Food Junkie

The emerging science of addictive overeating

Sugar Cravings

How sugar cravings sabotage your health, hormone balance & weight loss

This is a guest post by New York Times best-selling author, speaker and physician, Sara Gottfried, M.D. Read on to hear her take on how sugar cravings interact with hormone balance and how you can reduce their effects.

It’s officially the start of “sugar season” when cooler weather and holiday fun (or stress) make most of us turn to our favorite sugary indulgences and comfort foods.

First it’s the leftover candy you have from the trick-or-treat bowl (just ONE piece won’t hurt, right?). Then, before you know it, you’re enjoying a slice of pumpkin pie here, a peppermint latte there, and sugar cravings have you firmly in their grasp for months . . . until your New Year’s resolutions (hopefully) get you back on track again.

There’s Nothing Sweet About Sugar Cravings

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People joke about being addicted to sugar or having a “sweet tooth,” but I can tell you that it’s a very real phenomenon—and a dangerous one. You probably already know that a diet high in sugar can contribute to the onset of type 2 diabetes. But did you know that “diabesity,” which is pre-diabetes, affects over 1.7 billion people worldwide? According to Dr. Mark Hyman, 1 in 2 Americans will be affected by diabesity by 2020, and 90 percent of them will not be diagnosed.

Excess sugar intake is also linked to rising obesity rates, chronic yeast infections, leaky gut syndrome, and a whole host of other undesirable conditions.

How Can Something Taste So Good—Yet Be So Bad For You?

If you have a sticky relationship with sugar—including honey, refined carbs, or other foods that get processed as sugar in your body—it’s important to understand WHY you’re experiencing these cravings, and what’s really happening in your body, so that you can take steps to break free of unhealthy cravings once and for all.  

While every individual is unique—meaning that the reason for your cravings may have to do with biological factors that are different than the person’s sitting next to you—cravings for sweets follow a pretty basic formula, which goes like this:

  1. You eat something high in refined sugar, and your blood glucose levels skyrocket.
  2. Soon after, your blood glucose levels come down from the high, and they crash.
  3. Your body, which is irritated at having low blood sugar, craves more sugar to boost your blood glucose levels back up.
  4. You give in to the craving and eat more sugar, which starts the process all over again.

It truly is a vicious cycle.

Over time, insulin resistance can set in, which means that your cells become numb to the hormone (insulin) that is supposed to help you control the amount of sugar circulating in your blood.

Even mild insulin resistance can contribute to high blood pressure, inflammation, and that pesky weight gain right around your abdomen (which, by the way, no amount of crunches can fix if it's related to your diet). 

The good news?

Sugar cravings can be managed, and studies show that insulin resistance can be reversed in as little as 48 hours. Here are five tips for stabilizing your blood sugar, and getting cravings under control.

5 Ways to Kick The Cravings

  1. Eat regularly. A meal or a snack every 4 to 6 hours will help keep your blood sugar balanced.
  2. Get enough fiber. Aim for 35-45 grams per dayof dietary fiber for women, and 40-50 grams per day for men. In addition to stabilizing blood glucose levels, fiber keeps you feeling full longer. A note of caution: work up to these levels slowly, or you risk experience bloating, gas, or even constipation.
  3. Eat real, whole foods. Packaged foods are notorious for including not only added sugars, salt and chemicals, but also high-fructose corn syrup. As much as possible, eat foods that are organic, from the ground, and in their whole form.
  4. Spice it up. Several studies have shown that cinnamon has the ability to balance blood sugar levels. Add a pinch to your tea or sprinkle it on oatmeal in the morning.
  5. Get enough Zzz’s. Good sleep is like the Holy Grail of total body health, and blood sugar is no exception. Hit the hay before midnight whenever possible.

Lastly, if you need more support, my “I Crave Sugar” hormone balance kit is a great way to achieve healthy blood glucose levels and kick cravings to the curb.


Sara Gottfried, M.D. teaches women how to balance their hormones naturally so they can rock their mission. She is a Harvard-educated physician, speaker and New York Times bestselling author of The Hormone Cure (Simon & Schuster, 2013). She is board-certified in Obstetrics and Gynecology, and is regularly featured in magazines such as Cosmopolitan, Glamour, Redbook, O Magazine, and Yoga Journal, and TV including The Ricki Lake Show and 20/20.

Known for effortlessly blending the seriousness of women’s health with playfulness and humor, Dr. Sara’s mission is to help women lose weight, feel great and vital from their cells to their soul. Learn more at www.SaraGottfriedMD.com 

Nicole Avena, Ph.D. is a research neuroscientist and an expert in the fields of nutrition, diet and addiction.

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