A Simple 3-Step Plan to Stop Sugar Cravings

Woman Eating ChocolatePeople tend to crave junk food a lot.

I personally believe this to be the main reason it can be so hard to stick to a healthy diet.

Cravings are driven by the brain’s need for “reward” – not the body’s need for food.

IF you can have one bite and stop there, then indulging a little when you get a craving is absolutely fine.

But if you tend to binge and overeat as soon as you get a taste of sugary foods, then giving in to the cravings is the worst thing you can do.

Here is a simple 3-step plan to stop sugar cravings.

You can do one of them. If one doesn’t work, you can do two… or all three.

1. If at All Hungry, Eat a Meal

Grilled Steak

It is important to realize that a craving is NOT the same as hunger.

It’s not your body calling for energy, it is the brain calling for something that releases a lot of dopamine in the reward system.

However, if you get a craving AND you’re hungry, that just makes it much, much worse.

A craving combined with hunger is a powerful drive that most people’s willpower will have a hard time overcoming.

If you get a craving and you are at all hungry, then start cooking immediately and eat a healthy meal.

Eating real food may not feel very appetizing at the moment you have a craving for something like ice cream, but do it anyway.

2. Take a Hot Shower

Guy Taking A Shower

What I have personally found to be the most effective way to get rid of a relentless craving is to take a hot shower.

The water must be hot… not so hot that you burn your skin but hot enough that it is on the verge of feeling uncomfortable.

Let the water run over your back and shoulders and let it heat you up. Stay there at least 5-10 minutes.

By the time you step out of the shower, you are likely to have a “dazed” feeling, like when you’ve been sitting in the sauna for a long time.

At that point, your craving will most likely be gone.

3. Go For a Walk, Distance Yourself

Sneakers

Another thing that can work is to go outside for a brisk walk.

If you are a runner, then running will be even better.

This serves a two-fold purpose. First of all, you are distancing yourself from the food that you are craving.

Second, the exercise will release endorphins, some “feel good” chemicals in your brain, which can help turn the craving off.

If you can’t go outside, do a few exhausting sets of burpees, push ups, body weight squats or any other body weight exercise.

Other Things That Can Work

I am pretty sure that the 3 steps above would work for most people to shut down a sugar craving.

But of course, the best option by far is to try to prevent these cravings from showing up in the first place.

To do that, toss all junk foods out of your house. If you keep them within close reach, then you’re just asking for trouble.

Also, if you eat healthy and exercise several times per week then chances are you won’t get cravings nearly as often.

Girl With Cravings

Here are some other methods you may find useful.

  • Have a glass of water. Some people say that cravings can be caused by dehydration.
  • Eat a fruit. Having a piece of fruit may help satisfy sugar cravings for some people. Bananas, apples, oranges work great.
  • Avoid artificial sweeteners. If you feel that artificial sweeteners trigger cravings for you, then you might want to avoid them.
  • Eat more protein. Protein is great for satiety, may help with cravings as well.
  • Talk to a friend. Call/go meet someone who understands what you’re going through. Explain that you’re going through a craving and ask for a few words of encouragement.
  • Sleep well. Getting proper, refreshing sleep is important for overall health and can help prevent cravings.
  • Avoid excess stress. Same as with sleep, avoiding stress can help prevent cravings.
  • Avoid certain triggers. Try to avoid specific activities or places that give you cravings, such as walking past McDonald’s.
  • Take a multivitamin. This will help prevent any deficiencies.
  • Read your list. It can be very helpful to carry with you a list of the reasons you want to eat healthy, because it can be hard to remember such things when you get a craving.
  • Don’t starve yourself. Try to prevent yourself from becoming too hungry between meals.

Conclusion

Woman Looking At Piece of Cake

If you can eat junk food every now and then without bingeing and without it ruining your progress, then do it.

That means you are one of the lucky people who can enjoy these things in moderation.

But if you are like me and just can not control yourself at all around such foods, then you should try to avoid them as much as possible.

Giving in to a craving will just feed the addiction.

If you manage to resist, the cravings will get weaker over time and eventually disappear.

I personally haven’t touched sugar or gluten in over 5 months and I never get cravings anymore.

I’ve lost 14 kg (31 pounds) without any major effort and I haven’t felt better in my entire life.

40 Comments

  1. This article is full of good advice. I like the ‘hot shower’ idea, especially since in a cold and rainy country you can’t easily just go for a run any time the cravings hit.

    One point I’d need help with: how do you refuse sweets when you are visiting or going to a birthday party? People tend to push and try to convince you that it’s ok to just take a praline, or laugh when you say you are on diet, or they get ‘mad’ if you don’t eat from the cake they made, etc.

    • It’s a tough situation. It helps to eat a full meal right before the party so that you don’t feel hungry.

      Then you just got to stick with your decision. Tell them no.

      Saying that you’re intolerant or allergic to gluten can help, as there’s usually wheat in most of these products. It’s half true anyway.

      For me, it’s an all-or-nothing deal. I realize that if I give in and have cake or whatever then I will binge and gain all the weight back. Giving in is simply not an option for me.

      • Angie Alaniz says:

        It is a TOUGH situation. : /
        Though I have to say that saying to others “I’m allergic to something” might just help with the situation at hand if someone is insisting on sharing something sweet with you.

        I guess it’s not a good idea to try and start prevent sugar on Valentines day either. :D
        I’ll think on that tomorrow as tomorrow always comes.

        • Sugar and dairy products trigger acne breakouts for me so that is the reason I give to people who ask or try to insist on offering me sweet treats.

    • Gabriela, I’d say I’m allergic to something or simply that I don’t care for sweets. Another route to take is to push the guilt back on them: I call colleagues “sugar pushers” when they come around with candy. I tend to avoid the word “diet” as people like to hear it in the context of depraving one’s self as opposed to how you choose to eat every day. It might be smarter to say I don’t eat sweets or I don’t eat grains – using “don’t” as opposed to “can’t” or “diet” can change the tone of the conversation.

    • It’s easier for me to refuse sweets when I’ve convinced myself I feel 110% better without. If people push and try to convince me that it’s OK to have just one (or get mad or laugh), I just politely tell them that this lifestyle (not a diet!) is not for vanity, it’s for my health. How I look is just the icing on the cake (or, the bacon on the salad ;)

      If someone gets mad at me for that, well…honestly, they’re not the kind of person I would want to be around. I wouldn’t get mad at a diabetic for saying “no cookies for me, thanks” or someone on a ketogenic diet due to epilepsy refusing a piece of pie.

      Sugar cravings are awful, especially when people are shoving sweets in your face at every turn. Making sure I have plenty of GOOD fats in my diet helps blunt these, along with the suggestions listed above. Best of luck :)

  2. Another good way to beat junk food cravings is to learn to cook truly delicious and healthy real food. There are lots of healthy paleo recipes available online. You can enjoy learning to cook real food and gain satisfaction from eating food you’ve cooked yourself that is good for you and guilt free. Once your taste buds have adapted to natural tastes, junk food will seem less and less appealing.

  3. Runner Girl says:

    Why do articles like this always tease us with photos of the very things they’re telling us to avoid? I’m reading about how to avoid cravings for sweets, then I scroll down and there’s a photo of a woman with cake. Fitness magazines are the worst with this but I believe it’s a conspiracy to perpetuate the cycle.

    • That’s a good point, no conspiracy going on here though.

      The point of the picture was not to tease anyone, I just thought it was a descriptive photo for the topic of the article.

    • Yeah, I perfectly understand why these photos were chosen. they’re photos of what people go through everyday, but I wonder if, in magazine and website articles that have to do with this sort of thing, if it would be better to show pictures of people enjoying delicious looking healthy foods. I think that would help inspire the reader all the more and make the article that much more helpful.

  4. Maybe a better picture would be of someone extremely overweight with a mouthful of rotten teeth! LOL!!!!! That would definitely make me think twice about going on a sugar binge!!!

  5. I’ve been off sugar most of the time for 2 years now. If I have much fruit cravings kick in, so I stick with berries, kiwifruit and pears mostly in small quantities. Modern apples and oranges are really sweet and trigger cravings. Eating primal/paleo with a very low fructose level has really educated me on what causes cravings (for me).

    I used to think it was comfort eating and all in my head, and that I lacked motivation. Now I know it’s sparked by sweetness and blood sugar swings. I don’t need any psychological tricks or hot showers if I eat three good meals a day.

  6. I find that eating something healthy that’s crunchy – like celery or carrots – is helpful, too. I like the crunchy chewiness of cookies, for instance, and the crunchiness seems to help satisfy that urge for chomping. :)

    I do struggle with not eating sweets socially because I feel rude or like people might feel like I’m judging them. I’ve tried several different things, including: saying that I’m fine at the moment but I might have some later (this seems to appease some people); eating a big (healthy) meal beforehand so that I can legitimately say that I’m so full that I can’t fit in anything else (this helps quell cravings, too); taking something and then making it disappear before actually eating it (which only works well if there is a place to dispose of it discreetly); if there are healthy options, keeping some of those on my plate so that I can indicate that I’m still going with those and not ready for sweets; if it’s a situation I would feel really rude not eating (like cake at a birthday party) then I would plan to have some and thoroughly enjoy it, but have set up a reward for myself beforehand that I only get if I ONLY have the cake and not any other sweet thing present.

  7. Karyn Furry says:

    What about wine cravings? Is it the same as a sugar craving? I don’t eat sweets, I have never had a sweet tooth but when It come to wine, I can’t seem to resist. Do you think that wine cravings are as bad as sugar cravings?

    • I give in to my wine cravings. I buy a small bottle (which is more expensive I know) and open it with the knowledge that’s all I have. I sip it, enjoy it and know it only contains 4g’s of carbs and is good for me (in moderation). If it’s the weekend I buy some 85% chocolate and have a sip of wine and a small nibble of chocolate. It’s the best treat ever and I never feel the need to have more. This is mainly because I eat 3 good meals a day, which includes lots of fat, protein and veggie carbs.

      Don’t make this way of eating a chore, find ways that work for you and enjoy it. It’s truly liberating. :)

      • I totally relate to the wine and chocolate. I can’t even imagine at this point anything better than a glass of wine with a dark chocolate…..works for me.

    • I think wine is fine in moderation. Drink too much and it will cause harm, but a glass or two may even be good for you. It may depend on the brand though, if it’s high in sugar then it’s probably not good anymore.

  8. Awesome advice.. I recommend having baked sweet potatoes when craving for something sweet, they curb that urge so well and taste amazing.

  9. Amanda John says:

    Awesome advice.. I recommend having baked sweet potatoes when craving for something sweet, they curb that urge so well and taste amazing.

  10. Although I haven’t gone 5 months without sugar or gluten, when I’m preparing for a fight, I really start to cut back and eliminate those two things and definitely notice that my cravings get fewer and fewer as the time goes on. But I’ll definitely look to use the hot shower tip above. …On a completely different note, I’m in the market for a new theme for my blog and really like how crisp and cleaned up this one is. Which do you use? Thanks.

  11. Great article, when you say you haven’t touched sugar in 5 months, you are speaking of cakes and cookies, etc. right? Do you eat fruits with natural sugars?

  12. Peggy Holloway says:

    How to stop sugar cravings. Period: Eliminate all sugars (i.e. all carbs except non-starchy veggies). See. It’s easy.

  13. One thing I do that helps (alas, I work at Dunkin’ Donuts) is brush my teeth! Or I’ll keep mouthwash around so I can do the same when I’m at work.

  14. Make sure that you get enough sleep, I was shocked when I started researching about sleep and found out that if you don’t get enough you will make more of the hunger hormone Ghrelin and less leptin which tells you that you are full!

    Chromium picolinate is a fabulous supplement that helps to control blood sugars and cravings, whenever I get out of kilter I take it for a few days although that doesn’t happen very often now.

    Eating fruit might be OK but if you are a serious sugar addict it could set you off. I was eating a mango one day that was a bit overripe and the thought of chocolate came into my head – I’m pretty sure that was because the mango was super sweet!

  15. Amanda Hughes says:

    Very useful information. I like how you touched on how much weight you lost avoiding sugar.

  16. Glad to have found this..I was doing really well for a few weeks but I am craving WORSE than ever before. I am starting to notice a correlation between not sleeping well and how intense my cravings are though.. Very interesting.

    Also how I came across this article. I’m not sure what to do! On a normal day, I find coconut oil helps squash any unnecessary hunger or cravings but I can’t seem to handle them now that I’m not resting.

    Any suggestions?

  17. I’m pretty sure it’s due to the level of hormone(s) in the blood stream (probably insulin). Performing a workout for about 15 minutes that causes a light sweat seems to clear out my blood stream and eliminates the craving.

    Otherwise, distracting yourself with something fun and engaging can allow you to power through. I use video games for this.

  18. My cravings are at their all time worst! I am truly addicted to sugar! I had recently lost a huge amount of weight dieting and exercising and lost too much actually. So, I decided to put on 5 lbs, only I didn’t stop there… I’ve put on close to 20 lbs now and need help! I cannot stop the cravings! I don’t know what to do!!??

  19. My cravings were so bad, I was eating sweets and anything that had sugar in it a few times a day. I decided to change my eating habits and to eat healthy. What is helping me not to crave sugars is one spoon of pure honey a day, and believe me it helps. I tried almost all things that are written here but no success. HONEY is my savior. So maybe others can try that too. Wish you all luck and stay strong.

  20. Eating fruit is eating sugar… don’t really get people who say eat fruit, it will help with sugar cravings. It helps with sugar cravings because you are giving in and eating sugar. Table sugar/refined sugar and fruit, both contain fructose and glucose… both can contribute to weight gain, collagen/skin damage/wrinkles, etc. Honey, molasses, fresh fruit, dried fruit, fruit juice… it’s ALL SUGAR.

    It’s worth noting I went from 16% body fat to about 13%, with just eliminating fruit – no other change whatsoever. That 1-3 pieces of fruit a day, kept me just over my ideal weight. For me, that was all the proof I needed.

    • I get what you’re saying, but the evidence doesn’t support fruit being harmful: http://authoritynutrition.com/is-fruit-good-or-bad-for-your-health/

      People who are on a very low-carb/ketogenic diet might want to avoid or minimize it though. But for most people, fruit is perfectly healthy.

    • Wow really? Pure sugar which is extracted from sources such as fruit while the rest of the fiber and nutrients are tossed away is the same thing? Fruit, which has antioxidants will cause wrinkles and bad skin? So when you went from 16% to 13% body fat by eliminating fruit did you substitute those exact calories with something else? Because if you didn’t, sorry, but that’s why you lost the weight.

      Too many calories in and not enough out will keep you from reaching your goal fat percent, and it doesn’t matter where those calories come from. Fruit is a whole natural food meant to be eaten in its entirety. When you start extracting just the parts you want and mixing them with other parts you extracted elsewhere, like processed flour, you run into trouble because your body is looking for all the good fiber and nutrients that are missing. So it says EAT MORE!

      Oh, and yeah, plus the high your body gets from the concentrated sugar also makes it say EAT MORE! I am sure some people are so far gone that eating anything sweet might trigger their craving for just sugar dense nutrient depleted food. That’s only if you’ve eaten that stuff before. You know it exists and know where to get it. I’ve never known anyone who didn’t ever eat processed food get addicted to eating whole natural fruit… meaning if that were the only “sugar” they’d ever had.

      • Actually Isabela, if you read my comment correctly, I did not say table sugar and fruit were the same thing – I said the chemical composition of fructose, glucose in fruit (sucrose), is the same chemical composition as table sugar (which is, hello, sucrose). Where do you think table (white refined) sugar comes from? It comes from sugar cane, beets and corn. Yes fruit can be good for you b/c you get water, fiber, nutrients, etc. But don’t be fooled, you still are getting SUGAR. Which is why many weight loss plans, many diabetes eating plans, minimize or eliminate fruit, save for maybe the occasional berry.

        Sugar is sugar. Didn’t you learn this in bio? Or chem? And my calories are actually higher now at 13% body fat, than when I was at 16%. It is remarkable, and I do take time to tell people about when I can… I eat 3 meals a day, of a protein, mostly non-starchy vegetables, and a good deal of fat (olive, animal, guacamole, coconut oil, etc.) – no more 3 a day fruit snacks in btw. The calorie content of the fat that replaced the fruit – is higher. I was 106, and had some excess fat on my buttocks, at 5 ft. 6.5″. Now, I have none, even though my caloric intake has increased by about 300-400 kcal a day.

        Women, I find, find it very hard to give up sugar, they tend to have a lot of excess fat, and the more fat they have, the more hormones they have. And the more hormones they have, the more they crave sugar. I had a dinner guest one time, she asked for desert. I told her we don’t eat it, she asked for some fruit, I told her I didn’t have any, she asked for a CRACKER. All give that “rush”, that need for sugar. I’ve never met a woman who eats only vegetables as her source of sugar, but I’ve met plenty of men. It’s hormonal.. and most women are uncomfortable with the idea of not eating ANY sugar, not even in the form of fruit (save for vegetables). Anyhow… hope this clarifies it for you.

  21. Hello,
    Just want to say I have been receiving these emails for more than a year now. I really enjoy the articles and use the information.

    I have recently been diagnosed with Grave’s disease (hyperactive thyroid) and Hashimoto’s (underactive thyroid). Anyway, my doctor told me that sugar is like poison for someone with thyroid issues. So my mission is to avoid sugar, wheat and diary.

    Not sure if wheat/gluten and dairy have anything to do with it, but I have read it could help any autoimmune disease. Do you have any articles on that?

  22. I was 41 days into my mostly raw/gluten free/sugar free new lifestyle when a dear young man who works at the local health food restaurant gave me a chocolate cookie they sell there. I thought, “What harm…” For the next 16 days, I ate what feels in retrospect like 15x my body weight in sugar, including (for the first time in my whole life!) an entire loaf of black bread and an ENTIRE box of candy (See’s) in just one day.

    I gained back all the weight I lost. Congestion, abdominal swelling, gas, aches, sleep issues, dull thinking, depression, all of it came back.

    Yesterday, I put myself back on the gluten-and-sugar free plan (but I choose to eat quinoa and brown rice a few times a week) and since I have proven I have no control over this stuff, I will not eat it again. I am one of those who must go and stay cold turkey. Tragic but true.

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