Do you find yourself constantly craving sweet foods but you aren’t even dieting?
Do you feel like sugar is controlling your life? And that there’s no escape from the vicious cycle of cravings?
If so, then it’s time to take a step back and reassess your psychology and emotions around sugar.
It may be difficult at first. But with some determination and discipline, you can break free from this addiction in 7 steps!
I’m going to assume for this blog post that you are DONE DIETING.
If you are dieting and trying to lose a lot of weight, please know NONE of these steps below will work.
Your blood sugar levels will be too skewed. You’ll constantly be surprised by a sweet tooth and won’t be able to build any sort of consistent habit.
To stop cravings you need a bedrock of regular eating for regular blood sugar levels and a mind free from the poison of dieting.
If You Are NOT Dieting and Get Enough Nutrition Then Keep Reading
Many times people stop dieting and they still have sugar cravings.
They realize that their cravings are more emotional and not related to nutrition.
You start to realize sugar cravings are emotional when you follow a regular meal plan but you still can’t stop craving sugar.
For example, let’s say you are NOT skipping meals, NOT over-exercising to burn off calories and NOT in the ‘how to lose weight fast’ mindset.
But even if you are eating enough and aren’t dieting, you may still struggle to curb sugar cravings.
In these situations, please follow these steps so you can be free from this emotional addiction to sugar!
1 – Reflect Back To Identify Triggers To Know Why Sugar Cravings Happen
Please know many people struggle with sugar addiction. It’s not just you, and it does not mean that there is something wrong with you.
People from all walks of life and different backgrounds struggle with sugar cravings.
You might wonder, “Why do I crave sugar so much?”
I wish I could give you a simple answer. But millions of people have sugar cravings. The reasons behind everyone’s cravings for sugar are different.
To figure out why you crave sweet foods so much you need to identify your triggers.
How To Identify Triggers
To identify your triggers you need to reflect.
You need to pause, think back to the moment when you had this craving for sugary foods. Then ask yourself some difficult questions.
What did this craving feel like? And when does this craving tend to happen?
Do you tend to crave sugary foods when:
- Are you hungry?
- Stressed out, or on edge about something in your life?
- Bored and need a diversion from the world around you?
How does the craving feel physically? Does your mouth water? Or do your taste buds tingle with anticipation as soon as the thought crosses your mind?
Or does it feel like emptiness deep inside and only chocolate or added sugar (like frosting) can fill up this hole in how you see yourself?
Really think about your cravings, how they feel and when they happen.
The key is to really think back to the moments where bingeing on sugar seemed like a good decision.
Even if for a fleeting moment before we crashed back down into reality again, there was a moment where bingeing on sweets seemed worth it.
What did you say to yourself at that moment?
Were you craving sweets as a reward? Because you worked hard that day?
Or were you genuinely hungry because you’d been trying intermittent fasting and not eating enough?
Once you can pinpoint your triggers, then you can start to break these habits!
2 – Interrupt Sugar Craving Cycle with Journaling and A Healthy Snack Before Giving In
Now that you’ve identified your triggers, you can ‘interrupt the sugar craving cycle’.
What do I mean by interrupting?
You do these three things before giving into your craving for sugar:
- Journal what you are about to eat. This helps bring mindfulness to your eating decisions.
- Eat a healthy snack like a chocolate protein bar. A chocolate protein bar is a great idea because you get some of the sweet flavor you are craving and lots of protein to quell your hunger.
- Have a glass of water. Make sure you drink some water because sometimes food cravings happen because you are dehydrated! Coffee dehydrates you!
Now if you have journaled, drank some water and had a healthy snack, then guess what?
3 – Take 5-10 Minutes To Relax (Or Distract Yourself) To Buy Time
The whole point of journaling, having a snack, and drinking some water is to BUY YOURSELF TIME.
This third step is a continuation of the second step. You are continuing to BUY YOURSELF TIME.
When a sweet craving hits, the most important thing you can do is BUY TIME.
Time is the most important factor in beating cravings because you need to give yourself time to slow down and think.
Remember those questions earlier. Those are the questions you must ask yourself when a craving hits:
- Why am I craving this right now?
- Am I hungry?
- Am I stressed?
- Am I bored?
Triggers Make You Lose Control So You Must Buy Time To Regain Control
When a certain amount of boredom, stress and/or hunger combine, then you will become TRIGGERED.
Each person can be triggered by different things, so it’s very important you identify what triggers you.
And when your trigger hits it will feel like you are losing control.
It feels like you are underwater and cannot breathe. Or that you are in an intense battle and can’t think straight.
It will feel like you MUST have something sweet.
This is when you must absolutely follow these 2nd and 3rd steps. You must BUY time by journaling what you are about to eat.
Continue to buy time by having a chocolate protein bar and glass of water.
CONTINUE to buy time by going on a short walk. Or you of course can take a bath, hot shower, read a book or do any number of things to relax and distract yourself.
I know you’ve heard about taking a shower or bath before. But I hope you are seeing the underlying strategy here.
Instead of just taking a bath when you want sugar, now we are approaching this from an entirely different perspective.
We are trying to buy time.
Buy time for what?
4 – Rationally, Calmly, and Leniently Negotiate With Yourself
The whole point of buying time is for you to be able to talk to yourself in a rational, calm and forgiving manner.
When you are in the middle of a craving episode it becomes nearly impossible to talk in a rational or calm way to yourself.
This is why we buy time, so that we can calm down.
Now you need to start negotiating, or talking to yourself in a calm manner.
To successfully negotiate with yourself you must absolutely know WHY you are wanting sugar. This is why step 1 is so important.
Why do you want sugar? Knowing why you want sweet things gives you the room to honestly negotiate with your emotional self.
For example, maybe the emotional self is craving sugar because it needs a break from work and is really stressed out.
If you only notice craving, but don’t BUY time to understand WHY you are having a craving, then you will MISS OUT on this deeper knowledge that you want something sweet because you are stressed out.
Buying time gives you SPACE to figure out WHY you are craving sugar.
When you buy time, you can then circle back to step one.
Oftentimes when you go on a walk, that’s when you figure out why you are craving sugar.
For example, a client of mine said she went on a walk recently when she felt like bingeing.
Instead of just white knuckling her binge, she really tried to ask herself WHY she wanted to binge.
She imagined the sweet, creamy texture of chocolate.
This was when sugar SEEMED TO BE WORTH IT.
BUT WHY DID SHE CRAVE SUGAR?
Well, she wanted to stop thinking about her stressful job. It felt like candy bars were the only way she knew how to calm down and slow down her mind.
On this walk she also remembered she had skipped lunch because of her stressful job. Suddenly she realized she was a bit hungry!
Now she knew WHY she was craving sugar. She wanted to calm down and satisfy her hunger.
Now that she was thinking rationally she could start to negotiate with herself.
Was a king sized candy bar appropriate here? What about some sugar, but not a lot? What foods would help her feel full and satisfied that were healthy?
Was it possible she could eat healthy first and then have some sugar if she still wanted some?
Watch Out For Perfectionism and Black and White Thinking
Many diets will tell you to cut out sugar entirely.
And many times I hear clients talk about intermittent fasting and keto. I know people don’t think of intermittent fasting and keto as a ‘diet’ but let me tell you something.
If you are fasting or are following keto and you absolutely CANNOT have sugar, then this is a diet.
If you must be ‘sugar free’ then you are not ‘sugar free’ because all you do is think about sugar!
Remember we want to be lenient and flexible when we negotiate.
If we start negotiating with ourselves by saying, “I know you want sugar but you can’t have any sugar”, then this is NOT a negotiation.
This type of thinking is not a valid piece of advice, diagnosis, or treatment.
If you say you CAN’T have any, then your emotional self will just get upset (potentially) and make you crave something sweet even more!
5 – Don’t Fight Yourself. Have Some Sugar. Make Sure You Enjoy It Too No Guilt!
If you have successfully bought time and done all these steps, then it’s ok to have sugar, or have some added sugar.
Let me repeat. Do these steps first before you give into sugar:
- Eat healthy snack
- Drink water
- Find some way to distract yourself like a walk or shower
- Talk with yourself in a gentle, flexible way. See if you can take a moderate approach instead of completely bingeing or not having any at all
Please know that it’s ok to have some sugar.
To stop cravings you paradoxically need to give yourself permission to WEAN off sugar.
When you go through these five steps listed above you will naturally start having less sugar. But it’s not like your addiction will magically disappear overnight!
No! You are still going to crave, so let yourself have some.
You can use added sugar as a bridge between binges and no sugar.
For example, instead of entirely avoiding sweet foods, try some added sugar to your baked potato or fruit.
I know you’re still having sugar but it’s ok. Added sugar to a fruit is still better than a full-on binge!
If added sugar helps you buy time to think rationally, then by all means use all the added sugar ingredients you want.
This will help you to avoid the big binges where you really feel guilty afterwards.
Just make sure you buy time so you are in a positive, grounded mindset. See if you can let yourself have a normal amount of sugar like:
- 1-2 Oreos
- A small bowl of ice cream
- One normally sliced piece of cake (not one of those super small skinny pieces!)
6 – Have Gradual Expectations
It’s very important that you can see yourself WEANING off sugar.
But it’s also important you don’t set your expectations too high.
When you first start to wean off sugar, you will likely feel frustrated that you aren’t cutting sugar out entirely.
That’s right. I know you! I know you will want to cut out sugar entirely even though I am saying to go gradually, right?
Well, just remember that when you successfully reduce your sugar intake, that this still counts!
Often people have this subconscious expectation that they need to be FREE of sugar RIGHT NOW.
Then even when they reduce sugar intake they feel disappointed. Like they are a failure because they had SOME SUGAR.
They don’t notice that they have LESS.
So, really make sure you notice that you are having less.
Make sure you start off with proper expectations. Understand that learning how to stop sugar cravings is a process and it will take time.
7 – Know Your Long-Term Goals
If you waved a magic wand and your cravings were all gone instantly, how would your life change?
If you no longer crave sugsr, then what?
- Are you now free to eat healthy?
- If you eat healthy, then what? More energy? More confidence?
I know your reason might be to lose weight. But why lose weight? What then?
More attractive? More ability to exercise and go on hikes with family and friends without feeling like a burden?
Taking the time to identify your goals helps you remember why you are working to stop cravings.
Then, you can reflect about the gradual progress you are making and see how you are moving closer to your goals.
Even if you still have some sugar, you can see that you are, for example, becoming more confident and getting more energy.
This is not a zero-sum game. It’s NOT no sugar or anything.
You can still move towards your goals and be having some sugar as you work to reduce your consumption.
How Long Does It Take To Break Sugar Addiction?
Sometimes you’ll hear 21 days or 30 days but the truth is IT DEPENDS.
How bad are your cravings? Is this habit something that you’ve had for years or is this a more recent craving?
Do you get cravings all the time or just some of the time?
Look. There’s no easy answer.
The solution is to know your long-term goals, and be able to move towards them no matter what.
What Can I Take To Stop Craving Sugar?
Don’t fall for those cheap gimmicky pills that promise your food cravings will go away.
There’s really nothing you can ‘take’ to stop craving other than the essentials like:
- Proper nutrition
- Feeling satisfied with your meals
- Catching your triggers
- Buying time
- Self talk
- Flexible negotiating
Final Thoughts on How To Stop Sugar Cravings
If your cravings are making it difficult to stick with your diet, don’t despair.
There are ways to fight through those urges. It is definitely possible to learn how to stop sugar cravings! You can break the cycle of bingeing on sugar or on other unhealthy foods to get that temporary fix.
We’ve outlined a few key approaches above which can help you overcome these temptations. Then you can regain control over what you eat without feeling like an addict.