Have you ever eaten a donut at work in the morning because your company makes sweets available every morning?
For me, I first noticed this when I worked as a personal trainer at a gym. The gym wanted their employees to be happy so they put out gatorade and protein bars.
But did you know how much sugar Gatorade and some protein bars have?
- 20 oz Gatorade = 34 grams of sugar
- Clif bar = 22 grams of sugar
That’s a lot of sugar! I remember getting this ‘high’ feeling after downing a bottle of Gatorade and chowing down on a chocolate sweet protein bar.
But then, sometime shortly thereafter, my head might start to feel foggy and I would either start getting cravings for more Gatorade.
This sugar craving for sweets:
- Wouldn’t go away unless I got more gatorade or another protein bar
- Distracted me and was annoying
- Impacted other food choices outside the gym as well
Fortunately, I came to realize I had a craving for sweets, and I made some strides to understand why we crave sugar and how to stop these cravings.
This article covers some basic reasons why you get cravings for sweets and what you can do about it.
Craving For Sweets Reason #1: You Aren’t Eating Enough So Your Body Needs Calories
You are not eating enough during the day.
You are skipping breakfast, or only doing a hastily put together breakfast.
- A lame bowl of cereal
- One muffin with coffee
- Skip entirely
I know for me as a Personal trainer, I was so focused on my weight that oftentimes I would skip breakfast.
You also are probably not eating enough food at other times as well.
- Just a salad for lunch
- Working through lunch without eating
- Not eating snacks with protein throughout the day
Basically when your body needs more food for fuel, it will send signals — to itself!! – to start craving food to help with that energy deficiency.
Your craving for sweets will then begin because oftentimes sweets are high in carbs and fat, which is what your body needs.
Both carbs and fats contain lots of calories, which your body is craving for fuel.
Your body’s sweet tooth is actually just a way your body is trying to help you stay awake and function during the day!
Craving For Sweets Reason #2: You Aren’t Eating Protein Or Fat
Sometimes though, you do eat enough, at least in terms of overall amount of actual calories needed.
However, you can easily eat a lot of calories in one sitting but then have these calories be burned up and left hungry again by the next meal!
You eat a big muffin for breakfast. You eat a few big slices of pizza for lunch. But still you get these cravings for sweets. What then?
Oftentimes, a craving for sweets is because you are eating too many carbs and not enough protein or fat.
Here’s how you can think about carbs versus protein and fat.
- Carbs are like wood in a fire: they get ‘burned’ up and turned into calorie energy quickly.
- Protein and fat are like charcoal in a fire: they burn slowly for hours
Now what happens when you eat carbs, and then ‘burn’ through all your carbs very quickly?
You get a blood sugar spike and then a blood sugar crash.
Why am I suddenly craving sweets?
This blood sugar crash explains why you suddenly start to crave sweets.
Again, you are low on energy, even though it might seem like you just ate.
Remember that carbs are like fire. They burn up quickly.
Here are some common carb sources:
- White bread / muffins / pasta / pizza
- Juices / soda
- Candy / sweets / coffee creamers
- Most protein bars
So when you primarily eat these carb sources, and don’t get enough protein or fat, then you are left with sugar crashes.
And again, as explained above, if your body is low on energy then it will make you crave foods to get it more energy.
Since sugar burns up quickly, this is why you suddenly start to crave sweets.
Your body’s blood sugar is suddenly low on energy and your body wants to eat again.
Craving Sweets Reason #3: You’re Dehydrated
Your cravings for sweets can also be because you are dehydrated.
When you are thirsty, your body will begin to cause your body to crave more water.
However, the tricky thing about cravings is that sometimes normal cravings for water get mixed up and feel like cravings for processed foods.
If you find yourself craving these kinds of sugary drinks, this could be a clue that you are dehydrated:
- Fruit juices
- Coffee with sugary additives
Craving Sweets Reason #4: Sweets Relieve Stress And Over Time You’ve Developed An Automatic Habit
Cue. Routine. Reward. These are the components of an automatic habit.
What once started out as an innocent snack after work or school has turned into something else entirely …
I remember for me, I had a problem with binge eating. And fortunately, I was able to learn Intuitive Eating and stop binge eating.
After this, when I started developing a craving for sweets at work, I was more able to see the pattern I was falling into and make changes.
I was able to see that my craving for Gatorade and protein bars usually came at a low point during my day. This was when I would start to crave sugar the most!
Not only would Gatorade and protein bars help me with a sort of sugar high, but they also distracted me.
Here some other benefits of consuming sweets too:
- Excited about the different flavors
- Provided a social opportunity with coworkers
- Helped me take a break from work
- The sweet flavors were nice to taste
All these reasons ranging from the sugar high to a break from work constituted my ‘reward’.
The important thing to note is that sweets can indeed ‘help’ you. They can benefit you.
They help you take your mind off stressing matters for a little bit. They help you feel some good sensations on your tongue and brighten your mood temporarily.
That’s why you’re craving these sweets. It’s because of this reward pattern, in addition to not eating or drinking enough wholesome foods.
Now I was fortunate because I was able to spot this cravings pattern for sweet food pretty quickly.
However, you may have had years of mindlessly giving into your cravings for sweet food.
Now your craving for sweets is just automatic whenever you get stressed or need a break from work.
I know this answer is not fun and sexy.
Hearing that you have a deeply embedded sweet tooth that’s automatic and causes you to mindlessly eat is not fun.
Sometimes people ask me about vitamin deficiencies …
What Vitamin Deficiency Causes Sugar Cravings?
As discussed above, the deficiencies that cause sugar cravings are:
Basically there is no missing vitamin that is causing your sugar cravings.
For other foods, vitamin deficiencies can play a bigger role in causing cravings.
For example, if you are craving oranges then you could have a vitamin C deficiency.
It’s possible that with chocolate you are lacking magnesium too.
However, non-chocolatey sugar and sweets are a different story. These sweets don’t contain vitamins, so therefore rule out the idea that it’s a vitamin deficiency that’s causing your sugar cravings.
A similar story plays out with salty foods as well. Salty foods generally speaking don’t contain vitamins.
And speaking of a different story, here’s a sweet cravings side topic I want to address real quick:
Is Craving Sweets a Sign of Diabetes?
No, craving sweets is not a sign of diabetes.
While it’s true that some people with diabetes do need to consume sugar, there are tons of ‘normal’ people who crave sweet foods like candy too.
Overall, diabetes needs to be appropriately diagnosed by your doctor, who can measure your blood sugar and treat you accordingly. Cravings are not a proper sign of diabetes.
What You Can Do About Sweet Cravings
There are a few strategies to beat cravings for sweets.
- Eat more wholesome foods, more regularly, each day
- Practice self-care strategies (different from self-soothing)
Eat More Wholesome Foods, More Regularly
For me when I was at the gym, I had a goal to gain muscle.
My years of binge eating had left me skinny and depleted.
Fortunately, in my quest to gain more muscle, I also made progress on curing my sugar addiction as well.
I started eating more food in general:
- Sweet potatoes at dinner in addition to chicken: just a quick 7 minutes in the microwave and you can make a delicious sweet potato.
- Eggs with whole wheat toast for breakfast: remember how I didn’t have breakfast? Well, I made sure to get some non-white carbs and eggs. Eggs are a great source of protein and fat.
- Nuts for snacks: nuts are an amazing snack. I like mixed nuts. What kind of healthy snack do you like? Let me know in the comments below.
Fortunately, in addition to eating more wholesome food more regularly, I also had lived at a Zen Monastery for quite some time.
This time at the monastery helped me build self-care habits, which I brought with me when I left the monastery and later on worked at the gym.
Some of these self-care habits include:
- Checking in with myself throughout the day
- Getting more sleep
Practice Self-Care (In Addition To Self-Soothing)
You can think of self-care as like flossing. A little bit each day keeps the dentist away.
And flossing is indeed an example of self-care.
Here are some examples of self-care too:
- Taking a break at work to walk around and clear your mind
- Paying your bills on time so you don’t have to worry about financial stress
- Eating wholesome food more regularly (yup!)
- Doing some form of movement that refreshes your mood and gives your body some exercise
- Getting plenty of sleep
These are behaviors that you do each day, or most days, ideally. Instead of waiting for some break where you ‘catch’ up on your relaxation, self-care is done a little bit each day at a time.
However, sometimes people confuse getting a massage or going on a vacation with self-care.
Sometimes people even consider drinking alcohol or watching movies are self-care too!
And I don’t mean to bash or say that you can’t drink, watch movies, get a massage or go on a vacation.
However, we need to distinguish between self-care and self-soothing.
These are all examples of self-soothing:
- Alcohol for relaxation
- Watching movies
Self-soothing is fine. We need some self-soothing. But here’s the thing – self-soothing doesn’t solve our problems.
In addition, people may ‘put off’ self-soothing activities until the weekend or the next vacation.
In contrast, self-care actually moves the needle forward. And self-care is done each and every day.
If you incorporate more self-care, and I mean way more self-care than what you are probably used to, and eat more wholesome foods more regularly, you’ll have made significant progress in tackling your cravings for sweets.
Let me know what you think in the comment section down below!