I admit it. I have a sweet tooth. I couldn’t care less about foods like pizza, chips or cheese. Give me a chocolate chip cookie or chocolate-covered anything, and I’m happy. Well, at least for about 15 minutes. After that, the insulin rushes in and my blood sugar drops leaving me feeling flattened, agitated and in need of more sugar. This begins the sugar cravings roller-coaster that will ruin the rest of my day and leave me feeling bloated and guilty. I’ve been down that road too many times, and as a result, I choose to leave the sweets alone except for very special occasions.
Do I still have sugar cravings despite avoiding sugar? I sure do. While they are better than they used to be, sugar cravings tend to surface when I’m tired, stressed and/or gone too long without a meal. While I try to avoid all of those factors, I can’t always do so. I’m sure that you can relate, as sugar cravings are a very universal diet obstacle. That said, we aren’t going to allow an obstacle to get in the way of our best, right? No way!
I’ve put together a list of strategies to help you slay those sugar-craving monsters that sneak up and threaten your perfectly healthy day. Give them a try:
What’s eating you? Whenever I’m craving sugar, the first thing I do is try to understand why. Am I tired, stressed, hungry, etc.? Once you get to the bottom of it, you can try to address the core issue rather than just treat the symptom— the sugar craving. If I’m tired or stressed, I will try yoga breathing. If I’m hungry, I’ll have a little protein, fiber and fat.
L-glutamine. Take 1,000 milligrams to help shut down a sugar craving. Or, take it every morning and night to help keep the cravings away. L-glutamine also assists with muscle recovery, making it a great addition to your daily supplement regimen.
Essential fatty acids. Dr. Mark Hyman, author of UltraMetabolism: The Simple Plan for Automatic Weight Loss, recommends taking fish oils and eating low-mercury fish like flounder, salmon and tilapia to help control sugar cravings.
Pucker up. I once read that having something sour will help kill a sugar craving. I was skeptical, but it really works for me. Drinking water with lots of fresh squeezed lemons is effective. Or, sometimes I’ll just bite right into a lemon.
Regularly eat protein, fiber and a little fat. Doing so every three to four hours will keep your blood sugar stable. Be careful not to have more than 25 to 35 percent of your calories come from fat, as it is easy to overconsume fat since it’s calorie dense (9 calories per gram). I typically have about 5 grams of fat with each of my six meals.
Protein shakes are your friend. A creamy chocolate protein shake can really take the edge off of a sugar craving. Carry a shaker cup filled with a scoop of protein wherever you go.
Ten minutes of exercise. The next time a sugar craving surfaces, get active for 10 minutes. Try taking a short walk or doing a few sets of push-ups and crunches.
Rest. Getting seven to nine hours of sleep per night will keep your blood sugar more stable throughout the day. So, shut down Facebook et al. and get in bed at a decent time. Remember, our willpower diminishes as the day goes on.
Positive distractions. Drink tea, walk in the sunshine, call a friend, stretch, read something uplifting, etc. Have a list of things you can do to distract yourself from the craving. If you can get really involved in something that you love, you’ll forget all about that chocolate-covered pretzel calling your name.
Think pink. I’ve never tried this, but I thought I would share in case it helps someone out there. Brigitte Mars, author of Addiction-Free Naturally, recommends visualizing the color pink when you crave sweets. Pink represents love and sweetness, and can feed a craving for both.
Push Toward Your Best
While eating sugar daily isn’t a good idea, I think it’s unrealistic to believe that we will never, ever eat sugar again. (How could I not have one of my mother-in-law’s Italian loaf cookies during the big holiday celebrations?) So, on those days that you choose to indulge in something sweet, do it smart: (1) Eat the sugary treat with a balanced meal to slow down the digestion of the sugar, which will help minimize the extreme rise and fall of your blood sugar and insulin, and (2) Pre-determine a limit on how much you will consume, so you don’t get too caught up in the moment.
Keep pushing— your best is waiting.
Bennett, Connie & Stephen T. Sinatra, M.D. Sugar Shock. New York: Berkley Books, 2007. Print