For many of us, the holiday season includes a lot more sugary foods than normal. Sweets are part of many family traditions, from Thanksgiving pie to the candy in stockings at Christmas. This month-long, seemingly endless supply of sugary treats can leave us craving sweets by the time the new year rolls around.
While most people plan to cut back on sugar once the holidays end, it’s not uncommon to find yourself faced with intense sugar cravings. Sugar has addictive qualities. Once you get started, it’s a tough habit to break, and your body may loudly signal its desire to continue on a sugar binge.
Simple sugars are a form of carbohydrates that are easy to digest as well as a primary source of fuel for your brain. In addition, eating sugar provides a rush of endorphins that make you feel good and increase your desire for more.
Our preference for sweet foods is hardwired into us. Because sugary foods provide such a quick burst of energy, your body has learned to crave them. It’s an evolutionary adaptation that is designed to give you an edge in lean times.
But it can be frustrating to constantly be craving sweets. Especially after a season of over-indulgence, it may feel as though your taste buds have gone into overdrive and your brain is addicted to everything sweet.
It’s time for a reset. Instead of giving in to the lure of sugary foods, you can create an environment that fosters better choices. To stop craving sweets, you need both willpower and a plan that will retrain your brain and establish healthy habits.
How To Stop Craving Sweets
Feeling a craving for sweets is not the same as being hungry. The truth is, sugar cravings come from your brain, not your belly.
Hunger is your body’s signal that it needs nourishment. In contrast, sweet cravings are a signal from the brain that it wants a “reward” in the form of endorphins. Every time you provide that reward by consuming a sweet food, you reinforce the pattern and increase the likelihood of facing the same craving in the near future.
When you find yourself faced with a sweet craving, there are ways you can address your brain’s needs without caving to the quick fix of simple sugars.
Here are some alternatives to sweets that can put your cravings to rest.
Go For A Brisk Walk
For many people, it isn’t enough just to resist a craving. You have to replace the sugar habit with something else. Whether it’s walking or another form of exercise you enjoy, being active provides a positive way to give the brain the reward it desires: a hit of dopamine without the side effect of a sugar rush.
If you are craving sweets, but you know you’re not truly hungry, get active. A brisk 15-minute walk has been shown to reduce sugar cravings and improve mood.
Keep Your Home Sugar-free
You probably already know that you are more likely to crave sweets when your pantry is stocked full of them. Your brain is no fool. If sweets are available, the desire to eat them will follow.
Once the holiday season ends, clear the sugary foods out of the house. When you shop, go after you’ve eaten a healthy meal so you can resist the urge to purchase sweets. It’s also important to let family and friends know of your intentions, so they don’t tempt you with sugary treats.
Keeping your home sugar-free will decrease your cravings and increase your ability to resist if a craving hits.
Go Cold Turkey
Plan a time when you will follow a strict sugar detox. Sugar cravings are self-perpetuating, meaning the more often you eat sugar, the more likely you are to experience cravings.
For most of us, moderation is difficult, and it may be a better choice to forgo sugar altogether, at least for a while. A break will give your brain and taste buds a chance to adapt and interrupt the cycle.
While it can be challenging to give up sugar altogether, for many people, it is the most effective way to jump-start a better way of eating.
Enlist A Buddy
Chances are, you are not the only one in your social circle who is craving sweets and wants to break free. Find a willing friend or family member who can go sugar-free along with you.
When you partner with another person, it’s like doubling your willpower and commitment. If you experience a moment of temptation, your partner is only a phone call or text away.
Studies have shown that people are more likely to stick with healthy habits when they have a buddy to hold them accountable. It’s a powerful motivational tool when you’re breaking the sugar habit.
Have A High-Protein Snack
It is much harder to resist a craving that coincides with an empty stomach, so filing up on nutritious, healthy foods is a must. If you are craving sweets and also legitimately hungry, reach for a high-protein snack.
Foods high in protein are your best choice to squash a sugar craving. A high-protein snack or meal can:
- Make you feel full longer
- Increase hormones that lower your appetite
- Prevent you from overeating later in the day
- Reduce food cravings
Do A Stress Lowering Activity
Craving sweets is a common coping mechanism in times of stress. When your body is under stress your brain is more likely to desire the rush of energy and endorphins sugar provides.
Instead of reaching for sweets, do a relaxing activity such as:
- Listening to music
- Talking with a loved one
- Get out in nature
- Deep breathing
- Your favorite hobby
Break Out Of The Sugar Habit
Giving in to sugar cravings will just make them stronger. As you move past the holiday season these strategies can help you manage the inevitable cravings that will come as you cut back on the sugary indulgences. The quicker you resist, the weaker the cravings will get, and healthy eating will become much easier.
These strategies will help you turn down the volume of your cravings. As your desire for sweets subsides, you will be able to identify what your body truly needs. When you can recognize feelings such as fatigue, stress, and hunger as separate from sugar cravings, you will be able to better care for yourself in healthy and productive ways.
Instead of being at the mercy of your sweet tooth, you have the power to choose something better. Try these strategies to effectively break your sugar habit once and for all.