By: Kristi Goode
As you know, sugar cravings can hit at random times . But did you know there may be more than one possible reason? I've spent a few years working with clients to help them break free from sugar cravings and constantly having their hand in the cookie jar or searching the pantry late at night. In the past, these cravings have kept some of my former clients in the “yo-yo dieting” cycle. They feel good through the day, and then "eat all the things" at night or on the weekends. I've also discovered a correlation between dieting and sugar cravings. Sugar cravings can be intensified by restrictive diets, both in terms of food and mentality. I’m going to explain five reasons why dieting can be linked to sugar cravings below.
First off, dieting seems to keeps you hooked on sugar because most “diet” foods are low in calories and fat, yet higher in sugar. So, if you're on a diet you're probably choosing low-calorie and low-fat items to decrease or cut your calories. These foods, however, are quite high in sugar. And sugar can spikes your blood sugar quickly and then drops it quickly, leaving you craving more sweets. Therefore, this can put you on the “dieting roller coaster”.
Second, calorie restriction makes you feel hungry. And hungry people seek food no matter the food source. Once hanger sets in you will eat just about anything in sight! In other words when your blood sugar is lower than it should be, your brain instructs your body to seek and eat high-sugar foods because glucose (sugar) is the fastest source of energy for your body. Some of these higher sugar foods are generally granola bars, candy bars, crackers, etc.
Third, foods that are forbidden or restricted make you crave them even more. Fad diets generally have “rules”, meaning they sometimes include a list of foods that you are allowed to consume and foods to avoid. When you tell yourself you can't have something, it becomes much more appealing, and you tend to crave it even more! Has this happened to you? It's kind of like the saying "you always want what you can't have".
Fourth, dehydration. Thirst may resemble hunger. It’s been noted that some people respond to hunger cues with food when they are truly just thirsty. And I don’t know about you, but it can be hard to make sure you’re always properly hydrated. So, grabbing some water can be the first step in determining if you are hungry, or just thirsty!
Finally, sugar cravings can be triggered by stress. In times of stress, some seek food for comfort in response to the emotion. This is where we need to stop and mentally acknowledge why we are eating. You can being by asking yourself these questions to get to the root cause of why you are eating. What is the stressor? Am I physically hungry or just eating in response to the emotion? How will eating relieve the stressor? Therefore, stress plays a huge role in regard to the emotional side of craving sugary snacks. And stress eating can keep you on the dieting roller coaster, too.
In conclusion, sugar cravings can keep you on the dieting roller coaster if you aren’t aware of some of the reasons you may be craving sugar. Low calorie and restrictive diets can lead to blood sugar imbalance due to constantly seeking sugar. Dehydration and stress are other triggers of sugar cravings and can be addressed by paying attention to water intake and recognizing how stress is playing a role in those sugar cravings. Now that you are aware of some of the reasons we crave sugar, what step will you take to become more aware of your own cravings?