Cravings can make dietary changes challenging and ultimately make or break adherence to diabetes reversal. This is understandable — carbohydrates are seductive and addictive. However, with a few tricks up your sleeve, you can resist the lure of sugar and be liberated from the grips of cravings, forever.
Cravings are often coupled with strong emotions or habits and manifest from parts of the brain responsible for memory, pleasure, and reward. Our mind and body is wired to seek out pleasure and remember it.
Food is tremendously pleasurable and I'm sure you've experienced a mind blowing meal. It feels like your head is exploding with fireworks and you're overcome with euphoria — this is our happy hormone (serotonin) coming into play. The meal has rewarded your body with happiness, and your brain will remember it. The next time you smell or see the meal, cravings will nudge you to eat it again for another hit of serotonin.
What you'll also notice is that the more you satisfy cravings, the stronger they become. Even eating a smidgen of a restricted food will ignite a raging desire for more and more. This is because cravings are deeply connected with habits. With time and perseverance, you can recondition the reward system in favour of healthier foods and away from carbohydrates.
High calorie foods are normally the most desirable and feel as though they've been dipped in crack. There is good reason for this. Our bodies have been designed to withstand food scarcity — cravings instruct self preservation and encourage us to 'fatten up' when food is available. However, times are different now. There is no shortage of food, but we have maintained a yearning for high calorie foods.
You'd be mistaken for thinking that a low carbohydrate diet is bland or boring. It has one of natures most desired foods — fat. Switching carbohydrates for nutrient rich, fat is an effective and simple way to experience immense food pleasure and satisfy cravings. With time, your hormones and blood sugars will balance out, and cravings for carbohydrates will be a distant memory.
Limiting carbohydrates for the first couple of weeks will be the most challenging, but you can adopt some coping strategies to deal with cravings. Below are some steps to help you ride the carbohydrate wave.
Firstly, recognise that you are experiencing a craving for something. Try to understand what may have triggered temptation for 'x' food— perhaps it's the environment you're in, an association, a habit, or an emotional response to something?
- Address Triggers
If possible, address triggers that are causing your cravings. For example, the smell of freshly baked bread will easily cause carb cravings, so try to remove yourself from the situation. If you think your craving is an emotional response, like stress, then try to deal with this emotion head on.
- Listen to cravings
A craving can often give insight into the body's wants and needs. Chocolate is a rich source of magnesium, and often cravings for chocolate are a sign of magnesium deficiency. Likewise, a craving for savoury junk food could be a sodium, protein or fat deficiency. Sugar cravings are normally as a result of blood sugar imbalances — if you can get blood sugars under control, cravings will dissolve. If you experience cravings, please get in touch and we try to get to the bottom of it and troubleshoot any possible deficiencies.
- Weigh up Pros & Cons
Ask yourself, "how will this food benefit me?. Will it be nourishing, give me clarity and lots of energy? Or, will it make me feel ill, bloated, tired and spike my blood sugars?" It's helpful if you can recall a time when you ate 'x' food and it made you feel poorly. Focus on this feeling and associate 'x' food with a negative effect. Now think of what foods make you feel well — the is positive reinforcement. Often, the feeling of being healthy and well, overrides the temptation of wanting restricted food that will make you feel unwell. This exercise will help dissolve cravings and strengthen a healthy relationship with foods.
Understand exactly what it is that you're craving. Is it something salty, something crunchy, something fatty. Now replace "x" food with a low-carb alternative to satisfy this craving. Head to this snack guide, where we have lots of suggestions for different cravings. Also consider the possibility of simply being thirsty. Have a drink of water, wait a few moments and see if it passes.
- Plan ahead
Alter your environment so you're equipped to tackle a craving head on. If you know that you always crave a piece of chocolate after dinner, then plan ahead and have a low-carb snack ready to satisfy this habit.
- Don't despair
If you ever give in to temptation, don't dwell on it. Look forward and use it as an experience to make positive changes in the future. The great thing is, it's a new day, and you have the power to make lots of positive changes. Think back and try to understand what made you do it. Are there steps you can take to prevent it happening in the future — maybe having healthier options more available to you. Again, try to connect how that food made you feel. If it made you feel unwell, log this in your memory and come back to it if you ever feel tempted by the food again.
Always remember how much your hormones affect your emotions and choices around food. Each day you stick with the plan, your hormones are one step closer to balancing out and the ride will get that little bit easier.
Don't forget, we're just a message away if you ever need help to overcome cravings!
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