Tuesday, 12 April 2016

Sugar Cravings

Most of us, when we quit drinking, get major sugar cravings.

That's perfectly understandable, as our bodies are missing all the sugar they got from alcohol.

Here's the most important thing: If you're in the early days of quitting and you're craving a sugar hit then give in.

Eat a slice of cake bigger than your head. Mainline Haribos. Lie in the bath with a stock of Cadbury Flakes. Do whatever you need to do to get you through....

The most important thing is that you do not drink.

However, one of the fabulous side benefits of quitting is weight loss (see my post: Reasons for Quitting #1: Weight Loss), so you don't want to carry on schnarfing thousands of calories in sugar for ever.

Plus, sugar tends to give you an initial high, but it's followed by the inevitable crash (sound familiar?). What goes up must come down....

So, here's my top tip for busting the sugar cravings:

Eating fruit is the healthiest way of getting a sugar hit. However not all fruit is the same.

You really want to eat fruits with the lowest GI (glycaemic index). They're the ones that release energy slowly, so they don't give you that high and low and, crucially, don't encourage your body to lay down fat.

The easiest way to remember which fruits are good, and which not so good is this: big fruits bad, small fruits good. So, the worst fruits are ones like pineapple, oranges, mango etc, and the best ones are the berries - raspberries, blueberries, blackberries, strawberries.

Those berries are also filled with antioxidants and are on my consultant's list of best breast cancer busters.

(He doesn't use that expression. Breast surgeons aren't known for their love of alliteration, but that's ok, so long as they can make sure your nipples still line up).

My favourite trick is to take a few handfuls of those berries, stick them in a saucepan with a tiny bit of water (NO ADDED SUGAR), and simmer them for about twenty minutes until they turn into a gorgeous, sticky compote.

That compote will keep in the fridge for several days, and whenever you have a sugar craving, spoon some into a bowl with some natural yogurt. It's really, really sweet, but guilt free.

You can add some crunch with a handful of granola. If you want to make it even more healthy then add extra nuts and seeds.

(Want to add an extra breast cancer buster? Then sprinkle on some flax seed or chia seeds).

If you're trying to cut down on dairy (like me), then go for a coconut yoghurt. I buy one called Co-Yo. It's super yummy, and dairy free. The only ingredients are coconut milk and yoghurt culture.

You can also take the same berries, add a splash of orange juice and some water, and blitz them into a smoothie.

Please feel free to add any of your ideas for beating sugar cravings below!

Love SM x


  1. Thanks for these tips. Am still really struggling with the alcohol cravings and can't eat too many Flakes as I need to fit into my ball dress (currently too small) in 7 weeks...Annie x

  2. Hi SM - thanks for all the great posts. Whoop whoop it is day 100 for me. Feel so proud of myself and grateful to you. Honestly don't think I'd be here without your help. I'm definitely still overdoing the chocolate thing - but somehow the wt is staying off because I'm exercising so much better and not having all those hangover greasy carb overloads that I used to. After my chocolate celebration today (!) I do think it is time to cleanse my body even further so will definitely be trying your berry compote yoghurt granola combo. Knowing my luck I'll become addicted to that - but hey there are worse things. Big hugs to you today. Love SFM x

    1. AWESOME SFM! Huge congrats! Look around - you're in the field of bunnies! It's much easier from here on.... Hugest hugs xxxx

    2. Congrats
      You might want to look at the carb content of your chocolate and compare it to a granola fruit yogurt.

      Chocolate might be a better choice. Many granolas and yogurts are high in sugar.

      If you feel good that is all that matters. Chocolate is an important food group.

    3. SFM - 100 days!!! Awesome, so pleased for you. Red xx

    4. SFM - 100 days!!! Awesome, so pleased for you. Red xx

    5. Hi SFM, well-done, me too, 101 days today. Got to tackle the white chocolate thing over the next 100 days but haven't been too careful up to now. More hopping now I'm in the bunny field or the dreaded burpee.

    6. SM, should also have said thank you again, you have helped me through some dark days with your wit and perspective.

    7. Congrats SFM it's 100 days for me too. Feeling proud - but disappointed that the weight is not coming off. I suppose that's the next hurdle.

  3. I have definitely succumbed to the sugar cravings but because I exercise daily (walk, cycle or swim) I have managed to stay the same weight. I need to stop gorging on chocolate soon though as it makes me feel unhealthy. I too have had breast cancer and I too think my only vice was the booze!! I was diagnosed in 2003 when I was 40 and my second child was barely 5 months old. She is now 13 and I'm doing well. Thanks SM for getting me thus far. Good luck everyone!!

  4. I love chia seeds soaked in almond milk with granola and fruit. Good to know they help keep breast cancer at bay.
    Thanks for the compote tip SM - I'll make this tonight xx

  5. I find the sugar cravings vary depending on where I am in a) the sober journey and b) the month - to throw something else into the mix just for fun!
    I like the sound of the compote, am going to try that when we are home from deepest Wales.
    I make my own brownie type thing made of dried berries, chopped dates, mixed chopped nuts, some coconut oil then some cacoa powder. Whizz it all up in a blender then put in a baking tray in the fridge. Eat slice upon slice until you feel like a pig xx

  6. There is actually very little sugar in alcohol. Unless you drink sweetened coolers or beer, this just isn't true.

    We do get energy from alcohol. That may be what the body is looking for.

    It is a dangerous game to label foods good or bad. All fruit contains fructose, which is often cited as even more detrimental that table sugar.

    GI index is just a theory. Food rules are hard on people in early sobriety.

    1. But alcohol does have impact - sometimes quite negatively - on our blood sugar, agreed? And those effects can trigger sugar cravings. So it seems a good thing to be aware of and try to manage. For me, I experienced a couple difficult weeks of hypoglycemia after stopping - once light-headed enough that I thought I was going to drop to the floor. Read a lot, reduced caffeine and made a couple other dietary adjustments and fortunately it eased up.

  7. Thank you for giving this permission to us early sobers. I used to punish myself endlessly when I'd try to quit because of my sugar cravings. I work in fitness so the idea of gaining weight is alarming to me. But you are correct. Treating ourselves well during the early days is so very important. I gave myself huge permission to have toasted break with peanut butter and honey last night. But you know what? Just giving myself permission was enough. I wasn't actually hungry for it. But maybe I will be tonight!

  8. SM you must be psychic!! The last two days I have been totally floored by sugar cravings...and it's been bugging me a bit because I know that sugar is probably just as bad for my liver as the dreaded vino. I am getting through wine gums at an alarming rate and have also now added bags of chocolate raisins to the mix. I feel like I don't even want proper meals, just sugar. I didn't even go near sweets and stuff before I quit drinking...! Your berry compote sounds awesome tho, I will be trying it! Really must try to stop these ridiculous sugar binges though x x x

  9. Sugar is a hard one for me! I try to avoid it now! In the beginning of my sobriety I ate everything I could. I had starved myself from all nutritional value just to satisfy with wine. I needed and craved ALL food!
    Allow yourself to eat whatever the hell you want the first year.
    Add exercise in the beginning however! And keep this up. Eventually your cravings will even out for both food and alcohol.
    This has been my experience the first year

  10. The comment that jumps out at me is.."chocolate is an important food group". So I'm going with that xx

  11. Black bean brownies... Sooo good they definitely work on the sugar cravings and they are good for you!

  12. The hardest thing for me when I first quit was the sugar cravings. I had never experienced these until I stopped drinking wine. I kind of went with it the first few weeks with chocolate and ice cream. After about a couple of months, when I really lost the daily desire to drink, I worked on cutting back sugar. Now I will indulge once a week with a little amount of ice cream or chocolate. I will eat a small amount of berries every day and I will try out the compote idea. I also fix myself a homemade version of a hot toddy every night with honey, apple cider vinegar, and lemon. I sometimes add in turmeric! This seems to give my body that mix of sweetness and acidity that wine used to provide. The biggest thing for me in reducing sugar cravings was to increase the amount of good fats in my diet dramatically and cut back on the carbs and sugars. The fats keep me feeling satiated and seem to keep my blood sugar stable. I am 4 months sober and down 11 lbs at this point. I think everyone's journey is different, but this is what has worked so far for me. I went to a cooking class last night with friends and was the only one not drinking out of 25 people and for the first time in a long time I had a small twinge...but I remember to 'play out the tape' and told myself that no-one wakes up in the morning saying they wished that they had drank the alcohol the night before, and EVERY morning I wake up so proud of myself.

  13. Yes, it can cause low blood sugar.