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Tips for Managing You Sweets Cravings in Recovery During the Holiday Season

how to manage eating sugar in recovery over the holidays

Holiday Sweets and the Recovering Alcoholic

The month of October offered two great excuses to indulge your sweet tooth. First, October 14 was national dessert day, and then, of course, Halloween happened. Which brings us to the start of the Big Eats trifecta, otherwise known as the holiday season. For many, Halloween is just a warm-up to the main event of Thanksgiving (pies!) and Christmas (more pie!). In between, there’s a noticeable uptick in candy canes and advent calendar chocolate.

Either way, we’re here to say: enjoy it! In fact, many experts recommend those in recovery keep something sweet around the house during early recovery, and the famous AA book “Living Sober” even includes a chapter dedicated to the benefits of having a candy stash.

There is some scientific evidence to explain why recovering alcoholics specifically crave sugar.

Our bodies convert alcohol to sugar, causing a spike in blood sugar levels. When alcoholics quit drinking, it causes blood sugar levels to drop and so alcoholics start to crave sugar.

Just like sugar, drugs and alcohol also create a surge in dopamine levels, activating the brain’s pleasure center. Take the drugs or alcohol away, and the body seeks a “sugar-replacement” option, causing an uptick in a craving for sweets.

So in early recovery, having some sweets on hand is a good idea.

Managing sugar craving for recovering alcoholics

If nothing else, we want to point out that a little holiday indulgence doesn’t mean you’re ruined for healthy eating or a little exercise. Experts have found that people will use a few big meals as an excuse to not adhere to normal healthy behaviors. We say have your cake and eat it too. And by that we mean, go ahead and enjoy the good food and sweets but don’t let that be an excuse to throw all the good habits out the window.

Pointers for Maintaining a Healthy Indulgence/Moderation Balance over the Holiday Season

• Exercise and meditation

Regular exercise and meditation practice will also increase dopamine levels in the brain, helping to manage stress as well. Plus, a good exercise routine helps battle the holiday bulge.

• Commitment to service

Whether it’s AA meetings, attending church functions, or other time spent volunteering, personal growth activities provide a sense of well-being, and will simply help us keep our minds off cravings.

In addition, eating a well-balanced diet on a regular schedule (don’t forget breakfast!), as well as getting a good night’s sleep will both help minimize the urge to splurge on a sweet treat.

We can’t, of course, go on eating chocolate bars all day, every day, forever. But you’ve been putting in a lot of hard work on the road to recovery, so a little sugar now and then (especially amidst the bustle and stress of the holidays) is a great way to treat yourself.

But don’t forget to always enjoy in moderation.

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