This is the situation: it’s been a really long day and you’ve barely made it through. You get home, have a quick dinner, but then, a short while later, the cookies in the pantry seem to be calling your name. You’re not feeling hungry, exactly, but you deserve a little something for getting through your day, right?
Does this sound familiar? If so, you’re definitely not alone. So many of us crave those sugary treats and refined carbohydrates, especially as a reward or “guilty pleasure.” Whether at the end of a long day, during an “afternoon slump,” or as an antidote to stress or depression, reaching for sweet, processed foods is a common reaction to emotional situations.
It’s not just cookies that we crave. It could be any source of sugar and refined carbohydrates, including:
- white flour, white rice, white pasta, white bread
- white sugar, brown sugar, powdered sugar
- high fructose corn syrup & other syrups
- regular sodas, fruit juice, sweetened tea & coffee
- breakfast cereals & snack foods
- candy & desserts
These cravings are all in your head, quite literally. When you eat foods high in sugar or refined carbohydrates, they are quickly digested and absorbed into your bloodstream (1). This triggers a dopamine release in your brain. Dopamine is a chemical in our brains associated with pleasure and reward. So, when you give in to that craving, feelings of gratification quickly flood your mind (2). But just as quickly, those feelings dissipate. Over time, the dopamine response slows down, causing an increased “need” for sugar and refined carbohydrates (3). The addiction-like effect that develops is the culprit behind our pull toward these foods with virtually no nutritional benefit.
It’s not your lack of willpower that has you entrapped in a seemingly endless fight against sugar and refined carbohydrates. You have the power! What you need are the right tools and a go-to strategy that will allow you to take tiny steps away from addictive and unhealthy patterns of eating. With the right approach, the battle against sugar and carbs is one you can win.