How To Banish Incessant Sugar Cravings (Once & For ALL) – Part I

Incessant sugar cravings may be the #1 reason why people fall off track in their healthy lifestyle plan. It’s not just an availability thing (just because it’s there) either, but often is a physical craving for something sweet, including breads, pastas, and cereals.

In my one-on-one exclusive private coaching programs and 30-Day Challenges, eliminating sugar cravings are a much-wanted result of most of my clients. Some believe it’s a willpower battle while others are inclined to think it’s only an availability issue (if it’s not around, I won’t eat it) and while each answer is the extreme of a spectrum, I want to offer a more balanced solution for your vitality journey.

The truth is there is some tension to tease out when it comes to sugar cravings. Without exploring the complexity of this issue in relation to your unique experience, chances are that the lifestyle won’t stick. And “when the healthy lifestyle doesn’t stick, the results don’t stick.” Instead of posing one extreme or another (essentially segmenting the issue into pieces and parts), I’ll present a holistic starting point and an effective solution.

 Why We Crave…

On one hand, the foods we fuel our body with determine many of our physical cravings, while on the other our mindset, self-discipline, and willpower determine our actions on these impulses. Let’s approach each of these reasons lightly now.

Physical Cravings

If you experience any degree of metabolic derangement, including blood sugar dysregulation, obesity, metabolic disorders, pre-diabetes, diabetes, hypoglyemia, and/or IBS, to name a few, then you probably experience frequent cravings for sugar, bread, pasta, and/or salty things. This is often a result of blood sugar peaks and drops when we fuel our body with carbohydrates instead of fat. (Click here for more info: “A Metabolic Paradigm Shift, or Why Fat is the Preferred Fuel for Human Metabolism”)

These spikes and drops are not only physically demanding (i.e., we need to eat every 2-3 hours), but are quite inconvenient. Who has the time or space to prepare 4-6 meals a day and carry them on their person all day? Our solution is often pre-packaged foods that travel easily. The problem with this solution, however, is that these foods are laden with high concentrations of unhealthy fats, refined sugars, and carbohydrates in general (Yes, even the so-called “healthy” ones). And the more carbohydrates in a food, the more likely we are to eat more food sooner.

Plus, it’s quite easy to overeat 4-6 small meals a day instead of sticking with the recommended portions.

The result is a vicious cycle of what I like to call the Sugar Roller Coaster – up and down (& all around) – that is profitably fueled by our modern food system and big agribusiness. No blame here, but when this system doesn’t work we never think to question the system itself, but simply try to find another modification or solution to make it work more efficiently.

And the solution is often dolled off on us individually… to develop more…

Willpower

Willpower, the ability to say ‘no’ to an impulse, is a means of developing greater self-control and achieving higher personal development. With sugar cravings, we’ve often been told it’s just a matter of self-discipline and caloric restriction. But caloric restriction often just makes the cravings stronger because we are depriving ourselves of calories that we usually consume each day.

It’s easy for the health and fitness industry to instruct us to simply eat less and move more because it passes all the blame to little ‘ol us. It becomes OUR individual problem instead of everyone’s problem. If we’re simply educated more on how to eat less and move more, if we have more information and tips and tricks to do it more efficiently, well, then, the industry has done it’s job and it’s all on us now.

The only problem is, this is not workingEating less and moving more may or may not even address your cravings, much less help you lose weight simply and without a hassle. And, as mentioned in the above linked article, when we keep sugary processed foods in our diets on a regular basis, we WILL want more of them. Which means we need more willpower. Another vicious cycle contributor.

In their book Willpower: Rediscovering the Greatest Human StrengthBuameister and Tierney share a concept that we all have a certain amount of willpower for each day. When we deplete our stores in various ways (like check our email inboxes, for instance), then we have less control over our impulses. This would answer why many of us are more apt to make healthy decisions early in the day and less apt as the day wears on.

Although our willpower capacity may be increased, simply developing more isn’t the complete solution to sugar cravings because there will always be long days that ensure we fall off the bandwagon again and again and again if it all depends on willpower. Plus, how encouraging is that for us to stick with a plan if we are constantly “failing” in the willpower arena? Excuse me, but I need a better success rate for this health thing to be worth it!

Speaking of encouragement and success, these “uppers” heavily influence our…

Mindset

The way we think and what we believe at the very essence of who we are have more to do with our daily decisions, actions, and directions than any other influence on the planet. Read that sentence again. At the end of the day, you can have the best diet, the most organic food, a world class trainer, the highest income, the best gym, and access to the most resources, but if – in your heart – you don’t believe that you are worth it, that change is possible, that health is worth it, and that we live in a place of abundance… well, then nothing can help you long-term.

Seriously. In no way do I say this lightly. Mindset work is more important than fitness, in my opinion. Because if you do the work on how you think, then everything else – fitness included – will flow out of this growth. But if we try to medicate and treat the exterior symptoms with a diet or exercise regimen (without addressing the root cause), then the results may not stick. And when the results don’t stick, folks are constantly in the hamster wheel of “I’m on a diet and this is this month’s fitness flavor” without ever fully realizing their potential.

Click here for a more in-depth article on mindset.

But mindset isn’t everything. Because if we aren’t nourishing our bodies – including our brain – with the essential raw materials needed to thrive, then we shouldn’t be surprised when our lives reflect this with less willpower, unhealthy decisions, overeating, degrading healthand a poor level of fitness.

Which brings us back to physical cravings.

What if, instead of addressing physical sugar cravings with “tools” (i.e., more willpower, fitness, and positive thinking), we looked at the entire issue holistically and address the root cause in a similar fashion. Chances are, your sugar cravings are a combination of physical cravings, emotional cravings, stress, or some other root cause. But until you pinpoint it and understand where it’s coming from, you don’t know how to address it properly and overcome it for good.

Next week, I’ll share an effective solution to banishing incessant sugar cravings once and for all! Until then, you’ve got your Get Healthy Assignment. 

Your Get Healthy Assignment:

Preparation is the key to longterm success and vitality. I intentionally withheld the solution in today’s article because it’s time to start thinking longterm. There are no instant fixes. Sure, solutions can produce immediate benefits, but the real taste of success will come in the longterm consistency of healthy living.

Take out your journal or a pad and pen and do the following exercise. Keep it handy for next week too!

  1. Find a quiet spot, take a few deep belly breaths, and quiet your mind.
  2. Think about your habits and day-to-day living. When do you crave sugar and sweets? What’s going on before or about to happen around this time? What feelings are you experiencing (anxiety, depression, nervousness, sadness, etc.)?
  3. Do you attempt to fight the craving? If so, what are the results? If not, how do you feel immediately post-gratification?

My intention is to get you thinking about your sugar cravings over the next week. Take the paper with you, if necessary, and write down occurrences as they happen. This will give you a more accurate picture of your situation AND help us know exactly how to address it next week!

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