Some experts consider carbohydrate cravings and addiction to be more of the body than the mind, meaning that biological factors are generally considered the main trigger of carbohydrate cravings. These cravings are described as an irresistible craving or desire for carbohydrate-rich foods; a growing and recurring need or urge for starches, snacks, junk food, or sweets.
This is where the cycle of carbohydrates and cravings begins. Foods high in sugar, refined starch, convenience and comfort fuel addiction like a drug. This results in high blood sugar and insulin levels, leading to more cravings. The situation also results in higher levels of serotonin, a brain chemical that acts like Prozac. People eat sweets to ‘high’ their sugar.
Another factor that contributes to overeating and craving sweets is stress. When we are tense, the adrenal gland produces more of the hormone cortisol. Cortisol stimulates the production of a brain chemical called ‘neuropeptide Y’.
This is a kind of carb craving switch. Aside from this, Neuropeptide Y also makes the body hold on to the new body fat that we produce. In other words, stress not only triggers carb cravings, it also makes it harder to lose extra weight. Cortisol also stimulates insulin, which causes blood sugar drops and fat storage.
It is a vicious cycle that feeds on itself, over and over again.
Food is not just a biological necessity; there is also an emotional element to it. Something in our emotional state, particularly a negative one, evokes an urge for ‘comfort’ food. By treating the problem behind the cravings, there is emotional relief that can reduce or even eliminate the urge to overeat.
In general, most experts agree that by eating enough healthy foods at meals and having a healthy snack in the afternoon, people can minimize their cravings for sweets.
Here are recommendations to curb carbohydrate cravings.
1. Eat less but more often. Eat small meals or snacks that contain some PROTEIN every few hours to keep your blood sugar levels stable.
Skipping meals causes blood sugar levels to drop, leaving you craving processed carbs and sweets for energy.
2. Be selective about the carbohydrates you eat. Avoid nutrient-stripped foods made from white flour, white rice, refined sugar, and highly concentrated sweeteners. Look for fiber-rich foods, such as fresh vegetables and fruits, which level blood sugar.
3. Don’t skimp on protein to ‘make room’ for large amounts of carbohydrates. Protein gives the body more energy, helps balance blood sugar and keeps cravings at bay.
4. Limit your intake of alcohol, fruit juices, and caffeinated beverages. These cause blood sugar spikes followed by troublesome blood sugar drops, leaving you starved for energy.
5. Eat small portions of seasonal treats AFTER protein-containing meals or snacks, if at all. If you eat sweets on an empty stomach, you will experience low blood sugar levels that will trigger the desire to eat more sweets.
6. Avoid getting acquainted during shopping trips and while traveling. Bring high-protein snacks such as nuts, hard-boiled eggs, nutrient-balanced energy bars, or “green veggie” tablets like those listed. These high-power foods are great when you feel your energy low.
7. Get enough sleep. When the body and mind are well-rested, carbohydrate cravings usually go away.
The techniques found in Maximize Your Metabolism and the dietary advice found in The Living Health Weight Loss Audio emphasize the use of lifestyle nutrition rather than carbohydrates as an energy source. This prevents falling into the carb craving cycle. It also counteracts hunger as a possible source of cravings for sweets, since the feeling of satiety lasts longer with a protein and fat meal than with a carbohydrate one.