There are times in life when I look back and marvel, gratefully, at how far I have come. I remember after the birth of my first child, close to 20 years ago now, feeling crazy happy but exhausted and craving sugar; I’d whip up a batch of Peanut Butter Rice Krispie squares with chocolate on top and eat the entire pan myself without breaking a sweat. When my son was little, if I started eating Halloween Candy (just 2 or 3 mini chocolate bars was the plan) chances were that I’d clear off the entire bag.
Backing up just 10 years now, following the birth of my third child, I was again exhausted and experiencing intense cravings. I shared last week about my experience with craving fish and how adding fish into my diet three times a day lifted me out of brain fog and exhaustion and rebooted my pregnancy weight loss. During this same time period I craved caffeine and sugar, desperate for an energy boost, and my body was also craving cinnamon!
How amazing that, once again, my body gave me cues – loud and clear – of that which it needed for health.
A local friend helped me source cinnamon powder packets that I would pour into water and drink each day – I did this for about a year and today regularly add cinnamon to smoothies, coffee, and homemade treats. Cinnamon has long been thought to have a beneficial effect on glycemic control, although in order to establish therapeutic safety and efficacy of Ceylon Cinnamon as a pharmaceutical agent, further randomized controlled human trials are needed. It is important to distinguish between Ceylon and Cassia Cinnamon. Ceylon is considered “true” cinnamon and is considered safe at therapeutic doses while the elevated coumarin content of Cassia cinnamon (most commonly found in grocery stores and even organic food-coops) is NOT considered safe if consumed regularly in high quantities (source). I source my Ceylon here.
Sugar cravings are a mammoth stressor for many women I know. This struggle can cause a fair bit of distress as these women battle their will-power and feel disempowered as, time and time again, they cave in and then live with the emotional roller-coaster induced by a sugar-laden diet, along with the often resulting weight gain, inflammation, fatigue, and illness.
As a side note, some sugar addicts are thin; it is important to keep in mind that thin doesn’t automatically equal healthy.
In my previous post I mentioned some important nutrition and lifestyle habits to support brain health. These same steps, in addition to consuming Ceylon Cinnamon powder or capsules on a regular basis, can support you in eliminating, once and for all, the pain of sugar cravings. Honestly, an entire detailed post could be written explaining the importance of each of these habits but, instead, a quick recap:
- Add Cinnamon into your diet to lower blood glucose levels
- Eat protein with each meal
- Consume plenty of healthy fat
- Load up on colorful produce (vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, fiber)
- Swap whole (complex) carbs and natural sweeteners for refined grains and sugars
- Include fermented foods in your diet (or take a probiotic supplement)
- Engage in regular joyful movement
- Ensure adequate quality sleep!!!
- Build stress-management practices into your life
I actually have a whole list of further suggestions for people wanting to be freed from the pain of sugar cravings but, for your sanity and mine, I will break this post up into two parts. Today I want to address four additional emotional/lifestyle habits that can make or break your ability to bring about the lasting change you desire in this area of life. Later in the week, I will provide yet another five nutritional habits that will support you in eliminating your sugar cravings for good.
Are You A Moderator Or An Abstainer?
In her book, Better Than Before: Mastering the Habits of Everyday Life, author Gretchen Rubin distinguishes between moderators and abstainers in relation to habit formation. A Moderator is someone who, generally speaking, is able to enjoy a treat, a glass of wine, whatever, without totally “falling off the wagon”. This type of person can keep a stash of dark chocolate in the house and enjoy pieces of it here and there. They can see an open bag of cookies and not binge eat them when everyone else heads to bed. An Abstainer, on the other hand, does better removing temptations from her path entirely and establishes rules to avoid problematic foods or triggers. If she has trouble enjoying just one drink she might avoid all alcohol always. If French Fries are her weakness, she might make a rule that she simply never eats fries.
If you struggle with sugar addiction or serious cravings you are better off weaning yourself gradually to start and down the road, once your cravings are under control, it will be helpful for you to determine if you are an abstainer or a moderator. For instance, I chose to not drink a drop of alcohol for 20 years because of my addictive, all or nothing tendencies of the past. The past few years, however, I feel much more balanced in life and can take or leave most foods/drinks without fear of bingeing.
Slow Down And Take The Time To Nourish Yourself Well
I find that many women rush through life forgetting that they have the right to take the time to pee as needed, to exercise, or, heaven forbid, to actually sit down and enjoy 20 minutes to eat a proper meal. Nourishing ourselves well, emotionally and physically, will help stave off sugar cravings. When we get the nutrients we need our bodies feel satiated and calm. Don’t forget that stress creates a perfect hormonal storm which can send us running for the snack cupboard. So sit down for meals, take a few deep breaths before eating, chew well, and pay attention to your food.
Soul-Care Is Non-Negotiable
A lot of the binge-eating or sugar cravings people experience stem from a lack of self-care. When we fail to pay attention to our emotional state, to our inner needs or desires, to those things which we require to feel whole, loved, and supported, we are likely to turn to external sources in an attempt to fill the well. Often these external sources are numbing agents – things like alcohol, drugs, sex, video games or other media, or food. These items are not necessarily bad, in and of themselves; it is, rather, the way that we use (or abuse) them to fill an emotional or spiritual void in our lives that causes harm.
Spend time reflecting upon what it is that you really want or need in life, or, perhaps, what it is that you are running from. Consider those past-times or relationships that bring you true pleasure and get serious about adding more of these into your weekly or monthly rhythm. Be honest about relationships that are draining you or sabotaging your health and, instead, focus on spending time with people who model good health and inspire you to live according to your higher values.
Stock Your Home With Supportive Foods (or planning is key to success):
Let’s get real here: if you are craving sugar, why oh why would you bring crappy food into your home in the first place? When people tell me that their snack cupboards call their name each night or they tearfully admit their shame around their junk food eating habits, my first thought is always to get the stuff out of your home! Your children do not need a junk food cupboard. If you want to have a special treat night then prepare something for that night but do not keep a stash of processed, sugary temptation in your home. If your partner has a special treat they like to eat and they don’t struggle with health issues, they can remove this treat to their workplace or work vehicle. Or, just because they love you they could choose to abstain for a time. Stock your home with foods that support your health!
Set yourself up for success by menu planning and shopping ahead for the week. Set aside one day a week to shop and do some advanced meal prep to make life smoother during the week. Prepare some chicken and a crockpot of savory beans. Make a pot of quinoa or rice. Fix a big bowl of salad and ensure you have healthy fats like avocados, olives, and nuts/seeds in the fridge to throw on top. When you are hungry you will have meals at least partly prepared and will be less likely to cave and indulge in sugary treats. Buy some yummy herbal teas or prepare an organic coffee at home to avoid picking up a sugar-laden coffee on your way to work. Stock your office with homemade trail mix, energy bites, a half-decent beef jerky and some Peppermint or Pau d’Arco tea* to turn to when that afternoon energy slump hits.
*Pau d’Arco (Tabebuia avellanedae) is an herb derived from the inner bark of a tree native to Central and South America; be sure to purchase from a quality source and start with a low dose. Peppermint and Pau d’Arco may help with sugar cravings, especially is these are due to candida or yeast overgrowth (source).
There is hope for you yet if you struggle with serious sugar cravings. Put these suggestions to the test and come back in a few days to learn another handful of ways to gain the victory over your cravings.
Put down the Oreo and walk away slowly;)
Need quick & easy help to transition to a Real Food way of eating? Check out this Real Food Planning Challenge – only $8.99 USD (affiliate link)