No matter what your fitness goals are – losing weight, toning up or cutting out junk food – there’s one thing that can often get in the way of achieving great things.

Sugar cravings.

Why? Lisa Bergart, nutritionist and owner of Dynamix Fitness Toronto, says it’s simply because humans are hardwired to seek sugar.

“We are chemically programmed to seek sweet food because sweetness comes with the calories we need to survive,” he explains. “The reward for sugar is the release of serotonin – the feel good hormone – and dopamine – the addiction hormone.”

But, remember, banning sugar from your diet is not the answer, nor is it achievable, says Lisa. After all, fruit and milk are nutrient-rich foods that contain natural sugar – fructose in fruit and lactose in milk.

“People who claim to have gone ‘sugar-free’ will have also cut out chocolate, pastries, ice-cream and other extras that contain fat,” says Lisa. “It’s the added sugars you should work to minimise, such as foods containing sucrose, honey, molasses and corn syrup.”

So, to help survive sugar cravings, so that you can see out your health and fitness goals, Lisa suggests taking these three simple steps.

Step 1: Reduce your cravings

Everyone’s biological susceptibility to sugar is different, explains Lisa. For example, you may be a hyper-responder with a strong chemical drive for sugar. Where as others don’t feel the lure for a mid-afternoon sugar hit quite as much.

To beat your biological sugar cravings try starting your day with protein at breakfast, which helps to keep you feeling full longer, says Lisa

“Also, include lean proteins at main meals to help feel fuller for longer between meals. Eat nutrient-rich as much as possible to minimise any nutrient imbalances that may trigger the desire for sugar.”

If you do have a sweet tooth, include naturally sweet foods in your diet such as fresh and dried fruit, yoghurt or milk and even roasted onion, peppers or beetroot.

“Be keenly aware of your hunger signals to avoid becoming ravenous, adds Lisa. “This is when the craving chemicals take over! And, always keep a glass of water on hand to avoid the temptation of grabbing a chocolate bar instead.”

Step 2: Reprogram your bad habits

Were you rewarded with lollies or candy as a child? If so, there is a high chance this reward routine has become a simple, yet powerful, automatic response programmed into adulthood, explains Lisa.

The good news is, bad habits can be broken with awareness and positive alternative behaviours.

Try logging your eating triggers and reactions to become more aware of your negative eating patterns, suggests Lisa.

“Keep tempting treats out of the house and only bring home small quantities of sweet treats on weekends,” she says.

“Distract yourself when you feel a craving coming on. Go for a walk and the craving may dissipate.”

Step 3: Rethink big emotions

If you use sugar as a short-term fix from feeling extreme emotions such as stress, boredom, anger or anxiety, you are not alone.

But, unfortunately, when this happens, sugar cravings can often feel out of control, says Lisa.

Instead, try dealing with any biological craving and bad habits using the strategies above. This will set you up for success.

“Then, ask yourself: ‘What, other than eating food, do I need to make me feel better?’ Work towards satisfying cravings with non-food rewards,” says Lisa.

“Remember to be patient and know that it takes time to work through emotions. Be your own best friend rather than beat yourself up – and don’t forget slip-ups are allowed!”