Our love of sugar is developed as soon as we are born. Mother’s milk contains a lot of energy and natural sugars needed for baby’s growth and development. Even so, the sweet receptors in our mouths are actually the last to go when we age!
Sugar cravings aren’t a bad thing! It’s our body communicating with us, trying to tell us that we need something. But what does it mean when it’s ALL we crave?
Sugar cravings may be a sign of:
- not eating enough calories
- not eating enough carbohydrates or fats
- being underweight
- being stressed out
- not honoring your hunger
Carbohydrates provide us with the most readily available source of energy. Sugar is a simple carbohydrate, meaning it is broken down faster than complex carbohydrates that are found in whole grains, vegetables, beans/legumes. When we have sugar cravings, we really are craving carbohydrates. Did you know that our brain requires HALF of our daily requirements of carbohydrates. Yes, the brain needs enough carbohydrates in order to function properly!!
If you have found yourself jumping from diet to diet or cutting calories to lose weight, you may also find that your sugar cravings increase. When you are eating less than the amount your body requires to function, survival mechanisms kick in telling us to eat more. Have you ever been so hungry and craved highly palatable foods like a burger and fries or a pint of ice cream? That’s because those foods contain a lot of ENERGY, CARBOHYDRATES, AND FATS that we as humans need.
Being under the weight in which our body feels safe could also lead to an increase in sugar cravings. Being underweight is stressful to the body. The brain perceives that there is a shortage of food and will seek out ways to get food in your system for survival. Since sugar is a quick source of energy for the brain and other vital organs, it of course is going to increase your desire for sugary foods. Extreme hunger is also a sign of being under your body’s set point which I will talk about in another blog post soon!
Being Stressed Out
When we are stressed out, a hormone called cortisol increases. Cortisol is a steroid hormone that helps control blood sugar levels, metabolism, and inflammation. We need cortisol in order to survive. However, when we are chronically stressed out, cortisol remains elevated. Under stress, the brain uses up more energy, therefore, has a higher demand of carbohydrates.
Serotonin is a neurotransmitter in the brain responsible for mood regulation. Serotonin is shown to have inhibitory effects on cortisol. An imbalance in serotonin is linked to feelings of depression. When we eat meals high in carbohydrates or sugar, serotonin levels increase, creating a feeling of happiness and contentment. This may be a reason people like to eat when they are stressed out in order to ease their emotions.
Ignoring Hunger Cues
Let’s say you really wanted a slice of your mom’s homemade chocolate chip cookies. You tell yourself you “don’t need or want one”.. but you can’t help but notice your mouth water at just the thought of those chocolate chip cookies!
You end up craving chocolate chip cookies the entire week because you just didn’t have one when you actually wanted one.
When you listen to your cravings when you have them, you will more than likely feel satisfied after having it and not crave it day after day.
Remember, your fullness cues are always there when you are being mindful. Eat the chocolate chip cookie you are drooling over and listen to your body’s fullness cues! You can get more familiar with the fullness scale in my mentorship program, as we focus on this step-by-step.
What to do when you have sugar cravings:
Honor Your Hunger- the longer you suppress your cravings, the more they will persist until you give in.
Ignore the food police- there is no judgement in having a sweet tooth. Heck, I sure have one and I’m not ashamed of it! Enjoy those sweets in moderation and ignore the diet talk you have been fed in the past (pun intended)!
Hire a Coach – if you are struggling with your relationship with food and cannot seem to find a happy balance, working with a health professional that specializes in disordered eating. Some people need a little extra support on their journey to food freedom. Working one-on-one with someone that can walk you through the steps can make it more manageable and less stressful.
Connect with me here and schedule your free 15-minute phone consult to chat about what you are looking for and so we can figure out a plan of action individual to your needs.