3 Reasons You Struggle With Cravings (And How To Control Them!)

Willpower and intellect have little to do with pushing away sugar, especially when it comes to cravings. 

If you didn’t know that sugar was bad for you, then yes, intellect would be a factor and you could simply learn about sugar’s negative effects and push it away. If you saw a sugary treat that looked super yummy, but it wasn’t really tempting you too intensely, then yes, willpower could be summoned and you could most likely push it away. But, this is not what you typically are faced with when it comes to sugar.

Imagine this…

It’s the middle of the afternoon and you’ve got a sugar craving. Your day has been stressful so far and that sweet treat would taste so good. You stand in front of it, looking at how delicious it would be to bite into it. You KNOW that it is not healthy and could even make you crash later. You KNOW that you could push it away, should push it away- but it looks so good. You think to yourself, “What’s so bad about a little indulgence? You’re working hard. You deserve a treat.” Your tongue starts to salivate. You start to feel deprived. After moments of willpower, intellect, and your brain battling each other, you give in and indulge. It’s just once, right?

The belly-mind connection is much stronger than willpower. I have noticed that the more I restrict my cravings, the more it backfires on me and I rebel. I end up overeating the very foods that I try to resist.

This belly-mind connection is strong and, when there is an imbalance, then it can cause these cravings that seem out of control. Understanding the neurobiology of it will help to get you off the roller coaster ride of sugar addition.

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1. Emotional Connection

We eat because we are in the need of fulfilling something. Eating is to be about fulfulling your need for food because you are hungry. Often, we eat to fulfill something else.

A good question to ask yourself is your desire to eat because your belly needs to be feed or is it because you need to take care of your soul? Let’s face it – When confronted with the scrumptious smell of baked sweetness, it’s challenging to make that distinction. Foods that have a lot of delicious tastes that you enjoy can connect us to forms of nuturing or happy memories. When you feel emotional discomfort and you feel a deep yearn to be nutured or you just want relief, you may be immediately drawn to eating those foods that recreate that for you. Sugar triggers the pleasure centers in our brains and eating them eases our feelings—for the moment anyway.

Unfortunately, many weight loss programs do not address the root causes of emotional eating. This is often why so many people struggle to maintain a diet plan. They may learn what and how much to eat, but are not taught how to address the emotional connection. That means that healthy habits can be instilled, but eventually the psychological connection resurfaces and habits fall by the wayside.

Mindfulness training has been shown to reduce that psychological stress, ultimately reducing binge eating, eating disorder symptoms, and cravings. When you spin out of control with your eating habits, often it is because of that disconnect to what is really going on. Mindfulness also helps you pay attention to your experiences related to hunger, satiety, taste preferences, and eating in response to food cues.

How to do you let go of that mid-afternoon sweet treat?  The first step to letting go of the is to recognize why you picked it up in the first place. Question yourself and your motivation—especially when you’re right in the middle of the self-defeating behavior. It takes courage to dive into uncomfortable emotional territory. Becoming aware is key (because most of us are not) and just starting to notice your reality- what is the situation, how are you feeling, what is your environment triggers, how will it make you feel if you indulge, etc.

That’s where change begins—but it’s not the only step. You also need to understand the roles your nutrition and brain plays in controlling or creating cravings.

bowl of vegetable salad and fruits
Photo by Trang Doan on Pexels.com

2. Nutrition Balance

One of the most common complaints I hear from my clients is that they don’t have time to eat consistently. Or, they don’t have time to find healthy foods to eat so they choose “whatever is available.” When we’re busy or we work late or the fridge is empty, meal planning is the first thing that goes out the window. When your brain is already consumed with your to-do list and you are stressed out with your other responsibilities, worrying about your meal planning can seem so daunting.

That behavior can pull you into a destructive nutritional cycle — repeated hunger leads to an increased appetite and overeating. This actually leads to more stress, a rise in cortisol, and contributes to the storage of fat in the abdomen. When you bombard your body with too much food at once, it can not do it’s job and your body stores the excess as body fat. Give your body the nutrients it needs over three balanced meals a day, so your whole system works more efficiently. You’ll sustain your energy and stabilize your mood— a positive impact on your emotional response and significantly less cravings!

What should you eat to balance your nutrition? To satisfy your hunger and your body’s needs, fill up on moderate amounts of healthy protein, green leafy veggies, fibrous veggies and fruits, and healthy fats high in Omega-3 fatty acids, such as avocados. Regular meals not only help you to lose weight, but they also help to stabilize your blood sugar and decrease your need to satisfy your sweet-tooth.

It is also important to eat food with healthy flavor. Cook foods that have flavor variety by using spices and herbs such as basil, rosemary, cinnamon, turmeric, and cumin, to name a few. If you feel satisfied, you’ll be less likely to reach for sweets to satisfy your cravings— especially around three or four o’clock in the afternoon when you hit that mid-day lull.

Here are some simple, practical ways to say good-bye to cravings and sweet treats —

  • Triggers: Know your temptations and what’s behind them. How can you avoid your triggers and/or how can you heal your trigger association.
  • Eat regular meals. Don’t let yourself get to the desperately hungry point.
  • Distract/replace: Find something else to do or have a savory cup of tea.
  • Environment: Get out of the kitchen or walk past the pastry case.
woman smelling bread
Photo by mentatdgt on Pexels.com

3. Brain Chemistry

Something is so satisfying about biting into a lightly crispy-on-the-outside, gooey-on-the-inside donut. The taste sends happy charges all over the body. Even though we know there is no nutritional value, the sense of reward we get from it completely outwits what we intellectually know.  This helps us validate the “I deserve it” attitude.

There is actual science behind those sensations. With just the smell of freshly baked pastries or cakes, our brain gets signaled and it motivates us to want to indulge. Before anything even hits your lips, your brain is firing and saying “yes, please.” Also, before the food touches your lips, digestion starts. When you smell those delicious aromas, you begin to salivate. Salivation cues your body that you are going to eat. These food cues literally drive your eating behaviors.

Sweets also have short-term, mood-elevating, and pain-suppressing properties. This is why sugar is so very addictive. It just makes you feel good. No wonder you struggle so hard to resist them, even when that little voice of reason is telling you to get out of the kitchen after dinner! The problem with the indulging is that it throws you into a cycle of wanting more. You begin to reward the brain and use it as your method of creating happiness and elevated moods. This behavior lights up the same reward-related brain chemistry as with substance addictions. Several studies have shown that cocaine-addicted rats preferred sugar to their coke fix!

Given the prevalence of sugary foods and their strong effect on the body, you need to be your own detective and investigate the effect sugar has on you. What does it do to your body and to your mood—right after you eat it and an hour later? Then start pushing sugar out of your life (or dramatically reducing it).

Observe your eating and create new habits. At the end of the day, it’s all about whether you will take control of sugar or it will take control of you. Because it certainly will!


Did you know that starting out your morning with “me time” helps to decrease stress throughout the rest of your day (and makes you healthier)? Here is my morning routine to help get you started. Click the link below!

Get my instant download of the “5 Simple Morning Tips To Instantly Create Your Destressed Day” (It’s Free!)

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