As of late the most common question I get asked is: How do I overcome a massive sweet tooth?
I know this isn’t only a problem that my inner circle struggles with, this is actually a very common issue that most of us deal with. Sugar addiction is actually equal to or even more addicting than heroine! However, sugar isn’t the main issue here, it’s lifestyle.
It is possible to have a sweet treat here and there without feeling the need for more and more if your hormones and diet is in check.
Wouldn’t it be nice to go most days without NEEDING something sweet or constantly checking on your chocolate stash to make sure you’re not running low??
I am actually not a big sweets person but occasionally I do like to enjoy some chocolate. Over the holidays I enjoyed Peppermint Hersey Kisses, mini Snickers, and mini Milky Ways. What I noticed after a few days of eating sweets on a consistent basis, the following days I wanted more.
Because this is not my normal behavior I found myself thinking why am I still reaching for these treats? And I realized my body was starting to crave them. Once I became aware, it was easy to let go of them. We still have a TON in the house, but they no longer appeal to me. Why? Because I was able to kick my sugar addiction a while back and for the most part I have three important things that cause sugar cravings in check, but it hasn’t always been this way…..
In the past, I too have struggled with sugar cravings when my diet consisted of mostly processed foods. Stopping by the coffee shop to pick up a large mocha latte and a bagel with flavored cream cheese. Snacking on treats during the day at work, flavored creamers in my coffee, drinking Dr. Peppers at 3 P.M. to pick me up from my afternoon crash. Eating pasta many nights during the week out of the need to comfort my stress. Drinking vodka with lemonade or wine as a stress reliever as well.
It wasn’t until I started cutting out the processed foods, slowly eliminating all the crap, and dealing with my stress that my sugar cravings started to subside. Although you might associate sugar cravings with sweets, it goes further than your favorite donut, chocolate or candy.
***Join me on a 14-Day Nutrition Challenge beginning Friday, February 10th!! Details here: The Diet Renovation 14-Day Nutrition Challenge
Most processed foods are high in carbohydrates and if you notice on the label there is a subsection for carbohydrates: fiber and sugar, look at how much sugar is listed. When one’s diet consists of many processed foods, these digest quickly in the body, spiking blood sugar levels, and leaving us craving more and more!!
However, there are three very important strategies to keeping your cravings in check. And if you struggle with sleep, stress and/or poor diet then you will be having massive sugar cravings.
So let’s break each one down on what happens when they are out of alignment.
Sure we all sleep! Some get a solid 8 hours, some get a couple of hours then insomnia hits, and some get 6 hours but toss and turn all night. The focus is quality sleep.
When we don’t get quality sleep then our bodies cannot fully recover and repair as needed. Not getting quality sleep throws off our hunger hormones ghrelin (appetite stimulant hormone) and leptin (appetite suppressor hormone). Ghrelin regulates when you are hungry and leptin regulates when you are full. Think of a seesaw when one is up, the other one is down.
When our sleep is off or we are not getting good quality sleep, ghrelin, and leptin get out of whack. Leptin decreases so your appetite is not suppressed and ghrelin increases sending signals to the brain that you are HUNGRY!! Next time you have crappy sleep, pay attention to what you are reaching for. I promise you won’t be craving a salad.
The first step is always awareness, because if you are not aware how can you change anything?
The best book I have read in regards to ensuring quality is sleep is Sleep Smarter, the author Shawn Stevenson offers up simple and proven strategies to help us get quality sleep. Note he doesn’t tell us how long we should sleep but to ensure those hours are of the highest quality.
Here are some of Shawn’s tips to ensure a great night of sleep:
- Caffeine – have a cut off time 8 hours before bed, as caffeine stays in our system for up to 8 hours and can throw off our sleep rhythms.
- Electronics – turn off 60 minutes before bed. Our skin absorbs light, especially the blue light coming from the TV, Smart Phone, and Computer/Tablets. Consider wearing special glasses that block the blue light or adding an app to your electronics that filters out the blue light.
- Social Media – another reason why it’s suggested to put down our electronics before bed is because scrolling through social media never takes a minute. While that might be our intention, we end up wasting hours scrolling through Facebook, Instagram, and Snapchat, etc. The reason is because while we are scrolling our brain releases a chemical called Dopamine – which sends us on a search and find scavenger hunt. We search, find and want to search and find some more. You can have the best intentions of going to bed by 9 P.M. only to look up and holy shit it’s 11 and you think what happened?? Now you know!
- Black Out Curtains – you want your bedroom to be as dark as possible to block out any artificial light. Again this is important because we are receptors and our bodies will absorb the artificial light and throw off our sleep cycles. Remove night lights, do not watch TV in bed to fall asleep, and charge your phone in another room or at least away from your bed.
For more simple and effective tips, consider reading Sleep Smarter. It’s so insightful on how sleep affects our health and why I listed sleep as the # 1 tip to kicking sugar cravings. But also if you consistently get great sleep it will reduce your risk of disease dramatically. Our bodies will be able to properly heal and recover as they were designed to do.
Next up is managing our stress! We live in a stressful world and if you are constantly reacting to situations, I imagine your stress level is through the roof and so is your hormone called Cortisol.
While Cortisol is a very important hormone in our bodies, when it is elevated too high it will cause massive food cravings, poor sleep and can keep us from losing fat.
Chronic stress causes a constant stream of emotions running through our body, we as humans naturally need to comfort our emotions. This is typically done with food and drink. The more stressed we are, the more comfort we need, and the more we crave sugary type foods.
You could be eating so on point with your diet, including all the right foods and getting in exercise but if you are constantly stressed and your Cortisol is too high, this will be the number one reason you are not losing weight and seeing the results from all your hard work. And I bet that you have some guilt when it comes to sugar cravings and you don’t understand why the cravings get so intense at times. This takes major will power which induces additional stress on the body!
Here are my top tips for managing stress:
- Deep Breathing – yes I know we all breathe, but not many of us know how to breathe properly. Most of us take a breath in and our chest and shoulders rise and when we exhale our stomachs extend. The proper way to breathe is to inhale and allow the stomach to extend and on the exhale the stomach will retract. Now take a moment, place your hand on your belly and take a deep breath in for 4 seconds, hold your breath for 4 seconds and release your breath for 4 seconds and hold for 4 seconds before beginning again. Do this for as long as you need to, until you feel completely relaxed.
- Walking – not power walking, but leisurely strolls. Listen to relaxing music or just listen to the nature around you. Keep an eye out for birds, squirrels, bunnies, owls, etc. Walk near water if you can. Walking is extremely relaxing and is amazing at dropping our Cortisol levels quickly. Try walking and deep breathing!
- Baths – take a nice hot bath with essential oils and Epson salt. Essential oils can boost your mood and the magnesium in the Epson salt is great at relieving stress from the body. Not to mention water is extremely relaxing. Emerge as much of the body as possible to feel the warmth of the water, close your eyes and breathe. Lock the door to keep the kids and dog out if needed, light some candles, and listen to some nice relaxing music.
- Read – finding a book that lets you escape the business of the day is a great stress reliever. Reading before bed will also help you to sleep better. Amazing alternative to needing TV to fall asleep.
- Talk – have a nice conversation with your partner, kids or friends. Talk without distraction or the TV on and just connect with the person in front of you.
We live in a world that is chronically stressed, but the stress of your body is actually in your control. You choose your thoughts and actions. Take a step back before automatically reacting to situations. This will take some practice because we have wired our brains to automatically react to situations, but again being aware plays a huge part in changing the patterns in our brain.
***Join me on a 14-Day Nutrition Challenge beginning Friday, February 10th!! Details here: The Diet Renovation 14-Day Nutrition Challenge
Lastly, once we are getting quality sleep and have our stress under control, it’s time to evaluate the diet. Diet meaning what you eat on a daily basis, not a type of diet you are on.
What you eat matters. If your diet consists of highly processed food, very little protein, and fats, your sugar cravings will be sky high. As I mentioned before, processed foods digest quickly in our bodies, spiking and crashing our blood sugars, and tricking our brains that we need more to get that “high” feeling again.
Let’s take a step back and evaluate why processed foods digest so quickly in our body. Food manufacturers take food, break it down (process) then add back in a ton of sodium, fillers, preservatives, hydrogenated (trans) fats and even vitamins and fiber that was stripped away during the processing.
Once you ingest processed food, your body doesn’t have much work to do, it breaks it down quickly in the form of glucose (sugar), leaving you still hungry and wanting more. Instead of getting essential amino acids and fatty acids that keep you satiated and your energy system moving, we just get sugar. No wonder a diet high in processed foods result in low energy and feeling like crap!!
To further drive the point home, too much sugar in our body turns on the Insulin hormone (fat storage hormone) and it goes straight to our stomach and organs instead of being burned as energy.
I am a huge advocate for whole foods, foods in their natural form that we get to use to create delicious and satisfying meals. Removing processed foods from my diet and replacing with whole foods, has forever changed my life.
I do believe you can still enjoy your treats when your diet mostly consists of whole foods. However, when your diet is in balance, you honestly won’t crave treats as consistently as you do now. The effect of a processed food will not cause such a huge impact on your body when whole foods are the primary source of your diet.
Here are some tips on how to get your diet back in alignment:
- Protein – make sure you are getting at least 1-2 palmfuls of protein at a minimum of 3 times per day. Focus on protein-dense snacks if you need one.
- Fats – fats are huge for our energy system, they do not get stored as fat, and do not spike our insulin. Our bodies must burn the fats we digest and help us to burn body fat. Focus on 1-2 thumb sizes of fats at a minimum of 3 times per day and again if you need a snack, incorporate some fats with your protein-dense snack.
- Carbs – Focus on fiber-rich vegetables, leafy greens, whole carbs such as potatoes and other starchy vegetables. Whole grains in their true form, like rice, oats, quinoa. Beans and legumes are a great source of fiber, however, they are high in carbs, so do incorporate but limit serving size.
Whether you need to focus on sleep, stress management, getting your diet in better alignment, or all three please remember this will not happen overnight and it will be a daily practice. But if you are consistent, the results will come much faster than you can even imagine!! With each day of intention and practice, the sugar cravings will start to dwindle and a whole new person who feels great and has energy will start to emerge :)!!
Here’s to you and your health!!
THE DIET RENOVATION 14-Day Nutrition Challenge beginning Friday, February 10th
An online nutrition challenge designed to help you take back your health!!
Over the course of 14 days, I’ll show you in a private Facebook group how to effectively create weekly shopping lists and meal plans around the foods you love, what to prep in advance to get your meals on the table quicker and how to adjust portion sizes so that your meals support your energy and activities!!!
Each day we will focus on strategies to help you understand how your body communicates with you and how to listen to what it needs. We will cover why it’s important to listen to our hunger cues, how eating slowly can improve digestion, how to recognize our emotional triggers, how to do away with the all or nothing mindset, and SO much more!!!
I will be right there with you for 14 days straight providing direction and support in the private Facebook group. I will be doing live videos while creating shopping lists, prepping and showing you how to balance out your plate with protein, fats, and carbs and we will be able to interact and troubleshoot on the spot!
Oh! I forgot to mention the prizes!! You have a chance of winning:
I am super excited to be your Nutritional Health Coach!! You up for the challenge? Details here: The Diet Renovation 14-Day Nutrition Challenge
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