5 reasons you may be craving sugar, and how to reduce cravings
Updated: Mar 23
We often view cravings as a negative thing, a sign that we’re “weak” or that it’s something to suppress. But cravings can actually give us important signals as to what’s going on in our body, and how we can maintain balance. Sometimes they’re an indication you’re not getting the nourishment you need, and it may not even have anything to do with food.
Cravings can be hormonal, environmental, emotional, and even tied to habit. Have you noticed you crave something sweet at a certain time each day?
Dealing with intense sugar cravings, and finding a balance, is one of the most common things I speak to women about. When you feel controlled by your cravings, this can take all the enjoyment out of treats and make us feel powerless.
It can take time to decipher what your body is actually craving, but to help you start to tune in to your individual needs, here are a few reasons you may be craving sugar, and some simple steps you can take to help you find a better balance with the sweet stuff that works for you.
Reasons you may be craving sugar
You’re exhausted or stressed
Not getting enough sleep and dealing with a lot of stress is linked to sugar cravings and unwanted weight gain, because when we’re not sleeping and our body is under intense stress, we crave quick sources of energy from sugar and simple carbohydrates.
Unfortunately this can create a vicious cycle where we consume more sugar to keep alert and combat tiredness, our blood sugar levels rise and then crash again, we crave more sugar and our sleep continues to be disrupted. This is not a nice place to be.
If you’re affected by poor sleep, tackling this and taking one or two steps to get more rest, will help reduce sugar cravings in turn. If you feel you're affected by burnout, find some useful steps to take in this post.
Sometimes sweet cravings can be a sign of dehydration. Aim to drink 6 or 7 glasses of water through the day, and if you think you could be a bit dehydrated when cravings come up, try drinking a glass of water and waiting a few minutes to see if this helps.
Food can have emotional links for us all. We celebrate and soothe ourselves with food. You may find that you crave sugar when you’re bored, sad or anxious, in an attempt to treat the symptom and give yourself a quick fix of comfort or relief. This works in the moment, but it can become a real issue if the amount of sugar you’re eating leads you to feel sluggish, low and affects your sleep. You’re ultimately treating the symptom here, and not the root cause.
Approaching emotional eating with mindfulness can be a useful tool to help you understand what is behind your cravings. When a craving comes up, take some time to notice what is going on for you, without judgement. Check in with yourself, and identify how you’re feeling in that moment. Are you feeling sad, or craving comfort?
By making a habit of checking in with yourself and getting curious about your cravings, you’ll gain a much deeper understanding of where they’re coming from, and you can make empowered food choices.
Perhaps one day you check in and realise you really just want a bowl of chocolate ice cream. That’s great. But maybe the next day you realise your cravings are rooted in a stressful experience at work, and you may decide that practicing a Yoga video at home would help bring you the calm you’re actually craving, and help you get a better night's sleep.
You’re craving more physical activity
Getting physically active, even for small amounts every day, helps balance blood sugar levels, relieve stress and boost energy, which in turn may help reduce sweet cravings. If you think this could be a factor for you, try starting with a short walk every day or an easy at home Yoga practice.
You’re craving sugar from habit
You’re more likely to crave foods you’ve eaten recently as this is fresh in your mind, and we often try to re-create a positive eating experience. May be you always have a chocolate bar at 3pm to give you an energy boost to finish the work day. Eventually, you may come to crave a sugary snack at this time out of habit. This can be helpful to remember if you want to reduce the amount of sugar you’re eating, as you may find you initially have stronger cravings at certain times of day depending on the routine you’ve been in.
You may also find you crave certain foods from your childhood, in an attempt to re-create a comforting memory or experience.
A helpful way to approach these types of cravings is to focus on replacing highly sugary or processed snacks with healthy alternatives, that will still give you that comforting fix you may be craving. Focusing on adding in healthy snacks, rather than restricting yourself, will allow you to naturally crowd out sugary foods without getting into a deprivation mindset. You could try apple slices and nut butter, or a handful of dates. I love naked bars, they’re sweet but all natural and very few ingredients.
If you’ve realised habit is a factor for you, be prepared and have alternative snacks ready for the time of day you know cravings may appear.
You may also want to look at any pre-prepared foods you eat regularly such as yoghurt, cereal, ready meals or condiments, and check the ingredient lists for added sugar. Reducing or cutting out these sneaky sources of sugar by choosing alternatives without added sugar will also help stabilise your blood sugar levels and could help reduce overall cravings.
Approach cravings with self-compassion
Our relationship with food, and in particular sugar, can be extremely complex. On top of that, sugar is highly addictive. It’s no wonder many of us struggle to reduce the amount we’re eating. Do your best to keep judgement and self-criticism out of the equation, and approach your cravings with a lot of self-compassion.
Take it one step at a time, and start with taking time to check in with yourself and understand what is at the root of your cravings. Noticing and being aware of what might be behind your individual cravings will help you to move forward and make food choices from a place of understanding and empowerment, rather than operating on auto-pilot.
If you’d like support to better understand your sugar cravings and reduce the amount of sugar you’re eating, to improve your energy levels and mood, I offer a free 50 minute online consultation.
We will use the time to talk through your concerns, your relationship with sugar, and your individual goals. I’ll provide you with simple advice and motivation to take the first steps towards finding a better balance that helps you feel good. Contact me to book in your consultation.