Psychological Habit Change
If you have an emotional link to sugar consumption, reducing the impact that that emotion has on your life is likely to help with the cravings. Meditation is a healthier alternative to deal with your emotions of stress, anxiety or sadness etc.
Mindful eating promotes increased focus on your food and therefore the delight it brings you. If you struggle with sugar cravings, mindful eating could help you to appreciate the reward you get from eating all food, especially healthy foods, to somewhat lessen the perceived reward of sugar. Eat your food with intent. How does it smell? How does it taste? How is this nourishing your body?
If you’re craving sugar try not to go straight to a negative mind set. Be rational. It’s totally normal to crave sugar. Now why is it happening this time for you. Are you dieting? Are you feeling stressed? Are you in a situation that you normally associate with sugar? Have you just seen one of those alluring hyper-palatable foods? Whatever it is that may have triggered the craving, be rational about what it was and work on THAT going forward. Most of the time the craving was a perfectly normal response. And sometimes we just felt like it. Own it!
Most and Sometimes Mentality
You need to drop the all or nothing mentality. Instead aim for a ‘most and sometimes’ mentality. Mostly healthy, sometimes sugary. Sugar cravings can be born from restriction and never quite satisfying a craving that is perfectly natural. If you struggle with an all or nothing mentality I would work on satisfying those sugar cravings with small sweet portions when they turn up instead of letting them build up until you find yourself in the ‘nothing’ phase.
Set Achievable Goals
Set achievable nutrition goals that aren’t psychologically damaging. It’s quite sadistic to berate yourself for not achieving unattainable goals. I would definitely put eating absolutely no sugar into the unattainable goals list. At least for me! And as we discussed, restriction can create cravings. So work within your means. A better goal might be that sugary treats are a social affair instead of an every night watching T.V thing.
Physical Habit Change
Eat Enough Food
If you chronically under eat you will crave food or even if you just let yourself get hungry one time you will notice, you are craving food. Often this food is tasty and high in quick sugary energy. A good way to tell if you don’t eat enough in your regular diet is to consider if your body has been getting bigger over the past few weeks. If you have stayed around the same size but you also manage to get quite a lot of junk and sugary foods into your diet, you are not eating enough. Your cravings for junk are simply making up the difference. Put in more of the nourishing foods and your junk intake will come down accordingly.
Swap one habit for another. You are less likely to succeed if you try to go cold turkey. The sugary food must be giving you some sort of warm fuzzy feeling because otherwise you wouldn’t be craving it so make sure to replace it with something that seems worth it for you. For example, don’t decide you'll forgo dessert and run 5km every night if you hate running. It’s not going to work! But maybe swapping dessert for family craft time, bubble bath bliss time or meditation time hits the right spot?
If you are cutting carbohydrates you may experience sugar cravings. Increase complex carbohydrate containing foods such as kumara, potato, pumpkin, whole grain breads, pasta, rice and beans. You may just be chronically low in carbohydrate, especially if you restrict carbohydrates or exercise a lot or with high intensity.
Just Eat the Treat
It’s not healthy to demonise a food. It’s just a food and we’re just hardwired to eat it so now and again give yourself permission to just eat the treat. It won’t have an impact on your health providing you also consistently take care of your nutrient needs. And, most of the ‘battle’ we have with sugar is us saying no and creating a cycle of wanting it more.