How to stop binge eating sugar

KATHERINE KIMBER, Registered Dietitian

14th November 2018

I am sure many of us know that intense desire to eat a specific food when you know you are just not hungry. Usually, it’s for something we consider “bad”, that we think we “shouldn’t be eating too much of”.

There are a number of reasons why this might be, and in this article, I am going to share with you eight top tips on how to stop binge eating sugar and to also help you overcome sugar cravings.

Note: many of my clients feel they are binge eating on sugar or other foods, when in fact they are eating a fairy normal amount of food. A binge can be very subjective. Binge eating is in fact the consumption of large quantities of food in a very short period of time. This could be more eating a higher volume of food than the average person would be able to consume in one day, in a very short space of time. It’s quite often planned and ritualised. 

1) Be specific and track patterns 

Can you pick up any specific patterns to when you binge eat on sugar? For example, if it’s chocolate, what type of chocolate? Naming a brand and flavour, and identifying the times of day that you find most difficult may come in handy over the next few paragraphs. If you’re not sure, you could try keeping a little journal to identify patterns.

2) Tune in with your hunger 

I quite often hear that cravings for particular foods or binge eating episodes occur at 3-4pm in the afternoon. When I hear a history of what a client’s eaten that day (perhaps cereal/porridge for breakfast, and a salad for lunch) they have often not eaten enough, and it’s no wonder they are simply just hungry. Check in with what you’ve eaten throughout the day and allow yourself a proper snack. That could be a couple of biscuits and a yoghurt perhaps, or a dash of Nutella on toast with a banana if you are looking for that sugar hit. Combining a little sugar with some more nutritious food can be a good balance. Forbidding yourself from eating the sugary food will only fuel cravings further.

3) Quit forbidding food and give yourself permission

It’s pretty hard to sell the idea of ‘eat what you want’ when you’re probably thinking – “that’s exactly what brought me here in the first place”. However, the alternative approach to restriction and deprivation probably hasn’t worked either. Bingeing is a natural reaction to deprivation/restriction. Foods are not good or bad. You are not a good person if you eat lettuce and a bad person if you eat chocolate. They are all just food. Neutralising the language can take the pressure off.

Write out a list of foods that you forbid yourself to eat and start experimenting with them. Take one at a time a few days apart. As you eating your forbidden food, slow down, savour it and tune into how much you need to feel satisfied.

“As you become more comfortable with this practice of eating your ‘forbidden’ food, the foods become more ordinary and truly allowed. It’s a process called habituation. The food no longer has any moral value and doesn’t have control over you.”

4) Identify emotional triggers 

Once you have ruled out hunger and restriction as reasons for cravings, quite often what is thought to be an emotional eating problem, disappears. If you still find yourself wanting to dive into a tub of ice-cream regularly when you know you’re pretty stuffed perhaps your body is trying to tell you it needs something else. 

For more on this, head to my most recent article on emotional eating. 

5) Rule out thirst

It’s really common to mistake hunger with thirst, so make sure you’re topped up throughout the day. Teas, coffees, herbal teas, sparkling water and pretty much any fluids except alcohol count towards out fluid intake.


6) Avoid leaving long gaps between eating 

Leaving long gaps between meals fuels the risk of getting too hungry. This is when cravings can be at their strongest and it’s likely you will want to eat any food in site regardless of what it is. Eating every 3-4 hours, with 3 meals and 2-3 snacks in a day is what many people find works for them. It’s important to recognise what works best for you and to tune into your own hunger cues.

7) Pack your snacks

Of course the office chocolates or vending machine look more appealing than the brown squashed banana or bruised apple at the bottom of your bag. Pack tasty and delicious snacks that you look forward to eating. This way may be less likely to crave other foods. One of my favourites is oat cakes with nut butter and squashed berries or banana, or cream cheese, tomatoes and black pepper on some delicious toasted bread!

8) Get on top of your sleep

Tiredness makes cravings more intense, especially for fatty and sugary food. Your body is less likely to be giving out accurate hunger signals, so stick to eating regularly, bite the bullet and get yourself into bed early!

And finally…

Cravings and bingeing on sugary foods can be a way of your body telling you that it needs something. It could be hungry, over-restricted, feeling intense emotion, not fed/watered or had enough sleep. Perhaps it needs a little self-love. Tune into your bodies signals, reflect and try to learn from them so you are able to give your body what it truly desires.

For more on how to stop binge eating sugar, how to stop food obsession, emotional eating, stress eating, yo-yo dieting, and how to start intuitive eating check out my FREE download. This will guide you through some of the first steps to support you through your food problems. You will learn how to stop food obsession, and how to start intuitive eating

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