You start the day off great, nutritious breakfast and lunch but 3:00pm onwards everything goes south, the cravings get the better of you. You hit the vending machine, you head to the fridge looking for something sweet to satisfy you. It’s not as good as you thought, and now you’re mad! You’ve eaten well all day and you’ve just fallen off the wagon! You go to bed feeling like a failure. Tomorrow you’ll do better.
Let me first say, there is no wagon, you’re not a failure. You are fighting against your own biochemistry and the body’s instincts for survival. Those sugar cravings are happening not because you are a failure but because something else is going on in your body. In fact, this is your body trying to talk to you. Listen to her – what is she trying to say?
1. THE LACK OF NUTRIENTS IN THE DIET
You may be eating “healthy” but if you are missing vital nutrients the body need you will feel flat by the end of the day. As your blood sugar levels drop your brain will get you to go on the hunt for sugars (a quick energy source and in hopes of some of those missing vitamins!). Are you eating enough fats, skipping meals or not honoring your hunger? Do you enjoy some complex carbs with your salads or is it just a tin of tuna with lettuce?
2. THE IMBALANCED GUT BACTERIA
Our cravings are not always in our heads. In fact, many of those “thoughts” begin in our guts. If you find yourself getting sugar cravings throughout the day this can be a consequence of a dysbiotic gut (i.e. bad bacteria overgrowth). These bacteria and also yeast overgrowth feed off sugars and are pretty clever at sending a message to your brain to request for more! There are many reasons for the overgrowth including stress and dietary choices.
3. THE CHRONIC STRESS
A little stress is fine but when we are constantly on the go with our to do lists, racing from one task to the next without a breath, the body is running on adrenaline and burning up it’s quickest form of energy to get you moving… glucose (i.e. sugars). When you run out you need to refuel, it doesn’t have time to stop and break down fat. Quick sources include cakes, cookies, bread, hot chips, chocolate etc. Do you have too much going on? Feeling overwhelmed? It’s important to try and slow down, recharge, breathe and get more perspective of the situation. Is it really that urgent?
4. THE EMOTIONAL EATER
Sometimes we find ourselves in the fridge or pantry trying to fill an emotional hole. We are looking for that joyful feeling and find certain foods bring that for us. We reward ourselves with food and it also brings comfort and excitement. While it’s okay to feel these things towards food, when it’s every evening it can be detrimental towards our health. Sugar can make you feel happier, but the effects are short lived. Long term reliance on sugar can ultimately make us sick, inflamed and depressed. If you feel you are an emotional eater, can this hole be met in other ways?
5. THE FORBIDDEN FOOD
When we tell ourselves something is forbidden our bodies crave it even more. If you remove all sweets from your diet and tell yourself they are not allowed, in many cases it makes it more irresistible (like removing a toy from a child, they want it more!). I’m in no way promoting refined sugars, too much and it can contribute to a lot of damage in our bodies. What I am saying is if you say no to everything eventually some of us will start to dream about that cake or chocolate and can obsess over it, creating an unhealthy relationship with food. It can be in our every thoughts. Sometimes a little piece every now and then may do you more good than harm in the long run. It could prevent a binge blowout. You may not even feel like it anymore if you know it isn’t forbidden. If you avoid sweet foods but still have severe cravings perhaps look at making some more nutritious alternatives. Food should not be feared.
6. THE HORMONAL IMBALANCE
Do you find your cravings appear at certain times of the month? This can happen before or during menstruation, while ovulating, pregnancy or even in the lead up to menopause. As women, our bodies goes through a beautiful cycle each month, with highs and lows of certain hormones like oestrogen and progesterone. During that fluctuation the imbalance of those hormones can contribute to our body’s cravings. It’s important to look at what is causing the imbalance. Is your liver not efficiently breaking down excess hormones due to the increase of other toxins such as alcohol?
7. THE SLEEPLESS NIGHTS
Sleep not a priority or struggling to get it? The less sleep we have the higher our desire to snack and look for sweets is. The hormone leptin, which suppresses hunger, becomes low and gherlin (increases hunger) becomes high which makes our appetite much bigger. If you have trouble sleeping this is something to address as it is one of the most important things we can do for our health.