"Just one more," "I'll start next Monday," "but I'm on my period" are some of the stories that your mind tells you to convince you that eating crap is okay. So, you give in. You eat the chocolate. You drink the soft drink, and it feels so good. Then, the guilt trip arrives saying, "why did you do that" "you know that's making you fat," or whatever thought patterns you're stuck in.
This is the cycle of food addiction. But you can stop sugar cravings once you make a simple mindset shift that most people fail to realize. You're not lazy, you're recovering from an addiction that helps you escape from something uncomfortable in your life.
How Sugar Cravings Start
Sugar cravings can start in a multitude of ways. It can be from childhood, from watching your parents or because everyone else in your office drinks the same soft drink. But when it boils down to it, addiction to sugar and other foods or drinks is from an "I am not good enough" belief. 🤯
Think about it, why else would you sabotage your body with something that you know isn't good for you in the name of short-term pleasure? I've noticed that most of my clients whether it be fitness or leadership, have had a tough life in some sort of way.
Almost all of them have been pressured into a certain life path, are in a toxic relationship, or in an environment that isn't conducive to their mental health. They put up with shit because they think they're not good enough to receive a better set of circumstances, and they eat like crap to numb the pain of those circumstances.
Being addicted to sugar isn't taken as seriously as a drug, nicotine, or even legal pharmaceutical addiction. Eating sugar has become somewhat of a cultural norm, so we don't really view it as a mental health problem. But sugar addiction still fires off a dopamine response, activating the reward center of your brain. It needs to be treated like a mental health journey instead of something to snap out of and just do.
Every single cigarette smoker knows that they should quit. Every sex addict knows it's wrong. And I'd say pretty much every client I've had knows which foods are in the way of optimal health. But instead, the comfort eater holds an enormous amount of guilt that stopping should be easy.
Why You Can't Stop Sugar Cravings Right Now
So, that dopamine hit from food is legit. Peter Crone defines addiction as:
Addiction is something we can't get enough of that almost works.
And that's what you're chasing when you're addicted to sugar. But this is where it gets really messy. Your sugar addiction is fucking with some of the hormones in your stomach. You've got two hormones in particular in there that are inversely proportional to each other. Leptin is the hunger suppressor. It's the little voice that goes "stop eating." Ghrelin is the hunger hormone. It says, "Can we eat now? It's been a while!"
For those of you thinking, I don't think I have ANY leptin in my body, you might be right(ish). There are a few things that suppress your leptin from working optimally.
Cortisol (the stress hormone)
Insulin (the sugar metabolizing hormone)
What that means for you is that if you're drowning in the conscious or unconscious sorrows of your life with cake, soft drinks, or whatever else. You've got a leptin resistance problem. So basically, you've got ghrelin shouting at you for more food, you're stressed out, and people are telling you to just stop eating sugar. But you just can't stop sugar cravings because of that cycle in your body. ☝️
How to Approach Your Cravings Instead
So, how do you actually stop sugar cravings and this toxic cycle of addiction? Do the inner work first. Stop approaching your fitness goals from the perspective of, "C'mon, you're just lazy." Acknowledge that you need to extend some kindness, love, and self-care to yourself first.
This mental health or wellbeing journey isn't one-directional. It could mean therapy, yoga, meditation, reading inspirational books, or hypnotherapy. It's a life-long path to walk along to help you stop firing off unnecessary stress hormones that are feeding this craving cycle.
But if you need a quick fix now, I've got you. When you're craving something, your body wants a bunch of sensory stimulation. It wants sugar, fat, and crunchiness, which is why a lot of us love chocolate. For me, it's Tim Tams. Many health experts will tell you to hack your sugar addiction with a banana, but it doesn't necessarily have that satisfying crunch. A few recommendations to help you wean off the food addictions are:
Apple slices dipped in peanut butter.
Vegan banana ice cream (frozen bananas blended) with nuts.
Peanut butter on toast.
I won't pretend that they're better than chocolate (they're not), but they'll do the trick. When you start treating your cravings as an addiction to the hormones that fire when you eat your chosen pleasure, you look at cravings differently.
Intellectually, we know that sugar, too much fat, and too many calories aren't good for us. And for those who didn't know that, check out this blog for nutrition basics. Start giving yourself the compassion to heal rather than the punishment and self-criticism which will keep your cravings alive.