Why Stress Causes Sugar Cravings—and How to Fight It

This article first appeared on Sweetdefeat.

stress causes sugar cravings

Understanding the connection can help you change your eating habits.

You get into a fight with your friend and suddenly you simply need a sweet treat. You get an urgent work email and immediately head towards the office candy bowl. Or you’re feeling sad, so you sit down in front of a favorite movie with a pint of ice cream.

We’ve all been there: craving sugar for psychological reasons that have nothing to do with hunger. It’s called “stress eating” for a reason. When you experience persistent stress, your adrenal glands release cortisol, which increases both appetite and motivation. Together, that makes you more likely to eat even when you don’t need it. Understanding how stress affects sugar cravings helps you recognize the signs, so you can can say “no” the next time a craving strikes.

Sugar and Stress Eating

For our ancestors, stress made them eat more, and that was a good thing. When humans were just trying to survive, eating sweets in the form of fruit meant better nutrition. Today, our stress responses are triggered almost constantly, by work, family commitments, or even the ever-present noise of city living. And the extra food is no longer a good thing: Research shows that chronic stress is linked to craving sweet and fatty foods, which contributes to the development of obesity and the host of ill health effects that accompany excess weight.

When you eat sugar, your brain releases feel-good chemicals and its reward system is activated, just as it is by drug use. In fact, sugar addiction can be just as powerful as cocaine addiction. Research suggests that “the brain reward circuitry may be a key player in stress-induced food intake,” says a 2007 study published in Physiology & Behavior.

The bad news is that your body is programmed to want sugar when you’re feeling stressed. The good news it that by recognizing the reason for your craving, you can make better choices.

Reframe Your Cravings

It’s hard to make cravings go away completely, though if you cut back on your sugar intake, they will diminish as your body becomes accustomed to your new low-sugar lifestyle. Here are five tips to help you kick cravings:

●      Acknowledge the craving. Recognize that your body is craving sugar, but doesn’t really need it. Once you learn to distinguish between true hunger and cravings, you can take the proper steps to fight the cravings.

●      Feed hunger with healthy options. If you’re truly hungry, have a balanced meal or snack with veggies, good fats, and protein, which has been shown to help stabilize blood-sugar levels.

●      Fight cravings with a lozenge. Sweet Defeat lozenges contain extracts from the plant Gymnema sylvestre and have been shown to reduce sugar cravings. The lozenge also temporarily blocks the ability to taste sweetness, so treats aren’t satisfying: the sugar doesn’t activate the brain’s reward cycle.

●      Take a walk. Remember how sugar releases those feel-good chemicals in your brain? Well, so does exercise, so that’s a great alternative to indulging in sweets. Research shows that taking a brisk walk can help reduce sugar cravings.

●      Plan for a treat. Cravings cause us to behave impulsively. Rather than eating a sugary treat when a craving hits, make yourself a deal: If you still want it in two hours, or tomorrow, then you can have it. Research shows that this if-then bargaining can help reduce unhealthy food consumption.

Cravings can be hard to resist, but when they hit it’s important to remember that you are ultimately the one in control.


Top 5 Stress Management Techniques | Corporate America

After 12 years in Corporate America, trust me, I know what you’re going through.  The meetings, the deadlines, pressure to perform, sitting for long periods of time, toxic co-workers, fear of being laid off, I’ve seen it all. These can all add up and wreak havoc on our mind and body, impact our physical and emotional health, and interfere with our job satisfaction, productivity, and performance. And you’re not alone. Most American workers in corporate America are experiencing the same and are looking for ways to cope and counteract these harmful side-effects.

But how do we continue to work and thrive in these environments?

Below are my top tips you can learn to protect yourself from the long term damaging effects of stress, while improving your health and happiness at work.

Eat well

Nutrition and stress go hand in hand. We are what we eat, and with the correct foods and nutrients we are better equipped to face the challenges and stressors of the day. When our bodies endure times of stress – three primary stress hormones are released, adrenaline, cortisol and norepinephrine.  These are our “fight our flight” hormones causing our bodies to increase levels of blood sugar (glucose) to feed our heart, muscles, and brain to handle the stress successfully. After that initial burst of energy, we typically crash and need nutritious foods to replenish.  Fueling our bodies with the right foods helps us endure and recover from this process faster and with less side effects. Eating at least three healthy meals a day(breakfast lunch and dinner), and if you have a fast metabolism and get hungry between meals, don’t reach for that snickers bar or bag of doritos. I like to keep healthy and filling snacks by my desk – unsalted nuts like almonds or walnuts, a piece of fruit, an organic protein shake or bar, almond butter and whole wheat crackers, celery and carrot crudité with hummus. Snacks help to maintain your blood sugar and energy levels before your next meal, so having them on hand was truly lifechanging for me. Throughout the day, I urge my clients to eat a good balance of green vegetables, fruits, lean proteins, healthy fats (olive oil, avocado, nuts), complex carbs (think beans, sweet potatoes, brown rice)  and supplements to ensure your body is getting essential nourishment, and is maintaining your blood sugar levels. Although contrary to common belief, try to moderate caffeine, sugar and alcohol, as these can amplify stress levels.


We weren’t made to be sedentary.  Exercise 3X a week for 30 minutes is a good minimum. If you can work into your schedule, as a general goal, aim for 30 minutes a day.  Exercise is a powerful stress buster, and aerobic exercise is said to increase blood flow to your brain, lift your mood, supercharge your energy, sharpen focus, and relax you all at the same time. Regular exercise also promotes better sleep and deepens your sleep cycle. Lastly, exercise should be fun! It’s your chance to unwind and decompress from the stress you’re experiencing at work. If you don’t like the gym, try running outside, martial arts, yoga, pilates, walking, bicycling, swimming, dancing, weightlifting or competitive sports. Bottom line, engage in activities that make you happy. It will be easier to do everyday, and that much more worth while.


According to Dr Oz, this is the biggest problem in America. We’re not getting enough and as a result we are slipping mentally, physically and emotionally.  Additionally, sleep helps us produce Human Growth Hormone which is natures youth beauty ingredient – hey, they don’t call it “beauty sleep” for nothing!  Working long hours is stressful and arduous, but when it starts to cut into our sleep hours, studies show that it stress levels actually go up higher.  “A good night’s sleep allows you to tackle the day’s stress easier,”  according to the Sleep Disorders Health Centre on .  Aim for 7-8 hours of sleep a night to ensure you are arming your body and mind to effectively deal with stress.

Foster good, healthy relationships

Lisa Rankin, MD, author of “Mind over Medicine” argues that loving nurturing relationships and a strong support system is our number one most important factor for optimal health. Some argue healthy relationships are even more important than the food we put in our body. Having a strong network of supportive family, friends, and co-workers helps to lighten the load of the negative effects stress can have on us when we are alone. Try to have at least five solid relationships you can call on when feeling stressed at work to share your work experiences, and talk through potential solutions.

Make time for Relaxation and Fun

Americans don’t take vacations – on average they work 60+ hours a week and there is very little down time. As a result, this increases our stress responses and decreases our relaxation responses. Just remember, no amount of kale will counter repetitive chronic stress responses in the body. Because of that, finding time to unplug and unwind is critical.  We need to find respite, and we need to remove our bodies and minds from the chaos. A brief walk outside in nature, a 10 minute mediation in a quiet room, deep breathing exercises, five cartwheels in the park, eating a high- vibrational food like an apple or a cup of green tea, taking a vacation, stowing and turning off electronic devices every night when you get home.  These are all exercises that you can do to help remove you from the madness, center you, and help press the reset button for your body and mind.  We get so wrapped up in our everyday work stresses that we forget we are such a small part of the universe, and chances are the stuff you are worrying about today, you wont be worrying about a year from now.   Lastly, start a gratitude journal. When stress hits you hard, list five things you are grateful for. Not only does this broaden our perspective on life and the things that truly matter, it helps melt stress away. It helps us to be happy, grateful, and whole again.  And when we feel that way we are inviting more of that into our lives.