I’m proud to say that I have ended my lifelong struggle with sugar cravings. I used to have an insane sweet tooth. Heck, my first job was at an ice cream store, and I was their best customer!
How did I stop sugar cravings? The Cakewalk System.
This post shares every step of my journey to defeat sugar cravings so that you can learn from my experience.
I was standing in front of the freezer shoveling just one more bite of New York Super Fudge Chunk into my mouth when a fudgey chunk fell onto my white shirt. At that moment, I decided that this pint should never have crossed my threshold. Ashamed and guilty, I put the ice cream into the trash. As I stared at the premium ice cream melting in my garbage can, I realized this was a problem bigger than my willpower alone.
The next day turned my home into a sugar binge-proof zone. And in the following months, I completely banished my sugar cravings by transforming the way I thought about dessert and food, in general. My Cakewalk System, as I like to call it, did not just help me lose weight. It freed me from a years-long struggle with guilt, failure, and intrusive cravings that interfered with my life. Even before I’d lost a pound, putting this system immediately made me feel much lighter!
The Cakewalk System is twofold: in order to ultimately declare victory over sugar cravings, I had to learn to master my environment first and my mindset second.
Step 1: I evictetd ready-made treats.
Resisting the stockpile of indulgent treats in my kitchen made me miserable. Even if they were divided up into single sized servings, ready-made treats were driving me nuts! I immediately stopped buying premade sweet treats and vowed only to eat food made from scratch.
This change did not go over well with my husband, a fellow dessert lover. In the past, I would have become frustrated with him and told him just to deal with it. This time I took a different approach – I asked for help.
How to ask for help and get it:
- Allow yourself to be vulnerable and explain to your partner or family how having these foods in your house impacts you emotionally.
- Briefly explain how nutrition can affect PCOS. Tell them that if you do not clean up your diet, PCOS symptoms could get worse and that you’d be putting yourself at risk for other serious health problems.
- Directly ask for help. Tell the people in your life that you need their support.
Many of my clients have tried to clean up their diets and failed in part because they lacked the support of the people they live with. It can be hard to ask for help, but it is critical to making lasting changes.
Step 2: I maintained a single serving policy.
I knew from past diet failures that total deprivation would not result in success. Thus, I created my single serving policy. I never make more than one serving of dessert at a time (well, two servings: one for me and one for my husband Colin).
For me, the most stressful thing about my sugar cravings was stopping once I had started. By eliminating leftovers, I could enjoy my dessert and move on. Gone was the fear of losing control and eating half a cake!
Whipping up single serving desserts is pretty easy, too. In fact, I have put together a collection of my very favorite single serving desserts, which you can get now along with my step-by-step Cakewalk System checklist.
Step 3: I ate a nutrient-dense breakfast, lunch, dinner AND dessert.
I’ve mentioned before and I am sure I will mention it again: I’m a firm believer in the power of a nutrient-dense diet. Eating a diet of whole foods like fruits, veggies, eggs, meat, and unprocessed whole grains has radically improved my life.
Some research on why we crave foods suggest that nutritional deficiencies may play a role in our cravings. You can protect yourself from this craving-causing complication by eating a nutrient-dense diet.
In addition to eating a healthy breakfast, lunch, and dinner, replace store-bought goodies with homemade desserts that are great sources of valuable nutrients like healthy fats, fiber, antioxidants, and vitamins. Nutrient-dense desserts may not be low calorie, but they are much more satisfying than a traditional dessert. When you finish eating one, you’ll feel balanced and satisfied rather than guilty and craving more.
Tips on making healthy desserts:
- Try reducing the amount of sweetener (honey, maple syrup, stevia, and sugar) in a recipe by a teaspoon at a time, you might need less than you thought.
- Exercise portion control. Healthy desserts can still be high-calorie foods.
- Keep healthy dessert ingredients like coconut milk, coconut oil and cocoa powder, stevia, maple syrup, almond butter and wholemeal flours on hand.
These first 3 steps made a huge difference in my life. By changing my environment, I was able to stop overeating on sugary foods. Instead, I ate a one serving of a nutritious dessert that I loved with no guilt.
But there was just one problem: I loved my dessert a bit too much.
I looked forward to it all day and, once it was gone, I was sad. I knew deep in my gut that my problem was not completely resolved. My love of dessert played too big a role in my life. What was this dessert doing for me? Why was it so valuable?
My daily dessert was a major source of pleasure. There were days when it was the only bright spot. From a scientific standpoint, this makes sense, our brains respond to sugar with an influx in feel-good neurochemicals – AKA a sugar high.
But I felt like my fondness for dessert time went beyond a neurochemical reaction. My dessert had become a ritual. I ate it slowly and attentively. I savored the texture, taste, and smell. It was also a time when I slowed down and focused on the moment instead of just thinking about the next item on my to-do list.
I realized I needed to add more rewarding experiences to my day. I mean, dessert was a high point for me – that’s pretty lame!
Step 4: I learned to eat everything like it was a piece of cake.
The slow, attentive way I ate my desserts was something I really enjoyed. When I started to eat all of my food this way, I found I ate a little less and enjoyed it a lot more.
How to eat for more pleasure:
- Sit down at a table and eat from a plate or bowl, never out of a bag. Being able to see what you are eating is an integral part of eating.
- Select nutritious foods that you like. Don’t force yourself to eat something simply because it is a superfood or your fit friend swears by it.
- Eat slowly, put your fork down between bite and swallow you bite before you “fork up” the next one.
- Express gratitude. Thank whoever prepared your meal. Even if you cooked it, you could still express gratitude to yourself.
Step 5: I added more highs to my life.
Eating should be a pleasurable experience, but not your primary source of pleasure. If the most enjoyable part of your day is centered around food, it is time to broaden your horizons.
How to find more everyday highs:
- Set some time aside to write a list of 20 things you genuinely love to do.
- Review your list and circle 3-5 things you can do pretty much every day. They should be activities that are simple, inexpensive, and delightful.
- Post this list in a place where you will see it every morning. When you wake up, make a mental note of when you will set aside a few minutes to “get high.” Schedule time to “get high” on your calendar if you need to. Make this a priority.
Some of my highs included long aimless walks, listening to audio books, and waking up early so I could sit lounge in bed and cuddle with my husband and baby.
I still make time for some of these simple pleasures every day. In fact, I take this very seriously and am really disciplined about it. I know that my health and wellbeing depends on it. If I don’t make room for healthy highs in my life, I will seek out unhealthful ones.
My average day is, well, average. But now I can count on the few natural highs to look forward to instead of sugary foods trigger more cravings and shame. The Cakewalk technique has replaced unhealthy highs in my life with true joy and better health.
If you’re struggling with sugar cravings, stop beating yourself up. Don’t blame your willpower or allow yourself to feel like a failure. Your environment and everything you’ve been taught about breaking bad habits are not serving you well.
Try just one of these 5 steps from my Cakewalk System, and when you feel ready, try another. Soon you will be free from sugar craving madness! Get my step-by-step checklist and recipe collection sent to your inbox now.