- Dr. Susan
H-A-L-T: How to Stop Sugar Cravings Before They Start
We all know sugar is unhealthy. It's the one thing that keeps us coming back for more, even though we may think we have willpower. Stop sugar cravings by identifying your triggers around hunger, anger, loneliness and tiredness, HALT.
Learn your triggers
Sugar is considered one of the most dangerous substances in our diet. It's addictive, it spikes blood sugar levels, and it can lead to weight gain.
But it may surprise you to know that sugar cravings aren't just physical. They're also emotional. When we crave something sweet, we're actually looking for a quick fix for an emotional problem.
To ease our pain, we look for emotional comfort and eating sugar.
Sugar triggers the same pleasure centers in the brain as drugs do, so when you eat sugar excessively, you also become addicted to it. Because of this, many people find it difficult to stop eating sweets even though they know they should.
The reason for this is that sugar is often used as a substitute for real comfort in times of stress or anxiety, and some people use it as an escape from reality without even knowing it.
Develop a healthy relationship with food
Sugar cravings can be difficult to control. When you're feeling a craving, it's all too easy to reach for an unhealthy snack. But there are steps you can take to develop a healthy relationship with food, which will help you overcome your cravings.
It's hard to resist the temptation of a sweet treat when you're hungry but having something planned in advance can help avoid those sugar cravings. Whether that's taking a healthy lunch from home or choosing snacks that are low in sugar and high in protein, planning ahead takes away the stress of having to make choices on-the-go and gives you time to think about what the best choice would be.
2. Keep healthy snacks handy
If you know there are healthier options available nearby then it's easier to say no when faced with less healthy options. Keeping fruit or nuts at work or in your bag is a great way to keep hunger pangs at bay until dinner time, while also providing a good source of energy and nutrients!
3. Eat more protein
Eating more protein can be an effective way to curb sugar cravings and keep you fuller longer. Protein helps stabilize blood sugar levels and may also help reduce hunger.
4. Exercise regularly
Exercise has been shown to reduce sugar cravings by increasing dopamine levels in the brain - which makes us feel happier! It also helps burn off any excess calories consumed through food.
5. Drink more water
Staying hydrated and drinking only water or herbal tea (hot or iced) can keep you feeling full and quench hunger pangs.
What Causes Sugar Cravings and Binge Eating?
Sugar cravings and binge eating are a common problem for many people. There are many different factors that can contribute to sugar cravings and binge eating. These include:
Sugar or sugary foods can increase the amount of insulin in your body. Insulin is a hormone that helps your body absorb glucose (sugar) from food or drink. If you eat too much, excess glucose will be stored as fat instead of being used as energy by your body. As well as causing weight gain, high blood glucose levels may also cause you to feel tired and hungry more often than usual. This can make it harder to resist temptation and stop yourself from reaching for a snack when you're feeling low on energy.
Feeling stressed, tired or bored can trigger our cravings for sweet foods such as chocolate or biscuits because they contain natural sugars that provide us with an instant energy boost. But these cravings are usually short-lived because the sugar quickly spikes our blood glucose levels so we gain weight if we eat too much of these types of snacks regularly when we're not hungry (binge eating).
How To Stop Sugar Cravings - HALT Hunger, Anger, Loneliness, Tiredness
Want to stop sugar cravings? It's time to H-A-L-T.
HALT is the acronym for hunger, anger, loneliness and tiredness. These four things are the main causes of cravings and overeating, especially for sugar and other carbohydrates. When you're feeling down, angry or lonely and you don't know why, it's because your body needs fuel. So, it cries out for sugary junk food to give you a quick energy boost.
But if you take some time to figure out what's going on in your life, why you're feeling hungry or angry or lonely or tired, then your cravings will disappear.
And it doesn't take long! You just need to ask yourself these questions:
Am I Hungry?
The first step in how to stop sugar cravings is to identify the cause of the craving. If you are hungry or thirsty, then eating a snack might help. But if you're not hungry or thirsty, then eating foods high in sugar won't give you what you need.
Hunger is the first stage of HALT – Hunger, Anger, Lonely, Tired - which can help us to identify what's causing a craving and if we need something more than food.
Solution: 1.: Stop Sugar Cravings When You're Hungry by Eating Healthy Fats
The best way to stop sugar cravings when they hit is by eating healthy fats with every meal — especially if it's breakfast or lunch time! That's because fat slows down digestion and makes food more satiating (meaning it helps fill up your stomach so that you're not hungry.)
Fats help balance hormones, which can reduce cravings for sweets. This is especially helpful for women during menopause — when hormone levels fluctuate and cause many physical changes like hot flashes, night sweats and mood swings.
Am I Angry?
Solution: 2. Stop Sugar Cravings When You're Angry by Taking a Time Out
Sugar cravings are common, and sometimes they seem to come out of nowhere. However, there are ways to prevent sugar cravings from happening, and one of them is by taking a time out.
When you have a craving for something sweet, it's not just because your body needs the energy boost. Instead, it's usually because you're experiencing some kind of stress, anxiety or anger that has nothing to do with hunger at all.
When you experience a stressful situation, your body releases hormones like cortisol and adrenaline. These hormones prepare your body to fight or flee the perceived threat. Since you can't run away every time you get angry you find yourself having uncontrollable sugar cravings after a stressful situation.
This takes some practice but try catching yourself before you indulge in sweets and try taking a few minutes for yourself before reaching for any food at all.
Am I lonely?
Solution: 3. Stop Your Sugar Cravings When You're Lonely by Going for a Walk
You might be surprised at how often sugar cravings are triggered by feelings of loneliness or boredom. You may even notice that you have a tendency to eat more sugar when you're sad or depressed.
If this describes you, try going for a walk instead of reaching for the ice cream.
In a study published in the Journal of Health Psychology, researchers found that people who were lonely or depressed had higher blood sugar levels after eating sugary foods compared to those who weren't lonely or depressed. The researchers also found that these participants reported more intense sugar cravings compared to their non-lonely counterparts.
The researchers concluded that being lonely or depressed may make it harder for people to control their food choices, which could contribute to weight gain and other health problems over time.
But here's the good news: You can stop your sugar cravings before they start by studying your past thoughts and behaviors and learning to take more positive actions!
Am I tired?
Solution: 4. Stop Your Sugar Cravings When You're Tired by Getting More Sleep
A good night's sleep can help you curb your cravings.
If you're tired, you might be craving sugar because your body is looking for quick energy. "When we're tired, we tend to crave those things that will give us the quick boost of energy," says Dr. Hildreth. "For some people it's carbohydrates, for others it's caffeine." And for others, it may be sugar.
If that sounds like you, try getting more sleep to see if it helps reduce your cravings. It might not be easy at first — especially when there's cake right in front of you — but don't give up or else they'll just keep coming back stronger than ever before!
In conclusion, if your sugar cravings are out of control then you need to identify what is making you want sugar and then remove the urge by removing that trigger.
Tip #1: Be patient with yourself.
Tip #2: I'll share with you a hint I give my clients; put a sticky note on your refrigerator and pantry, any place you keep your snacks (glovebox). The note says, “H-A-L-T?”
Then do the following, make yourself answer each question:
Am I hungry/thirsty?
Am I angry/anxious?
Am I lonely/bored?
Am I tired?
This usually gives you enough time to challenge your thinking around your need for sugar and snacking! Keep each note, put a date on it, make a note if there was an aggravating situation?
Lastly, make sure to replace the note with a new one that says “H-A-L-T?” And review your notes looking for a trigger pattern, are you angrier than you realized or is there another trigger, a; person, situation, topic or is it a specific time of day.
I hope you find this to be empowering information. Please, share your thoughts!