Can’t stop thinking about sweets? Feel you have a sugar addiction? Current research shows sugar impacts the chemicals in the brain to create cravings. These cravings are often stronger the impact of other items such as fat. One of those reasons is that sugar releases the feel good chemicals in the brain, including serotonin and endorphins. These chemicals provide a short burst of energy and often improves mood. Triggers for sweet craving vary by individual but are often linked to the mood and energy boost associated eating sweets.[1] However, there are some ways to help combat these cravings.

Finding Your Triggers

Watch for emotional triggers. Sweet cravings are triggered because you are hungry. Often these cravings are emotionally triggered. Think about the last time you started craving sweets. What were you feeling? Maybe bored, stressed, lonely, celebratory, or worried?[2] It is helpful to understand any emotional triggers in order to create the best plan to address those sweet cravings.

  • To find your emotional triggers, track when you crave sweets. Every time you crave or eat a sweet, write down what you are feeling at that time in a journal. Make sure you pinpoint each emotion you are feeling.
  • For example, you crave a sweet right after you get a bad grade on an exam. Your sweet cravings may be the result of sadness or disappointment.

Notice stress cravings. Sweet cravings can also be induced by stress. Stress releases a chemical called cortisol, which is the stress hormone. Cortisol is linked with a laundry list of negative impacts on the body from weight gain to lowering immune system. Stress is part of our fight or flight response. The way that you often deal with stress is to eat sweets since it calms this response.[3]

  • If you are feeling stressed, try to avoid eating sweets. Find another outlet, such as working out or deep breathing.

Recognize when you need a burst of energy. When you are tired, you seek a quick and easy energy boost. Sugar provides a temporary boost, but it doesn’t last long. Part the side effects of sugar is your energy will actually be lower afterward because it isn’t a sustainable energy boost. Sugar is one of the fastest substances your body can turn into fuel or energy.

  • However, the problem remains that it is just a quick and short boost of energy, often leading to a feeling down after the boost is over.

Notice hormonal cravings. For women, sweet cravings can be triggered by premenstrual syndrome, due to a decrease in endorphin production. Eating sugar increases the feel good chemicals in the brain. Another positive side effect of eating sugar includes a release of the chemical in the body that acts as a pain-reliever.

  • Any hormonal issues can create cravings since hormones are an integral part of the processing of energy in the body. If you have or think you have a hormonal imbalance or deficiency, seek professional medical care.