Craving sweets every now and then is something quite common among most of us. However, there are times where our sweet cravings come non-stop and may seem quite uncontrollable. And to be quite frank, it can be darn frustrating! Especially when you feel you’ve been doing so well when it comes to healthy eating.
On my previous post Tired of Stress Eating? I talked about why we tend to stress eat so much and what we can do to bring mindfulness into an act that can feel quite mindless. And this is a great strategy that I personally use that works! But that doesn’t necessarily mean that you don’t experience sweet cravings anymore. That’s what I want to focus with you on this post.
Why we crave sweets / sugar?
Whenever we eat something sweet (typically with tons of sugar), some interesting reactions happen in our bodies. Sugar triggers the release of the feel good, happy hormones like dopamine and serotonin. And boy do we love that feeling! I mean who doesn’t like to experience delicious moments of happiness? You know when you are having the time of your life and you wish that moment would never end? Well our bodies experience this when we eat sugary foods.
Naturally, when the mood boost sugar-high goes away, it leaves us wanting more. That’s why sugar can feel so addicting. Because it makes us crave and desire that feeling again and again. We learn at a very young age that we can drown our sorrows in sugar. Because it works (in a way). Even if just for a quick instant. Having a lousy day? Have a slice of brownie. In a bad relationship? Eat a cookie. Unhappy with your job? Ice cream to the rescue.
As much as I love romantic comedies, they are the masters of preaching this. The girl gets her heart broken. Typically this happens in the beginning of the movie or towards the end. She walks home at night, slowly and in tears. That catchy, sad and yet romantic song goes on. She arrives home and dives into the chocolate or ice cream. It’s just her, the spoon, and the ice cream pint. I bet dozens of movies just came to your mind. Right?
We are conditioned to seek comfort and pleasure in sugar. But this is not the only reason you might be finding it particularly challenging to tame your wildly sweet cravings. How you’re eating on your day-to-day may be playing a role here as well.
A little biology
Let’s first dive into a little biology. I promise that we’ll come back full circle here. Carbs in general (especially refined and processed) break down in your body quite easily and quickly into sugar or glucose. Your body uses glucose as a main source of energy. But whatever is not needed immediately, will be stored in the liver and muscles to be used for energy as needed.
Whenever you have meals that are carb or starch heavy like pasta, sandwiches, or pizza, you end up with blood glucose spikes. This throws off your body completely and triggers tons of reactions. Remember, the goal is to remove the glucose from the blood and either use it for energy or store away for later. So starch-dominant meals, will unload tons of glucose at once. Your body will work super hard to deal with it and what was once a spike will shortly after be followed by a glucose drop.
Your body likes consistency. Any radical changes triggers it because it’s designed to survive. So it doesn’t like being surprised in any shape or form. And glucose spikes and drops are just the worst. It makes things unpredictable for your body. With the spike, it tells your body that you have an abundance of food and energy coming in. But with the drop, it triggers survival mode. You’re running out of fuel and something must be done.
THIS right here, is what is responsible for your sweet and starchy food cravings. Because the best way to get immediate glucose is by eating starchy and sweet foods. So therefore, that’s what you crave when you’re just coming out of a glucose spike-drop roller-coaster. And many of us are experiencing this multiple times per day, every day!
How to eat to avoid cravings
Eating to avoid the spike-drop glucose roller-coaster is all about balance! It’s about making sure you include meal components that slow down the breakdown of food into glucose. These components are protein, fat, and fiber. Including them in every meal you have (big or small), will avoid your body going through instability. It’s a game changer when it comes to strategies to avoid daily sugar cravings. This also is a great way to make sure you have consistent energy in your day. No more carb comma after lunch. You can read more about how to incorporate this balance into your meals in The Secret to Healthy Eating.