How To Stop Sugar Cravings For Good
Without Feeling Deprived or Relying on Willpower
Ready to stop sugar cravings for good this time?
I’m not talking about just for a day or a week or a temporary crash diet that makes you feel miserable…
But a way to truly break free of the yo-yo cycle for the long term and achieve a healthy relationship with food.
You are likely here because you want to start or stick with a real food diet. Maybe you’re even on Paleo or AIP. Your goal is to use diet and lifestyle changes to help resolve painful physical symptoms. You know diet is part of the picture to address root causes that keep your health out of balance.
But you wonder how some people make it look so easy.
Maybe you’re afraid to even start a real food diet because it seems impossible to cut out certain foods like bread, pastries and candy.
Or maybe you’ve tried already, only to throw in the towel as soon as one of your coworkers brings in homemade cookies or birthday cake.
And let’s be real. If you work in an office, temptations to eat sugar in the break room are more a daily occurrence than a rare exception. Am I right?
"This is too hard!"
Why does it seem so hard to stick to a real food diet that removes most forms of sugar, processed foods and inflammatory foods?
The #1 answer I get is: craving sugar and carbs.
I deeply understand how insurmountable these cravings can feel. Although I didn’t know it at the time, I spent most of my life ruled by:
- a sugar-burning metabolism
- constant snacking
- and nonstop cravings
Without realizing how destructive this pattern is, until recently.
I have since found a way to stop sugar cravings, transition out of that vicious cycle and experience true food freedom. I am no longer a prisoner to these cravings or foods I used to not be able to resist, even though I knew they were not serving my body.
In addition to helping myself break this cycle, as an FNTP I have also walked numerous clients through this same transition.
I have witnessed firsthand how gratifying it can be to stop the cycle of sugar cravings long term without deprivation or powering through on willpower alone.
Now I intend to walk you through the framework I use to make this possible.
But first, it’s imperative to understand the big picture underlying this problem.
The Problem: The Real Reason for Your Sugar Cravings
First, let me address the elephant in the room.
I’d be willing to bet that the real, deeper reason for your sugar cravings is NOT because you are weak or an emotional eater or lack willpower.
The truth is, there are very powerful PHYSICAL mechanisms that are very likely at play in your body right now that keep you wired to crave sugar and simple carbs.
You are not alone if you experience this. It is basically the default mode in our modern lifestyle.
The good news is that you recognize that it is a problem. After all, you are here right now reading this, trying to do something about it.
That’s not to say that emotional factors have nothing to do with this cycle. They are often important pieces of the puzzle to address.
However, trying to solve the problem by focusing only on the emotional aspect and ignoring the physical mechanisms is like having a nail in your foot and treating it with ibuprofen or Tylenol.
It may take away the pain in the short run, but it won’t lead to a sustainable solution.
It is critical to understand the root causes. Once you gain clarity on the big picture, it becomes almost a no-brainer to take the steps needed to reach the solution and stop sugar cravings.
So what are those physical mechanisms that keep us wired to crave sugar?
The short answer: blood sugar patterns that are out of whack.
Now before I lose you because your doctor told you that your blood sugar is “normal” and you don’t have diabetes…stay with me for a moment.
Most people are not aware that blood sugar regulation or sugar handling is something that we all need to be aware of. Not just people with diabetes.
When we eat meals or snacks that are high in carbohydrates, we cause a spike in our blood sugar or glucose levels.
This is especially true with refined carbohydrates or sugar. But any type of carb can have this effect. That’s because carbs break down into simpler sugars during the digestive process.
To deal with this spike, our pancreas secretes insulin. Insulin is a hormone that tells cells to store glucose to be used for energy either now or later.
A new kind of emergency
The problem? Until very recently in human history, we never encountered these rapid blood sugar spikes. Our blood sugar management system wasn’t really designed to handle an emergency need to LOWER blood sugar.
This means the pancreas tends to overcompensate and release too much insulin.
That rush of insulin results in a rapid drop in blood glucose below normal levels. When this happens, we usually feel either an energy crash or intense sugar cravings, or both.
This puts us in a yo-yo state, the blood sugar/energy “roller coaster.”
The pattern typically repeats throughout the day as we fuel ourselves with sweets, coffee or constant snacks.
Even though it goes on silently in the background often without our awareness…
This “roller coaster” pattern that results from a high glycemic diet and excess carbohydrates is actually the main contributor to chronic stress in most of our lives.
Without getting too technical, a group of organs called the HPA axis plays a key role in blood sugar regulation. That includes the famous adrenal glands. The result: this cycle tends to cause either a “wired and tired” state or flat out constant fatigue.
What’s so bad about this cycle?
You may be thinking: “What’s so bad about being tired all the time? I see no problem relying on coffee and sugar to get through the day.”
After all, you may have been in this pattern for a long time, you’re used to it by now, right?
The problem is this pattern is highly inflammatory. It also leads to dysregulation of hormones that regulate hunger, weight storage and metabolism.
We end up craving carbs as our body’s preferred fuel source. These carbs burn up quickly like kindling on a fire. This leaves us always wanting more.
We also end up with hormonal signals that tell our body it’s in a survival state. This causes:
- Slower metabolism
- Increased fat storage
- Increased hunger signals
Can you see how this is such a vicious cycle?
The problem is that sugar is everywhere in our society.
But we have to remember that what is common is not normal.
Excess consumption of sugar and refined carbohydrates has become completely normalized in our culture.
The pattern described above may go on behind the scenes. Yet it leaves many people surprised when they develop chronic diseases or other inflammatory conditions.
Maybe you are lucky and you never develop a disease like diabetes or heart disease. Even so, you likely experience some of these side effects of this sugar roller coaster:
- Mid-morning or late afternoon energy crashes
- Relying on caffeine or sugar to get through the day
- Mood issues or brain fog
- Various symptoms of mineral deficiencies and difficulty detoxing
- Weight gain
- Allergies, skin issues and more.
Sugar also has a devastating impact on the gut. This can create yet another vicious cycle of craving sugar even more intensely.
Does this help you understand why it’s not just emotional eating or other emotional factors that keep you craving sugars and carbs?
Yes, emotions often play a huge part in the cravings. That is, once the stage is already set for us to be wired to crave carbs because of these physical mechanisms.
Would you like to look a bit deeper at the science behind all this and how our different blood sugar organs interact together? If so take a look at this Ted-Ed video:
The Solution: How To Break The Cycle and Stop Sugar Cravings
Hopefully now you understand the big picture regarding these physical mechanisms that keep you wired to crave carbs and sugars. You may be wondering…
What’s my next best step? How do I break free of that cycle?
So now let’s dive in to the solution. Learn how to stop sugar cravings on a functional level, without relying on willpower alone.
To truly break that vicious cycle, it’s usually necessary to make changes in the following areas:
Transition Your Metabolism To Break Free of the Vicious Cycle
I will cover diet first because I believe that diet is at least 80% of the solution.
Diet is the single most important, impactful foundational piece to this puzzle.
Before I outline specific diet changes, understand the big picture of what we are trying to achieve with diet.
You want to eat in such a way to:
- Transition out of this sugar burning metabolism cycle and
- Achieve metabolic flexibility.
What is metabolic flexibility?
Metabolic flexibility means your body is able to effectively use a variety of fuel sources. That is, instead of relying primarily on sugar or glucose as a quick burning fuel source.
It means training your metabolism to tap into burning fat as a more stable, slow-burning fuel source.
The nice thing about this transition? If done right, you will naturally end up incorporating nutrient dense real foods that actually taste really, really good.
So you end up with more stable, slow-burning energy. AND also love the food you eat and not feel deprived at all.
Willpower falls out of the equation in the long term as you solidify this metabolism transition.
Your taste buds adjust to crave these savory foods. You feel naturally satiated most of the time. You can consciously choose when to indulge in special treats… Instead of feeling like a prisoner to your cravings.
Specific Steps to Take To Transition Your Metabolism and Stop Sugar Cravings
Now that you understand the big picture of both the problem and solution, let’s touch on the specific steps to take to make that transition.
I won’t go into too much detail here, because I could honestly write an entire book on the topic.
Stay tuned for future blog posts here diving deeper into each of these steps to help support you on your journey.
Step 1: Adjust Your Macronutrient Ratios
Specifically, you want to adjust your diet to include more quality protein and healthy fats. This helps promote greater blood sugar stability.
When you’re getting started transitioning off a typical higher-carb diet, this might look like aiming for roughly equal amounts of calories from each macronutrient.
30-30-40 is a helpful starting point. This means roughly:
- 30% of your calories from protein
- 30% of calories from fat
- 40% from carbs
Eventually you can fine tune to identify more specific macronutrients ratios that best suit your individual needs. This may look like a greater percentage from fat and lower carbs.
If possible, make all your meals and snacks roughly fit this formula, instead of having all your carbs for the day at once.
We are trying to avoid any surge in blood sugar levels. Fats and proteins slow the absorption of glucose from carbs into the bloodstream.
Depending on whether you are currently on a Standard American Diet or a low carb / ketogenic style of eating, the ratios above may seem way too high or way too low. Sarah Ballantyne, PhD of The Paleo Mom breaks down the science behind optimal carb intake in this article.
Step 2: Break Up With Sugar and Refined/Processed Foods
Let’s take an extreme example. Imagine you follow Step 1, but the 40% of your calories that come from carbs is all in the form of soda, pastries, candy, bread, and other forms of processed foods.
That’s not going to get you very far.
Food manufacturers know what they are doing. Processed and refined foods are purposefully crafted to be hyper-palatable with addictive properties.
It can be helpful to take a complete break from all forms of sugar, sweeteners, and refined/processed foods. At least temporarily to break addictions.
There are various temporary resets/sugar detox programs which encourage a complete break from these foods. One example is The RESTART® Program.
Following a program like this can be a very helpful tool to help you form multiple new habits at once.
Although it may seem hard at first, this is the best way to generate a “quick win” and feel better fast. You can do anything for 3-4 weeks.
That being said, you can also take a more moderate approach. Simply adjust your overall eating style. Perhaps work on removing one problematic item at a time (such as refined sugar or gluten).
Not ready for a full-on temporary reset/elimination challenge? Start with my free guide, Top 6 Healthy Carb Swaps.
These real food carb swaps will get you started with some simple and delicious changes you can make to your existing plate. Without overhauling everything at once.
Step 3: Embrace a Nutrient-Dense, Properly Prepared Real Food Diet Template
Whether you decide on a temporary reset/sugar detox right away or not, it’s important to also think about how you plan to eat on a regular basis.
To answer this question, I encourage you to think about “diet” not as a strict set of rules (with an all-or-nothing mentality) but rather as a template.
A template means a starting point.
You can add, take away, or even or deviate completely at times. But it’s a framework to follow long term for the most part.
The important thing is to embrace the idea that this template is “just how I eat.”
It’s not a crash diet…
Not something you throw in the towel and stop completely one day. Even if you just ate one thing that’s not included in the template.
It’s your baseline that will serve you for the long term. Even if you don’t always stick to it 100%.
So which diet template do I recommend using to structure your main meals, most of the time?
I find that Paleo is an effective starting point template for most people
- The Paleo diet removes enough of the major problematic foods that you are likely to see benefit
- While also not being excessively restrictive and removing everything under the sun.
Remember the big picture. Diets are not religions. Choose a template as your starting point, and go from there.
Whatever specific template you choose should:
- Move you away from reliance on processed and refined foods, sugar, and fake foods stripped of their nutrients. These are foods we did not evolve to eat.
- Move you towards eating foods that are found in nature in their whole forms. These foods are naturally rich in the nutrients we need to thrive.
Be sure to grab a copy of my free guide for more specific pointers on making this transition.
Step 4: Play Around With Meal Timing
It’s important to know that what you need to do in the short term is likely to be different than what is optimal in the long term.
To transition your metabolism, achieve balanced blood sugar and break this vicious cycle, a step-by-step approach is often needed. That’s especially true when it comes to meal timing.
The most important thing you can do to ensure your success in this transition is to be prepared to eat something every 2-4 hours if and when true hunger strikes.
Have the right food on hand so you do not find yourself unprepared. The goal is to avoid true hunger and a blood sugar crash.
This makes it so much easier to stop sugar cravings in their tracks. If you keep yourself satiated, you will not need to rely on subpar options from the vending machine. You’re also much more likely to pass on the temptations in the break room at work.
You will also likely transition more easily if you time your carb intake later in the day. That means a breakfast lower in carbs, higher in protein and fat.
It’s best to include any starchy vegetables, grains, legumes or fruit later in the day. This can be either with dinner only or with both dinner and lunch. This is a more advanced strategy known as “carb cycling.” It’s worth keeping in mind as an option to test.
What Else Can You Do To Stop Sugar Cravings?
The steps above cover the major food-related changes that will help you be successful with this transition in your goal to stop sugar cravings.
There are also some more advanced strategies you can use such as including targeted supplementation or therapeutic foods to support your transition and encourage faster results.
Lifestyle and mindset changes also play an important role.
However, remember that diet drives at least 80% of your result.
Focus on implementing these diet changes first, following the steps outlined above.
Then you can explore supplements, lifestyle and mindset changes to get you the remaining 20% of the way there, if necessary.
Here’s the replay of a video I recorded recently where I talk about the top lifestyle habits to prioritize for optimal health:
To avoid making this post into more of a novel than it already is, I’ll wrap this up now that we have covered the food changes.
I’ll be adding on a Part 2 soon to cover additional steps you can take to complete this transition.
Ready to Get Started Implementing These Steps?
Your next best step is to grab a copy of my free guide: Top 6 Real Food Healthy Carb Swaps.
This guide includes more details about how to properly implement a nutrient dense real food diet as we briefly touched on here. You’ll find examples of how to build a balanced plate, nutrient density information, specific recipes, and more.
I’m offering this guide free to website visitors for a limited time, so don’t wait.