Why Am I Craving Sugar? Top 2 Reasons

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why am I craving sugar

Ever wonder “why am I craving sugar?”.

We all know that cravings for sugar can pop up suddenly and frequently.

One minute you’re typing away and then you can’t stop thinking about a sugary treat!

Of course, willpower and simply trying to “remove” sugar from your life doesn’t work. 

Sugar is like a tricky demon.

It has a way of sneaking back into your coffee, or hiding out in your purse when you need a little treat.

If willpower doesn’t work to eliminate sugar cravings, what does?

There are 2 things you need to know to stop your sugar cravings:

  1. The Top 2 Causes Of Sugar Cravings
  2. How To Stop Sugar Cravings

The Top 2 Causes Of Sugar Cravings 

  1. Low blood sugar levels
  2. Emotional eating habits

Let’s first talk about low blood sugar levels and then emotional eating.

Low Blood Sugar Levels (Cause #1)

Low blood sugar is caused by:

1) not eating enough nutrients

2) not eating regularly enough 

If you eat more nutrients, and eat more regularly, your sugar cravings will go down. 

Here’s why low blood sugar leads to cravings:

Your body needs energy, and your blood provides that energy.

If your blood is low on fuel, your body will start to crave foods that will give your blood fuel, so that you body can have energy. 

The main reason you crave sugar is because your body needs energy and sugar provides that energy. 

Said more simply, you aren’t eating enough!

empty plate hungry not eating enough

Downfalls Of “Sugar” Energy:

You can think of sugar like coal. 

Coal is a non-renewable source of energy. 

Once you burn coal for energy, the coal is gone and leaves dirty pollution!

Likewise, the energy of sugar burns up very quickly in your body and you are left with nothing. 

Why Am I Craving Sugar All Of A Sudden? 

You are craving sugar all of a sudden because you were left with nothing.

The sugar you ate burned up like coal. 

And now your blood has no source of energy.

Interestingly, if your body craves salt foods instead of sugar, it’s actually the same phenomenon. Salty foods like chips are high in carbohydrates. 

Guess what happens to carbs? Carbs get turned into sugar very quickly, and get burned up like coal. It’s the same thing, just for a seemingly different craving.

Anyways, if you don’t get sugar you will faint or pass out. Your body knows this from thousands of years of evolution. 

So it makes you crave sugar all of a sudden so you replenish your blood’s energy source!

How Do You Stop Sugar Cravings Caused By Low Blood Pressure

Remember low blood pressure is caused by two main factors:

1) not eating enough nutrients

2) not eating regularly enough 

So to stop this source of your sugar cravings – low blood sugar  – you need to:

1) eat more nutrients

2) eat more regularly

Eat More Nutrients

Protein and fat are nutrients that are like sustainable energy (unlike sugar). 

Eat more protein and fat!

Here are good food sources and ideas for protein:

  • Chicken
  • Beans
  • Tofu

Here are good food sources and ideas for fats:

  • Nuts, including peanut butter
  • Olive oil
  • Avocados
  • Meats
  • Eggs

Please note that not all fats are bad!

While many fats found in processed foods or salty foods (like fried chicken or fast food) do result in heart disease, the fats listed above are good for your body and mind.

What Vitamin Deficiency Causes Sugar Cravings? 

Most likely your sugar cravings are because of:

1) not eating enough nutrients

2) not eating regularly enough 

I know I am repeating myself here!

But it’s tempting to think that if you ‘just got the right vitamin’ then your sugar food cravings would go away.

Oftentimes you’ll hear that you are lacking ‘magnesium’ and that’s the reason you crave dark chocolate, or other sugary foods.

However, this is only wishful thinking.

Magnesium is easily found in leafy green vegetables and many other sources of food.

If you eat more regularly, and eat more nutrients, you will naturally meet your need for magnesium.

While you may be lacking a nutrient, the real problems are in not eating enough or not eating regularly.

And it’s both of these things too – nutrients and regularity!

It’s tempting to just eat potato chips all day.

But even if you eat potato chips regularly, this just leads to more food cravings for salt, and sugar too!

(That’s right, salty foods cause both salt cravings and sugar cravings. Salt dehydrates you and so you may crave more salt, and the salty foods don’t provide enough nutrition so you crave sugar too!)

Overall, you can spend your whole life trying to find the vitamin deficiency, but if you aren’t eating enough or eating regularly you’ll always have sugar cravings.

Fortunately, many people will be able to decrease their sugar cravings by eating more nutrients more regularly.

Plus, eating more regularly and getting more nutrients will also result in other benefits.

That salt craving of yours? Once you get enough nutritious foods in your body, that craving will decrease too!

Emotional Eating Habits (Cause #2)

However, it’s quite possible that even after you eat more nutrients more regularly, you still have sugar cravings.

Remember earlier about the two causes of sugar cravings?

  1. Low blood sugar levels
  2. Emotional eating habits

Sugar cravings can also be explained by emotional eating habits.

To get rid of emotional eating habits, you really have to understand how habits work and why sugar is addicting.

Why Sugar Is Addicting

Walk into any workplace and there will be sugar laying around.

  • Donuts
  • Coffee creamer
  • Soda
  • Sweet breads

But what about sugar is addicting? Why don’t we become addicted to fruit or vegetables?

Sugar can be an “emotional” drug that provides the following benefits:

  • Distraction
  • Excitement
  • Burst of flavor
  • Temporary energy jolt

It’s these benefits that cause a craving cycle. This cycle explains how you may have developed a sweet tooth!

habit loop sugar routine cue, reward, craving

How Sugar Craving Works

Cravings are an expectation for a future reward.

To understand how sugar craving works, you need to understand 3 steps that make up habits:

  1. Cue
  2. Routine
  3. Reward

There is a cue. Here are some examples of sugar craving cues:

  • Stress
  • Low blood sugar
  • Boss yells at you

Then there is a routine. Here are examples of sugar routines:

  • Get coffee with creamer
  • Grab a soda
  • Have a sugary snack

This triggers the rewards we mentioned earlier:

  • Temporary relief
  • Distraction
  • Numbness
  • Energy

Then after experiencing these food intake rewards, your brain thinks “Oh, sugar makes me get all the rewards!”

And then when the cue presents itself again, your brain thinks about those rewards and craves sugar.

Why Sugar Cravings Cues Occur In The First Place

Why do we get triggered into craving sugar?

The answer frequently is stress and fatigue, or other negative emotions.

What if you were totally relaxed on a beach in Hawaii with plenty of money in the bank and nothing to worry about?

You felt amazing and happy 🙂

Then you get a slightly annoying email from your boss who wants you back from vacation. 

No big deal. Life’s good. You brush off the email. 

You know you can reply later. Life is good.

But … what if your baseline was stress, instead of relaxation?

How to Relax in Stressful Situations? 

Let’s say you’re running on 4 hours of sleep. Plus, you’re at work, and you’re not in Hawaii.

You get a similarly annoying email from your boss.

This time though, you need a break.

(Cue sugar craving habit)

Sugar gives you those emotional rewards you desperately want.

  • A few moments of peace and quiet
  • No more thoughts about your boss for a few minutes
  • Excitement in an otherwise dreary day
  • A boost of energy to get you through the day

How Do You Stop Sugar Cravings?

There are only two ways of dealing with sugar cravings.

  1. Prevent the stress from occurring 
  2. Decrease stress once you’re stressed

Prevent The Stress From Occurring 

If you are on 3 hours of sleep, you’re dead meat.

No way you’ll be able to prevent stress from occurring.

But if you get more sleep, you’re more likely to resist the little stressors life throws at you.

Here are some other ways you can prevent stress from occurring in the first place:

  • Plan out your day
  • Get exercise during the day (like walk around the block or take meetings on your phone)
  • Meditate more
  • Change your habits

Oh, and another good way to prevent stress from occurring? 

Eat more nutrients more regularly.

See, when your blood sugar gets low, it’s stressful on your body!

Your body knows it’s about to faint (or it thinks it’s starving to death). 

That’s why it ‘causes’ you to crave more sugar.

Plus, if you eat more regularly, you’ll have more time to eat mindfully and relax for a few minutes.

Decrease Stress Once You’re Stressed

But once you’re stressed and craving sugar, then what?

This part is difficult.

It requires you to do something else instead, but to get the same rewards that sugar gives you.

  • If sugar makes you feel relaxed, you could to go on a walk instead of eating sugar
  • If sugar makes you feel excited, you could to scan or watch music videos and get pumped up
  • If sugar turns your brain off, you could to sit there and deep breathe for a moment or two

Essentially you need to do a self-care routine, instead of eating sugar.

When you ‘resist’ the sugar craving, you are retraining your brain.

After you experience the new reward from walking, watching music videos, or deep breathing, your brain is learning a new way to deal with stress instead of responding by eating sugar.

It takes time to rewire your brain, so be patient.

In the beginning you’ll go on a walk, and still want sugar.

That’s ok. It takes time to rewire, so don’t have too high expectations that you’ll quit sugar overnight.

But if you can:

– keep your blood sugar at normal levels by eating regularly

– get enough nutrients

– get more sleep

– plan out your day

– practice self care instead of reaching for sugary treats

If you do these things then you’ll be well on your way to reducing your sugar craving.

Let me know how it goes or if you have any questions left!

About the Author

Jared Levenson is a former binge eating wrestler turned Zen Buddhist Monk, Internal Family Systems counselor and nutrition wellness coach. He's helped hundreds of people through universal meal principles and internal family systems to make peace with food, stop binge eating, and find true health and wholeness.


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