Sweet Tooth? Here’s How to Fix It!
By Dr. Chad Walding, DPT
August 5th, 2019
What comes to mind when you think of sugar?
Maybe you inwardly cringe, feeling a twinge of guilt because of that last cake doughnut you reached for in the break room, the one you knew you should avoid but ate anyway. Maybe you start salivating immediately when thinking of the gallon of ice cream in your freezer at home. Maybe you’re silently patting yourself on the back because you’ve got a low-fat bag of chips on your desk, ready for the inevitable afternoon slump you always feel a few hours after lunch.
If any of those scenarios sound familiar, you might be struggling with a sugar addiction. And you’re not alone!
Sugar consumption is at an all-time high in our Western society, and it’s not just in the cereal, pancakes, pre-packaged oatmeal packs, doughnuts, lattes, and even fruit juices or ‘healthy’ smoothies listed in menus or lining the aisles of our grocery stores. It’s hidden in almost all pre-packaged foods.
Sugar is constantly being added to foods that don’t even taste sweet, and consumers are often unaware of just how much sugar they are putting in their bodies. It’s no surprise, then, that so many of us have struggled with sugar cravings for so long.
What Causes Sugar Cravings?
Most of us know that too much sugar is a bad thing. We know not to eat dessert at every meal, we see labels reminding us to try the sugar-free brand, and we’ve heard that soda is full of sugar and we shouldn’t drink it. Then why do we still crave sugar? Why can’t we just knock the sugar habit through sheer will power?
As it turns out, sugar’s role in brain chemistry has something to do with those strong cravings you can’t seem to beat.
Our reactions to specific stimuli (like sugar) are partially controlled by the brain’s release of a chemical neurotransmitter called dopamine. Dopamine is one of the ‘happy’ neurotransmitters that regulate our mood, and its release causes immediate feelings of pleasure.1,2
Of course, as the dopamine levels begin to subside, so does the feeling of pleasure, and our brain communicates with us that it wants more of the thing that caused the release of dopamine in the first place. The next thing we know, we’re reaching for that piece of candy in the bowl by the secretary’s desk, even though we tell ourselves we “know better.”
Is Sugar Addictive?
Many addictive drugs work in the same way on the brain’s neurochemistry – by increasing dopamine levels in the brain.3 As the brain becomes accustomed to these new levels of dopamine, it craves more and needs to increase the drug amount just to maintain the same level of high.4,5
Studies show that in both animals and humans, the over-consumption of sugar has led to addiction-like behavior, including cravings, withdrawals, bingeing, and dependence.6,7 No wonder that you feel you can’t help but reach for that mid-afternoon latte or run to the nearest vending machine for a quick pick-me-up. You’re actually addicted to the substance, and it’s time to change that!
Beating the Sugar Habit: 8 Tips for Overcoming Your Sweet Tooth
Don’t keep sugary foods in your home. As we learned before, sugar has all the characteristics of an addictive substance. We believe the best way to avoid sugar in your diet is simply to keep it out of your home completely. Just as an alcoholic would be unwise to keep alcohol in the home, so you should avoid keeping sugary snacks in your cupboard if you are fighting a sugar addiction. Take the time to clear all the junk out of your freezer, pantry, or snack drawer now. It’s easier to say no when there’s nothing to say no to!
Eat more protein and fat. If you find you’ve got an insatiable sweet tooth, it could be that those cravings are your body’s way of saying it’s not getting enough nutrients at mealtime. Protein and fat work together to keep your blood sugar stable, which leads to fewer cravings between meals.
Limit fruit intake. While it is true that the sugar found in fruit, called fructose, is natural and a better choice than the sugar found in snack packs or other packaged foods, fruit sugar is still sugar and has the same effect on the body that processed sugars do. Try to limit your fruit intake to one piece per day, and don’t eat it at breakfast. It’s also best to avoid bananas and other tropical fruits, which have high sugar content. Instead, stick to berries and green apples.
Focus on breakfast. American consumption of sugar is particularly high at breakfast, especially because we rush through the meal and often don’t take time to think about what we’re eating. Try to sit down at breakfast, chew slowly, and make time to cook a breakfast that will set you up for the rest of your day. Avoid processed foods and most typical breakfast items like cereal, muffins, doughnuts, smoothies, fruit, and pancakes. Instead, focus on protein, fat, and vegetables, and be sure to check the labels of bacon, sauces, and nut butters for any added sugars.
Avoid sugar in your coffee. If you prefer a latte or cappuccino instead of a regular cup of joe, try adding a scoop of collagen creamer and a spoonful of coconut oil or coconut milk to your coffee. You’ll get the same creamy effect without the added sugar. Here at Native Path, we love our Cacao Collagen Coffee – it comes together in a few minutes and is naturally sweetened with almond milk.
Experiment with allowing occasional sweets. Transitioning from a high sugar diet to a Paleo-type diet can be difficult. You may experience some of the symptoms of withdrawal that we discussed earlier, and it can be hard to break long-time habits like eating doughnuts at your Monday morning meeting or stopping for a frappuccino on your way to work.
Instead of giving in to these cravings completely, try allowing yourself a sweet treat once or twice a week, especially at the beginning of this new diet. Knowing that you have a treat waiting for you might make it easier to say “no” to other sugary foods throughout the day.
For some of us, though, it’s better just to abstain altogether. If you know that you won’t be able to just eat one of those gluten-free cookies you have hidden in your desk drawer, just get rid of them altogether.
Here are a few healthy snacks you can quickly make at home to stop that sugar craving in its tracks:
- Sauté apples in coconut oil and sprinkle with cinnamon and nutmeg.
- Spoon coconut milk over fresh blueberries or raspberries, which have a lower sugar content than other fruit.
- Spread nut butter on a small piece of dark chocolate.
Each of these options is full of healthy fat, which should help to satisfy your cravings and keep you satiated until the next meal.
Cook at home. Research has found that households who consume the most sugar were least likely to cook their meals at home, leading to an increase of pre-packaged foods and ready-to-eat meals.8 If you’re used to eating out or having take-out delivered, start slowly. Try to learn one or two healthy, no-sugar recipes each week. This can be a great time to get the whole family involved as you try new foods!
- Commit to a whole-body and lifestyle reset. Overwhelmed? The process of eliminating sugar from your diet, while simultaneously fighting your own cravings, can seem daunting. While it’s possible to implement the necessary changes in your diet and lifestyle on your own, we’ve created the NativeBody Reset to help you transition. It’s not a diet – it’s a full lifestyle reset program that will give you the exact recipes and step-by-step strategies to help you not only beat your sweet tooth, but also realize your full health potential. We’ve made it easy to follow and incorporate into your life.
Ready to break free of your sugar addiction? I’d love to show you how the NativeBody Reset can put you on the path to being your healthiest self – you’ll feel better, gain more energy, and look better than ever. You won’t have to fight those sugar urges, and you’ll create healthy habits that you’ll be able to stick with for life. We’ll walk you through the program over the next 30 days – you won’t believe how easy it is to start feeling your best!