Haven’t you been there? You’ve had a long week and are now curled up on the couch to enjoy a movie with your family. About fifteen minutes into the movie, you realize there’s a sweet treat in the pantry. You no longer can focus on the movie because instantly you are so hungry! Or are you? Are you really hungry or just craving something sweet?
There are some very valid reasons to why you may be feeling hungry and wanting something sweet. One reason could be that your blood sugar is lower than normal. If you feel hungry, shaking and unable to concentrate, lower blood sugar could be the culprit. If you notice this happening frequently, especially at a particular time of day, you should consult your doctor.
Another reason could be lower serotonin levels. It is fairly well-known that serotonin regulates sleep patterns. Something slightly less well-known about this neurotransmitter is that at lower amounts, sometimes individuals crave sweets. This is also a possible reason that so many women crave sweets during their menstrual cycle when serotonin levels drop as well as estrogen levels.
Stress is everywhere an affects so many people. It can lead to many mental and physical problems. It also may be increasing your desire for sugar. When stress hits, cortisol is released, affecting blood sugar levels. This shift could cause sugar cravings.
So how do I know if this is a true craving due to fluctuations in my body or just my mind playing tricks on me? It is very helpful to practice some mindful eating practices to distinguish between cravings and hunger.
- Check your emotions. Are you bored, stressed or tired. These emotions can be masked as hunger and lead to cravings and overeating. Identify them as what they are instead of quickly grabbing something sweet.
- If craving sugar, have a nice glass of water. If you are truly hungry, water will not satisfy. Yet, so many people mistakingly think they are hungry when actually they are thirsty. So drink your water and wait about 20 minutes.
- Eat a healthy sweet snack. Just because you are craving sugar doesn’t mean that a sweeter healthier food can’t satisfy. Choose the sweetest fruit you can think of. What could be better than a summer peach or a juicy pear or some bright red strawberries? But don’t forget, slow down and enjoy your choice. Allow your brain to recognize the feeling of fullness once you are done before still hitting the sugar. Even some sweeter type vegetables such as sweet potatoes could satisfy.
Other tips that could help would include:
- Turn off the screen. It’s so easy to crave something while having a movie marathon. Your mind zones out and you eat without thought, usually on unhealthier foods.
- Balance your meals, especially breakfast. Unfortunately, breakfast is so easily overlooked. It is either not planned for or skipped entirely. This can be problematic if your blood sugar is dropping, this could even be the cause of the drop. Make sure each meal, including breakfast, has adequate proteins and complex carbohydrates.
- This is easier said than done for most. Yet, adequate rest can make a world of difference when cravings are concerned.
So next time you feel a sugar craving hit, slow down and be mindful of your emotions, your hydration status and level of rest. Make sure other physical elements are not acting against you to make you want to eat something sweet. And don’t forget, fruit makes a great sweet substitute for sugary foods.