As a Certified 21-Day Sugar Detox Coach, I often chat with people who say they have a “sugar problem” but that can’t imagine passing up sweets and carbs. When it comes to diet, I’ve learned that there is much more to cravings that a simple lack of willpower, which is why working with an Integrative Nutrition Health Coach like myself can be the key to helping people identify these underlying causes and to break through barriers and to achieving the food freedom they desire.
Certainly a treat is fine on occasion, but here is a list of common reasons you may be overlooking if you find yourself constantly craving sugar and carbs:
Many people don’t realize that the root cause of cravings is actually a micronutrient deficiency. Our bodies are intelligent systems designed to keep us alive; when your body needs a specific nutrient, it will give us signals that we often try to override. As an Integrative Nutrition Health Coach, I am a proponent of getting the majority of our nutrients from real, whole foods unless testing has been done to determine if supplementation is necessary, but generally speaking, magnesium is one macronutrient that most people are lacking. Therefore, if you find yourself craving chocolate, you might need more of this important nutrient. Instead of reaching for the usual sugary option, I suggest enjoying unsweetened cacao powder or 100% unsweetened dark chocolate as a healthier alternative. Cacao is a rich source of magnesium and both are naturally sugar free so you won’t spike your blood glucose feeding the craving cycle, yet you’ll still feel satisfied with a similar taste. (P.S. 100% unsweetened cacao are both approved as non-sweet treats in my 21-Day Sugar Detox Program which usually makes my clients very happy to learn.) If you’re not a “moderator” and want to cut out treats altogether for a while, you can opt for non-sugar whole-food magnesium sources like nuts, seeds, beans and dark leafy greens as alternatives to help make your sugar cravings subside.
Believe it or not, the trillions of bacteria living in our gut control more of our state of health than we may realize, which is why a healthy gut is so critical to overall wellness. Sugar cravings can sometimes be the result of an imbalance in your gut health, which means that all those good bacteria in your digestive system might actually be feeding on the sugar you’re giving it through your diet, only making the problem worse with the more of it you eat. One of the foundations of the 21-Day Sugar Detox Program is to strengthen the gut by eliminating certain foods that are often problematic for people for a period of time while giving your digestive system a break from sugars and too many carbs. In addition to reducing the amount of processed foods and sugar in your diet, adding probiotic-rich foods like raw sauerkraut, unsweetened keifer and supplementing with a high quality probiotic can often help to reduce sugar cravings from the inside out.
Even if you have the best intentions to eat healthy, we all know how we feel if we haven’t had enough sleep – our ability to make decisions are compromised because your brain is seeking out energy from glucose-containing foods in this state. Inadequate sleep actually does something much deeper by impacting your hormones; in fact, research has shown that poor sleep increases ghrelin (the hunger hormone) and reduces leptin (the hormone that allows you to feel satiated). Therefore, you are fighting an uphill battle to resist turning to that sugary snack to perk up due when you are sleep deprived to the disruption of your body’s hormonal signals that naturally regulate appetite.
We all know that when we’re stressed, we are more apt to make emotional food choices to soothe our mood. Much like a drug, sugar increases our levels of dopamine – the feel good hormone. What you might not realize, is that stress can actually raise your blood glucose all on its own, regardless of what you eat. Yes, you heard me right! This causes more insulin to be released by the pancreas to clear that glucose from your bloodstream. You’ve probably heard that excess glucose and insulin is problematic because eventually your cells will to stop taking it in. When this goes on too long, this leads to weight gain, insulin resistance and Type II diabetes. We are ALL stressed to some extent with the way the world is today, which is why I incorporate lifestyle strategies into my 21-Day Sugar Detox Coaching Program and custom Wellness Programs for my clients, especially if they are trying to lose body fat.
Too Many Artificial Sweeteners
People often think they are doing a good thing by switching to artificial sweeteners because they are calorie-free, but too many artificial sweeteners not only conditions our tastebuds to crave more sugary foods, but they can actually confuse our bodies signals to actually raise our blood sugar. When we eat something sweet without the food or nutrition to go along with it, our blood glucose drops too low causing that hangry and shaking feeling. Plus, artificial sweeteners have been known to cause gut impermeability and digestive distress if consumed regularly, which contributes to surprising reason #2.
If you’re on the standard American Diet, or high carbohydrate clean eating plan, you’ve "trained" your body to want energy from glucose. It’s my specialty to work with my clients to design their own Personal Nutrition Blueprints which often includes targeted macronutrient ratios to reach specific goals, but making sure you are getting a balance of protein, fat and veggies in every meal and snack can be a good place to start.
Too Many Food Restrictions
We’ve been conditioned to eat less and exercise more, but sometimes we take this too far and we are undereating according to our body’s needs. If you are in a restrictive mindset about food, you can actually set yourself up both physically and mentally for cravings. There is certainly value in avoiding a diet of highly palatable and processed foods, but if you think all sugar is “bad” it can add sometimes add emotional and psychological struggle to maintain a consistently healthy diet. Sometimes sugar cravings have nothing to do with food – it sometimes has only to do with our emotions. It could be helpful to journal to understand the root cause of your emotions and reliance on sugar if you think this is a problem area for you.
During the lowfat diet craze, many processed foods were developed to remove fat because that’s what would sell…but guess what was added to make them still taste good? Sugar! Sugar is also still added to a lot of packaged foods as a preservative to make them last longer on the shelf, which is the reason why I try to get my clients to JERF and “just eat real food” if they want to kick their sugar cravings to the curb.
Eating too Many “Natural” Foods with Added Sugars
No matter where sugar comes from, even a natural source like raw honey or maple syrup, it’s all converted to glucose in the body. Even if you follow a vegan, Paleo, or otherwise “clean eating” type of diet, you can still be consuming a lot of added sugar, or eating foods that convert the same way to glucose in the body without even realizing it. Sugar is a sneaky thing! There are over 60 names for sugar that you may be totally unaware of. This is one of the first things you would learn in the MyHealthyTransitions Sugar Detox Program.
I know this is A LOT of information and it can be really hard to kick a sugar and carb habit all on your own. You may feel completely overwhelmed about where to begin. You may have tried before to eat less sugar and carbs and failed. The good news is that you CAN make significant improvements to your sugar habit in just 21 days through a clear-cut, whole foods sugar detox. You just need to know exactly HOW to do it and have the SUPPORT you need to change your habits in a positive way.
If you want to increase your energy, improve your mood, sleep better, lose body fat, and break the sugar and carb stronghold without expensive pills, potions or powders, contact me to learn more about the MyHealthyTransitions Sugar Detox Program. With just a little bit of effort and education, I guarantee you CAN break your sugar habit for good! Contact me to learn more!