Update: Sugar is ‘addictive and the most dangerous drug of the times’: Soft drinks should carry tobacco-style warnings that sugar is highly addictive and dangerous, a senior Dutch health official has warned. (telegraph.co.uk)
So, one of my clients said this to me recently:
“I leave you feeling like being healthy is so much easier than I ever imagined.”
I was thrilled to hear her say this because I work really hard to make that message of ease apparent. (Work hard for ease? Um. Yeah, yeah, irony I know.)
But it’s true! It really doesn’t have to be hard.
For instance, giving up sugar, or at least sugar cravings sounds really hard. Especially if you love sea salt ice cream with caramel ribbons. Or red velvet cupcakes. Mmmm Hmmmm.
Curbing your sugar cravings is a call to action. It is a practice of changing habits and going against the path of least resistance, but it really doesn’t have to be hard.
A simple mindset switch from the uphill battle of quitting something versus adding things that make the transition easier is mighty effective. My son the fifth grader says I should use the word “mighty” more often in my writing.
And a shift is so much different than a battle.
So let’s do, shall we?
Here are nine awesome things to help you curb sugar cravings easily without the pain of the Q-word.
1. Breathe: When you feel a craving come on, take three deep breaths. Your brain needs oxygen to think, to consider what else you might want to do. Deep breathing not only feeds your brain a direct hit of O2, but it calms the central nervous system, brings you from fight/flight back to chill and gives you a couple of extra seconds to remember that you are actually capeable of choosing. It’s true. You aren’t a hapless victim at the mercy of your every craving. It is entirely possible for you to have a craving and respond according to what is in your highest interest.
2. Drink Water: Drink water all day long for a variety of worthwhile reasons. But if you are having a sugar craving, right after you breathe, then go drink a tall glass of water. Often cravings are actually the body calling for air and water. Our high stress lives cause dehydration and shallow breathing. It will also buy you some more time to remember that you are a powerful choice maker and you have excellent reasons to stand by your choices.
3. Eat Your Vegetables: No matter what you feel hungry for, make a point to eat a meal of vegetables. Or mostly vegetables. Pile them high on your plate and dig in. It will keep you full and fed. Veggies give your bod a high dose of nutrition and quality nutrition keeps cravings at bay. Salads are wonderful meals. Make them even more satisfying by adding healthy fats for satiety, like avocado, cashews, raw pumpkin seeds, cubes of baked sweet potato and high quality extra virgin olive oil.
4. Have Fruit For Dessert: When you have an after meal sweet tooth, have an apple or some berries with a little bit of honey. Eat fruit as fresh, local and seasonal as possible for the most exciting and satisfying flavor. Train your palate to enjoy a more subtle sweetness. Fresh, white summer peaches, plums, pineapple…Also, is the grill hot from dinner? Throw some fresh fruit on the grill. You won’t believe how the heat brings out the sweet.
5. Exercise: Get out and sweat. This will get your heart beating, your blood flowing and make you feel really good about yourself and your body. It moves stagnant energy around and you will be far less likely to want to ruin it all with pie. Instead, have a post-workout smoothie with frozen mixed berries, coconut flakes, raw cacao, blue-green algae, and coconut water.
6. Procrastinate: Put those procrastination skills to good use. Make no mistake, sugar is addictive. It gives you a temporary high, then a crash that makes you crave more. Sometimes just making the decision that you are going to quit is enough to send you into a binge spiral. A better option is to just not eat it right now. Procrastinate. Table it. Put it on the back burner. Call it up and make some lame excuse about how you’d rather wash your hair. I promise that by getting some temporal distance from it will calm the cravings. Especially if you are doing all of the other things on this list.
7. H.A.L.T.: Classic addiction advice. HALT stands for Hungry, Angry, Lonely, Tired. Cravings are likely to show up when you are any of these things. So it’s always valuable to assess whether your craving is masking a true hunger that can be fed with a healthier option, or whether it’s another emotion that can be solved by calling a friend to vent, calling a friend to hang out, or taking a nap. You can think about this while you are breathing and drinking water.
8. Get Clear On The What And The Why: Do you want to be healthy? Lose weight? Feel great? Sleep well? Have more energy? Win a Pulitzer? One of your daily life practices should be getting and staying really clear on your goals. And I’m calling this a practice because it takes practice, engagement and refinement. Life is dynamic, it is constantly shifting around and your goals will need subtle alterations. So this means staying aware of what you actually want out of your life is a powerful state to be in.
Cravings can be turned into a trigger to remind you of what you want, why you want it and empower you to choose for yourself the option that gets you closer to those goals. Think of why you don’t want to eat sugar. What will you gain? Then what will you gain if you get that? And what will you gain if you get that? Keep going until you get to your core motivation. Then see if you can pare it down to three to five words, a short sentence that can be like a mantra for you to easily remember throughout the day, and especially when cravings surface.
9. Change Your Story: This is related to number eight. Instead of telling yourself “I quit eating sugar,” which sets you up for failure in the event of a slip, tell yourself “I don’t want to eat sugar.” Extra bonus points for adding in why you don’t want to eat the sugar. “It makes me sick/depressed/low energy/spastic.” Or perhaps you think about all of the things you are without the sugar, radiant/energetic/masterful/sexy… you get the idea. It will help strengthen your resolve and create less dissonance if you accidentally eat the cupcake. Which could happen. But just keep going. Give it time. A little distance from the sugar habit and you will be feeling fantastic, empowered and reaching for the peaches with a juicier abandon and no remorse.
As a last thought, I want to say that I am not suggesting that you never ever eat sugar as long as you live. Less is definitely more and if you want to eat zero, I support you completely. But if there is some special dessert that you can’t imagine your life without, please eat it. But when you do, savor it, love it and only sometimes.
Now go. Do. Breathe, drink water and figure out how you really want to live this one precious life of yours. Then hold on to that vision.
Editor: Kate Bartolotta