If you are stuck with an important project at work or just had an argument with your partner, you may suddenly find yourself amidst an endless craving for food. Stress can affect our eating behaviour and the body’s stress hormones are to blame. But can the cravings for sweets be stopped, especially when you have a sweet tooth? Let’s take a look at how to stop sugar cravings.
Chocolate as a Stress Reliever – How to Stop Sugar Cravings
If you eat chocolates, biscuits, or chips more often in stressful phases, you are not alone in this. About 40% of people eat more because of stress, but just as many forego food more often in times of stress. The remaining 20% do not change their eating behaviour at all. How the body reacts to stress is very individual.
What Does Stress do to the Body?
Stress puts the body on alert. Adrenaline, a stress hormone, makes people forget all appetite in the moment of acute danger and enables them to run away or fight. It is a system that made sense and was vital in our past. In the resting phase following the stress, the body tries to get back what it used up in a possible flight or fight. This is why we have an appetite for easily digestible carbohydrates, such as chips.
Overweight Due to Stress
Even with prolonged stress, more stress hormones are released from the group of glucocorticoids. They can increase the sensation of appetite even though the body does not need any food because the cognitive stress of today consumes far less energy than an escape or a fight in the past. Therefore, especially with chronic stress, there is a risk of obesity.
Sweets as a Reward – How to Stop Sugar Cravings
The so-called mesolimbic system or reward system also influences our eating behaviour. Food, especially Sweet food itself does not directly satisfy the reward system, but the positive feelings associated with sweet things do that. Anyone who learned as a child that sweets are a reward will also want to reward themselves with sweets as an adult.
The association of sweet things as a reward and good feeling is easily learned at a young age but particularly difficult to get rid of later on in life. Ideally, children should not get chocolate when they have done something well and certainly not as a cheering factor when they are sad.
Suggested Read: How to Avoid Consuming Refined Sugar?
Is Chocolate Always Bad Under Stress?
So, how bad is it to calm yourself down with a chocolate bar in stressful times? If this is only the case for a short time, it is not a major problem. If, for example, students tend to eat more sweets during the examination phase, that’s perfectly fine. However, if it becomes a permanent solution to uncomfortable feelings, it could be devastating. In the worst case, this can lead to real eating attacks, after which people tend to have an even worse conscience.
How Can You Stop the Sweet Tooth?
Adults can try to protect themselves, by shopping for less sweet or greasy items and not keeping anything right at their desks. Stress increases the impulsiveness and reduces the cognitive decision-making ability so that it is difficult to counteract the inner desire.
However, if you want to fight against constant snacking with extremely strict prohibitions, you most probably will not be successful. Everything that is forbidden only becomes more attractive and we have an innate preference for sweets. The sweet taste denotes harmless foods, along with being a well-known energy provider as sweets usually contain many calories. Both were vital in our past but not today and certainly not in higher quantities.
How Can Stress-Eating be Avoided in the Long Term?
The first step is to become aware that you are under stress and to find out which situations trigger this stress. The second step is to think about how to cope with stress without reaching for the chocolate.
Trying the Following Can Help:
– For some, it helps to try a few relaxation exercises or autogenic training in the evening. On the one hand to distract yourself, on the other hand, to become more resistant to stress in general.
– Finding the cause of stress. A clarifying discussion with the boss or colleagues may already change the initial situation and your condition from being stressed to easy going.
– Alternative rewards. This could be a few flowers, for another, a pleasant chat with friends, and for a third, maybe a walk in the park.
– Another step in alternative reward would be to donate the amount of money that you would be spending on sweets to the poor and needy. This will give you a feeling of fulfilment and reward.