Hi Georgie! I love your website and recipes! I have realized that I have quite a few treats…almost to the point where every lunch and dinner is followed by some chocolate or something sweet. I am trying to address this by substituting some of the treats with healthier alternatives….half of a low sugar baked good, fruit, herbal tea. However, I find myself still craving something richer in sugar. I don’t want to be ruled by my sweet tooth and really feel it’s interfering with my progress in weight loss and healthy habits. Any advice on how to minimize or eliminate my sugar consumption? Thanks! -Mihaela
Hi Mihaela, Thanks for the note!
Craving sweets after meals is common, and I know how it can feel a little funny to compulsively require a sweet at certain times! I have totally been there. Getting the sweet tooth dialed down isn’t all that bad, promise. It’s not a matter of depriving yourself or just gritting your teeth. Some tweaks can make the urge less.
First, some questions:
How many meals and snacks do you eat per day?
How much fat do you include with your meals?
Do you eat until you are satisfied or stop short?
Do you exercise, an if so, do you have a postworkout meal with carbohydrates? (how much?)
Let me know and we’ll figure this out. – Georgie
So sweet of you to get back to me so quickly! I am such a big big big fan of your website, I’m actually hoping to get some coaching with you soon after I finish the group coaching program I am in now. All your posts are such an inspiration for me and I hope you know what a great role model you are for people trying to get healthier
Now to get down to business….
1) First, some questions: how many meals and snacks do you eat per day? usually 3 meals with 1-2 snacks, primarily need the snack in between lunch (around noon) and dinner (6:30PM). My toughest time of the day is around 3-4PM.
2) How much fat do you include with your meals? I shoot for a thumb of healthy fat like nuts (in my yogurt), cheese (in my salad), olive oil (in sauteed veggies or as salad dressing)
3) Do you eat until you are satisfied or stop short? Working on 80% full has been an ongoing effort for me. I still have a hard time tuning into my fullness level and I have been working on decreasing my portions. However, many times I overshoot and feel full after my meals. Despite no hunger, I still crave dessert. I don’t know if it’s just a need for something sweet maybe to counteract garlic or onion in my meal or stress related (something sweet to sweeten up my day or delay work?)
4) Do you exercise, and if so, do you have a postworkout meal with carbohydrates? (how much?) I used to exercise in the evening 5-6PM so I would have dinner right after which included about a 1/2-1cup carbohydrates like quinoa, whole wheat tortilla, or beans. I have switched to AM workouts this week (5-6AM) and usually include some carbs with my breakfast like a piece of your spinach pie with chickpea crust or a piece of whole wheat toast.
Thanks so much for taking the time – Mihaela
Hi Again! I have some recommendations for things you can try, it may take just one “big ticket thing” that helps reduce the sugar cravings, or a sum of several changes.
1. If it’s just “man I have garlic breath after that hummus” factor, then a piece of gum or cup of tea or coffee with sweetener should do the trick for no calories. Try it. Can’t hurt.
2. If it’s an emotional “I want a treat” or “I want something pleasurable” then look for other pleasurable things you can do. It doesn’t have to be throw-your-head-back-with-glee awesome, just a little something nice. If you’d take 5 minutes to eat something more, you can use those 5 minutes to take a walk, listen to a song or 5 min of a podcast, browse online for shoes, or call your spouse to say I love you and hear it back. If your life as a whole feels like it’s lacking in joy or pleasure, then a more general shift may be in order, and the sweet tooth is just the tip of the iceberg.
I don’t assume I know you and your life in detail at all, so please forgive me if this seems too personal, but in my experience, having a hard time stopping the urge to eat past full may also be a clue that something in your life isn’t giving you enough joy or pleasure, so you want MORE. You mentioned stress, so it’s worth asking: Is stress in your life preventing you from focusing on your fullness level? Is your mind elsewhere while you are eating?
3. Two other ideas which may or may not apply to you, but help with decreasing sweet cravings:
Increasing the proportion of dietary fat helps if you are too low in fat. If this is the case you will often feel hungry only 3 hours or so after a meal, when if you add enough fat you can get 5 or more hours without much problem. (You’d want to make sure you dial back somewhere else or skip a snack so you aren’t just adding calories). When you have enough fat in your diet, your body shifts it’s metabolism to be less focused on burning carbohydrate and more towards burning fat, and a side effect is blissfully reduced sweet cravings. You might try to see how you do in the afternoons with more food at lunch and seeing if you can just skip the snack between lunch and dinner. The full effect here is seen after 3-5 days usually, so you have to give it a few days to see if that’s your issue.
Post workout carbohydrates being too low will also trigger sweet cravings through a glucoprovic response in the brain (“hey, there’s not enough carbs here for what we did, crank the sugar cravings!”). The amount of carbohydrates you need after training depends on the workouts, how high the total amount of carbohydrates in the rest your diet is, and a few other factors. If inadequate carbohydrate intake is the case behind your sweet cravings, only a one-day trial will show benefit, so if you want to try it, one day have double the amount of PWO carbohydrates and see if your sweet cravings that day are less. If it doesn’t help, no need to try it again. That’s one case where you know right away if it helps or not.
Hope this helps, let me know what you think. I bet that sweet tooth won’t rule for you for much longer at all.