Sugar gets a bum rap for good reason: It’s connected to myriad health problems. Here are 12 steps for ending sugar cravings once and for all
Eating highly-processed foods filled with sugar sets up a vicious cycle that results in nutritional deficiencies and leads to chronic illness and obesity.
~ Dr. Karen Wolfe
Let me start this article with two basic facts that most people don’t know.
FACT #1: Removing sugar cravings and balancing your blood sugar is one of the best health action steps you can take!
This statement might surprise you because most people only consider blood sugar regulation in relation to diabetes. The truth is added sugars and refined sugars that are found in so many food items, have harmful effects on weight and contribute to many diseases.
FACT # 2: The food manufacturing industry has hooked us into addictive foods that have hijacked our brain chemistry, our health and our waistline.
This means we must be ever vigilant about understanding food labels and not accept that “low-fat” or “whole-grain” or “gluten-free” means “healthier.”
I am determined to awaken people to the truth about sugar and help then get off the sugar roller coaster!
Why are we worried about sugar? The best way I can describe the damaging effects of sugar is to say that high blood sugar over time and the resulting high insulin levels are a major cause of inflammation of the body…and inflammation is the root cause of most chronic illnesses.
Are all sugars bad?
The word “sugar” can be confusing. Let me define a few terms. Carbohydrates are simply long chains of sugar molecules and not all carbohydrates are the same.
The carbohydrates I am most concerned with are the ones that raise blood sugar the quickest. These carbohydrates include anything that is made with refined flour (bread, cereals, and pastas); also rice and liquid sugars such as soda and fruit juice. I call these “fast carbs” because they raise blood sugar fast and this results in the hormone insulin surging, which then creates weight gain and inflammation!
The “slow carbs” are the ones that take longer to break down and do not cause a surge in blood sugar. Examples of “slow carbs” are all the wonderful fresh vegetables in their natural state, as nature intended.
Is Sugar Really an Addiction?
So, if “fast carbs” are so bad, why don’t we just stop eating them?
For many of us, sugar cravings seem impossible to break.
For many years, studies have demonstrated that sugar triggers the brain’s pleasure and reward centers—areas in the emotional centers of the brain responsible for the release of the “feel good” neurotransmitters. These are the same brain areas stimulated by cocaine, nicotine, opiates (such as heroin and morphine), and alcohol. This addiction is associated with real physiological changes in the brain. [Not sure if you’re really addicted to sugar? There’s a helpful questionnaire in my free ebook below this article.]
So, what can we do to get off the sugar roller coaster?
A 12 Step Plan for ending sugar cravings for good:
1. Consider a 5 Day “Jumpstart”
I have my clients reset their body to help kick them into gear and curb cravings for carbohydrates. This is done with a total focus on protein and slow carbs and elimination of fruit and “white foods” for 5 days. I have seen this help jumpstart my clients into healthy eating habits and begin to make a clean break from unhealthy, high-glycemic foods. They also have the option of using a ready-to-go cleanse kit if that helps them.
2. Stop the “white” foods (except cauliflower)
By this I mean foods that are white in color and that have been processed and refined. This includes flour, rice, pasta, bread, crackers, cereal, and simple sugars like table sugar and high-fructose corn syrup.
3. Always eat breakfast
Having a low glycemic breakfast will set you up for the rest of the day. Don’t skip breakfast or those creeping sugar cravings will find you later in the day!
4. Eat protein with every meal and snack
Protein has been proven to reduce appetite and hunger. If you feel full, then you are less likely to crave the quick hunger fix that sugar provides.
5. Avoid liquid sugar!
Sodas, energy drinks, sports drinks and fruit drinks often contribute a huge amount of the added sugar in our diets. Here are some alternative options:
- A water bottle with a diffuser so you can add slices of fruit or cucumber to taste
- Herbal teas come in so many varieties and you can have them hot or cold
- Add lemon or lime to your water
6. Avoid Processed Foods as much as possible
If it comes in a package, it has probably been “refined” and will have an effect on your blood sugar level.
7. Ditch artificial sweeteners
These artificial sweeteners are many times sweeter than table sugar and they can trick your metabolism to think you are actually having sugar!
8. Move every day
You cannot exercise away an unhealthy diet, but exercise will make your cells and muscles more sensitive to insulin, as well as, reduce the stress hormone cortisol (which can increase appetite and waistline).
9. Choose Low Glycemic Snacks
Scheduling healthy snacks to eat every 3 hours is a smart strategy for maintaining stable blood sugar levels. Plan for snacks to have protein and slow carbs. [Learn about the top 10 low glycemic snacks in my ebook below.]
10. Boost Your Serotonin Naturally
The ‘happiness hormone’, is often the name given to serotonin. When serotonin levels are low, we can act impulsively and have intense cravings for alcohol or sweets or carbohydrates. There are natural ways to boost serotonin. Here is the list that I share in my ‘Sugar Busters’ program to help boost serotonin naturally. All these are great lifestyle practices that also help us in many other areas of our health. These are directly from my book Is Your Lifestyle Killing You?
- Eat protein with every meal and snack (tryptophan is the precursor of serotonin)
- Improve your sleep quality
- Get sunshine every day (or full spectrum light if the sun doesn’t shine)
- Exercise daily
- Improve your digestive health (most of your serotonin is made in your gut)
- Stress Less!
- Have massages regularly
- Cultivate deep, authentic friendships (social media does not count!)
- Take a high quality cellular nutrition supplement (my website has more information on this)
- Practice gratitude, prayer and/or meditation
When you have higher levels of serotonin, you are less likely to have cravings for sweets.
11. Drink Plenty of Water
You may sometimes think that your body is asking for sugar, when in fact it’s dehydrated and is really craving water!
12. Get Good Quality Sleep
Sleep deprivation can trigger the hunger hormone as well as the stress hormone (cortisol) that can trigger cravings!