How to Combat Cravings
Nearly every nutrition coaching session I do begins with, “I know what to do, I just can’t do it!” It’s probably the number one issue my clients struggle with: food cravings. I would even go so far as to call it an addiction. It’s not always sugary treats that women crave, but also bread, pasta, salty or fried foods and snacks, or sugar-laden coffee drinks and sodas. Whatever your trigger foods are, it feels almost impossible to overcome once the craving cycle starts.
What all of these foods have in common is their quick breakdown to sugar causing a spike in blood sugar levels and feel good brain chemicals, short lived as it is. It just plain feels good! Sometimes all we want is relief when we are not feeling good and sugar and junk foods are a common go to. But what goes up must come down, and when you crash, you need more to feel good again! Once you start it becomes an all day chase, so up and down you go day after day in an attempt to feel good.
Why does this happen and why does it seem impossible to resist?
Because it IS almost impossible to resist! Even though we live modern lives, we still have a primitive part of our brain. Our primitive brain sure loves sugar! Our hunter and gatherer ancestors never knew when they would come across their next meal, so our bodies became efficient at storing fat to prepare for lean times. Because carbohydrates are so important for fuel, our bodies literally have no shut-off mechanism or gauge to tell us we are full of sugar! Your brain says “keep it coming, I will store it for later!” This is a brilliant design for primitive living, especially when the main sugar sources were berries and honey. But this system does us no favors now that cheap sugar ridden carbohydrate snack foods are cheap and abundant.
So lets blame our primitive brain and move on. It’s not your fault so drop your guilt and blame and lets learn how to work WITH the system and not against it.
The best way to gain control of the ups and downs of the chemical chain is to eat foods that produce a slow and steady supply of energy. This means eating meals composed of real food that includes a combination of protein, healthy fat and complex carbohydrates, and eating regularly throughout the day. For some women it can be three meals a day and for some it’s smaller meals every 4 hours or so, especially if you get triggered during the day.
Here is a good basic strategy for reducing cravings:
Always eat breakfast and always include PROTEIN at breakfast! Good protein includes eggs, lean animal protein, nuts or nut butters, and whey or plant based protein powders.
Do not skip meals and have protein (plant or animal), healthy fat and complex carbs (especially veggies) at every meal! Better yet, eat smaller meals every 4 hours or so.
Snack on real food! Like nuts, hummus or guacamole and veggies, or a cheese stick with an apple.
Throw it away! Get rid of all junk food in your home and any secret stashes wherever they may be! If you can’t resist the urge, then remove them from your environment. This includes artificial sweeteners too!
Reduce stress. Learn to meditate, take a yoga class or read an inspirational book to help yourself feel good naturally and avoid stress eating.
Exercise. It not only burns calories but also boosts your feel good hormones.
Diversionary tactics. Yes, diverting your attention can be a very effective way to stop a craving. Go for a walk, call a friend, play with the dog, make some tea or even chew a stick of gum until the urge has passed.
Get help. If you need help formulating a good and enjoyable nutrition and lifestyle plan then I’m here to help. Working with a Nutrition & Holistic Health Coach works best if you are ready for change. If you are truly struggling, you may have more complex issues like adrenal dysfunction (constant exhaustion), thyroid and hormonal imbalances, depression or anxiety that may require help from a professional health care provider.
Once you step off the roller coaster you will be glad you did. Side effects may include: improved energy, better skin, mental clarity, and weight loss. Good luck and enjoy, let me know how you do.
All the best,