The Psychology Of Fitness

Mindsets, Body Types and Everything In Between
Tuesday Psych Post ~ Ways to Control Sugar Cravings

Tuesday Psych Post ~ Ways to Control Sugar Cravings

Too often we get caught up in trying to be perfect when it comes to our diets. 

We do have to be different than most other people if we want things that most people are unwilling to go for, but inevitably, there will be a time where we slip and will “fall off the wagon.”

The key after falling off the wagon is to get back on as soon as possible.  As long as you get back on track as quickly as possible, there is one other major hurdle to confront:  Allowing cognitive dissonance start you down the pyramid of self-justification for “needing to cheat.”  Just as you don’t want to use self-justification for allowing yourself to continue eating poorly, you don’t want to turn it into a self-hate blamefest where you turn a specific incident into a universal thought such as, “I can NEVER stick to diets – this is why I’ll ALWAYS be this weight.”

Whenever there’s a “never” or “always” in a sentence, it’s usually the start of a slippery slope towards defeatist thinking and learned helplessness.

With that said, quite possibly the most pervasive problem I see when it comes to cheating on a diet, comes with sweets.

Sometimes, the slip up occurs at work, when there’s a birthday party for a co-worker and at other times, you see some candy and CRAVE it!

Both of these instances happened to me this previous week.  Usually, I have no issues with having some sweets and moving past that hiccup, but this previous week was much more problematic.

So what are the best ways to beat those sweet cravings?

1 -Desire to Maintain Your Resolve

Most people can control their sweet tooth with the methods I’ll list below, but if you truly don’t want to stop eating sweets, than no matter what “tricks” you use, it’s not going to work.  In other words, don’t BS yourself and actually want to make the change.  The first 3-7 days without any sugar or sweets will require a lot of self-control and you’re going to truly want to get rid of the sweets if the habit is going to stick.  With a strong enough desire in place, you’ll need some specific methods to help you out.  That’s what the rest of this post is about. 

2 – Get adequate sleep

I can’t stress enough how important sleep is to maintaining one’s sweet tooth (my sweet tooth).  The main reason that I wasn’t able to bounce back from falling off the wagon was because I was slightly sleep-deprived.  What happens when you’re sleep deprived?  A number of different physiological and neuroendocrine responses.

Ghrelin is a hormone that plays an important role in regulating one’s appetite.  During both short and long-term sleep deprivation, one’s ghrelin levels increase.  This means that you will be hungry more often.

On top of that, sleep restriction increases one’s sympathetic nervous system, which in turn increases cortisol levels at night.  In other words, expect to be hungry at night.  Almost EVERY single client that I’ve ever dealt with has had this issue of night hunger.

In addition to sleep deprivation increasing one’s appetite via 2 different methods, fat loss also becomes impaired via 2 different levels – impaired glucose regulation and decreased leptin levels.

Decreased leptin levels, once again increase hunger and impaired glucose regulation can cause issues with losing fat, especially when it comes to sweets.

The easiest way to solve this problem is to go to bed consistently earlier and aim for 7-9 hours per night.  Obviously, this is not always the most practical of all advice, but it is the one thing that often separates those that see results from a smart eating plan/exercise and those that don’t.

In other words, don’t underestimate the importance of sleep when it comes to losing fat or controlling one’s sweet tooth.

3 – Control Your Blood Sugar

One of the biggest issues with sweet cravings is that we don’t eat regularly enough (of healthy foods) to keep our blood sugar cravings in check.  Although these blood sugar fluctuations can be skewed due to other reasons, not eating often enough, should not be one of them.  There are people that say you don’t need to eat every three hours and they are correct – when it comes to losing fat. 

For the poeple I interact with though, eating more often helps to control that late-night binge eating that occurs after 9pm and doesn’t help anyone out. 

In other words, make sure you eat when you’re hungry or at regularly scheduled intervals and be full at the end of your dinner. 

4 – Balance Your Intestinal Flora

Most people, because of a variety of factors, ranging from overuse of anti-biotics to poor food choices will have some sort of Candida overgrowth.  What’s Candida?  It’s a fungus normally present in the body in small amounts.  What happens though is that when we kill off the good bacteria in our stomach and over-consume sweets, this yeast will proliferate and cause us to constantly crave sweets.

One of the best ways to help with fighting this overgrowth is in three ways:

A – Take a multi-strain probiotic with at least 15 billion active organisms.  Not only will the probiotic help with decreasing sweet cravings and balancing your intestinal flora, but it will also aid in digestion and vitamin production.
B – Drink 1-2 cups of Pau D’arco Tea for 16 days and then stop.  Pau D’arco has strong anti-fungal properties and is highly cost effective.
C – Eliminate all simple carbs from your diet.  The simple carbs act like fuel when you’re trying to put out a fire.  It’s just not a good plan.

These three methods will help stave off any short-term overgrowth that occurred from indulging in the sweets.

 5 – Rebalance Your Neurotransmitters

The chemicals in your brain that influence desire, energy, happiness and focus can all be linked back to the neurotransmitters in your brain.  I am in no way an expert concerning this information, but I have probably experimented with more techniques and supplements than most people will ever even consider trying.   Most of this information has been gleaned from Charles Poliquin and his BioSignature method.  Here are the techniques that have worked for me to not only increase focus, but increase “willpower” when it comes to controlling urges as varied as sweets to binge drinking. 

1 – Get better sleep.  If you’re missing out on this link, there are other techniques you can use, but they’re not going to be as effective. 

2 – Start your day with a breakfast that doesn’t cause you to crash.  Most people have a high carb breakfast.  High carbs induce the release of serotonin – which makes you feel happy, calm and relaxed.  Not exactly how you would want to start, because “relaxed” is just another word for sleepy. 

Magnesium supplementation has been shown to help people “relax” and is why it’s recommended before bed.  To help with falling asleep. 

The bottom line with breakfast is you would want to start your day with a breakfast that helps to raise dopamine and acetylcholine.  What are two ways to do that?  To start your day with a Meat and Nut Breakfast.  Charles Poliquin has really promoted this for some time and has been highly effective for me, in not only controlling my appetite (and hence sugar cravings), but also in helping to increase my morning ability to focus. 

3 – Add supplements.  There are a lot of products out there for brain health nowadays.  The ironic part is that one of the best things you can do for your brain is to control blood sugar fluxuations and decrease the amount of sugar in your brain.  The reason for this is that high blood sugar can cause your brain to age at a more rapid rate, via oxidation of your brain cells (it’s like rusting for your brain).  

So here are 4 supplements that have helped with both short-term brain chemistry and long-term:

1 – Fish oil – Your brain is comprised mainly of DHA, which is an essential fatty acid primarily found in fish oil. 

2 – A good Greens Drink – A natural, freeze-dried powder of fruits and vegetables help to fight free radical damage from high sugar intake.  This also alkanizes your body which should give you a natural boost of energy without a crash.  It’s also a good source of natural vitamins and minerals without the ton of extra calories. 

3 – Power Drive – Power Drive contains compounds that act as the precursors to dopamine and acetylcholine (the two neurotransmitters listed above) that help with focus.  Too often, with sweets especially, our reward centers in our brain are on overdrive.  The reward centers in our brain are a function of dopamine activity and as such, are too excited by the sweets we crave.  In order to help quench that over-excitation, we want to balance our neurotransmitters and Power Drive is a great way to do that. 

With that said, this supplement (at least for me) takes about a week or two before I notice any variable changes.  But once I do, I feel good on it for about 2 weeks.  After two weeks, I start to actually feel worse on it (but I think that’s because of my sensitive stomach to sucralose).  So I cycle this every other month. 

4 – Holy Basil – If there’s one compound that’s been evident in a bunch of focus supplements that I’ve taken, it’s Holy Basil.  Charles Poliquin’s line makes a great supplement as in I don’t get the usual crash I typically get.  For me, Holy Basil has been the only supplement that allows me to be diligently focused for about 3-4 hours after taking it. 

The problem is after those 3-4 hours of intense focus, my brain is TIRED! 

So if there is something that MUST be done, I like this supplement.  If I have time to waste and can work longer, but not as focused or intense, then I don’t take it. 

Typically, on a diet, I’ll take it around 5 or 6 pm as I can stay focused until about 9 before I want to eat and go to bed.  It’s worked in controlling my sweet cravings until that hour.  If you plan on staying up later, then this might not be your best option. 

Like I said though, these are things that have worked for me. 

There are literally countless other ways to rebalance one’s neurotransmitters, or control cortisol or blood sugar regulation, but I’ve stuck to the things I think are important for controlling blood sugar cravings.  

If you were to start with these 5 techniques listed in this post, from the easiest (getting more sleep) all the way up to taking supplements, if you have a desire to do so, you can conquer your sweet cravings.  It will take some discipline, smart and healthy eating habits along with some “special techniques” to quelch that desire. 

If you have any questions about this post or about Personal Training in Hoboken, feel free to email me at

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