How To Stop Sugar Cravings and the Cycle of SugarSeptember 28, 2020
Learn How To Stop Sugar Cravings and the Cycle of Sugar
The desire to stop sugar cravings is common with bariatric surgery patients and anyone health-minded. In my experience, initially, after surgery, most of my patients report that the taste of sugar is unappealing. Even the protein shakes that they were enjoying pre-surgery are too sweet. We have to find ways to dilute it so that can tolerate it enough to reach their protein goals. Most early post-ops aren't dealing with the cycle of sugar and many people don't know how to stop sugar cravings.
For most, this tends to last for at least a few months. It makes it easy to pass by that birthday cake in the office or the cookies they purchased for their grandchildren.
But at some point, many will share the opposite is true. They start craving high-sugar foods, even if they never did before surgery. And when they eat them, they no longer have an aversion. In fact, it tastes good and they want more. That's the cycle of sugar and the difficulty of how to stop sugar cravings.
It’s as if the sugar now awakens an area in their brain that was “asleep.” And now that desire starts to grow. Instead of having a negative reaction to the taste of sugar they are finding the more they try it the more it appeals to them.
So what has changed? Well, it could be several things.
A clear one is that a restricted diet and failure to be compliant with your supplements could be leading to nutrient deficiencies.
Magnesium and zinc deficiencies are linked to sugar cravings.
Another could be the increased use of artificial sweeteners by replacing higher-calorie versions of their favorite pre-surgery foods with a “low-sugar” or “no sugar added version”. These sweeteners affect insulin and blood sugar and sometimes create the opposite effect. Instead of satisfying a craving, they end up causing one.
The sugar craving could also have nothing to do with what you are or are not eating. Factors like stress and inadequate sleep also affect hormones. One is cortisol, which alters your blood glucose and insulin levels. And as a result, the desire for sugar returns, because your body remembers that sugar can increase serotonin which then boosts your mood.
How To Stop Sugar Cravings
Here are some tips to get out of the cycle of sugar and stop sugar cravings. They don’t include going back on a liquid diet and limiting your intake to only protein shakes. Doing that may actually make those cravings more intense when you start to transition back to solids.
Instead, start by focusing on including nutrition-rich foods and getting some extra zzzz’s.
Include lean protein and healthy fat with each meal and snack to aid in slower digestion and absorption and help to balance blood sugar. To be more specific,
- Try adding foods rich zinc like oysters, beef, chicken, and chickpeas.
- Include magnesium-rich foods like dark leafy greens (kale and spinach), lima beans, pumpkin and flaxseeds, tofu and wheat germ.
- Include foods that can boost serotonin such as eggs, cheese, and green tea.
Avoid artificial sweeteners, read labels especially on foods and beverages are marketed as “sugar-free or no sugar added”.
- Look for the following words, aspartame, sucralose, and saccharin.
- Choose fruit if you want something sweet.
Incorporate stress relief in your everyday routine.
- Four square breathing (or box breathing) before your meals
- Aim for a minimum of 30 minutes of physical activity daily
- Find a support group
- Plan non-food rewards that you enjoy
Create better sleep habits. Aim for 7-8 hours each night. And if that is not feasible every night work on hitting that goal at least 4 times a week. Especially since after 9 pm is when most of my clients report higher cravings. And due to fatigue, they have a harder time redirecting.
And don’t forget to be consistent with your supplements. Be sure to speak with your healthcare team before starting something new.
ABOUT THE AUTHORAndrea Doria-Cameron has been a registered dietitian for more than 17 years. She has a master’s degree in Clinical Nutrition from New York University and worked at SUNY Downstate Medical Center & GMHC before moving to Seattle, WA. At that time, she began to specialize in weight management working as a research dietitian for Fred Hutchinson’s Cancer Research Center. After returning to New York, Andrea obtained a position as a bariatric nutritionist for NYU Langone Medical Center. She has a Certificate of Training in Adult Weight Management and is a New York State Licensed Dietitian-Nutritionist.