When you crave something sweet, that feeling can feel very much like you NEED to have the Sugar Cookie, Hershey Kiss, or whatever. The desire is so strong that is almost seems like your body has been taken over by an outside force...like The Walking Dead but instead of brains, you crave chocolate cupcakes filled with ganache. There are a few reasons this is the case, and the good news is that once you can identify your reason, you can call it out on it's bullshit.
Reasons We Crave Sweets & What to Do About It
1. Given Sweets as a Reward: Guilty as charged! Surely you've either been given sweets as a reward and/or given your child one. When this happens over and over again, the brain is trained to crave the reward of sweet sugary goodness. It's sad to say, but we aren't much different than our pups. Sit. Stay. Get a treat. It's a pattern of learned behavior.
SOLUTION:Find a new treat. Humans crave a few simple things: relaxation, entertainment, connection, sex, and food. Perhaps you can reward your good behavior by meeting a friend for coffee or putting your feet up after you complete your workout.
2. Restricted Sweets as a Child: I know! You are damned if you do and you are damned if you don't, right? But seriously, if sweets are seen as a limited resource the desire to "get me some of that" will be stronger. This is why restrictive diets don't work...I'm talking to you Keto & Whole30.
The mind can’t think not. If I ask you to think of a pink elephant in a blue field, then your mind thinks of a pink elephant in a blue field, right?
Now if I ask you to NOT think of a pink elephant in a blue field your mind “can’t not” think of it. Surely it will think of a pink elephant in a blue field even though I told you NOT to.
So if you tell yourself to NOT go to the office vending machine at 3pm, you will surely imagine yourself going to the office vending machine. Because the body responds to words and pictures in it’s mind, it starts to prepare itself for that dang candy bar….you know...the candy bar you said your weren’t going to eat.
If we can't think not, then what should we think? Well, we can crowd out thoughts of 3pm candy bars by getting really excited about something else. This is why I recommend strength training to all of my clients. If you can find something else to get excited about you will find it easier to avoid thinking about candy bars. You may not be super psyched about weight lifting in the beginning, but after successfully completing a few sessions, the feeling of accomplishment will be more exciting than sweets. The more you can fill your brain with something else, the less candy bars matter to you.
We need to believe that we are empowered to influence our own lives. When we don’t take real action in the direction we want to move in, we reinforce feelings of not being good enough.
3. Crave Love and Belonging:
Bethan believes the desire for love and belonging is at the root of all sugar cravings. When the desire is unmet, you may often feel lonely or stressed. The tricky thing is that it doesn't always come out in the brain that way. Sometimes you can feel like you need to do all of the things for all of the people not because they NEED to be done by us, but that we fear not being enough. When you peel back the onion layers, very often the craving really is for being loved.
When you are feeling lonely or stressed, work to identify that and then name the emotion....like straight up name it. When I feel doubtful I say to myself, "Oh that's just Debbie Doubter talking". When I'm super triggered I say, "Oh damn, that's Militia acting up!" Militia - Melissa, get it? Cute, I know.
When we name our emotions, we can be more analytical about it. Ask the question, “What is the unmet need?" Then take some kind of action. We need to believe that we are empowered to influence our own lives. When we don’t take real action in the direction we want to move in, we reinforce feelings of not being good enough. If you are feeling anxious and overwhelmed perhaps "Stressed-Out Sarah" needs to take a few deep breaths. If you are sad, maybe "Emo Erin" needs to call a friend and have a good cry.
Getting in tuned with your body takes time and practice. All you need to do today is to "simply notice". Notice when you start to feel unpleasant thoughts. Get curious about them. Take note and come back to it, maybe through journaling. In time, you will learn to recognize your emotions for what they really are and you will gain the power to feed "the real hunger".
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