How to Control the Sugar Trigger in Your Brain

Understanding the forces (environmental and psychological) that control your appetite will help you understand how to beat sugar and salt cravings. 

If you want to break this down to a very fundamental level of understanding, we have to take it back to our ancestors. After all, this is where we learned to eat.

As “hunters and gatherers,” humans have always naturally seeked high caloric, non-toxic, and nutritious food. The fat that they obtained from these foods would theoretically become accessible in periods of time where there was no food. In other words it was “stored fat” for periods of potential starvation. As a result, their bodies naturally produced hormones in the brain that continued to send signals to eat high calorie foods, when it could be obtained, in order to store fat so that they wouldn’t starve. This is why we naturally crave fats, sweets and salt. Today, it’s just more readily available.

However, we have given “High Cal” a whole new level, i.e. double cheeseburger, large fry, and a Coke. So it’s important to note that while today obesity rates are at an all-time high, we have always been inclined to eat foods that are high in fat and calories. It’s just how we control it and what we eat that makes all the difference.

fast food

Food also triggers the same pleasure center in the brain as drugs and alcohol. Entertaining some, often leads to wanting more. This is why a lot of people think that they are “food addicts.” Endorphins, the “feel good” hormones, make you want more. The problem is that we don’t get these same endorphins from apples and oranges. But we definitely get them from eating foods high in sugar or salt, like doughnuts, sweets, or pizza.

It is important to note that people who are overweight tend to require more calories and eat more because there is little dopamine released when consuming small portions. It’s like any drug addict; eventually, you will require more to get the same effect.

Food companies know human behavior. That’s why you see labels saying how things “taste,” or you see words like “sweet” and “savory.” These words send signals to your brain to consume, consume, consume. The more flavors the better.


But don’t give up entirely…

Here are some ways to fix these issues:

  1. Don’t restrict your calories in order to lose weight. Instead, cut out processed foods that are high in salt or sugar. The less you eat of this, the less your body will crave of it. Leave room for occasional treats, not daily treats.
  2. You have to eat every 2-3 hours, or when you are hungry. Even if you master just this technique, and still aren’t making great food choices all the time and might be snacking a little in between, you will still lose weight.

Start your 2-3 hour eating schedule from whatever time you ate Breakfast. (2 Hours for highly active people, 3 for moderate to no activity.)

For example this is what my day looks like:

Breakfast: 5:30 a.m.

Snack: 7:30 a.m.

Snack: 9:30 a.m.

Lunch: 12:30 p.m.

Snack: 2:30 p.m.

Snack: 4:30 p.m.

Dinner: 7:30 p.m.

Snack: 9:30 p.m.

3. Don’t eat because of emotions or situations. Eat when you are hungry. If you stop eating really high calorie foods, you will be able to control these situations better.

4. Control your portions. Portions have increased 63% in calories from 1936 to 2006.

5. Enjoy when you do eat. Eat slow, eat mindfully, and eat smart.

6. Set boundaries for yourself and stick to them. Give yourself rewards when you feel it is needed, but not daily. 2-3 times a week is ideal.

7. Exercise. You will want to eat healthier foods if you do.

8. We are a nation that is also drinking our way into obesity. Water, water, water. Splurge on coffee, tea, or a fresh juice like lemonade or grapefruit juice.

9. Cook with more seasoning instead of salt, avoid eating out more than twice a week, and only eat red meat 2-3 times a week.

10. Keep bad food out of your reach while at home. Just don’t buy it. This should help with the nighttime snacking.