunger is likely to get out of control and you end up eating much more food along with your diet coke.
That’s why it’s better to use e.g. 1/2 a teaspoon of sugar (excluding diabetics) in your coffee instead of a sweetener. When you do so, your brain keeps track of the sweetness as well as how many calories you have got, keeping the hunger at bay.
# 5 Little Baby Steps
How do you wean a baby off the bottle? Little baby steps, right? When you really want to cut down on sugar, pretend you’re a little baby again. Make small, loving but lasting changes.
Do you add sugar to your coffee, tea, porridge? Reduce it by a third for a week. Then reduce it further. Your taste buds will slowly adjust their calibration to sweetness and after a while you may be happy without any sugar at all.
As I mention in How to turn your sweet tooth into an advantage post, use all the sweet goodies nature has for you. Dried fruit can be very helpful when weaning off sugar so why not choose some real nature candies like figs or dates with a handful of nuts? You’ll be amazed at how far that’ll take you.
After you incorporate these strategies you’ll slowly but surely push this “friend” out of your diet. And even though the old craving may strike back once in a while, eventually you’ll feel free and in complete control of your relationship with sugar.
Now I’d love to hear from you. Leave me a comment below answering the following:
1. What is your weak spot when it comes to the sweet stuff?
2. When are you likely to eat lot of it?
Thank you so much for sharing and remember you’re never alone on this journey to sugar freedom!