If you’ve come here looking for the traditional tips about how to beat your sugar addiction, you are going to be seriously disappointed.
You’re not going to find the strategies that worked for me, like brushing my teeth after meals or drinking a large glass of water when the craving strikes, or how I satisfied my sweet tooth with a bowl of unsweetened applesauce. Because I’m sorry, how on earth does a bowl of applesauce satisfy you the same way a bowl of ice cream does when all you want is a bowl of ice cream? (this was seriously a tip I came across).
No, none of that will be found here.
My secret? And pay attention here – I go with it.
That’s it. No rocket science, no denying myself, no trying to take a walk or drink some water when the craving strikes. Pretty darn simple, right? But let’s back up a bit.
Our Tastes Change Over Time
I’m normally a salty kind of gal. Given the choice, I will usually forgo the chocolate dessert and choose a cheese plate or bag of chips any day. And throughout my pregnancy, that’s pretty much all I wanted. Snacks of pretzels, all dressed chips or cheese were staples. All pretty darn satisfying foods.
But after my daughter was born and I started to breastfeed for hours on end, something changed. Chips weren’t doing it for me anymore. And to my surprise, all I wanted (and still want) was chocolate. Candy or baked goods are a close second and third, but it’s chocolate that I find I’m really craving. Quite shocking for a girl who could usually pass up a chocolate dessert without a second thought. Unless there was peanut butter involved, that’s a whole other story!
So What’s A Dietitian And Mamma To Do?
I’ll tell you what I do. I eat the damn chocolate. Lately that comes in the form of chocolate covered almonds, specifically Costco’s Kirkland brand. When the only thing that I want and the only thing that sounds remotely satisfying to me in that moment are those chocolate covered almonds, I eat them. Do I feel out of control and eat the entire bag in one sitting? No. Well, actually, just once. And I’ll get there.
Feeling Out Of Control Around Certain Foods
The only times our cravings for sweets or any food get “out of control” is when we restrict those foods. If you continue to deny yourself the food you actually want to eat time and time again, when you finally give yourself permission to eat that food you will likely end up binging on it, eating beyond the point of satisfaction and fullness because you don’t know when you are going to allow yourself to enjoy that food again. So your body tries to take advantage of that glorious moment you give yourself permission to eat those chocolate covered almonds, and you may find you eat the whole bag.
If I tried time and time again to ignore my desire for something sweet or tried the “brushing your teeth after a meal” strategy to trick my body into thinking it was done eating, it would only lead me to eventually overeat and binge, rather than listening to my body, eating what feels satisfying in that moment, enjoying it until I am full, and moving on with my day.
We All Do That Sometimes
Our hunger levels and our desire for certain foods change day by day. And right now, trying to care for and feed a tiny human has me ravenous and only wanting to eat sweet foods. And that’s okay. While I was pregnant, all I wanted was chips. And tomorrow, it could be completely different.
It’s okay to go with those cravings, to eat the foods you want to eat. Ignoring our hunger cues and ignoring our actual desires will only cause us to eventually binge on those foods when we finally give ourselves permission to eat them.
There have been times when I’ve been utterly exhausted with a serious craving for some chocolate covered almonds and looked down to find I had eaten the entire bag. And I felt rather sick. When we ignore those hunger and fullness cues, and we all do that some times, and eat more than our body needs, this feeling is normal. And what it does is tell me that next time maybe I don’t need the entire bag to feel satisfied because it doesn’t make me feel very good. Lesson learned. Move on with your day. These types of experiences just serve to help us feel in control of ourselves around all foods. No foods are off limits. You don’t have to keep “x” food out of the house for fear of eating it all. There should be no fear when it comes to food – just love, joy and satisfaction.
The Sugar Addiction Myth
Now I’m sure you’ve seen those headlines “Sugar Addiction is Like Drug Addiction” and “Beat Your Sugar Addiction With One Simple Step.” So is sugar addicting? Am I “addicted” to those chocolate covered almonds? NO! Don’t believe me? Let’s look at the research:
- There is zero scientific evidence to support the fact that ANY food is addictive.
- The research that does argue for some foods being addictive usually utilizes the Yale Food Addiction Scale, which is a self-reported measure used to identify those individuals who exhibit a likelihood to become dependent on the consumption of high fat or high sugar foods. Now the key word here is self-reported. This tool is based on an individuals own personal experience and doesn’t take into account food restriction. And as we now know, the more we restrict certain foods, the more we will want them and feel the need to binge on them when we eat them. So, really not the same thing as being “addicted.”
- What about the claims that food addiction is similar to drug addiction and when examined closely, the consumption of sugar lights up the same areas of the brain as cocaine? Well, these studies conducted on rats found that this type of addiction-like behaviour only happened when there was intermittent access to sweets, ie. they were restricted at other times. Again showing that the overconsumption of sweets is not due to an “addiction,” but rather a restriction of these foods.
The Bottom Line
The only times it feels like we are “addicted” to sugar is when we place restrictions or rules around when, where or how much we can eat, causing us to feel “out of control” around it or constantly craving it when we keep it locked away. The more we label certain foods as ‘special’ or ‘forbidden,’ the more we will want them, causing us to feel like we are ‘addicted.’
So the moral of the story here folks is that there is no magic cure to beating those sugar cravings or kicking that sugar addiction, because the truth is there is no such thing as being addicted to sugar.
There is nothing wrong with your body wanting to eat sweet foods or salty foods or whatever that food is. If you listen to your body, satisfy those cravings, I think you’ll find you won’t be constantly thinking about or obsessing about food and you’ll probably stop googling those top tips and tricks to help you squash your need for something sweet.
Now excuse me while I grab a handful of those Kirkland chocolate covered almonds!