How gathering some DATA can help you cut back on the sugar

Last week I talked about treating yourself when the time is right. Today, I follow up on something I mentioned at the end of that blog. I said that I didn’t want to struggle with the sugar dragon every night, aka my sweet tooth. Well, my friends, this is something I am still working on, but I have a secret weapon. I invite you to use this awesome mindful eating tool that can help you manage your cravings. I will also share some strategies that have helped me cut out a lot of sugar.

What Causes Cravings for Sweets? 

Many things can trigger cravings. It can be a result of an unbalanced diet. For example, not eating an adequate amount of protein or fat at meals can result in late night snacking. Lucy talks about this in her account of how she broke up with sugar here. Cravings can also be habitually or emotionally driven.

Here we will discuss the habitual and emotional drivers of cravings and share a mindful eating tool for keeping cravings in check. Sugar cravings can be fierce and unrelenting, that’s why I like to refer to my sweet tooth as the sugar dragon. It creeps in your head and demands sweets. It breathes down your neck until it gets something yummy and sweet.

Think about the times your cravings usually occur. Cravings hit when you’ve sat at a desk way too long. Maybe they come when you are alone and bored on the weekends or when you are frustrated, stuck, or exhausted at the end of the day. 

We may not recognize these feelings at first, but when the sugar dragon pops up it’s often because something is going on underneath the surface, making us feel vulnerable or uncomfortable. Cravings hit during the times when we feel bored, lonely, tired or vulnerable. In an effort to protect ourselves, our brain will try to divert us from those uncomfortable feelings. 

Sugary treats are often readily available at any turn, easy to obtain, only take a minute or two to eat, and they make us feel good almost immediately (although only momentarily). No wonder turning to sugar in one form or the other is a natural habit to pick up. It feels so good that our brain decides we should do that more often. The only trouble is using sugar as a solution isn’t going to help you in the long run. 

How do you manage or stop cravings?

To conquer cravings and formed habits, we must retrain our brain. Breaking the habit and fighting the cravings takes awareness and intention. The mindfulness tool below will help you with those two things. Next time the sugar dragon taunts you, instead of immediately complying take a moment to stop and gather some DATA (Describe, Accept, Time, and Assess)…

  1. Describe the moment to yourself. Where are you? What are you doing? What just happened? What are you feeling? What do you need? What are you thinking? What story are you telling yourself?
  2. Accept it all for what it is and sit with any discomfort. When doing this, treat yourself like you would your best friend. That means no shaming, blaming, or demeaning yourself for anything. Know that it is okay to be feeling this emotion and show yourself compassion.
  3. Take time to turn away from the craving and if uncomfortable feelings are under the surface think about what you truly need to process those. You could journal your thoughts, do some coloring, go on a walk, call a friend, tidy up a room, pray or meditate. You can come back to the craving in 10-20 minutes.
  4. After taking time away, you can now assess your craving and make a deliberate decision rather than an impulsive one. You might still choose to eat something, or you might notice that whatever you did to turn away from the craving lessened the desire to fix the problem with sweets. Perhaps you realize you simply need some sleep, to talk through your feelings, to show yourself some compassion or choose a non-food way to self-soothe.

My challenge to you is to try this tool this week. I’ve done this exercise a few times throughout both of my whole30 experiences and continue to use it when cravings arise. I’ve learned a lot from pausing before reacting. Let me know how it goes for you and what you learn from implementing this mindfulness tool for managing sugar cravings.

What other ways can you stop sugar cravings?

Here are five other ideas to help you cut back on sweets and sugar. 

  1. Be sure you are getting enough protein and healthy fats at each meal.
  2. Include fruit in your meal so you can end on a naturally sweet note
  3. Drink a tall glass of ice water perhaps with lemon or a chilled glass of coconut water. Sometimes hydration can ward off a sweet tooth.
  4. Brush your teeth. Often times, we crave sweet food because we can still taste our dinner. A clean mouth feels excellent and can signal that you are done eating.
  5. Don’t keep desserts in the house or at eye-sight, especially if you are an abstainer – read more about this in Are you an abstainer or moderator?

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