I’ve been meaning to write this post for awhile now since I finally feel in control of my sugar cravings. I guess you could say it’s been a long journey to kick my sugar habit once and for all. It definitely didn’t happen overnight. In fact, it took me a solid year and a half to truly overcome it.
If you look back at my old posts, the first time I shared my sugar “problem” was in December 2010. I had a rough few days of bingeing on desserts around the holidays, so I vowed right then and there to get it together. As I said in that post, if you don’t like something about yourself, change it, and that’s exactly what I did. I was sick of being controlled by sugar, so I set out to kick my habit for good.
Since then, I’ve slowly made changes to my diet—ones that I knew I could sustain for the long-term. Just like losing weight, conquering my sugar cravings was something I saw as a permanent lifestyle change, so I needed to figure out how to incorporate sweets into my life without overdoing it every time I ate them. I knew going cold turkey would never work because I love dessert so much and wouldn’t want to live without it. (Dessert brings me great joy!) Plus, I knew if I tried giving up sugar all together, I’d only crave it more and go nuts the next time I was faced with a plate of cookies.
I started my journey to conquer my sugar cravings by trying all of the tips you’ve probably heard before:
- Drink water.
- Get more sleep.
- Brush your teeth.
- Reduce caffeine.
- Eliminate artificial sweeteners.
- Slow down and find “sweetness” in non-food ways.
All of these are great tips and many of them work well for others, but even after I tried most of these things, I still had a killer sweet tooth. I love to eat, and I love eating sweets even more, so my goal was to figure out what worked best for me. I had many ups and downs over the past 18 months, but, ultimately, here’s what worked for me:
Eating more “real” food.
I can’t stress this one enough. It was so important in helping me overcome my sugar addiction. It also encouraged me take a good, hard, honest look at the way I was eating and, ultimately, it helped me clean up my diet.
I realized that when I overdid it on sweets, I hadn’t eaten much “real” food. For me, this means something with substance—like meat, fish, eggs, beans, Greek yogurt, avocado, cheese, nut butter, etc. I also realized I was eating a ton of carbs and not enough protein and healthy fats. Sure, I was eating plenty of whole grains, fruits, veggies, and other nutritious foods, but I always wanted something more to eat, which meant I wasn’t fully satisfied and I’d go straight for the sweet stuff. When I started to increase the amount of “real” food in my diet, it was much easier to control my cravings.
If I craved something sweet after I finished eating a meal, I’d go back for a second (or even third) serving. Usually, it was just a small portion, but I figured if I was craving something more to eat, it should be something nutritious and not sugar. Once I felt full from the second serving, I rarely wanted dessert. And if I did, a bite or two (a piece of chocolate or a small handful of butterscotch chips) usually did the trick. I felt satisfied and in control of my cravings, so it wasn’t difficult to stop eating sweets once I started.
Getting the sweet stuff out of the house.
Surprisingly, getting the sweet stuff out of the house was kind of difficult for me. I mean, I love dessert. You’d think, it would be as simple as just don’t buy it, but I found myself buying bags of butterscotch chips and baking cookies randomly whenever the craving struck. Then, during a grocery shopping trip one week, I forgot to buy butterscotch chips.
Initially, I was bummed that I forgot to buy butterscotch chips, and I worried I wouldn’t able to make it through the week without something sweet in the house. I considered going back to the grocery store to buy some, but then it didn’t seem worth it to me. I was trying to kick my sugar habit, so why the heck would I make an effort to go buy sugar? I guess it finally clicked, and I stopped buying sweet treats for the house.
Not having this type of food in the house makes it so much easier to fill my diet with more nutritious foods, which brings me to what really helped me kick my sugar habit once and for all.
Filling my kitchen with my favorite healthy-sweet foods.
And I’m not just talking about bananas!
I fill my kitchen with raspberries, blueberries, blackberries, mangos… you know, all of the expensive fruit that I love so much. I figure if I’m spending the money on these pricey fruits, I won’t let them go to waste and they’ll be the first thing I go for when a craving for something sweet strikes. (Sweet potatoes also fall into this same healthy-sweet category for me.)
Ok, you’re probably thinking: Fruit is not dessert. I totally agree, and I won’t tell you eating a bunch of strawberries is better than eating a Funfetti cake pop. Clearly, you can’t compare these two things within the same dessert category. But, I discovered if I paired fruit (or sweet potatoes) with a more “substantial” food, it often satisfied my sweet craving. My favorite combos: sliced banana with almond butter, fresh berries with Greek yogurt, Adora disks dipped into peanut butter, or fruit smoothies with protein powder mixed it. Additionally, sweet potato wedges + peanut butter is an amazingly satisfying sweet snack. For added sweetness, I’ll sometimes add cinnamon, shredded coconut, and/or raisins.
I still enjoy sweets—almost everyday, in fact—but the difference is I don’t need to have them. I can consciously make a decision whether I want to eat a sweet treat or not. Back in the day, I had zero control of my cravings and felt totally helpless around desserts— there was more than one occasion that I ate too many desserts and physically felt ill afterward. Once I started eating something sweet, I wanted more and more of it. Nowadays, I can enjoy one or two cookies and not eat the whole batch. There’s even been times that I’ve forgotten about baked goods or other delicious things in the house, which would have never happened 18 months ago. Let’s just say I’ve made great strides since December 2010!
If you’re trying to kick a sugar addiction, I hope you found this post helpful. Of course, I’m not a doctor or Registered Dietitian, but these things worked for me, so they might work for you, too!
Do you struggle with sugar cravings? What makes you crave sugar? What are your tips for controlling your sugar cravings?