Ever wondered why you are craving sugar all the time, and what you can do about it?
Well, Dr Rachel Evans PhD has some answers, as she explains that reaching for sugar regularly can be a telling sign of certain behaviours and bodily needs that may need addressing.
Dr Evans, a psychologist in eating disorder recovery, advises that from eating habits, to low blood sugar, emotional control and restricting mentality, an intense desire for sugary food can often be an indication of nutrient deficiencies, personal habits and behaviours.
She explained: “People tend to automatically think cravings are ‘bad’, but there needs to be a shift in mindset here and I like to teach my clients that a craving is essentially just your body and mind giving you information. Craving sugar is completely normal and satisfying these cravings doesn’t make your eating habits ‘bad’. This mindset shift, helps my clients to then feel less guilty about experiencing a craving, as they are able to look at what’s happening and make changes, rather than diving straight into a tub of ice cream.”
She pinpointed a range of reasons you’re craving sugar and what to do about it:
- Hunger or low blood sugar: When we are hungry, we tend to think about food a lot more because our brain is trying to alert us to the fact that we need to eat, if this feeling comes on suddenly and intensely, then it is a craving. If we have gone for a long period of time without food or if we are following a low-calorie diet and cutting out certain food groups whilst trying to be ‘healthier’, then blood sugar can drop and our body produces neuro-peptide Y, which increases our appetite and motivation to eat. To prevent cravings, ensure meals are balanced, satisfying and include protein, complex carbohydrates and healthy fats. It’s also a good idea to incorporate a balanced afternoon snack for a pick me up.
- Restricting mentality: Many people struggle with a deprivation mindset and try but fail to be successful in restricting what they eat. As we want what we can’t have, we tend to crave sugary foods whilst we are trying to restrict them. Often when this happens, many of my clients believe they just need to avoid sugar, but what actually helps to reduce cravings is eating in moderation and ditching strict diet rules. Whilst people may feel like they are overeating sugar as they move from the restrictive eating habits towards a more balanced diet, this is typically just a phase and after a week or so of eating as much sugar as they want, most of my clients are then craving vegetables.
- Emotions: Emotions can influence our food decisions much more than we think, but after eating, we often find that consumption doesn’t resolve feelings which can then resurface later at some point. The best way to combat emotional cravings is by taking a second to recognise which feelings are causing us to reach for certain foods. This strategy works because emotions are processed in the limbic system (mid-brain), whereas labelling activates our prefrontal cortex (the area involved in cognitive processing); essentially it can help to activate the rational part of our brains which remembers bingeing on sugar isn’t in line with long-term goals to get healthy, and then this will help us think of alternative methods to make us feel better.