Combat Constant Cravings
Are you on the sugar rollercoaster? Energy up and down the whole day? Are you remedying the downs with sugar and caffeine? Know that feeling of never quite being satisfied, perpetually foraging for more food? The unfortunate truth is that many people are walking around with erratic blood sugar levels.
From a physiological perspective, balancing things in this department is one of the most powerful things you can do for your health.
1. So, why is this happening?
Not eating enough good fats – It’s to our absolute detriment that natural fat found in wholefoods has been demonized. As a result our focus has shifted from sugars and processed carbohydrates to fats, especially the saturated kind (predominantly found in animal derived foods).
Along with being vital for healthy body function, fats play a key role in keeping us satiated. In fact, when fat enters the intestines, it sends a hormonal signal to the brain, telling it that all is good and feeding behavior can taper off. This does not happen with refined carbs and particularly not with fructose, which bypasses this mechanism, enabling us to feed on copious amounts without ever truly feeling full.
Not eating enough protein – Now, I am not at all an advocate of high protein diets, but many of us are simply not aware of eating some good quality protein at each meal. This is partly because it’s easy for meals to become grain-focused, displacing not only vital protein but also priceless veggies. Think: Toast with jam or vegemite, a big bowl of pasta.
Nutrient depleted foods – The theory goes that a body that is depleted of nutrients will never feel satisfied and forever push for more food. Western diets are typically energy-dense and nutrient-poor (the opposite of how things should be!).
Insufficient fibre – We can forget that along with keeping things moving, fibre plays a key role in keeping us feeling full and promoting steady blood sugar levels. Not eating enough veggies (sorry to harp on!) and being addicted to refined carbs (like sugar, cakes, biscuits, breakfast cereals, white bread) really does make us fall short here.
Slaves to external cues – We often travel quite unconsciously when it comes to food. We listen to cues such as ‘it’s time to eat’, boredom, and social pressures to eat ‘normal’ foods that aren’t really normal at all, but have become staples (think: cakes and biscuits at the office).
2. What are the consequences?
Once this sort of eating pattern has been established (i.e. once you’re on the cravings rollercoaster) it really is a self-perpetuating one; the quickest way to remedy a low is with sugar and processed carbs, which has detrimental effects, both in the short and long term:
Irritability and/or low mood – Erratic blood sugar is not a friend of a calm and happy mind.
Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus (Type 2 DM) – The pancreas naturally secretes insulin every time we eat sugar and carbs. Insulin lowers our blood sugar levels. If we are on the rollercoaster and over feeding on these foods, the pancreas responds by secreting high levels of insulin. Eventually, the body no longer ‘hears’ insulin’s message and we are left with insulin resistance (a marker of Type 2 DM).
3. How to kick that habit!
Watch your protein – Include some (don’t gorge on the stuff) at each meal. Your choices include eggs, meat, chicken, fish or vegetarian protein such as legumes.
Fear not the fats – Nutritious fats include olive oil, ghee, coconut oil, nuts, seeds, avocado, macadamia oil and oily fish.
Maximise nutrient density from veggies in abundance, fats, protein as well as some complex carbs (such as sweet potato, pumpkin, quinoa). Your body will feel truly nourished and naturally find its own ‘off button’.
Fibre – Ensure that half of your plate at lunch and dinner comes from veggies; include nuts and seeds and turn only to unprocessed carbs.
Think outside the box – Did you know that cinnamon is fantastic for balancing blood sugars and it tastes sweet! Use cinnamon and vanilla powder to add sweetness to breakfast; cinnamon and licorice tea through the day; include fats and protein in your occasional sweet treats – we all want something sweet from time to time! Making your own means you are in control. See recipe!
Use internal cues more than external cues – Ask yourself: Am I truly hungry? Am I mistaking my thirst for hunger? What can I reach for as an alternative that will actually help the situation and not add fuel to the fire?
Be a conscious eater!
Keep these principles in mind next time you are about to embark on the roller coaster. You’ll be surprised at how powerful little changes can be!