You are so lucky if you don’t have those after meal cravings for sweets!
Me, on the other hand, not so lucky. I could have just had a full meal, and I logically know there’s no room for dessert, but alas many times I lose the craving battle. The next thing I know in goes the pie, ice cream or chocolate cake. And it’s oh so good! As I write this I can feel the satisfaction of eating an imaginary dessert, so I am fairly certain my problem with not being able to stay away from sweets is habit. Or is it?
Stay with me until the end of this blog on cravings and I guarantee you will have a better understanding of sweet cravings and how to stop them.
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Habits and Cravings
I believe there is fine line between a habit and craving. I have had cravings for different foods and drinks. I certainly have many, many habits. So how do I know recognize habits and cravings, and more importantly how do I stop them.
I am no expert on any of these things. I will define these terms, give you some examples from my own experiences which I hope you can relate to. If you have a thorough understanding of habits and cravings, I invite you to leave me a comment in the section under this article or feel free to email me to perhaps pen a post for my blog. I would love to have your work published here.
Wikipedia defines a habit as a routine of behavior that is repeated regularly and tends to occur subconsciously. It is a fixed way of thinking which is often a behavior that is unnoticed. Yeah and many times I have caught myself eating that piece of chocolate or dessert before I recognized consciously that I was even eating it. And that was after telling myself not to eat it when that urge kicked in about 20 times before I found myself indulging in it.
Yeah I know it sounds ridiculous, but it’s true. Eating before recognizing it. Who has had this happen to them before?
According to one explanation, a habit consists of a cue, routine and reward for every habit. So the cue, eating a meal equals the habit of craving sweets?
Is it really that easy to understand? Well, no it isn’t.
You are What You Eat
More than you realize, what you eat does impact sugar cravings. If you don’t eat enough protein, you will crave sugar for the energy. Protein slows down the release of sugar into the blood stream, so when you lack it you’re craving for sugar can spike.
Vegetarians battle this lack. I eat very little meat myself so I understand this battle firsthand. I struggle to make sure I keep up my protein intake, but I have recently found a solution. Read further for my delish treat!
Science of Sugar Cravings
There is a part of our brains that creates reward seeking behavior and good and bad habits. This is also the part of the brain that causes us to act subconsciously like eating those sweets without even thinking about it.
Another part of the brain produces emotions in response to sensory experiences. Here are some of my pleasant sensory experiences: the smell of bed sheets line dried outside give me a comfort. My mom always hung our laundry out to dry when I was little, so I can remember the smell and the emotion that I felt with it. Another is the smell of my mom’s home made bread baking. Again, growing up, smelling the bread baking meant she was also making home made donuts from the extra bread dough she would have. It was delicious and even now as I type this my mouth is watering for one! It made me and my siblings feel happy and special when she made them.
It is this emotional reaction that advertisers count on to produce emotional responses from commercials you see. You see their product in the store, you start to feel the emotion you experienced from the commercial and boom! it’s in your cart to buy.
It is my brain that I blame on my emotional response to eating sweets that I believe causes most of my cravings! Happiness and pleasure – that’s exactly what I got from those sweets! Tricky little bugger that brain is!
Feel Good Drug
Okay so those feelings your brain creates are actually from the chemical messengers dopamine and serotonin. Dopamine is actually the chemical responsible for the “reward” system, and serotonin helps you to be happy. However it is dopamine which is mostly responsible for us eating those sweets.
Imbalances with these chemicals can cause health issues and eating of foods such as carbohydrates and sugar which contribute to weight and health issues. If you feel you may have an issue with these chemicals being imbalanced, please see your Doctor.
As you can see it can be quite complex to understand sweet cravings. Luckily there are a few ways to turn off those cravings.
How to Fight those Sweet Cravings
One method is using visual clues to help you stay strong and give in to those cravings. A little reminder on the fridge or cabinet is sometimes enough of a cue to not eat those sweets. This cute shirt could be something that you have with you everywhere as a visual cue not just at home and is specially made for chocoholics.
How versatile would this t shirt be to have? Perfect with a constant reminder not to indulge while you’re out an about on a weekend running those errands. Psst… and guess what? For reading this blog, you’ve qualified for 50% off your order. Just enter the term HealthyBest at checkout.
If you don’t have enough protein in your diet, I urge you to supplement with this yummy protein powder! I LOVE the chocolate flavor. I make a smoothie out of almond milk, Ora Organic chocolate protein powder, strawberries and ice. This smoothie is one of the ways I helped to KICK the sweet craving habit and increase my protein intake.
When I found myself craving sweets I would literally kill two birds with one stone. Instead of grabbing for the sweets, I would have one of these smoothies. I found the perfect way to break a bad habit and increase my protein intake in a healthy, vegan way! It worked wonderfully for me to conquer both issues.
A third way to battle those sweet cravings after a meal is to ensure you’re eating a balanced meal. Making sure you have some fiber and protein with those carbs can help keep you feeling fuller longer and slowly raise the blood sugar and insulin. This should help with not having those cravings for more or something sweet for that quick energy.
Now breaking a habit of reaching for those sweets may be a little more difficult because of the chemicals involved. If we are getting happiness and satisfaction from the chemicals serotonin and dopamine, we really need to start with becoming aware of our actions. You will have to stay in the moment all of the time to stop the automated action of eating sweets from occurring. Once you realize that you’re going for a sweet or have a craving to, ask yourself why and look for triggers.
Is it emotional? Is it stress triggered? Once you can understand how and why, then you can start to change your behavior and reach for something naturally sweet but healthy instead like an apple. Or you can exercise. At work and can’t exercise? How about a brisk walk, or climbing the stairs a few times and exert yourself to stop the craving. Remember, repetition got you into that bad habit, and repetition of a new way will be needed to stop it. Just don’t give up.
Please leave me a comment about your struggles and successes. We’re all in this together and doing the best that we can, so share. It may just help someone.