Constant cravings…..Why is sugar tied to emotional eating?

It hits us all – that ‘feeling’ like you want something sweet; maybe chocolate, maybe a cookie, maybe ANYthing just to soothe that craving for something sweet.  Just what is this thing we call “Emotional eating ” ?

Did you ever stop to think that perhaps the craving for sugar can represent a deeper need? Emotional eating can signal a need for an emotional connection- love, closeness, affection, fun, adventure?

How does this happen?  How can our mood be soothed by our food?  What and how is that hole within us that is only soothed by emotional eating?
Our sugar/carb cravings are linked to our serotonin levels, that ‘feel good’ neurotransmitter that makes us feel happy. Believe it or not, 95% of our serotonin is made in our guts.

That’s correct…95% of our ‘feel good’ neurotransmitter serotonin is made in our GUTS – your food creates your mood.
When we eat high sugar foods (sugar, processed breads, cake, candy, cookies etc) we experience a spike in our blood sugar levels but we also at the same time experience an increase in our serotonin levels- we feel ‘good’ ‘happy’ ‘soothed’. The spike in serotonin after we eat sugar is a process that is actually tied biochemically to the high insulin levels that our pancreas must push out to deal with the sugar in our blood streams.  Those beta cells deep within our pancreas hold not only insulin, but also serotonin and when insulin is released, so is serotonin. (1)

Eating sugary foods is just like when you throw paper on a fire and get a huge blaze for a moment, followed by a quick burn-out; with sugar, you get that quick rush, a lot of energy and feel good serotonin flooding your system but then CRASH….it’s gone. And just like your energy crashes, so does your mood. So what do you do? Go grab another ‘fix’. And so goes the cycle……
Let’s go deeper for a moment…..

If you look deeper into your cravings for sugar you may remember being ‘rewarded’ for good behavior with a sweet treat. Or perhaps you were ‘treated’ to sweets and goodies by a loving grandparent when your mom wasn’t looking. This pleasure/reward system can be compounded by both the physical and the emotional conditioning we experience with sugary foods.

Doreen Virtue Ph.D  in her book  “Constant Cravings’  outlines foods and emotions and what each food group may actually be “telling you” is you quiet yourself, tune in and truly listen to your feelings and what you need at the moment.

• Dairy Cravings: Antidepressant Foods
• Salty Snacks: Stress, Anger, and Anxiety
• Spicy Foods: The Drive for Excitement
• Liquid Cravings: Up and Down Energy Cycles
• Nuts and Peanut Butter: Cravings for Fun
• Breads, pasta and Rice: Comforting, Calming
• Cookies, Cakes and Pies: Craving Hugs, Pleasure, and Reassurance
• Candy Cravings, Sweet pick me ups: Craving rewards and Entertainment

The only truly Filling Feeling comes from LOVE so next time a craving hits- tune in to your body and maybe you’ll see that you need a Hug instead of a cookie 






(1) Paulmann N, Grohmann M, Voigt J-P, Bert B, Vowinckel J, et al. (2009) Intracellular Serotonin Modulates Insulin Secretion from Pancreatic β-Cells by Protein Serotonylation. doi:10.1371/journal.pbio.1000229