How to Stop Sugar Cravings

Get rid of any high-sugar foods at home, don’t buy processed foods, say no to junk food, no more ice-cream…we all know that we should do these things, but sugar always finds a way to find you.

The only way to stop sugar cravings is to get rid of your sugar addiction. This usually takes 20 days without any added sugar or artificial sweeteners.

Quitting sugar is not difficult; the hard part is surviving the sugar cravings for 20 days.

This was my daily routine two years ago:

As much as I didn’t want to eat sweets, I somehow always end up having some. I instantly felt better so I had another bite, and then I felt guilty. I couldn’t stop and, by the end of the day, I felt miserable.

We know that we shouldn’t eat so much sugar, so why we end up repeating the same actions and feeling and unhappy every time?

Why we can’t outsmart our sugar cravings? 

We can, but first, we need to understand what’s causes them.  

In short: We have been hooked on sugar for a long time, and now we can’t break the habit.

The Sugar Conspiracy

Thousand Years Ago: Our preference for sweet-tasting food helped us to choose between ripe and unripe fruit. Unripe fruit can be very bad for us and ripe fruit is way more nutritious.

30 Years Ago: Food companies discovered how adding sugar to food would make people want to eat more, constantly craving for another bite. They got us hooked. Food companies continue to make millions in profits while people continually get sicker

Today: Sugar is everywhere. 74% of the food available in supermarkets contains added sugar. Sugar is found in products that are not even sweet. We live in a sugar-saturated world. (Video – How Sugar is Everywhere).

Worldwide, the consumption of sugar has skyrocketed, and so have  diseases like: type 2 diabetes, hypertension, and heart diseases. More about the consequences of eating too much sugar in my article “Worldwide Sugar is Killing us”

Why We Crave Sugar – The Sugar Habit 

After eating a chocolate, your brain is flooded with dopamine, and you instantly feel good. Then your brain creates a note “remember; this food makes you feel good”. 

Every time you see and eat a sugary food, you get that same reward – a small dose of pleasure. Then you repeat it, again and again.  

The trigger (see sweet food), the behavior (eat sweet food), and the reward (feeling good) creates a habit, and you’ve had this habit since you were a toddler. As children, we were often rewarded with sugary foods. Good behavior? Good school report? Feeling sad? We were often given sweets. This habit has followed many of us into adulthood. 

The reason sugar is so addictive is because it gives you an instant blast of pleasure. And we all love pleasure, especially when you don’t feel great, so we go for more in the hope of feeling better – often instantly.  

We repeat this habit so often that we start to develop tolerance to sugar, so we need to eat more to get the same levels of dopamine and to get the same amount of pleasure. 

When we stop eating sugar, we start to feel withdrawal, and your cravings kick in. Your brain is missing its dopamine and happiness fix. 

Why Sugar is So Addictive 

Alcohol is an addictive substance, but a lot of people drink alcohol but are not addicted. 

People get addicted to habits or substances when they are used to cover up or avoid emotions.

If we drink alcohol every time we feel frustrated, sad, or mad, you will soon start to develop an addiction because we feel at least one of these emotions (if not all of them) in every single day.

The same thing happens with sugar. We know sugar makes us feel better for a couple of minutes. If we start consuming high-sugar foods or beverages every time we get anxious, nervous, frustrated, mad or sad, we will start to develop an addiction. We use sugar to avoid feeling and dealing with these types of emotions. 

Since sugar is everywhere, and it’s not regulated, we all use it and without knowing that, soon, we will end up hooked. In time, instead of reaching for a sweet treat to elevate your mood, you’ll grab one purely out of habit – regardless of what your emotional state might be. 

Why Sugar Cravings Are Tough

Every time we feel those “negative” emotions (frustration, sadness, loneliness or anger) we instantly crave sugar because that’s been our habit for many years.

Let’s change our perspective. These “negative” emotions in many ways can be very helpful.

Loneliness is a great way to learn how to enjoy time with ourselves. 

Frustration helps us to lower our expectations and be grateful for our achievements. Good things are not achieved overnight. 

Sadness is a chance to rethink our actions and recheck where you want to go. 

This is not just positive thinking. Emotions are feedback from our bodies, and so we had better listen and try to understand what it is we need to do to improve our well-being.

When we block, avoid, or deny these emotions with sugar, alcohol, or any other type of drug, we are only postponing the inner work that needs to be done. This ends up perpetuating our suffering instead of addressing the problems that go on in our minds.

Remember: Sugar cravings only last for 10 to 20 minutes. 

How to Deal with Sugar Cravings

If you’re planning on quitting sugar, or you’ve already started your No-Sugar Diet (check my 20 No-Sugar Days Challenge here), you need to prepare yourself for those first sugar cravings. They can be intense, and there may well be several waves of cravings. As we know they’re coming, we need a plan to defeat those sugar cravings early on. 

1st – Awareness: Sugar Habit

First, we need to realize that we have a long-time relationship (a gentle way to say addiction) with sugar.

We eat high sugar foods as if we are on auto-pilot. Without realizing it, we end up eating four chocolate bars, a bowl of ice cream, or a big serving of any other high sugar food.

When you feel that life, or the universe, is not being fair to you, you find comfort in sugary foods: chocolates, candies, ice-cream, soft-drinks. They are a quick fix that temporarily reduces your suffering.

Solution: Be Curious. 

Allow your emotions to develop and see what happens. Allow them to happen, without denying or avoiding them. Feel the sadness, the frustration, the anger; let it grow inside you. 

Take a seat and silently observe your emotions happening. 

What other emotions are coming? What do you feel? As time passes, see that, as these emotions dissipate, and too do your cravings.

2nd – Why You Go for Sugary Food 

Sugary foods taste nice, but what we often really crave is the sensation of feeling good or the dopamine effect. 

It’s not because we are hungry. Instead, it’s the urge of “I need another hit of pleasure”.

Why do you feel you need another hit? Why do you need a quick dose of pleasure?

Solution: Force yourself to think about why you feel you need that instant pleasure? Is something bothering you so that you need something to make you feel better?

Take your time and write down your feelings. Understand what’s going inside you; the thoughts, the worries, the pain. Once you have finished, your cravings may have already gone away.

3rd – The Decision to Quit

Before you make the decision to quit sugar, I would like you to write down how sugar negatively affects your life, and why you have decided to quit it. 

These are the reasons that will keep you away from sugar for 20 days. 

This are my reasons:

Sugar makes me feel bloated, sleepy and gives me headaches. Sugar is making me fatter and puts me in a bad mood. The few minutes of pleasure I get from eating sugar is nothing compared to the next few hours when I feel miserable.

I took the decision of not having any kind of added sugar or artificial sweeteners for 20 Days so I could break free of my sugar addiction. Today, I can enjoy a sweet or a dessert occasionally but without having too much. My body naturally says “that’s enough”.

It’s a personal decision to quit. 

We are not forbidden to have refined sugar. We simply choose not to eat is because we know how it negatively affects our health.

4th – Rewrite the Sugar Habit

We are creatures of habit. You might have the habit of drinking a coke mid-morning or eating a candy bar after lunch, or having something sweet during a movie or at home after dinner.

These are hard-wired habits we have perpetuated for many years. Studies say we can’t delete them, but studies also show we can rewrite them.

Instead of popcorn and soda during a movie, we can have fruit (berries, cherries) and water, natural juice or tea instead. Instead of a sweet dessert after dinner, eat some creamy natural yogurt. By doing these things, we rewrite old, unhealthy habits with new, healthier habits. 

Remember: The can of coke and a dozen cookies might taste good during a movie, but you will feel miserable and even ill afterwards. While fruit and water, in the beginning, might not taste as good, in the long term will make you happier and healthier. 

Instead of a can of coke for a mid-morning snack at work, change it for some carrots, fruit, or a natural juice. It’s not the sugar-loaded drink you crave but, again, you will feel much better and much less guilty.

5th Anticipate your cravings

We all have different reactions to stress and emotions, so we need different plans for dealing with cravings. Test a few different strategies to discover what works best for you when your cravings strike. Good examples include: 

  • Listen to a music you like
  • Drink water
  • Brush your teeth or wash your face
  • Do push-ups
  • Write your feelings and emotions
  • Go for a walk

Find a behavior that works for you and then, when you feel the cravings, you’ll have a plan. The more times you do it, the easier it becomes to change your sugar habit.

6th Every day is a victory

You’ve been perpetuating your sugar habit for many years. Every day that you reduce or avoid added sugar is a victory. Celebrate it!

Tomorrow is another day.

7th Believe

As hard as it may be, remember that it’s going to get easier, and better days will always come. Sunshine always follows the rain. 

Always believe in yourself; you will find a way to beat your cravings and better deal with your emotions.

Remember: the long-term happiness of living a life without sugar is a million times better than the instant pleasure of eating ten cookies.

Conclusion

The reason why sugar cravings are so hard to deal with is we have been eating large amounts of high sugar foods for many years. Plus, we also use sugar to reduce the pain of certain emotions.

But sugar is not a solution. In fact, it’s the cause of many major problems. It causes weight gain, bad moods, chronic diseases, tooth decay, and obesity just to mention just a few.

The most effective I’ve found is to understand why you have these emotions in the first place, and then deal with them instead of using sugar to cover them up.

We all have hundreds of emotions per day, and having another piece chocolate will not help us to deal with them; it’s only a quick fix – like putting a Band-Aid on a broken arm! 

This is not a quick fix or a list of ten tips to follow; it’s a journey that will take you a lifetime. Hopefully, governments will start to regulate sugar, but until then sugar is everywhere, and will always find you wherever you hide.

Join My 20 No Sugar Days Challenge

Get rid of your sugar addiction: regain energy, lose weight, improve your mood, no more bloated sensation and improved mental focus.

20 no sugar days challenge by days to fitness

Join here

References

Ted Talk – A simple way to break a bad habit | Judson Brewer

I quit sugar! But who cares?

The 7 Step Program to Quit Smoking

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The way to stop sugar cravings is to listen to our emotions and let it go.

About Author

Diogo has lived and worked in many places around the world including Madrid, Berlin, São Vicente (Cape Verde), Indonesia and Macau. Traveling, he says, is the best way to... click here to continue reading

2 Comments

  1. Cravings are a good indication that is something wrong in the body and if you’re craving sweets you’re not burning fat, you’re burning sugar.

    In general, cravings can be related to the lack of certain nutrients in our bodies.

    Sweets: lack of potassium
    Starch: lack of vitamin B (nutritional yeast)
    Chocolate: lack of magnesium
    Ice: Lack of iron

    • Hello,

      Thanks for your message. I’ve read and investigated it and honestly, that’s a very simple way to put it. It’s not by adding foods containing those nutrients that your cravings will disappear. The way to solve the problem is right the opposite is to remove high sugar foods, which were the responsible for creating the sugar cravings in the first place. We have to ditch refined sugar from our diet. To break the refined sugar habit, we need to first understand why we use it so much and every day. It’s not one rule for everybody, is a process of understanding our emotions and how we can deal with them.

      Back to your solution: You can have a balanced diet with potassium, vitamin B, magnesium and Iron and yet you’ll feel the sugar cravings.

      When we have a high sugar diet our cravings are mainly our body feeling the lack of dopamine (that sense of pleasure) that we have been using every day to reduce the pain and suffering related to some emotions like frustration, sadness, loneliness.

      Have a great day

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