For a long time, sugar was my enemy. I felt I couldn’t control myself when sweets were around. I berated myself almost daily for eating candy when I “knew better” being a dietitian. My sugar cravings felt out of control. Maybe you are in a similar situation?
My Sugar Cravings Story
From a very young age, I was taught that sugar was “bad.” That knowledge alone didn’t do anything to stop my cravings though. As a kid I loved sugar and would do anything to have it – including sneaking it from wherever my parents hid it. As I got older, I started caring more about what others thought of my eating, especially my friends and peers. I often would wait until I was alone or with trusted friends to eat candy or other sweets so others wouldn’t think I was unhealthy or “addicted” to food.
During the process of becoming a dietitian, I tried even harder to kick my sugar habits. I tried keeping it out of the house (which only left me searching the cupboards all evening for anything even close to sweet). I tried limiting my portion by tracking calories and grams of sugar in an app. But I always went back for more, totally blowing my calorie budget. I switched to artificial sweeteners which didn’t taste nearly as satisfying and sometimes upset my stomach. And I tried picking “healthier” options, such as fruit, but ultimately, I still ended up eating the treats I was really craving.
I struggled for many years looking for the magic solution to kicking my sugar cravings. My eating felt out of control. I called myself a hypocrite as I told my patients they had to give up sugar, but I couldn’t keep my own sugar intake in check. Guilt and feelings of hopelessness consumed me, until I latched onto intuitive eating.
How Intuitive Eating Helped Lessen My Cravings
Intuitive eating says that there are no foods that are off limits. Food is neither good nor bad. That meant I was allowed to have sugar. My response to this idea was relief and fear. How could eating as much sugar as I wanted be healthy for me? After digging into the research on intuitive eating, I came to this profound discovery:
Restriction of any kind worsens cravings and bingeing.
I ran with this idea and tested it thoroughly! I gave myself permission to eat all the foods that were forbidden and said to hell with the guilt. I was in the honeymoon phase of intuitive eating. And to my surprise, when I had enough, no, an abundance, I became satisfied. The sugar cravings I never thought would stop tormenting me were FADING!
When I accepted that food held no moral value and didn’t define who I am as a person, it’s power over me dissipated. The result is fewer sugar cravings and a relationship with sugar that feels less scary.
Now when I get a craving, smaller amounts satisfy me. Candy or other sweets can be in the house for days or weeks and don’t call to me anymore. I don’t feel the need to consume the whole thing because I know I can eat more later if I choose to. I am picky about what sweets I actually want to consume (where as in the past, any sugary treat would do). I let myself fully enjoy sweets without guilt.
Using Intuitive Eating to Lessen Sugar Cravings
- Give yourself permission to have sugar whenever you want it without the guilt trip. Seriously, any amount you consume is okay!
- Incorporate sweets/desserts into your day. Have some with your meals throughout the day.
- Keep sugary snacks with you all the time. I keep some with me at work, in the car, in my purse, and in the house. When you have an abundance available to eat at any time, the excitement starts to wear off.
- Practice eating mindfully. Be present in the moment with your food and let yourself enjoy it.
- If your cravings are strongest when you are upset or stressed, keep a feelings journal to start getting in touch with your emotions. Still allow yourself to eat in order to cope — remember you have full permission no matter why you chose to eat!
- Consider working with an intuitive eating nutritionist to help guide you through this sometimes overwhelming process.
Self-compassion and trust are big factors to creating a healthy relationship with food. Be brave! I know once you take the leap into intuitive eating, you won’t regret it!
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Read more about Intuitive Eating in my book The Anti-Diet Workbook
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