6 reasons why you crave sweets (and what to do about it)

Last week I discussed sugar alternatives and why I suggest avoiding with them and getting over your reliance on sweets. This week, I’ll delve deeper into WHY we are as a nation are SO into sweets…

Here are a few of biological reasons we get hooked on sweets (and the food manufacturers know this so well):

  1. You get a dopamine kick. When we eat sweets (whether they are from sugar* or artificial sweeteners) our brains get a dopamine reward which is an intense feeling of pleasure that can become ADDICTIVE as we crave this reward we get from consuming sweets. Biologically, we are set up to receive tiny dopamine rewards but the sheer concentration of this dopamine hit is far more intense than our bodies (which haven’t evolved much in millions of years) are able to handle. And, over time, we need more and more sweets to get the same reward.
  2. You are lacking in basic nutrients which is causing cravings. Talk to your medical provider about testing your vitamin levels to make sure you are deficient in basic nutrients and consider talking to a nutrition professional to gear your diet to fueling foods that satisfy you or consider having a 20 minute (free) consultation with me to go over some of these issues.
  3. You are low in serotonin. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that helps regulate mood. Sweets (both sugar and artificial sweeteners) indirectly raise serotonin by increasing insulin which helps the amino acid tryptophan enter the brain to make serotonin. But, there are other much better and safer ways to improve our mood than with sweets.
  4. You are eating WAY more sweeteners than you think you are (most of us are) and that is creating its own need.
*I include ANYTHING that is sweet here – fruits, “natural” sweeteners like agave or stevia as well as the artificial sweeteners like saccharin (Sweet’N Low), aspartame (Equal, NutraSweet) and sucralose (Splenda), sorbitol and Acesulfame K.

And one BIG non-biological reason (good news…you have a LOT of say in this one)…YOUR THOUGHTS which inform your DESIRE

When we feel stressed or bored or anxious we often turn to foods to numb our feelings. This is why we want sugar or chocolate or soda or popcorn (or pick your poison). When you have that desire for a sweet thing, stop and look at your thoughts. Ask yourself WHY am I having this desire? There’s usually some type of trigger such as boredom or stress. I suggest sitting with these feelings instead of immediately hitting the sweets. I PROMISE your feelings won’t hurt you.

And…here’s the good news about your biological and psychological desire for sweets…

It actually gets better over time if you stay away from the sweet stuff. And, your body will start to regulate your neurotransmitters and you will rewarded with renewed brain power and vitality. If you pay attention to your thoughts and feelings and stop trying to block them with food (or alcohol), you will give yourself the opportunity to manage your thoughts and feelings without this heavy reliance on potentially harmful (and fattening) substances.

So…should I never have sweets again?

Well, that would be a nice goal but it’s not one that I personally have. Do I ever have sugar, fruit or sweets? YES. Once in a while I do enjoy these things. They are delicious but I consume them in small quantities.

So before you indulge STOP AND THINK

So, when you get the urge for something sweet, stop and ask yourself 3 key questions:

  1. What problem am I trying to solve by having this thing? (hint…that sweet treat is probably causing more problems and not really solving any for you).
  2. Do I really want my brain to be manipulated (and potentially) harmed by what I eat and drink?
  3. Do I really NEED a substitute? Wouldn’t it be better long-term to deal with my thoughts and feelings instead (I promise they won’t harm you).