9 Ways To Curb Sugar Cravings (Without Quitting Sugar).

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Update: Learning to Cut the Sugar, via NY Times.

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.

Love you. 



Editor: Kate Bartolotta

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About Meg Worden

Meg Worden is a Writer and Health Coach using love + fundamental nutrition to empower client's relationships with food and their bodies. She believes a sense of humor is more important than a sense of direction and she'll eat truffle oil on anything. Find out how you can redefine your health to include peace and hilarity via her blog. Find out how you can redefine your health to include peace and hilarity via her blog.


38 Responses to “9 Ways To Curb Sugar Cravings (Without Quitting Sugar).”

  1. Skylor Powell says:

    Ya BUDDY! that's right! this post was well received by sprout's FB fans. 🙂

  2. Megs McD says:

    And your name is Meg! Haha! I've been saying change your story for a while now, and I'm loving the similarity in the way we look at things. Excellent article! Love you!

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  4. Stefanie says:

    I love the idea of turning a craving into a trigger "to remind you of what you want". I am a diet soda addict. I KNOW how bad it is for me, yet I can't seem to drill it into my brain that it is imperative that I quit. So I am going to hone in on a mantra and try it from that direction. Thank you for the inspiration. PS. I think I'll start using the word "mighty" more often myself!

    • Meg Worden says:

      So glad this was helpful, Stefanie. And best to your work around the soda. It is hard to quit, but you can do it. Be kind to yourself. The biggest factor in people who are successful quitting any addictive thing is that they don't stop trying. Let me know if there is anything else I can do to support you. And have a great day!

      • Irim says:

        Stefanie, I don't know if this will help, but I've done it with regular soda. I've started buying sparkling water and limes, and whenever I fancy – no, let's be honest, CRAVE – a Pepsi/7UP, I pour the sparkling water, squeeze a bit of lime, and voila – fizz with a MIGHTY fantastic flavour. AND I feel more hydrated, b/c I'm not sucking up sugar and caffeine. Lemons if you prefer, I guess.

        It's cut my sugar WAY back. I still have a long way to go, but it's a start! Good luck; I feel your pain!! Hope this helps. xx

        • Meg Worden says:

          Great advice on the sparkling water, Irim. Love that.

          Also, I'm a big fan of Kombucha. It's an acquired taste for some (a little vinegary), but it's so fizzy and hydrating the taste is acquired quickly.

          It has the added benefit being loaded with probiotics and alkalizing the body, which both curbs sugar cravings and creates an environment for healing.

          And mostly…don't stop trying! You guys are amazing. Period.

  5. I love #7 – HALT. I've been saying for awhile now (well for a looonngg time) that I need to get off the sugar. I feel horrible when I'm mainlining sugar yet haven't been able to get it under control – yet. But you are right, it's usually because I'm hungry, angry, lonely or tired. I"m printing this out as a visual reminder – thanks!

  6. senthaimassage says:

    Hi regarding suggestion 4: I would opt for yet sweeter fruit (banana, very rip mango ..) and NOT use honey as it is still adding sugar. You don't need to with a ripe sweet fruit. Cut up banana, ripe and ready peach, mango .. get a carton of coconut milk, pour some in a jar, add cardamom, nutmeg a little vanilla and pour over your fruit. YUM

    Rethink the exciting options of food. And I totally agree and have said it for years: don't think about what to give up, think about the new things you can add! Feel like an explorer!
    Birgit. x

    • Meg Worden says:

      I love the idea about using really sweet fruits. Also I can't WAIT to try the coconut milk with cardamom and vanilla. Thanks so much for reading and responding with such wonderful suggestions, Birgit. Have a great day and please stay in touch.

  7. […] These are the true confessions of a recovering sugar addict. […]

  8. Mind Dumpster says:

    I love this post. I have been cutting down sugar and eating sweets only if it is natural (like fruits, raisins, dates 🙂 )
    thank you for posting this sure is helpful 🙂

  9. […] http://www.elephantjournal.com/2012/07/nine-ways-to-curb-sugar-cravings-without-quitting-sugar/ Share this:TwitterFacebookLike this:LikeBe the first to like this. Tags: activity, food, grocery shopping, Health, healthy-living, salad, Weight Loss Comments RSS feed […]

  10. CB says:

    What a great post. Thank you so much. Sugar is still a big one for me. It is directly wired into our dopamine receptors of the brain, so it really is loaded not just on a psychological level, but on a chemical level as well. One thing that has really helped me a lot, and this probably ties in with #9 is just the notion of ” I don’t want to eat sugar, this week”. and see where that goes. And try again next week. It may sound rather lazy or noncommital but its not. Just give it that one week. It like you daid about setting ourselves up for failure I Play with it. Watching and noticing the impulse is really powerful and has its own inspiration. so much of what we do is really just habitual impulse. oh and all those things in #9…..Thanks again for the great tips

    • @gmcheeseman says:

      You are so right that so much of what we do is habitual impulse. I am re-reading a book titled "Self Observation" by Red Hawk that really hammers home that point. The author believes that before a behavior can be changed, it must be observed without judgement. We need to be aware of ourselves and why we do what we do. This article reminds me of Red Hawk's book and his approach.

      • Meg Worden says:

        I'll have to check out that book, Gmcheeseman. Always love a good recommendation. And the way we form and re-form habits is fascinating to me. It's so simple yet so very challenging at once.

        But possible. And the outcome is a bursting of spaciousness and opportunity in our lives when we do the work to wake up and treat ourselves like the precious kids we are.

        Really appreciate you taking the time to comment and share your book.

    • Meg Worden says:

      I don't think that sounds lazy or noncommital at all, CB. It is a real commitment to change your internal story. To have tenacity and stick with the new story.

      And often the biggest shifts are made by a series of subtle changes. It doesn't have to be a battle. It can be as gentle as telling yourself sweetly that you just don't want to eat sugar this week. And then the next.

      So glad you are here. Please keep in touch. You are doing fantastic work and there's so much love in that. Hellyeah.

  11. Natalya says:

    I get a bit stuck because I'm not sure where to draw the line. Like, how much more sugar is in my brakfast cereal than in a slice of cake, etc? Know what I mean?

    • Meg Worden says:

      Hi Natalya, It can be confusing with so many foods loaded with sugars out there. Definitely serves to get savvy at reading labels. Both the ingredients and then looking directly at nutrition info to see how many g's of sugar are in things like your cereal.

      Making your own cereal out of whole grains like quinoa or a smoothie loaded with greens is always a great way to set yourself up for a day full of healthy energy and no cravings.

      Thanks so much for reading and feel free to contact me if you need any more support.

  12. @gmcheeseman says:

    God bless you for writing this article!!!! It is EXACTLY what I needed to read. I am really struggling with sugar cravings. I will not be using the phrase, "I'm quitting sugar" ever again. Instead, I will say, "I'm going to eat less sugar." Using the word quit represents "all-or-nothing thinking" and that just doesn't work. Your approach is practical, sane and completely doable.

  13. Ysabella says:

    This is a very helpful post for individuals who are having problems with their sugar addiction. Now, they can focus more on what's listed here rather than contemplating on what they ought to do to lessen their sugar intake.

  14. […] I do tell parents is to please, please try to eliminate all sugar from their child’s diet before you do anything drastic; and give it time. It can take up to a […]

  15. […] reach for that candy bar or processed snack in a box! You may feel a little surge in your energy level due to the sugars or caffeine in the […]

  16. iquitsugarkateharris says:

    Great post! I love HALT and found that very true to my journey to quit sugar. I was reacting badly to situations but never taking ownership of my response behavior which was to eat sugar!

  17. halfbakedunrealist says:

    good stuff!

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