Have you ever tried a low-calorie or sugar-free diet, only to be foiled by sugar cravings? See if this sounds familiar.
You swear to stop eating all sugar (or chips, or fast food, or whatever). You stick to it for a few days, or maybe even a few weeks. But before long you’re feeling deprived, which makes the food you’ve sworn to give up all the more tantalizing. Pretty soon you’re bingeing. You work your way through a whole box of whatever it is you’ve been dying to eat, and maybe even a second box. When it’s over, you feel like crap physically. Even worse, you’ve failed to stay on your diet, which makes you feel like a bad person. Why can’t you get it together? Guilt sets in, eventually followed by fresh determination. You’re going to start again, and be extra strict this time around.
This is the psychological trap a lot of diets create. You set unrealistic expectations for yourself, don’t meet them, swear next time will be different, and start the cycle over. Sugar cravings are constantly in the background of your mind, and sometimes in the foreground. You may feel like you’ve lost control of your body, or like you have to fight constantly to keep it in shape.
With the right approach, it’s easy to silence those sugar cravings. It doesn’t have to take up all your willpower, either – in fact, once you start fueling your body well, you’ll have more energy than ever, and you won’t have to spend it on resisting cookies. This guide will show you how to kick carb and sugar cravings for good.
Aim for progress, not perfection
The more foods you eat in the green zone, the better you’ll feel. The more foods you eat in the red zone, the worse you’ll feel. Foods in yellow may be great for some people and terrible for others, depending on factors like genetics and gut sensitivity. Test them out to see what works for you and what doesn’t. Occasional treats also get classed in the yellow zone.
Some days you may be perfectly in the green. Other days you may eat a couple things from the red zone. That’s fine. Change exists on a spectrum. As long as you’re on a general upward trend, you’re doing well.
And as far as guilt, keep in mind that sugar is like a drug – it lights up the reward and craving centers in your brain, and you fall into withdrawal when you start to cut it from your diet. You’re not a weak person if you slip up now and then. You’re rewiring your brain to be stronger. It’s a process. Be patient with yourself.
Stop sugar cravings with high fat meals
Carbs in general (not just sugar) cause a glucose spike and crash that leaves you with cravings a short while later. High-quality fat, on the other hand, will give you steady energy and keep you full for hours, which makes it much easier to avoid sugar. Your body will adapt to a high-fat, low-carb, anti-inflammatory diet over a couple weeks, at which point your carb cravings will virtually disappear. You’ll probably find your pants are a little looser and you feel better than ever, too. Not sure what to cook? Here’s a complete meal plan with a week of recipes.
Eat especially decadent, flavorful foods when you’re first getting off sugar. Reach for your top-shelf favorites. It may cost you a bit more, but meals that get you excited will curb your cravings better, especially when you’re starting out.
Hit with a craving? Throw a grass-fed ribeye on the grill, drown it in butter, and roast up some Brussels sprouts on the side. Hungry a few hours later? Sear a nice piece of sockeye salmon with a lemon-dill butter sauce, and pair it bacon-cauliflower mash.
Clean out your kitchen (and fill it back up with quality snacks)
Toss anything sugary or carb-heavy. When you don’t have anything in the house, you’re far less likely to drive to the supermarket to satisfy a craving. Then replace those low-quality snacks with better ones. There are plenty of high-fat, low-carb goodies at Whole Foods and similar stores. Keep a few favorites in your cabinet for when the odd craving hits hard enough that you don’t want to cook. Some ideas:
- Dark chocolate (85% or darker), or lighter chocolate sweetened with a quality sweetener
- Grass-fed hot dogs. Applegate Farms makes good ones you can find almost anywhere.
- Pastured salami or pepperoni
- Guacamole (use the pepperoni to scoop it, if you’re feeling bold)
- A stevia- or xylitol-sweetened alternative to soda, like FATwater. Zevia is tasty too, and you can find it in most Whole Foods.
- Grass-fed beef jerky or bars. EPIC makes excellent ones.
- Nuts, preferably raw. Roasting nuts oxidizes the fats, which makes them more inflammatory.
Keep your pantry well-stocked to set yourself up for success.