Are you obsessed with sugar? Do you feel hopelessly addicted? Or do you just crave it at times? Enough to disrupt your boundaries and keep you from breaking free from the control of food? In this post, we’ll talk about how to stop sugar cravings. Katrina Sequenzia wrote this post and is also my guest on Taste for Truth Podcast (keep scrolling to see links). Katrina will discuss nine reasons we crave sugar and seven habits that will help you stop sugar cravings.
How To Stop Sugar Cravings With the 7 Habits of a Healthy Free Life (by Katrina Sequenzia)
So often we hear that we can’t kick sugar cravings because we lack willpower and commitment. We’re told to double down on dieting and exercise to stop sugar cravings. Unfortunately, this just leads to more cravings!
You may think sugar cravings are just mental and emotional, but there is so much more going on. Yes, we crave for mental and emotional reasons, but there are also spiritual and bodily reasons we crave. Once you understand what is going on inside your mind, body, and spirit when it comes to cravings, you will be able to create a holistic plan to stop sugar cravings.
Why We Crave Sugar and Carbs
Before we can learn how to stop sugar cravings, we need to learn why we crave. Following are nine reasons we crave sugar.
(Note: if you don’t crave sugar, but crave processed carbs, like chips, bread, crackers, etc., simply replace the word “sugar” with whatever it is that you crave. Processed carbohydrates act in similar ways in our bodies.)
1. We are biologically wired to crave sweet foods.
We were designed to crave sweet foods. Sweetness in plants is God’s way of helping us to identify if food is safe to eat. For instance, kale, peppers, onions, and brown rice are sweet. You might not think so, but they are. Fruits and honey are also sweet.
2. Sugar is an addictive substance, just as addictive as cocaine.
When eaten, sugar dramatically alters your brain chemistry. One of the primary chemicals involved is dopamine. Dopamine controls pleasure in the brain. When dopamine is released, we experience pleasure. It’s a reward we experience to keep us coming back for more. Dopamine is not a bad thing as it helps to encourage life-sustaining behaviors, but too much dopamine can be damaging.
When we eat sugar, a huge surge of dopamine is released. This is why we feel pleasure when we eat something sweet. Over time, if we eat sugar frequently, our bodies get used to these high dopamine levels. When we aren’t eating those sugary foods, we start to crave them.
Tolerance starts to build, and we require more and more sugar to get the same feel-good high as the initial hit, just like someone addicted to drugs. Studies show that sugar is just as addictive as cocaine and lights up the same parts of the brain that cocaine does. When a cocaine-addicted lab rat gets a choice between sugar and cocaine, it picks sugar. So, in that case, sugar is more addictive than cocaine.
3. When we eat sugar and carbs, it keeps us craving them.
When you eat sugary foods or the wrong type of carbohydrate foods, immediately, those foods get digested and broken down into sugar. Sugar is then ushered into your bloodstream. Too much sugar in the blood is toxic to the body, so the body immediately gets to work by releasing a hormone called insulin. Insulin’s job is to get the sugar from your bloodstream into the cells (for energy or stored as fat). The problem is that when it comes to sugar, your body will immediately overcompensate and push out too much insulin. This takes your blood sugar from too high, to below normal, making you feel tired and hungry. So what do you reach for to solve this problem? More sugar and carbs. The vicious cycle continues.
4. Wrong and extreme dieting can lead to cravings.
Most diets tell us to eat less and exercise more. Take in fewer calories than you burn. Do you remember “eat 500 calories less per day and you will lose 1 pound a week”? This was the worst advice ever given. Let me be clear, a small calorie deficit (eating less than you burn) is needed to lose weight. But, the gap between what your body is burning and what it is bringing in for fuel is a stressor to your body. The bigger the gap, the bigger the stress.
If you are depriving yourself of food, your brain senses that as a deficit, which is a major stressor. Your metabolism’s job is to keep you alive, so it will elicit a starvation response to try and keep you alive. Your body will release hormones that make you hungry and crave food, forcing you to start eating things high in calories and high in sugar to close the gap in calories. No amount of willpower will help you overcome these cravings. This often leads dieters to binge at night or on the weekends.
5. An unhealthy gut.
The gut is your gastrointestinal tract or digestive system — a pathway from your mouth to your anus. Within the gut, there is the gut microbiome, a collective of microbes – bacteria, archaea, viruses, and fungi. Over 100 trillion of them! Some are good, some are bad. The goal is that we have enough good to keep the bad at bay. When we eat too much sugar and processed carbohydrates, this can cause the bad microbes to grow in number, like candida for example. These sugar-loving microbes begin to overtake the good microbes in number. They love to be fed sugar. These microbes communicate with our brain to send more sugar their way. So crazy, right?
6. Our minds have created bad habits around food.
Understanding how the brain works and how habits are formed is critically important. Your brain wants to automate and make habits as much as possible because you couldn’t possibly think and do everything necessary in your day otherwise. 40-45% of what you do every day is a habit, not a decision. One of the reasons you might be craving is that it’s simply just a habit. We eat in response to different things – like feelings, time of day, environments, and situations. Your brain is like, “oh, it is three o’clock, it’s cookie time,” and you eat the cookie.
7. Stress is a significant driver of cravings.
Our metabolism’s primary job is to keep you alive. It is constantly assessing for internal and external stressors and creates a hormonal response to help combat stress and survive. One of the main hormones released during stress is cortisol. Anything that raises cortisol for extended periods of time can be a key reason you have cravings. Here are some common things that raise cortisol: long, moderate-intensity exercise (think cardio), sleep deprivation, work, life, relationship stress, eating too little, eating too much, skipping meals, alcohol consumption, and many more.
8. Not getting enough sleep, rest, and movement.
No matter how perfect you are in diet and exercise, stress will kill your results every time. Yet we all have troubles. We live with stress on a daily basis. So what do we do? We can engage in activities that lower cortisol levels (the stress hormone). The most vital healthy habits that lower cortisol are sleep, rest, and movement, which we will talk about later. On the flip side, if you are not getting enough sleep, rest, and movement, your cortisol levels will remain elevated and cause continuous cravings.
9. Spiritually, we have an enemy whose main objective is to thwart the plans of God.
One of the ways that the enemy does that is by targeting God’s people – distracting us, tempting us, helping us to erect idols and strongholds in our life, and tricking us to believe lies over God’s truth. For some, idols and strongholds can be drugs, alcohol, shopping, and gambling. For others, it’s food. Food is a tool that Satan can easily use to destroy our lives – physically, mentally, and emotionally.
When we focus too much on food and weight, we develop unhealthy attachments to it. This can lead to idolatry. Whatever you think of all the time is what your heart is focused on. If you choose to turn to food instead of God for things like comfort, joy, and peace, food has taken the place of God, and bondage is the result.
While the above isn’t an exhaustive list of reasons we crave sugar and carbs, they are definitely at the top of the list. Hopefully, you feel relieved to know that sugar cravings are not just an emotional issue or lack of self-discipline on your part. Once you fully understand why you crave, you can develop a body-mind-spirit plan to conquer your cravings.
The 7 Habits of a Healthy Free Life
Let’s take a look at the framework that addresses the physical, mental, and spiritual habits that can stop sugar cravings.
We were created to worship God. As we embrace opportunities to worship God throughout our day through acts of prayer, Bible reading, singing, dancing, serving others, and more, we stay more focused on his promises. Meditating on God’s Word will help us let go of our focus on weight and food. When our mouths are busy praising God, we’re less likely to give in to food temptation.
Are you surprised to see that rest is one of the seven healthy habits? God designed us to rest. Restoring our minds, bodies, and spirit is essential to managing stress, a leading cause of food cravings and weight gain. When we’re stressed, our bodies release cortisol, signaling us to consume more sugar and carbs. But there is hope! When we reach our God-given state of peace, we naturally embrace rest. We should seek to build rest into our daily activities; consider scheduling daily walks in nature, blocking off time to connect with family and friends, or simply being still.
Water and other hydrating foods are part of the glorious nutrients put on earth for us to enjoy. When dehydrated, we can feel sluggish and even irritable, leading us to reach for sugary snacks and heavily caffeinated drinks as we mistake thirst for hunger. If you struggle to drink water, consider making small changes like adding 8 to 16 additional ounces of water to your daily intake. This small change can do so much to curb your cravings.
Next is sleep, which is especially important for women. Sleeping for 8 to 9 hours leads to deep restorative rest, which is essential for our health, longevity, and cravings. No matter how perfect you are trying to be with food, if you are not sleeping well, you will crave. Prioritizing sleep is key.
Have you heard that sitting is the new smoking? Our bodies crave movement, yet many of us live sedentary lives. Many of us spend hours behind our computers in stressful jobs without so much as taking the time to stretch or move our bodies, leading to hours of being sedentary. Lack of movement can trigger boredom which tells us it’s time to eat! We were not designed to live this way, so we must create habits that promote activity. Daily movement can range from walking, stretching exercises, playing with our children and pets in the backyard, gardening, laundry, and more. Next time you change the sheets on your bed, think of all that movement you are getting!
Eat God’s Glorious Foods
The goal of my (Katrina’s) programs is to help Christians develop a new, healthy relationship with food and use it as God intended. Food should be viewed as a glorious gift to us. I support my clients in developing a relationship with food by showing them how to eat according to God’s instruction. His foods can aid us in restoring our bodies to health by providing nourishment.
This last healthy habit is exercise. Most of my clients are amazed to learn that exercise is usually the last thing I (Katrina) talk about in my programs, but I have a good reason for that. Your health will be radically transformed when you focus on the other six habits. Exercise is essential, but it needs to be supported by other elements before we can reap its benefits.
There are many benefits to exercising; however, research suggests exercise isn’t as important in reducing food cravings and can actually increase cravings if done wrong. We are all unique individuals, and therefore our exercise routine needs to be appropriate for our individual health needs. A variety of strength and cardiovascular training works best for most people.
While the list of seven healthy habits may seem overwhelming, Katrina’s philosophy is to add in one small, baby-step habit at a time. This makes it simple, achievable, and sustainable. These are life-giving habits that you will come to love that will serve you all the days of your life.
If you’d like to start your journey to break free from the bondage of food and stop sugar cravings so you can be freed up to live life abundantly, then you will love Katrina’s special gift to you… the Healthy Free Life Way Starter Kit where she outlines the first 5 steps to start your journey to eating and living God’s way.
Download Katrina’s FREE Healthy Life Starter Kit here: https://healthyfreelife.com/barb
About Katrina Sequenzia
Katrina is on a mission to help Christians get their health back so they can fulfill their God-given purpose. As a Certified Health Coach and Registered Nurse, along with experience from her own personal health transformation journey, she has coached thousands of others just like you, helping them to transform their life and health by releasing physical burdens of excess weight, low energy, and disease, so they can fulfill their God-given purpose. It’s time to break free!
Download the free Healthy Free Life Way Starter Kit: healthyfreelife.com/barb
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The Kindle version of Barb’s new James Bible Study is now available for pre-order.
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