I have a sweet tooth. Always have. The first treat/snack I recall eating with great regularity is kalkandu aka rock candy aka sugar. I was a fussy eater and the solution devised by the adults was to put a bit of sugar in everything I ate.
Won't eat roti? Roll it up with some sugar in it.
Wont' eat rice? Mix in some milk and sugar.
I am not blaming them at all. I loved it. And being a skinny and hyper-energetic kid, this worked for many, many years.
So, this sugar craving that comes across is as much a habit and something automatic in me and not actually a craving many times. But it still has to be dealt with. While one should eat their favourite foods, one should also look at staying healthy and chocolate ice-cream for breakfast does not keep me healthy.
So, here are some strategies for people like me who have a sweet tooth.
#1: a 10-minute timer
Most times, the sugar craving comes after a meal. Coz you are used to dessert, or more likely, we popped in some candy after a meal as a kid. This is just a rather immediate reaction that you do before the brain has even processed what's happening.
I set a 10-minute timer. This is more mental but as I write it, I realise I should just set the timer on my phone as well. Just wait out the timer - go do something else.
Most times, the brain will assert itself and the craving might've dissipated by when the timer goes.
#2: create a hurdle
There's this piece of research that I read about. This is in an office setting - you know, cubicles and all that. What these food and behavioural scientists did was put a bunch of candy in 3 different spots.
- within hand's reach of where the person working in the cubicle is.
- about 1-2 feet away. It is still in the cubicle but the person has to stand and walk a step towards it.
- about 10-20 feet away. Out of the line of sight and a lot more work to get to it.
What they found was the 3rd scenario resulted in the least amount of candy being consumed. Duh! And the first scenario led to a lot of candy consumed. Double duh!
So, create a hurdle for yourself. The best is to get rid of all the treats in your house. The hurdle to order in or go to a store is a reasonable hurdle.
#3: have some ghee
I like ghee, so this works for me. Calorie-dense and rich in fat, a spoonful of ghee seems to get rid of my cravings. You can try a sip of coconut oil, if you'd prefer.
This is not the best method but what I've found is that one method is never enough for me.
#4: chew some sugar-free gum
There's a lot of amazing flavours of sugar-free gum out there. It gives your teeth and jaws a good workout (which is good) and checks the sugar box as well.
This is a win-win! And as someone who likes to chew gum, this method works best for me.
#5: make the decision in the morning
If you are like me, it is not a question of if but when you will get that sugar craving. Mondays are the worst because I probably had a good treat on Sunday. You would think that means Monday is the easiest day to say no but funnily, that just makes it harder for me.
So, Monday morning, I tell myself and I write it down sometimes as well - "You are not eating sugar today". And I bookmark when and what I will eat - Saturday, chocolate ice-cream, an extra scoop coz I am being awesome.
Most times, decision fatigue is what kills us. Get ahead of it.
#6: Dark chocolate
Pop in a square of dark chocolate - say something in the 70% or 80% range. The sugar content is low, and it is rich. It will give you the hit of sugar you need with minimal damage.
Sleep deprivation will increase your sugar cravings. So, if you find that even with a solid, wholesome meal that you are getting cravings, look at sleep.
None of these strategies are fool-proof. But they are simply strategies to help buy you time and get out of that immediate reaction where you just pop it in. There's not one magical fix - it depends on the situation.
Try these out and be relaxed about it. See what works for you, and when.
The key thing is that you can control that craving. That craving does not own you. Knowing when you want to eat that sugar versus letting it take over is the key thing you are going for.
You are the boss of that sugar!