The Sweet Tooth! 7 Tips for Dealing With Sweet Cravings on the Slow Carb Diet

Susan dropped us a line:

what can one do if one has a sweet tooth, but, needs to lose 40 lbs on this diet?

Sweet CravingsI know where she’s coming from. Particularly in the first couple of weeks on the slow-carb diet, one can get mugged by some serious cravings for sweets. Here are a couple of things that we’ve found can help stave off the dreaded “sweet tooth”:

#1 – Preparation Is Key

This may seem like a bit of a cop-out, but preparation is key when doing the slow-carb diet. Make sure you’ve got enough 4HB-friendly food in your house to handle big meals (it’s surprising how much you’ll eat on the diet!). If you don’t have enough food, you won’t eat enough, which can make you hungry, which can make you eat sweets (see my next tip).

It’s also really important to make sure you don’t have sweets in the house. Don’t keep a stash in the cupboard. Don’t keep anything hidden “just in case.” Any sweets that you bring into the house on your off-day, make sure you eat them all before the day is done.

Just by reducing the temptation and availability of sweets, it makes it much easier to resist them.

#2 – Make Sure You’re Eating Enough (non-sweets)

When you first start off on this diet, it’s easy to get in a traditional mind set of “I’m going to crush this thing!!” Not only do you faithfully eat your legumes, protein, and veggies, but you also eat LESS of all of them. Then by day 3, you are suddenly ready to mug passers-by for their cupcakes.

The reality is that for most of us, switching to a slow-carb diet results in consuming less calories overall. This obviously results in weight loss, but it can present some issues for sticking with the diet. The body doesn’t like to lose weight, and if there’s sudden, dramatic drop in caloric intake, the body can switch to “starvation mode” where it starts looking to acquire some easy calories. And there are fewer easy calories than sweets!

Particularly when starting out, it’s important to eat enough at your regular meals that you feel downright full. For the first couple of weeks, don’t worry that you might be eating too much. If you’re eating too much of the right stuff, you should still experience weight loss (although maybe at a slower rate than Tim advertises in 4HB). Err on the overfull side. If you’re full and feeling satisfied, you’ll be much less likely to feel a powerful need for the sweets.

#3 – Look For Other Foods That Are A Treat

For most of us, sweets are associated with “treats”, “indulgences”, or “rewards” in our minds. By denying ourselves those kinds of treats, we can often feel neglected. And let’s face it: Humans don’t deal well with neglect!

However, sweets are not the only type of food rewards that we can have. Personally, I love chicken wings. Technically, chicken wings are 4HB friendly: they’re protein, butter, vinegar, and spices (yes, some wings have sugar in the sauce, but Frank’s is the original and it’s sugar-free). Obviously they’re not ideal, but they’re much more on-track than anything with loads of sugar in it. So if I get myself some chicken wings, I can still get a sense of satisfaction or “treating” myself but I stay on the right path. My wife loves crab – having a big crab dinner (with whole crabs and butter) feels like a real treat and is still something we can have on the slow-carb diet.

Think about what kinds of food feel like a reward to you. Is it a big juicy steak? Then have that instead of cake. What about lobster? That’s another one that works. Is sushi your thing? Get a bunch of sashimi. Try to think of foods that feel indulgent that are still on the 4HB plan and treat yourself to them instead.

#4 – Treat Yourself In Other Ways

If your sweet tooth is triggered by needing a treat, it’s possible to substitute non-food rewards and still get the same sense of satisfaction. My wife would sometimes take a nice, hot, long bath — it feels totally indulgent and was ZERO calories. I’ve cut out of work early and seen a movie — it made me feel like I was doing something for ME (and only me) and felt nicely indulgent.

Do you like mani/pedis? Do it. Does going out to dinner feel like a treat? By all means, go out (just stay on-diet). Junk TV? Video games? Trashy novels? TMZ? Sex? I love all these things, and all of them can make you feel downright good.

Making yourself feel pampered can go a long way to preventing cravings in the first place.

#5 – Have a Glass of Wine

Tim advocates a glass of red as part of the slow-carb diet. He even said that white wine wasn’t necessarily bad (although maybe not optimal). A great glass of wine can feel like a big reward. Wine also has alcohol in it, which aside from making you feel better in general also converts to sugar in the body, so it can actually address some of the real sugar cravings you might be experiencing.

A glass of wine will usually fight off any sweet craving I’m having. My only challenge is keeping it to one glass ๐Ÿ˜‰

#6 – Promise Yourself You Can Have It On Saturday

Here’s a confession: I don’t respond well to anybody telling me I can’t do something. This made for entertaining teenage years (“You can’t do that.” “Oh really? Watch me.”) but can be difficult when it comes to self-discipline. If anyone tells me (myself included) that I can’t have something to eat, sure enough that’s the first thing I want to eat.

Here’s the trick: With the slow-carb diet, you can eat ANYTHING you want… on your off day ๐Ÿ™‚ย  So while I’ve found telling myself “You can’t eat that” doesn’t work, telling myself “You can eat that on Saturday” does work. Basically, it removes the knee-jerk “Oh yeah?” reaction because I’m not being denied.

Here’s another confession: I have a strange love of breakfast pastries. About three days after starting this diet, I found myself dreaming of them. Fondly. More fondly than I’ve ever dreamed of food before. But instead of going to the store and picking some up right away, I told myself that I was going to FEAST on them on Saturday. I began plotting like a criminal mastermind. I planned what store I was going to go to. I debated what flavor to get. I toyed with how many packages I was going to buy. I looked forward to Saturday for days. And sure enough, come Saturday morning I put my plan into action. It was glorious: a sugary feast that I savored all morning. But here’s the great part: for 6 days out of the week, I did not eat sweets. When I went to bed after my “off day”, I felt completely satisfied. Even better, I didn’t have any sweet cravings for a couple days following. And the following week when the cravings did come, it was easier for me to wait till Saturday because I knew I was going to get what I wanted.

Promise yourself that you’ll get the sweets you want on your off day. Hold to that promise – during the week it will help you feel like you’re not being denied, and come your off day, it’ll feel like a huge reward. And it will get easier: I promise.

#7 – Go Bananas On Your Off Day

Your off day should be just that. It’s a day to forget about your worries and do whatever you want. This kind of respite is important: people can only be disciplined for so long, and giving yourself the freedom to go wild is very restorative.

Tim says that he almost pushes himself to eat on his off days. I don’t need to push myself – I go wild pretty naturally. At first I was really nervous about doing this, but I figured I would give Tim’s suggestion a test and see whether it really worked (plus there was the issue of the raging pastry craving I was having). Lo and behold, he was right: on Saturday I pigged out; on Sunday my weight spiked up; by Tuesday, my weight had dropped below where it was Saturday morning. This has been consistent every week on the diet. At the end of the day, the spike in weight on Sunday is OK because following the spike you lose more weight than you gained. Your net weight is less every week.

Off days keep your metabolism guessing, so you continue to burn calories at a high rate. Off days satisfy your cravings, allowing you to stick to the diet during the week. Off days give your “discipline” muscles a rest, so you’re strong for the coming week. Off days give you something to look forward to.

Resist the urge to try to “be good” on your off day – it’ll just hurt you in the long run. What will happen is that your off day will feel like a half measure, which will eventually translate to only half measures during the week when it’s really important!

Those are my immediate suggestions for dealing with sweet cravings while on the slow-carb diet. If any of you have additional suggestions, share them in the comments below!

Photo by: bochalla

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41 Responses to The Sweet Tooth! 7 Tips for Dealing With Sweet Cravings on the Slow Carb Diet

  1. Carin Marine Galletta

    Dude! Awesome! I love this article and I like reading, “my wife”. Sorry kids, but we just got married, so I’m still basking in the wedding glow.

    • Kimberly ashton

      Loving this article! Wow- smart tips! Also I’m impressed you’re still going on the diet! We have this book… Still sitting untouched on the nightstand. Seemsike a must-read. Loving the wife reference too! Now that’s hot!

  2. Results Not Typical Girl

    great post and ideas, thanks! i’m getting ready to post my first #4hb recipe on friday. . #ifeverydaywerecheatdayiwouldbesoskinny

    • TheCosmonaut

      I can’t wait!! Can you tease us with the title?

  3. Cristi

    Great tips! ๐Ÿ™‚ And the wife reference ROCKS. ๐Ÿ˜‰

  4. James @ HelpYourSite

    I totally agree. I’m on week 8 of 4HB and have lost 2lbs/week on average – I’m not sure how this compares with others, but I’m happy! This feels sustainable – not a diet but a way of life..

    Binge days are the key, I think. I just dont say NO, i say NOT YET. ๐Ÿ™‚

    • TheCosmonaut

      That’s so funny: “I don’t say NO, I say NOT YET” — I have said those exact words over and over again! It’s pretty much the hallmark of the slow-carb diet; if you’re the type of person who that works for, this diet will work for you. I’m sure some people just aren’t wired that way (an “all or nothing” type), but for me, it works like a charm.

  5. Jenni

    Hey, dont you find though that after having one off day the cravings are horrendous the following day… its like..go on just one more day one more day…like i just have zero self control once i’ve hit the sweets

    • TheCosmonaut

      That does happen to me sometimes. A lot of times, I get that reaction when there was something I wanted that I didn’t eat on Saturday, so the trick is to really treat yourself on the off day. However, it’s not feasible to eat EVERYTHING in one day, so what I try to do is make sure that I’m stocked up for meals on Sunday and that I’m cooking one of my favorite slow-carb meals. Like the slow-cooker taco salad for example (recipe coming soon!), or a nice big steak. Basically, make sure on the day following your off day that you’re eating things that really feel like a treat – that makes coming off the off-day not as harsh a shock.

  6. Strengthcamp

    Great ideas… I find that most cravings happen the day after a cheat day, so I tend to keep the sugar low even on cheat day to avoid the insulin spike which DEMANDS I eat sugar the following day.

  7. Ivan Sports

    This diet work, when I changed my diet and eating habits I went through hell. Then, I started seeing results in the waistline and begin to drop fat. At the gym, in the AM I concentrated on core exercises, kettle bells and cross training and at night pure body builder workout. This put my body in automatic mode. My digestion improved as a result. Still drinking my wine and cut my dependencies to power bars or any fructose and sucrose. Cinnamon, vinegar and lemon did prevent my insulin to go up. If I have dozes of these three magic ingredients, my belly is less bloated. My challenge is with my endurance sport (road cycling), here is where the low-glycemic diet might not be too suitable, therefore, I abuse pastas and white rice over the weekend to have the fuel to be competitive.

    • TheCosmonaut

      That’s one of the things I love about this diet: if you stick to the letter of the law, you’ll lose weight rapidly, but if you don’t mind losing weight less rapidly, you can get away with modifications to the diet. Personally, I’ve had weeks where I’ve almost been half on and half off the diet and I’ve still lost weight (albeit not as much).

    • TheCosmonaut

      Congrats on losing the weight! My wife and I have also noticed some side effects from the diet… she got pregnant the month that we both got on the diet (we weren’t trying to get pregnant and did nothing different than we had been doing for 4+ years!)

  8. Derrick Jones

    Thxs Tim…..I needed this. My youngest son just turned two and his birthday cake sitting on the counter is driving me crazy not to have a HUGE slice!!! My wife said she is going to give the remainder of it away at work! HELP!!!!!

    • Greg K

      Derrick, go hug and kis your wife, and tell her she’s an amazing and a supportive woman. Then go eat some more beans and some juicy (lean) steak, and give away the darn cake. Throw it away, if you have to.

  9. Jay Eskenazi

    great article…i have a big sweet tooth too. But i’ve found after several months on the diet that eliminating sugar the 6/7 days of the week is making me less interested in sugar than i used to be. ๐Ÿ™‚ At first i was eating a lot of donuts and cupcakes on saturdays, but this has been dwindling over time. yes, i still enjoy them, but they are starting to taste too sweet. This past saturday i went to Starbucks and ordered 2 of the mini-deserts (good job Starbucks!) and ate them while waiting for my venti (20oz) frappucino! After eating the deserts, i had a few sips of the frappucino and it was too sweet. I asked them if i could exchange it for an iced coffee. and they are so nice they exchanged it. So…i’ll be curious if others are experiencing the same changes over time. To be honest, it’s taken about 4+ months for me to notice this change…

    • TheCosmonaut

      I tend to be variable — I’ve had some Saturdays when I’m ready to eat everything in sight and other ones when I find myself craving 4HB-friendly dishes. It is an interesting diet, though: being on it for a while definitely changes the way you eat on a fundamental level. Pretty cool!

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  11. Alisa

    Great suggestions. I like a nice iced coffee or herbal tea sweetened with stevia for a treat and knowing I can go nuts on Saturday really helps a lot!

    • TheCosmonaut

      Stevia can be a big, big help. You can make a Nojito that’s mostly 4HB-friendly: Put a bunch of mint (15 leaves minimum) and stevia in the bottom of a glass with 1/2 oz lime juice. Muddle with a pestle or a long spoon. Fill with carbonated water. You can vary the lime juice, mint, and stevia according to your own tastes. It can kind of come off feeling like an adult beverage, if done right ๐Ÿ™‚

  12. Dodie Jacobi

    Excellent recommendations! My favorite tip is turning, “not yet,” into an item to enjoy on Splurge Day (I refuse to think of it as a Cheat Day, since it’s part of the ritual, not a day of sneaking…) Thanks!

    • TheCosmonaut

      Glad you like it! Yeah, “not yet” was how I was able to quit smoking 10 years ago… I guess I’m just better at procrastination than discipline ๐Ÿ˜€

  13. Turner Wright

    I need to remember to actually use my off day properly

      • Greg K

        Not so surprising. I got into the habit of eating well, so I remember to eat “variety” on my off days, but I find it difficult to gorge. Last Saturday I remembered it was an off day and “anything goes” only by around 1pm or so. I have such a great variety of SCD friendly foods that I never feel “on a diet”. I keep telling my wife that this diet sucks because all the food is just so darn delicious and there’s so much of it – doesn’t feel like a diet. ๐Ÿ™‚ Today’s lunch: Texas Fajita from a mexican restaurant – steak and chicken cuts with shrimp on green peppers and caramelized onions (here’s something naturally sweet!) with lettuce greens, mild fresh salsa and guac. Washed it down it 6oz of grapefruit juice with “greens” mixed in, and a tall glass of iced water with 4 slices of lemon. For snack – 3 Brazil nuts, and 2 tbl spoons of plain yogurt with Inulin FOS mixed in (prebiotic for a probiotic pill I take at night), AGG pill, and a small cup of cinnamon coffee about 45 mins later. I feel rather STUFFED! and no desire for anything sweet.

        Also, whenever I want a sweet treat, I get some liquid egg white protein, and make a chocolate milkshake with about 30-40g of protein (10-12oz of liquid egg whites), a bit of stevia, lecithin, and L-Carnitine. I add ice and a bit of water to desired consistency, and blend on high for 30 seconds. AMAZING how that fills you up, and replaces any need for sweets. It’s often my pre-breakfast shake too. Then I grab some beans with a mix of sauerkraut and canned spinach (mix the two together with some Macadamia oil, salt, pepper, other spice and you’ll be amazed at just how filling and delicious this mix can be). Depending on how long between my shake and solid breakfast, I might throw some turkey or chicken deli meats on top or a slice of salmon.

        • Eelnitsud

          If i remember correctly, fajita beacause of the tortilla is reaking the diet a bit, also is grapefruit juice and jogurt.

  14. Maria

    Chewing gum really helps me with those after-meal sweet cravings. I never chewed gum before but now I have a nice collection of flavors. ๐Ÿ™‚

    • Greg K

      Maria, is your gum sugarless? Even if it is, it is full of artificial sweetners which have high fructose content or otherwise bad for you. Small quantities of aspartame or stevia should be ok, but even they can hurt because they cause glacimic changes and insulin spikes. So if you find you’re not making enough progress, try to find different gum or skip the gum for a week and see what happens. If your progress is fine, then stick to natural sweetners as the evidence is mounting against a lot of the artificial sweetners, like Splenda.

  15. Nwokedi

    I’ve never tried #5, I may give that a spin! Thanks!

  16. Allison

    Great article…I do the “not yet” method as well. I usually have a notebook with me (I’m keeping exact record of diet and routine to track results) and each week I have a cheat day page. During the week if I’m watching TV, out at the store, etc. and see something that I want, or suddenly crave I write it down in the notebook. Telling myself that I won’t forget any of these things for my cheat day makes it even easier to say, “not yet”.

  17. Darren Malone

    I spent the first month and half sticking to SCD and lost about 10lbs.ย  Then thought I could outsmart the diet and spread out my cheat day during the week some (with calorie reduction still) BUT it doesn’t work.ย  I also will slowly nibble on a 120 cal fiber bar for that sweet taste.

  18. Fred Collinsworth

    Most of us worry about our
    daily Carb in-take. I would say, worry more about your teeth’s health. A lot of
    us didn’t know that some bad sugar and bad cholesterol were caused by bacteria
    living in our mouth and teeth.

  19. Scott

    Thanks for the tips… I just started and have been dealing with severe sugar cravings. I guess all those carbs and snacks I used to eat gave me sugar addiction. Looking forward to my cheat day!

  20. Adam Picker

    I love that I am not alone in the sweet cravings. ย No matter how much I eat, my body is so used to pudding, cookies, cake, etc. after every meal that i salivate for it. ย Here’s another tip – I am keeping a journal of all my sweet cravings through the week – literally writing them down – and then on Sundays (my off day for football) I make it a point to get every single one of them – usually 2 or 3 of all of them ๐Ÿ™‚

  21. Des23_us

    Great advice thank you also I’m glad I’m not alone dreaming of sweets

  22. BBDawl1

    You had me at whole crabs!! Thanks for the informative, enjoyable article! Big slow-carb hugs and kisses!

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