How often do you find yourself running for the quick fix drive-thru? Nobody will see you eating that bag of fries or tasty treat from Starbucks. The real clincher is that you will instantly feel better physically, but likely not so much mentally, or emotionally. Once again, in your mind, you have succumbed to those nasty carb cravings and totally blown off willpower.
Why are these cravings such a problem? You have had them for as long as you can remember, and you are just fine, right?
Well, let’s start with the fact that you have also been struggling to lose weight, feeling sluggish, and maybe even facing some health issues. Maybe it is time to seriously face up to your carb cravings and get control of your life!
Do I need to follow one of THOSE programs?
There are numerous programs available that help you “kick the sugar habit”. These programs generally involve some sort of cleanse or detox and then you follow a program that includes shakes and bars and vitamins for anywhere from 5 days to 3 weeks.
Don’t get me wrong, many of these are great programs and they work. The intention of this article is not to criticize them, but to offer you an alternative solution to buying a program and still not having made the truly necessary changes to your lifestyle to sustain the changes.
Of all the advice out there, what do I need to do?
A lot of times, carb cravings go way beyond sugar. There are many foods that are treated by your body as if they were sugar, such as processed carbs (i.e. chips, pastas, white rice, etc.).
Read our tips below, decide what you can do right now to kick the carb habit to the curb, and do your best.
If you feel that you need a sugar detox program, there are many to choose from, but any one that is worth its weight in gold needs to address the issues that we discuss here.
Here are our top (10) tips for curbing your carb cravings:
1. Eliminate processed foods
This is probably the single most important change that you can make, and one of the hardest for many people. Processed foods are made with ingredients like processed flours and sugar that are absorbed into your blood stream quickly and elicit a big insulin response which sets the stage for fat storage. Another huge reason to avoid processed foods as much as possible is that they contain “bad fats” versus “good fats”. The bad fats are hydrogenated fats that come from foods such as canola oil and safflower oil.
Clean out your cupboard and desk drawer at work. Make this easier on yourself. Get rid of processed carbs altogether.
2. Eat low-glycemic foods
Low-glycemic foods, such as quinoa, good fats, lean meats, nuts, many veggies, and even some fruits do not create the blood sugar and resulting insulin spikes that high-glycemic foods do.
What is the glycemic index? According to Harvard Health Publications, “Glycemic index and glycemic load offer information about how foods affect blood sugar and insulin. The lower a food’s glycemic index or glycemic load, the less it affects blood sugar and insulin levels. Their chart lists both glycemic index and glycemic load for more than 100 common foods.
3. Eat good fats such as avocado, olives, nuts, or fish.
The good fats help curb your appetite and your sugar cravings. Eating snacks with good fats is so helpful in keeping level blood sugar. Snacking is a time when you are vulnerable. For snacks with fat, try almond butter on a slice of apple, ¼ cup of trail mix, a handful of almonds, a hard-boiled egg, or a serving of Greek yogurt.
What are good fats? Poly- and monounsaturated fats are the good guys, while saturated and trans-fats are the “not so good” guys.
4. Eat often and less at each meal to maintain healthy blood sugar levels
As we mentioned above, keeping blood sugar from spiking and subsequently crashing plays a key role in weight loss. If you are constantly telling your body to get your blood sugar levels up, your body will send out insulin, which when it produces too much, ends up storing sugar as fat, not as energy for your muscles.
When your blood sugar consistently plummets, your body consistently stores fat. Will power goes down the tubes as well and you will find yourself eating whatever you can to get your blood sugar levels back up. Been there, done that! This is a vicious cycle.
5. Eat adequate fiber
Fiber slows down absorption. Slowing down absorption is especially significant when it comes to ingesting sugar, processed carbs, or foods that can spike your blood sugar (high on the glycemic index).
Fiber also elicits satiety, or that full feeling. Many people will stop eating when they feel full, although, many keep right on eating!
6. Breakfast is the best way to start your day
When quitting sugar, starting your day with a good breakfast will set you up right. You want a breakfast that is high in protein with some healthy fats (i.e. eggs and avocado), and non-processed carbs, such as whole grain toast or a piece of fruit. Mixing veggies in your eggs instead of toast is an even better option.
Unprocessed oats or quinoa make a good breakfast as well. Everybody is different, so see how you respond to these foods. If they leave you wanting to eat again within a couple of hours, then, you might be better off with eggs or egg whites versus cereal. Some people have small appetites in the morning and find that yogurt with some nuts sprinkled in is all that they can eat, but if it is good yogurt such as Greek yogurt, it will not spike your blood sugar.
Whatever you do, avoid skipping breakfast! Remember, you want to start your day with stable blood sugar and keep it that way. If you can, plan it out the night before
7. Decrease your stress
This is often easier said than done, right? Do whatever you can to decrease your major stress in your life. Think of a correlation between hanging on to stress and hanging on to body fat or weight.
When you are stressed out constantly, your body craves carbs in order to increase serotonin levels. Serotonin is a “feel good” neurotransmitter that is depleted when you are chronically stressed. Your body makes serotonin from the amino acid tryptophan, which it gets from carbs, which is why people crave junk food when they feel down.
Foods that are good sources of tryptophan include turkey, bananas, dairy (i.e. yogurt, eggs, milk, and cheeses), meat, nuts, beans, and fish. Certain B vitamins have also been linked to helping boost serotonin levels. Of course, exercise is also a great way to give serotonin a boost as well!
Too much stress also produces cortisol and adrenaline, which interfere with serotonin. These hormones are meant to be released during stressful situations, and then dealt with by the body, but not released chronically, which is true for someone who is constantly stressed out. Cortisol wreaks havoc on fat loss, and the relationship between hunger-related hormones insulin, Ghrelin, and leptin.
8. Be good to your gut
Considering that about 80-90 percent of our serotonin is found in your gut, not your brain, having a healthy gut is paramount to shedding weight and curbing carb cravings. Research has shown that when serotonin is depleted in many animal species, they do whatever it takes to eat.
Keeping your gut healthy means eating foods that you tolerate well. Many people are allergic to gluten, wheat, dairy, etc., and are still not aware of it.
Having good flora in your gut is so important. Probiotics that you take daily, or derive from fermented foods or from many brands of yogurt really are beneficial.
A healthy gut will also allow you to eat foods that are good for you, process them properly, and maximize the nutrition from them.
9. Be mindful—enjoy your food
Food is meant to be enjoyed. I really believe that. Yes, it is meant to provide nutrients so that our bodies can thrive and survive, but we can derive a lot of pleasure from our food, and from healthy food at that!
Being mindful when preparing your food as well as eating it is super important. Choose foods that are going to keep your blood sugar stable, satisfy your taste buds and your appetite, and that you will enjoy eating. Too many people deprive themselves when they are trying to lose weight, for example, and it’s no wonder that they stray from their eating plan and binge on processed carbs!
Mindfulness when eating is also a great way to “connect” with your food and actually experience the pleasure of eating. Turning off the TV, putting away the newspaper, or sitting down at the table instead of eating on the run all can improve your mindfulness around eating.
10. Assess—are you hungry or craving?
If you are really hungry, eat a balanced meal, don’t wait thinking that you will lose weight by not eating. How do you know if you are really hungry, or simply craving carbs? One key to this question is to be able to determine if your blood sugar has crashed or is on the way down. As we said earlier, when this happens, you will have a much bigger battle against willpower than if you are truly hungry. The key here is prevention.
I have to ask myself this question a lot. Am I really hungry, or am I just going to the cupboard because I am bored, stressed, procrastinating something else……basically a bad habit. When I walk in the kitchen, I would be smart to take a moment, have a glass of water, and ask myself why I want to eat.
What does all of this mean?
Sustained healthy weight loss goes hand in hand with eliminating processed carbs as much as you can from your diet. Of the many things that you can do to eliminate sugar/carb cravings, we have discussed our top ten with you here.
It is up to you to decide how important it is to you to curb the sugar cravings and have a healthier, happier body.
What are you doing to deal with sugar cravings?
By Sue Bream yoursimplehealthylife.com