Cheating the Cheat: Recalibrating Your Sweet Tooth

Caveman Doctor recently received an email (whatever an email is) asking for recommendations to help avoid carbohydrates and sweets. The email read, “Not all of us have your discipline, can you give me some pointers?” This confused Caveman Doctor, as he used to have the sweetest tooth around the cave. In fact, Caveman Doctor’s caveman parents would laugh if they heard this.

Chocolate chip cookie dough ice cream. My old cheat. It never actually satisfied my sweet tooth and only made it worse.


Everyone Cheats When It Comes to Their Diet. Everyone.

The difference is how we cheat. Everyone needs a break from “healthy” foods to periodically eat some foods that satisfy our sweet tooth, often venturing into chocolate, ice cream, cookies, cakes, candy, etc. However, in Caveman Doctor’s time, the sweetest food available was wild fruit, and this fruit had a much higher content of vitamins, minerals, and protein with a lower carbohydrate content. Wild fruits also contain more glucose and some fructose compared to modern day farmed fruits which have much higher levels of sucrose, making them even sweeter.1 Modern sweet foods and their high levels of sugar seem to send a message to our brain to consume more, often creating a drug-like addiction. Caveman Doctor used to love sweet foods…until he re-calibrated his sweet tooth.
For example, I have a coworker who lives a relatively low-carb lifestyle. When she gets cravings to sway from her diet, she eats a special cheese that contains lemon. It is her dietary delight, and when she talks about it, she gets a twinkle in her eye, and her excitement is easily noticeable. She thoroughly enjoys it and looks forward to eating it. The cheese, made up of mainly fat and protein with little to no carbohydrates, results in a very minimal spike in blood glucose levels, and therefore has little associated insulin response.2,3 As a result, it has little to no effect on increasing her weight. However, it does take the place of a cookie or cake, so in this regard, it has a large effect on her weight (positively…),4 and her results have been amazing. This anecdote is a simple example of methods to overcome our sweet tooth.

When we shift away from sugars and carbohydrate sources as our cheats and pleasure foods and switch toward fat and protein-based foods, several things happen:


  1. As we have already read, we feel full after the cheat.
  2. We don’t crave more of the cheat food after the cheat (i.e. sugar5).
  3. Our insulin doesn’t fluctuate like crazy after the cheat, leaving us hungrier.6-8
  4. We are left less down, depressed, and shameful from our cheat.
  5. Over time, we begin to recalibrate our sweet tooth to actually favor less sweet foods.

This helps to avoid the hungry-sugar-binge-hungry again cheat, which leaves us frustrated, unhappy, and not satisfied (the whole point of the cheat!). It also leaves our sweet tooth intake craving less sweet foods.

As A Side Note…

You are reading this article, written by a person that possibly had the sweetest tooth in the world several years ago. My cheat foods now are wine, cheese, dark chocolate, berries and cream, and macadamia nuts. For those of you confused with the macadamia nut cheat, when I eat them I turn into a ravenous monster that can’t stop. Therefore, I only eat them on occasion. I literally can only buy one small bag because I know if I eat one, the rest will soon follow. The same used to happen when I ate cookies. Somehow, I transformed my cheat from a box of cookies to a package of macadamia nuts. It took a while, but I have all the confidence that you can get to this same point.

Macadamia nuts: one of my new cheats


Recalibrate Your Sweet Tooth by Changing Your Cheat


The Rules of the Cheat:


1. If a cheat food is in your house, you will eat it.

No more buying ice cream now and saving it for next weekend. You and I both know that the ice cream will get eaten in two days. Buying cheat foods in small amounts immediately prior to consumption was a large step in the right direction for me. I can now even have some cheat foods in the house without an ensuing binge-fest. While I no longer crave these foods that I had to buy in small doses, this is an important first step that cannot be ignored.

2. Cheat with foods that actually satisfy your cravings and make you feel better afterwards.

Don’t cheat with foods that leave you hungrier, down/depressed, and shameful about the cheat. If cheating with a bowl/pint/carton of ice cream makes you crave more afterwards, did you really satisfy your sweets craving? If sweets and cheat foods “make you happy,” why do you feel so down after eating them?
Do not cheat with foods that cause a massive insulin spike, as they will only make you hungrier.6-8 Did you know that a treatment for anorexic patients is to inject them with insulin9 as the response is a rapid increase in appetite? It was known for a long time that insulin and foods that increase insulin result in increased appetite. In fact, looking at the references below, this was well established in the 1920s; yet, it seems that modern medicine often forgets or ignores this fact.

3. Cheat with foods that will result in less cheats over the long term.

I used to cheat with candy, cookies, ice cream, and similar foods once a week. I actually had a “cheat day”. It was usually on a Friday or Saturday. However, these cheats never actually satisfied my cheat cravings. I found myself craving more cheat foods only days later. Sometimes I would have more than one cheat day per week, and sometimes I would have several in a row. Clearly the cheat foods were not satisfying my cravings and needed to be changed. Once again, like Rule 2, if a cheat leaves you hungrier and craving more of it afterwards, it is probably not a good cheat. As I have repeatedly discussed, this is what happens with the consumption of carbohydrates, as they not only increase hunger, but they actually increase cravings for more carbohydrates when your blood sugar drops. Or, as better stated by Geiselman in his work5:

“Rather than increasing appetite and hunger in general, however, insulin-induced hypoglycemia may specifically increase appetite and hunger for more carbohydrates, especially sugar.”


Dark chocolate rarely leaves me craving more after I eat it, unlike cookie dough ice cream…


4. Keep your eyes on the prize.

The prize of avoiding heavy-carb cheats is a better mood, better physique, less cravings, and better health. Keep this in mind constantly. An easy way for many people to keep perspective is to think about how terrible they feel after the post-cheat crash period and how their cheat goal of satisfying their cravings is never actually accomplished this way. I fully understand that, like an addictive drug, when the carbohydrates are in your face it is difficult to think in perspective.

5. Give it a try and reap the benefits.

Just as in Rule 4, over time you will eventually gain that perspective. The first of many cravings are difficult. But avoid the carb cravings, and after several times (over at least a month), you will start to recognize the pattern – no further cravings after the cheat, and no down in the dumps moods after the cheats. Sooner or later, you will start to realize how much better you feel when abstaining from the “drug”. It does not happen overnight, so keep at it.

6. If you are human, you will likely cave in.

Actually, you will most likely cave in several times. However, after getting back on the wagon each time, you will start to realize how much better you feel. Along these lines, recognize when you need a cheat or are just being bad. Sometimes the cheat is more of a desire to eat a very large meal and your craving can simply be satisfied with dinner. Eat first, preferably a filling meal. Wait 15 minutes, and see if you are still craving a cheat.

7. Start to notice how those around you feel after cheating with carbs.

By no means are we Cavemen dieters elitists. However, once you start to realize that those around you, including your friends and coworkers, feel terrible physically and emotionally after these carb-cheats and binges, and this was how you ­used to feel, you will start to get a feeling of gratification that you overcame such an addictive spiral of crave-carbs-crave-depression.

8. Watch the weight drop, your mood improve, and your health soar.

Congratulations. Now that your sweet tooth is on the back burner, you can play around with different cheats and see how your body responds, i.e. which make you feel better or which squelch your cravings more than others.
Train yourself to no longer crave sweets and you will be thanking yourself for years to come.

Chateau Lagrezette from Cahors. One of my cheats, described as a bold wine with hints of black licorice, exemplifying my recalibrated sweet tooth.

My Cheats (Including More Basic Food Types That Make Me Happy)


Non-Caveman/Paleo Cheat Foods That Satisfy My Sweet Tooth:


  1. Dark Chocolate
  2. Coffee (with pastured heavy whipping cream)
  3. Whipped cream (whip it myself, no pre-made, fake stuff) with berries
  4. Post-workout smoothies (frozen fruit/berries and whey protein)
  5. Red Wine


Random “Fake” Cheats That I Love:


  1. Macadamia Nuts
  2. Olives
  3. Cheese
  4. Sweet potato with butter and cinnamon after a workout

As another side note, I have watched my cravings for all sweets decrease, but it is best exemplified in which wines I drink (which . I literally have watched my taste in wine morph as I have recalibrated my sweet tooth. I previously enjoyed drinking red wines with more fruit, but now I find myself straying away from fruitier wines (which may include health benefits you never knew). Now my favorite wine is from Cahors, where the wines are dark with tannins and barely any fruit flavor. This is also likely why I don’t even enjoy sweet foods anymore, either. Fortunately, very few non-sweet foods make you want to binge-eat. In fact, my sweetest food is dark chocolate, and even when I crave it, after a couple bites I’m usually pretty satisfied and have no desire to eat more.

Train yourself to crave less sweet foods as they naturally contain less insulin-spiking sugar and carbohydrates.

Admit defeat and avoid foods that will stand in your way to an optimal diet and optimal health. You may actually find yourself no longer craving or enjoying sweets. From there, it’s easy!


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1. Milton K. Nutritional characteristics of wild primate foods: do the diets of our closest living relatives have lessons for us? Nutrition. Jun 1999;15(6):488-498.

2.Radulescu A, Hassan Y, Gannon MC, Nuttall FQ. The Degree of Saturation of Fatty Acids in Dietary Fats Does Not Affect the Metabolic Response to Ingested Carbohydrate. Journal of the American College of Nutrition. June 1, 2009 2009;28(3):286-295.

3.Gannon MC, Nuttall FQ. Effect of a High-Protein, Low-Carbohydrate Diet on Blood Glucose Control in People With Type 2 Diabetes. Diabetes. September 1, 2004 2004;53(9):2375-2382.

4.Hite AH, Berkowitz VG, Berkowitz K. Low-carbohydrate diet review: shifting the paradigm. Nutr Clin Pract. Jun 2011;26(3):300-308.

5.Geiselman PJ, Novin D. The role of carbohydrates in appetite, hunger and obesity. Appetite;Appetite. 1982;3(3):203-223.

6.Grossman MI, Stein IF. Vagotomy and the Hunger-producing Action of Insulin in Man. Journal of Applied Physiology. October 1, 1948 1948;1(4):263-269.

7.Bulatao E, Carlson AJ. CONTRIBUTIONS TO THE PHYSIOLOGY OF THE STOMACH: Influence of Experimental Changes in Blood Sugar Level on Gastric Hunger Contractions. American Journal of Physiology — Legacy Content. June 1, 1924 1924;69(1):107-115.

8.Janowitz HD, Ivy AC. Role of Blood Sugar Levels in Spontaneous and Insulin-Induced Hunger in Man. Journal of Applied Physiology. March 1, 1949 1949;1(9):643-645.

9.Dally P, Sargant W. Treatment and outcome of anorexia nervosa. Bmj. 1966-10-01 00:00:00 1966;2(5517):793-795.



© 2015 CDR Health and Nutrition, LLC. All Rights Reserved.


  1. Nino P

    Live Rule 1and 7. It will make you cheat less for sure. I have definitelly cut down
    alot of bread, milk choc, ice cream since you started writing the blog. So in 2 months i am down 6 pounds without calorie cutbacks or increase in excercise.
    My “crave foods: walnuts, almonds with blueberries, blackberries, oranges, apples

    1. CavemanDoctor (Post author)


      Great to hear. Keep up the good work and enjoy looking and feeling better.


  2. DJ

    What is the cheese that you reference in the story of your coworker?

    1. CavemanDoctor (Post author)

      Not sure of the name. I will find out next week at work.


  3. DJ

    i have been following your recommendations and have dropped my carb intake significantly since january 1 with a noticable gain in energy and 5 pounds of weight loss. i am averaging 150g of carbs, 90g of protein, and 50 grams of fat and i consume around 1400 calories a day. I am having trouble increasing my protein and fat consumption. I typically do not consume many milk products. Do i need to consume milk products to reach better ratio’s? Does a caveman need milk products?

  4. CavemanDoctor (Post author)


    Great to hear of your success and that you have more energy. As for eating more fat, I actually eat very little milk products (cream, butter, and some infrequent cheese). I have mixed feelings on milk products, and while they were likely not consumed by cavemen, I think in the fattier forms can be an OK addition to the diet while avoiding all the sugar (lactose) in milk and other dairy.

    For my fat intake, I usually eat some animal source of protein with each meal (eggs, meat, or fish) that has a nice amount of fat in it. I also eat vegetables with almost all meals, cooked in grass-fed butter, macadamia, coconut, avocado, or olive oil or marinaded in any of these oils and vinegar (to try to limit oil and fat oxidation through cooking). I also snack on coconut manna often.

    As for your diet, the low calories are OK now as you are losing weight, but you may find drops in your energy and muscle mass, especially as you get more lean. I definitely do not push calorie restriction on anyone, and if anything people who follow a similar diet than mine end up increasing their calories. Also, as an example for fat intake, I eat an omelet every morning made of vegetables that I cook in butter or oil and whole eggs. I also drink coffee with whole cream. My lunch is some kind of meat source over spinach or vegetables, often in oil. Including lunch, I eat well over 50g of fat by the afternoon, and often eat much more than that. I often snack on olives in the afternoon if I can sneak some in at work. On a caveman diet, I find myself in a situation where I actually have to eat a significant amount just to keep my weight the same, though this may not be the case for everyone.

    Hope this helps,

  5. Diane and Tom

    How long have you been a caveman?

  6. CavemanDoctor (Post author)

    I have followed a similar diet for over a dozen years, with more sugar cheats and cottage cheese consumption, though both were removed from my diet totally about 2 years ago. I haven’t eaten grains for several years. I don’t eat beans or legumes either (which is controversial) and I do eat dairy fat sources (also controversial). I haven’t consumed milk in about a decade.


  7. Cristina

    Hey CavemanDoctor,

    I was wondering if you can tell me what kinds of food help with memory.


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  10. Deanie

    I literally started laughing when I read rule number one. A few months ago, my partner decided to buy ice cream. He purchases two cartons: one for the current weekend, and a second for the following. Both were gone in… TWO DAYS! Since then I have requested we do not purchase it.

    That said, you truly CAN recalibrate your sweet tooth. I have always craved rich, sweet foods, even as a child. However, as I go further down the rabbit hole in my paleo/primal-esque journey, I have found everything you’ve said to be correct. The ice cream never satisfied my craving. I would eat until i was ‘full’ (one serving), and put the carton away, only to return to it an hour later. I’d eat until I was physically stuffed (but still not satisfied) and feeling guilty and sick. Tonight my dessert (after two strict weeks) was a small bowl filled with blue/black/strawberries, some dark chocolate (Lindt 70% cocoa, mmm), and a glass of red wine. It took me ages to eat it all. I enjoyed every bite, and when I finished I was entirely satisfied. How refreshing!

    1. cavemandoctor (Post author)

      Haha! Gets em every time!

      Glad to hear about conquering your sweet tooth. It really is a life-changed. It is an amazing feeling to have a “cheat” meal that actually satisfies your cravings and all-in-all may actually be healthy for you! Goodbye ice cream!

      Thanks for the comments and keep up the good work!

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  12. April

    This is a great post and I agree with everything you said. I am truly addicted to sweets and when I don’t eat them for long periods of time I feel a lot better and don’t crave them. I’m even finding that when I do chose to have a “cheat” I don’t really enjoy the taste and I feel like crap later but it leads me to crave more. This tells me that I should just avoid them altogether, but the issue is I am sad about not being able to eat them anymore!

    It’s more that I miss the enjoyment I use to get from eating sweets because as I said, I don’t even really like the taste of most desserts now, I find them too sugary and fake tasting. But I still find myself missing that happiness I used to get and I’m not sure what to do about it? Perhaps it’s more a matter of getting used to this lifestyle (I’m on about 2 years myself) and accepting the fact that I’ll never get that same joy out of them again and instead focus on how happy I am to be healthier and more fit (though at times it pales to the feeling I’d get when eating sugar!)

    Oh and cookie dough ice cream was my favorite too! I loved it at Coldstone- the cake batter ice cream with extra cookie dough? The ultimate cheat!

    1. cavemandoctor (Post author)


      Thanks for the comments! I agree with you abotuthe entire psyche change. Unfortunately our society ingrains carbs with celebrations and good times (birthday cake, ice cream after a baseball game, etc.) and this is definitely ingrained in our heads from an early age.

      However, overcoming this is quite the rearding experience!


  13. kilani

    Hey .
    So I’ve been suger free for 8 months except for some fruits and 3 small cheat meals. My problem I have the sweetest tooth out of everyone that I know . I stopped my suger intake roughly speaking but my craving never stopped. To an extent where my hands are shaking when I hold a chocolate bar in my hands . Paleo cheat meals have not been successful in reducing the crazing but on the contrary . Where did I go wrong here ?


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