It is not unusual to crave sugar, chocolate and carbs when you are feeling down. We are eating them in order to trigger the production of serotonin, which plays a role in mood regulation, thus self-medicating. Studies show that serotonin levels are quickly raised by foods with a high glycemic index, such as candies, which causes a higher pick in blood sugar levels.  

This is called emotional eating, which has nothing to do with physical hunger. It cannot be filled with food. It can make you feel good in the moment, but it won’t take away feelings that triggered eating.  At first, you feel a rush of euphoria and calm, then guilt and eventually are back to feeling stressed, which triggers the cycle over and over again. 

Although it is tough to stop the cycle, there are strategies to curb those stress-induced sugar cravings. Moreover, unlike any other addiction, it is not necessary to give up sugar entirely. The thing is that just as our palates have been conditioned to crave sugar, they can be made to crave it less. This is how to begin: 

Coffee experiment. If you put loads of sugar in your coffee, use it as opportunity to train your palate to prefer less. Subtract one teaspoonful at first. The drink won’t taste as good but in about 3 weeks you will get used to it. Once you’ve got used to it, cut back by one more. Repeat the process until you are down to only 1 teaspoonful or none at all. 

Dilute your drinks. If you drink several sodas per day, replace one with water. In several weeks replace another soda. Continue this until you have completely shifted. If you drink non-carbonated beverages like juice or lemonade, dilute them by adding more water than you usually do. Gradually increase the water intake to wean yourself off the sweet. 

You may also try to: 

Drink water. Every time you feel an urge for a specific food, drink a glass of water and wait for a few minutes. Most likely your cravings will fade away because sometimes our body mistakes thirst for hunger. 

Eat more protein. Protein reduces cravings, keeps you from overeating and lessens the desire to snack at night. 

Get distracted. Research indicates that the pleasure we get from eating comfort foods lasts only 3 minutes. So, think what can make you feel better for longer than 3 minutes. Take a walk, have a shower or distract yourself by doing something else. A change in environment and thought may help stop the craving. 

Strike a power pose. Power posing – standing with force, strength, courage and character – may produce immediate changes in the body’s chemistry. After 2 minutes in a power pose, testosterone will increase, while stress hormones will fade away.  

Avoid getting hungry. Sugar cravings are the strongest when we are hungry. So, don’t skip your meals, eat well and promise yourself to have a dessert after the meal. It’s most likely that you won’t want it once your physical hunger is satisfied.  

Make sunshine a priority. Getting 15 minutes a day of sunshine will help you avoid vitamin D deficiency, which plays an important role in acute stress, and will boost serotonin levels so that you won’t reach for sweets to turn your mood around.  

Get enough sleep. Sleep deprivation disrupts normal fluctuations in hormones and leads to poor appetite regulation and strong food cravings. That is why getting enough sleep may be a good way to prevent cravings from showing up. 

Avoid triggers for 21 days. Our taste receptors have a fantastic memory. If you manage to avoid eating certain foods for a set period of time, you’ll break your food cravings cycle. Find healthier options to grab when you’re craving sugar and your taste receptors will change over time, making your body crave for healthy foods.