Thursday, April 28, 2016

The Crave-and-Cave Rollercoaster, and How to Get Off the Ride: Sugar Rehab

A calorie is a calorie is a calorie, and weight loss is a matter of burning more calories than you consume, right?  But, have you ever wondered if this is really true? Are all calories really equal?   No.  And, yes.  It's complex.

It is true that a calorie = calorie, and eating fewer calories than you burn will lead to weight loss.  However, calories from different foods have different effects on our hunger levels, satiety and cravings.  Eating calories from some foods leaves you feeling hungry within an hour or two, whereas eating other foods, with the same number of calories, can keep you satisfied and craving-free for much longer.  If the foods you eat don’t satisfy for very long, you will end up with craving-driven hunger that leads you to overeat. 

Greens, beans & whole fruit
Given a choice between eating 200 calories worth of food that will keep you satisfied and craving-resistant for a 3-4 hours or longer, versus 200 calories worth of food that will leave you hungry and craving more in an hour or two, which will you choose?

Choosing more satisfying foods, makes it easier to lose and manage your weight.  When you reduce your hunger and eliminate cravings, you alleviate 2 of the major challenges my clients and students admit lead to failure with dieting efforts.

Food cravings happen when 
  1. The brain senses a slightly low blood sugar (brain-driven hunger).
  2. You have a physical or emotional discomfort from which she needs relief or distraction.
  3. Something in your environment triggers you to want food - like a box of cupcakes in sight, or a pizza commercial.
Proper nutrition reduces or eliminates the brain-hunger driven cravings (1 above).   The brain runs exclusively on glucose, also known as blood sugar, which comes from eating foods with carbs.  Almost all dietary carbohydrates are broken down into glucose after being eaten.  And this is good; glucose is what fuels brain cells and most other cells in the body.  So when the brain recognizes a slight drop in sugar – it’s only source of fuel, it says “DANGER – get more fuel now!”  And, because you have been culturally conditioned to eat refined carbohydrate foods, the message you get is:  Eat!  Eat sweets, donuts, bread, bagels, chips, candy or drink sweet coffee drinks! Eat NOW!

When you follow through on that message and eat some refined sugar or other refined carbohydrates, a cycle of hunger, overeating, and frustration with weight begins…or continues.  
It’s the crave-and-cave roller coaster, and it’s hard to get off. But, you can get off and still satisfy your cravings.  And, I’m going to tell you how.

Get the FREE Guide to Sugar Rehab

The first step is answering your cravings with carbohydrates that DON’T put you on the roller coaster and leave you hungry and craving again in a couple of hours.  Whole foods that contain complex carbohydrates will be broken down into the glucose your brain is seeking, but they won’t put you on the crave-and-cave rollercoaster.   Let me explain.  
Sugar & refined carbs turn into glucose at warp speed in your body (red line in graph).  They elevate your blood sugar fast, making you feel really good.  But in as quickly as 15 minutes, your body’s insulin will have strongly reacted to get the glucose moving out of the blood and into the cells of your body where it belongs.  Unfortunately, the rapid drop in blood sugar that results sends you crashing down.  It leaves you feeling tired, cranky, shakey and craving another pick-me-up, and you will cave!

Choose whole food sources of carbohydrates and your body works harder (in a good way), and takes longer to get them broken down into glucose (yellow line in graph).  This slower process means that there is no huge spike in blood sugar and no overreaction by insulin.  The brain still gets the glucose it’s craving, and it gets a nice slow  drip of glucose that lasts for awhile and doesn’t crash.  Whole food “slow carbs” are not going to put you on the crave and cave roller coaster.  And, they’ll help stabilize mood in the process.
So what are these “slow carb” foods?  The best are berries and beans.  They contain carbohydrates in the form of sugar and starch, but they also contain fiber and water. 

The fiber and water do 3 things:  
  1. They dilute the calories and carbs in the food, reducing the calorie density.  In other words, there are fewer calories in each bite.  You get to eat a larger portion of food for fewer calories. This is satisfying! 
  2.  The fiber in these whole foods slows digestion, keeping the food in your stomach a bit longer.  This leads to the slow-release carb effect, and it keeps you full or satisfied longer.  
  3. When the food you’ve eaten finally makes its way down to the colon 12-24 hours later, it again reduces hunger!  The healthy gut bacteria (probiotics), feast on the fiber and release chemicals that prevent hunger.  This is known as the lentil effect or the second meal effect.  Eating beans and lentils makes you eat less for at least a second meal!

Be proactive and plan!  Have fruit or bean containing snacks or meals ready to eat several times a day. When you do crave something sweet, try blueberries, strawberries, edamame or a bag of pre-roasted chickpeas.  You could eat veggies dipped in hummus.  An apple and a small amount of peanuts/natural peanut butter, or an orange and 10 almonds are great choices too.  You could start your day with a  bean & berry smoothie.  Add a tablespoon or more of beans or lentils to your lunch salad.  Have a side of fat-free refried beans with dinner, or snack on a few rinsed kidney beans from a can when you get home from work.

The second step is committing to consciously avoid refined sugar.  Avoiding other foods that cause a fast sharp blood sugar spike is smart too.  These so-called foods are the ticket that gets you on the crave and cave roller coaster in the first place.  Avoiding them keeps you on safer ground.  And, while it may not be as stimulating and exciting with your feet planted firmly on the ground, the rewards of fewer mood swings, fewer cravings and possibly weight loss are worth it.  There are some long term benefits too, including lower body fat, lower chance of developing diabetes, and enhanced energy over the long term. 

Eating more of the carbohydrate-rich whole foods discussed above will also enhance your body’s ability to fight and prevent sickness and disease, reducing your risk of everything from the common cold to cancer.

But, as you probably know all too well, knowing what to eat and actually following through on a healthy eating pattern are not the same thing.  We all need education, guidance, support and accountability to make real change happen.  Even the experts need support and accountability to achieve and maintain success.  So, to get you started, I've got a free step by step guide for you to use.  You'll get simple tools to identify the hidden sources of sugar in your food.  You'll get a list of slow carb foods, and even a meal plan made up of real foods you can get at any grocery store.  It's just what you need to get started!  Get it now free!  Make the change.  You are totally worth it.


From Visually.