Understanding and Beating a Sugar Craving
Sugar can be a powerfully addicting substance. I would argue that it can be close to the same level as cigarettes and alcohol. When one is caught up on a sugar binge, it can be hard to stop. It may seem like a carnival ride, with its highs and lows. Here are some questions I was recently asked on an interview about sugar cravings and my responses:
1. What is the easiest way to beat sugar cravings in the moment?
- Everybody is different. However, what works for many is cocoa. Just pour hot water over unsweetened cocoa powder and drink to crush a sugar craving. If cocoa isn't your thing, have healthy but good tasting alternatives on hand. Examples: frozen berries, natural snack bars like KIND bars (the ones with low sugar content), etc.
2. Why do people normally crave sugar?
- A true “craving” for sugar comes from the brain as a desire. Often due to emotional stress, boredom, etc. A rapid intake of sugar will in the short term fuel the brain as well as increase production of feel good neurotransmitters, such as dopamine. But shortly after a sugar fix you will "crash".
- However, if you crave sugar after a large meal, or because it gives you energy, it probably means you have an imbalanced metabolism. For most people this manifests as “insulin resistance”, or “reactive hypoglycemia”. Often simple dietary changes can make all the difference.
3. What are a few practices people can do to avoid a sugar craving?
- Have a cup of coffee. It contains substances that reduce hunger. However, it is important to have your cup of coffee around 9am or earlier. Drinking a second cup of coffee or more after this time may cause blood sugar instability, which can lead to low energy and subsequent sugar cravings.
- Find activities that help buffer stress. Even simple things that reduce stress can actually help people to overcome their sugar cravings. Examples are taking a leisurely walk, having a hot bath, listening to relaxing music, meditation, etc.
- Get more sleep. Several nights in a row with too little sleep will cause more sugar cravings. Getting those 7-8 hours keeps your hormones balanced and cravings in check.