5 Steps To Beat Sugar Cravings
Do you feel like you’re riding the sugar roller coaster? You know the feeling, your energy is low, the hunger pangs are setting in, so you reach for a tasty sweet snack or drink. Within minutes your energy soars, you feel superhuman and power through half of your to-do list. Then, bam! You feel like you’ve been hit by a bus, want to curl up in bed and take a nap… oh and those sugar cravings are back again.
Maybe you can relate to the above scenario, although it’s not sugar, but starchy foods like biscuits, bread, pasta and crackers? Cravings for these types of food are really common, especially in the pre-menstrual phase of our cycles. Whilst eating like this can feel really good for a few minutes, it’s usually pretty clear that riding this roller coaster of energy and mood changes throughout the day is not serving us long term.
Why do we crave sugar?
Craving sugar and sweetness is normal and very common. Eating processed sugar is the fastest way to increase your blood sugar levels as it requires very little breaking down and can quickly supply the body with energy.
When our blood sugar levels drop, our body sends out the signal that we need to eat to pick them back up again. This signal can be interpreted as a craving for sugar, particularly when we are tired. Sugar also makes us feel better because it triggers the release of brain chemical called dopamine, which gives it an addictive quality. In fact, science shows that the cravings and withdrawal symptoms of sugar addicts are comparable to heroin and cocaine addiction!
Is eating sugar and refined carbohydrates bad?
Regularly eating large amounts of processed sugars (like white table sugar, candies/lollies, soft drinks/sodas, cakes, pastries and desserts) as well as processed carbohydrates (like white bread, pasta and biscuits) causes a very rapid spike in our blood sugar levels. Having high blood sugar is dangerous for the body, so it responds by secreting high levels of a hormone called insulin. Insulin works like a marshal who directs the sugar out of our blood and into our cells for energy production and storage. This is a normal process, however in excess can lead to hormone imbalances.
How does sugar affect my hormones?
The hormonal problems related to blood sugar begin with excess insulin. Remember, insulin is a hormone just like oestrogen and progesterone, so when it becomes imbalanced there is a flow on effect. High insulin levels cause cortisol (our stress hormone) to rise as well. Cortisol competes with progesterone production, so high cortisol levels long term can cause lower amounts of progesterone. Low progesterone levels can be seen in symptoms like pre-menstrual syndrome (PMS), mood changes, spotting before your period begins, and increased levels of anxiety.
Excess insulin also triggers the ovaries to produce more testosterone. This extra testosterone can cause your release of eggs (ovulation) to become disrupted, leading to irregular periods or missing periods altogether. When you aren’t ovulating regularly, you are not regularly producing progesterone, hence the hormone imbalance picture continues to become imbalanced.
High insulin is a common cause of the condition Poly Cystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) and is estimated to be the main driver in 60% of cases. The hallmark features of this condition are high testosterone and irregular ovulation, and as we can see above, excess insulin can be a key driver of this pathology. Signs of excess testosterone are acne, unwanted hair growth (e.g. on the chin and upper lip), and hair loss on the head.
So, how do I lower my blood sugar levels?
Preventing large amounts of insulin release isn’t about never eating the foods described above, but choosing smaller portions and pairing them with other nutrients which slow the release of sugars into the bloodstream. In my 12-week Hormone Harmony eCourse I teach my ‘Get Off The Sugar Roller Coaster Protocol’ to naturally balance your blood sugar and hormones using food and supplements where necessary.
I teach my 6-step protocol to banish sugar cravings, learn how to eat to support stable energy, blood sugar and moods, and address period problems that are likely caused by irregular blood glucose. Hormone Harmony is CURRENTLY OPEN for early-enrolment for 80% off until the 31st July. After this date, my course will be closed for enrolments until January 2020 and it will then be full price. Read more about the course here.
In the meantime, the next time a sugar craving strikes, try the following steps:
Drink a large glass of water (add some lemon, mint, berries or other natural flavour if this makes it more exciting) – often thirst can be mistaken for food cravings
Ask yourself: am I truly hungry or wanting sugar for other reasons? Does your stomach feel hungry? When was the last time you ate?
If you are truly hungry – please by all means: go and have a snack or meal! Choose a balanced meal support blood sugar levels (I teach how to create a balanced plate in Hormone Harmony)
If you aren’t truly hungry, read on:
Try breaking your thought pattern: get up from your desk and take a stretch, go for a walk around the block, splash your face or take some deep breaths and see if this helps you interrupt your cravings long enough for you to explore them rather than engaging in them
Eat a spoonful of nut butter (e.g. almond, coconut or peanut butter) – these nut butters are subtly sweet so will often hit the sweet spot you are craving, but also provide your body with a healthy fat and protein source to help keep blood sugar stabilised
Be gentle with yourself when you do give in to cravings: no one meal, day or even week of eating will have a lifelong impact on your health and your hormones. Don’t be hard on yourself if you can’t resist a craving. Sometimes the emotional ‘beating up’ of ourselves for making poor food choices can be more detrimental to our health than the poor food choice itself! Keep this in mind and be forgiving of yourself when you slip up – the goal is not perfection but sustainable change
What are your experiences with sugar addiction?
Do you feel like you are riding the sugar roller-coaster throughout the day?
Have you found any strategies that help you fight cravings?
Let me know in the comments below.