I’ve always been the first to admit I’m a chocolate fiend. I love desserts of almost any variety, and a little sweet bite after dinner has been a favorite way to round out the meal. But over the past few months, I’d been noticing my sweet tooth has been getting more and more demanding. Instead of wanting a piece of chocolate, I’ve been needing ice cream. Cheesecake. Brownies. Pie. Anything sweet. And sometimes the cravings wouldn’t stop even after indulging.
I hated it. I felt out of control. I hated that it was insatiable, and even after I was full, my body was still demanding more sweets. And on top of that, add guilt for my over-indulgence and fear because diabetes runs in my family and the last thing I need in my life is to develop insulin resistance. It got to the point where I had two slices of cheesecake in one sitting – which I’ve never done before and could never fathom before – where I finally realized something had to be wrong.
So I did a little research and discovered that one possible reason for intense sugar cravings is a lack of seratonin. When seratonin levels are low, it causes your mood to depress and the body registers sugar cravings. But sugar only boosts seratonin for a short while. Then you crash and need more sugar. But it turns out that protein also boosts seratonin, but it does so at lower and much longer-lasting levels. So it could be that the real culprit behind my sugar cravings was not a sudden lack of self-discipline but a lack of protein in my diet!
When I thought about it more, it made total sense that this problem would have become apparent over the last few months because in that time span, I had started shopping more at the local farmer’s market and food co-op, and eating more vegetable-rich meals. The vegetables were a good move, but I had also been eating less and less meat. I’ve heard before, too, that women often don’t get enough protein in their diets, so it really did begin to make sense.
Once I realized all this, I started re-introducing protein into my diet. Figuring that protein takes a bit longer to digest than sugar does, I started having a protein snack a couple of hours before dinner: some chicken or cheese, for example. And immediately, and I mean immediately that very first day, the sugar cravings stopped cold. I no longer needed or even wanted dessert. Every day since I made sure to eat protein, and every day since, I’ve had no problem with sugar cravings. Some days I didn’t get a protein snack before dinner, but had it during dinner. After eating, I felt a vague desire for dessert, but I just waited it out. Less than 20 minutes later, all sugar cravings were gone. Even when I went out to dinner and imbibed drinks (which are a sure way for me to cascade into gorging in desserts), and everyone at the table ordered a dessert (chocolate lava cake with raspberries and whipped cream, no less), I had absolutely no desire to even taste it. I sniffed it and gloried in the scents of chocolate and raspberries…and was satisfied.
What a change that is! I couldn’t believe it. Obviously I need to be sure not to overdo the protein because that’ll lead to it’s own problems. But making sure to get a small serving of lean meats, legumes, or low fat cheese or yogurt into each meal seems to be going a long way towards keeping my body happier and more in balance. I came up with a Lentil Mint Salad I’ll try for lunches on days I can’t eat at home (recipe in post below). I think I might even try doing a food diary to track what I eat and how it affects my energy and satisfaction levels 20 minutes, an hour, and multiple hours after eating.
I can’t tell you how amazing it is for me to not need sweets. The past few months have been the worst, but I could always find desire for dessert. Of course I’ll still enjoy sweets now and then…but to be in total control of the desire? If I really can manage it through protein…it will literally change my life.