Kicking Sugar Cravings to the Curb

I Used To Eat Oreos For Breakfast

I love sugar. Eight years ago I used to eat 100 Calories Oreos packs for breakfast. I thought this was relatively healthy after all only 100 calories sounds healthy, doesn’t it? Plus they’re prepackaged; I used to be always running late in the morning and also I had to stop at Starbucks for a mocha before I went to the hospital, so a fast breakfast was essential. Now I eat eggs in the morning, and the transition to breakfast with less sugar has changed my whole life in how much easier it has been for me to cut sugar during the rest of the day.

Why is that?

If you pay attention to it, you will probably notice that if you eat a lot of sugar early in the day, you will crave a lot of sugar all day. This has to do with the way your body regulates sugar. Once you establish a high steady state of glucose in your body, your body will want to maintain that. This is true for most people who have a sweet tooth. If you’re more of a savory or salty person, then this likely doesn’t apply to you.

What should you do?

When I first started cutting sugar in the morning, I felt awful. I’m pretty sure I feel more energetic after I have sugar, even more than if I have caffeine. If this is you too, it can be hard to cut sugar in the morning and still feel awake enough to go to work.

Feel better in the morning

One option I found that worked for me was to move my workout to the morning. Exercise can give you a similar kind of rush as sugar. This is because exercise increases endorphins and enkephalins which are both endogenous opioid peptides. This means they both work with the part of the brain associated with pleasure and pain. Although there’s not a lot of medical data to support this, anecdotally this why you hear people talking about having a runner’s high or being addicted to exercise.

What if you don’t have time to go to the gym in the morning?

Try doing a mini workout like jumping jacks at home and see if this is a good stand in. Alternatively, if you don’t like working out in the morning, you could try meditation as well. In studies, it has been shown to help with depression and anxiety. So if you feel depressed or anxious from not having sugar in the morning, it could help you too.

Or you could try caffeine

Adding some extra caffeine to your morning could work too. Caffeine is a stimulant for your central nervous system, so it will help you feel more alert. You can try adding an extra shot of espresso to your iced latte if you’re a coffee person.  

If you’re a chocolate person like me and are switching from having chocolate related sugar in the morning, you can try switching to dark chocolate which has substantially less sugar than anything with milk chocolate. Usually the higher the percentage of dark chocolate the less sugar and more caffeine is in it. Personally, I find anything over 70% cocoa to be too bitter to enjoy. I initially switched from 100 calorie Oreo packs to a nut mix with dark chocolate covered soy nuts.  Your longer term plan should be to stop all chocolate in the morning eventually as it still has some sugar in it.

Change your habits

I recommend you cut back on sugar gradually, so you don’t feel like you’re depriving yourself and you’re more like to keep the changes long term. For most people doing something more extreme like a one month sugar detox will work for something short term like getting fit before a wedding or similar event. But then after the wedding, you’ll go back to all the same bad eating habits, and you’ll balloon back up to your previous weight. And the next time you have to go to a wedding you’ll be in the same place all over again. If you learn how to change your habits or even just one habit, what you eat for breakfast, it will make keeping off the weight much easier.

Originally published on Northington Fitness & Nutrition July 17, 2017.


5 thoughts on “Kicking Sugar Cravings to the Curb”

  1. As a serious sugar addict still struggling with my “addiction” I know first hand how difficult it is to get off sugar, and to stay off it. Part of the reason it’s so hard to kick the habit is that over time our brains actually become addicted to the natural opioids that are triggered by sugar consumption. Much like the classic drugs of abuse such as cocaine, alcohol and nicotine, a diet loaded with sugar can generate excessive reward signals in the brain which can override one’s self-control and lead to addiction.

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